I sometimes imagine I am three people. The depressed James, the manic James, and just J.E. Skye The Bipolar Writer.
I am driving, and the darkness is behind me for a time.
I knew the day would come where it was the time to write about the other side of my diagnosis, my manic side. I have focused so much on depression, suicide, insomnia, and social anxiety that it was time to explore the other important aspect of my diagnosis. Being a manic-depressant has always been difficult for me to reconcile, and while I am always at my worst when I am deep into the darkness of my depression when I look at the manic side of me, it is equally as bad or perhaps worse depending on the point of view.
It was always easier to justify bad behaviors when I am manic. In the early years before my diagnosis, most of my manic behaviors happened after long periods of depression. Where my manic episodes started was usually was good with four or five days straight with no sleep. For me, the lack of sleep was always the clue that my mania was taking control. My energy levels would go through the roof and I would have issues with concentrating on one thing or another during these episodes.
My energy levels would go through the roof and I would feel on top of the world. I could stay out until 4-5 in the morning then go to work at six that morning, no sleep. The less that I slept the more energy I had throughout the day. I always thought it was because I was young, and I didn’t need sleep. So I would never worry about not sleeping, and focused on what to do with the extra time.
I would go for long drives “just because” and it always helped me get through the not sleeping part of my mania. I once drove six hours north (I live in Central California) because I couldn’t sleep and then drive back only stopping for gas and coffee/energy drinks. I would take stupid risks like driving 100 miles an hour down the highway at three in the morning just so I could feel something. The manic side of me was always better to be around because he was “fun.” At the same time, my manic side had a very dark and destructive side.
Eventually, my manic side would crash and it would take me days to recover. Often I’d slip between depression and manic almost seamlessly, and when the mixed episodes happened, it would set me back finically.
One of the worst parts of my manic episodes in my life was the excessive spending sprees that I would go on. Some of my worst manic episodes featured me spending hundreds of dollars in one store on electronics and DVD’s, only to spend just as much in a different store in the same day. I ran up every single one of my credit cards when I was manic because it helped me “get through” not sleeping. I had no idea that these behaviors were bad for me, and in the moment can you blame me? I never saw consequences or how this destructive behavior affected me down the road. I never thought past today especially when I was manic. Even now, I don’t fully understand my mania because I never really took the time to fully understand the “why.”
I could always figure out the triggers of my depression because I got lost in it for years at a time. It was familiar and depression always seems to be there like a friend I can never get rid of in my life. My mania would come and go quickly, even it was four or five days at time. My depression brought me to my lowest and darkest. I could be more a person that would seem normal when I was manic. People pick up when I am depressed than when I am manic.
There were so many signs there as look back on my early mania that could have helped me in my manic periods. I would have trouble keeping a job, not because I wasn’t a hard worker, far from it. I took jobs that were temporary. Like my summer job as a painter. It was never going to be a long-term job, even though I was the last of the summer crew let go that year. I drove a delivery truck but I quit that job when my depression could barely get me through the winter months and into the New Year. I just quit one day. These temporary departures from work would only curb my spending but I always went back to it when I was manic.
After my diagnosis, my mania was more defined than ever but in different ways. I still had issues with money but not working kept me from spending money. Instead of being able to satisfy my manic side with spending sprees I turned the increase of energy into rage and anger. I would be happy one second and go off the deep end with my anger the next. It was like a switch that went off at random times. I was never an angry person but when my mania spiraled anger was the only way that I could get through it.
Most of the episodes early on in diagnosis were mixed, and these always brought the worst side of me. I would pick fights with family and then get hospitalized because they couldn’t control me. Early in my diagnosis I barely left my house and I lost the ways to channel my mania. My mania didn’t pop up all the time. I was usually too lost in my darkness, but it would let itself be known from time to time.
I have never been great with money, but have gotten better over the years especially when I started school and started to get my life back together. It helped to not have money when I stopped working at my last job. I walked into my job one day and quit. It was sudden and it made no sense. I just woke one day and decided this was the day I quit. Looking back this last job I quit I was in the middle of a manic episode.
My manic episodes don’t happen as much anymore, but it is always there and it will always be a part of who I am. I am both manic and depressed at some point in my life and it will always be that way. I manage with medicine, meditation, CBT, and mindfulness.
My journey has been a long one. There is no doubt in my mind anymore that my diagnosis of Bipolar One is correct. One thing is for sure, I will fight to get better in my mental health. It will take work. Dedication. What I can do is learn from my past and continue to grow.
What are some of your behaviors associated with your mania? I know every person experiences mania and depression in their Bipolar diagnosis differently.
Always keep fighting.
Photo Credit: Tim Trad