My Manic Life – The Other Side of my Diagnosis

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.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: Tim Trad

24 Replies to “My Manic Life – The Other Side of my Diagnosis”

  1. Thank you for this post. I, too, developed horrendous spending habits when I was in a severe manic episode a decade ago, and it caught up with me. I am trying to be better with money, as I would like to leave my toxic job and simply write. I know the feeling of the energy, the “I can do anything” that comes with mania – the rush. But the anger is the evil underbelly of it. I miss my manias, probably because I have been battling severe depression for too long, and I feel it allows me to enjoy life, rather than just get through the day. I also try and funnel it into my writing and creativity. It sounds wacky, but most times with the mania (if I am alone and not around those who look at me like I’ve just downed 18 energy drinks) it makes me feel alive again, aware, able to leave the anxiety and the depression in the closet for a while. But I know it never lasts, and I know ultimately it is not “healthy” for me to run myself around the clock with the surges of energy I get. I wrote a post on it last year when it returned for a visit (https://sorrowandkindness.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/shes-a-maniac/) and in re-reading the post now, I know when the pendulum swings the other way – to mania – it is not necessarily the safest thing for me. But we do the best we can. I really enjoyed and learned a great deal from your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your own experiences with the mania side of your diagnosis. I can understand missing your manic side. It is just easier to deal with in the moment versus deep depression even though the long term effects can be damaging. I will check out your own blog post to see your views. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

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  2. I too, used to “just drive.” I used to drive all night aimlessly just to feel the wind in my hair through the windows. I also had a spending problem, once spending $30k on credit cards in a little over 2 months (that bankruptcy finally clears soon). I have been reckless in other, more personal, ways as well that thankfully didn’t have any lasting consequences for me. I tried drugs and things I would NEVER have tried if I were not manic. Thankfully those didn’t stick.

    I also now normally only experience mixed mania and so it’s extremely unpleasant and usually results in hospitalization due to me being suicidal and impulsive. Mania is the monster in the corner that I pray stays there but never seems to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with mania. I like what you said “mania is the monster in the corner that I pray stays there but never seems to.” Those are such true world when it comes to describing mania. I put myself way into debt when I was manic and I still feel those consequences today.

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  3. Thank you for writing this! It seems like there is always two sides to every story and that awareness needs to be raised for both sides (if you know what I mean).

    And also, I just wanted to say thank you for following my blog! I have followed yours too, and I have especially enjoyed your posts on anxiety (I feel as if I can very much relate). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well thank you for your kind words. I always like writing the anxiety part of what is wrong with me because it’s really suck a big part of my life. So is the depression and the mania but the anxiety is something that is fresh everyday. Thank you for taking a moment of your day to read my work

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  4. Thanks for sharing again, man. I relate to a lot of what you write. I appreciate your bravery in sharing. I don’t know if I can be that brave, heh… Writing my personal emotions, feels like pulling my teeth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be like pulling teeth when I write on my blog. But to me it helps me with the bigger picture and goal, writing my memoir which is in full swing right now. I am glad that you can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I see mania as part of the flight response to Complex PTSD and depression as the collapse response. Pete Walkers book on Complex PTSD is very helpful, it doest address manic depression which I feel is just a manifesation of how we respond to life when we are wired in certain ways and trying to respond to things we feel powerless over. You are growing in your understanding every day and sharing and getting good help as you know really aids this process. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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      1. Its wonderful that you do as sufferers together who are healing have so much to offer each other. Its an honour to have someone open up to share their process. It helps everyone. ❤

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  6. That’s really interesting. I have depression and anxiety rather than bipolar, so I don’t experience that mania, but I have always thought of it as a long-lasting energy buzz of extreme excitement (which is how the two people I know with bipolar experience it). I never realised it could have a such a dark side underlying it. Thank-you writing so eloquently and sharing your experience. It helps me be more understanding of people’s experience with mental illness besides my own, and understand situations that I may not have understood before. Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mania varies with people, even with the same diagnosis. I have met people like me with mania that was worse than mine. I never like talking about the mania side of my diagnosis because it’s just harder to talk about mostly because it’s harder to understand. Thank you for reading as always!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m really glad you were able to talk about it on this blog because it increases the understanding of it for everyone out there reading your work. It helps so much.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This is fantastic. Thank you for sharing and articulating so well. It really hits home for me as I see so many of my behaviors reflected here. And of course that kind of connection puts me a bit at ease. Cheers James and excited to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the honesty and thoughtfulness of your posts. It’s always great to see someone else out there talking about something that some people just don’t think is “appropriate”. The truth is that depression is a real thing that a lot of people go through, and I’m glad that you’re so open about it!

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