There are numerous misconceptions concerning bipolar mania. The romanticized perceptions include the classic euphoric state of mood, delusions of grandiosity, impulsive behavior, such as spending money, promiscuity, drugs and alcohol, and rapidity and inhibition of speech. Yes, these symptoms are quite prevalent for people experiencing bipolar mania, but they are not all inclusive. The less recognized symptoms of bipolar mania include extreme agitation, uncontrolled and inappropriate behavior and speech, lack of inhibitions and boundaries, marked psychosis and delusions, obsessions, and intense thoughts of suicide and self harm. There is a dangerous dark side to the high-flying kite. What must be acknowledged is that there rests a painful and devastating component behind the perceived elation and excessive energy of a person experiencing mania. Then there are those who can appear composed, yet be hiding the intense demons and debilitating components of mania, only to inevitably explode, percolating over with water of boiling temperature. The masters of disguise.
I am a master of disguise, and I have been one my entire life. I was able to suffer incognito throughout middle school, deftly hiding the mania and depression plaguing my life. I excelled in music and writing and received numerous awards throughout the three years I spent in middle school. When I reached high school, my thick ceramic mask cracked, and I could no longer suppress the pain and emotional dysfunction. I experienced my first psychiatric hospitalization two months into my first year of high school. The psychotic depression necessitated a stay at the UCLA adolescent unit for five weeks. I returned to school, albeit unsuccessfully, following the end of that hospitalization. And then I began to fly as high as a kite, again necessitating psychiatric hospitalization, although this time a succession of four over the course of a few months. This is not the first time I flew too high. Two years later I experienced another hospitalization for mania.
The mania I experienced manifested in a multitude of ways. My kite flew both with the grandiose symptoms characteristic of bipolar disorder and also with the darker side – agitation, psychosis and delusions, and self harm, all part of a cornucopia of other debilitating symptoms and behaviors. My bipolar episodes are often what is medically referred to as mixed. I experience both mania and depression simultaneously, jumping back and forth relentlessly. I managed to remain out of psychiatric hospitals for six years, until I experienced a major crash in December 2012. This hospitalization became the first of four occurring over roughly the next seven months.
I began a perpetual cycle of my kite flying dangerously high, only to make a devastating crash to the ground. I became obsessed and deluded with contamination and developed compulsive behaviors and rituals to prevent the spread of whatever I deemed to be contaminated or a causer of contamination. Then psychosis initiated thoughts of suicide and self harm, and I could see and hear these desires. An overhaul of medication and inpatient treatment brought my kite lower, and I was able to live again, but this respite was disappointingly brief. My kite soared and dove in a prolonged mixed episode. Somehow I managed to survive these ups and downs, the rising and plummeting of a slowly weathering kite.
My kite has been flying high as of recent, hence my reluctance and inability to keep up with this blog. I switch from elation and extreme hyperactivity to agitation and off-the-wall behavior in the blink of an eye, with things going a tad bit too far, as I like to refer to this switch. I am impulsive, spending exorbitant amounts of money on things I do not need and probably will not use for a prolonged period of time, if ever. I speak too much and with great rapidity, sharing insignificant thoughts and information and at times speaking nonsensically. My behavior is erratic. I thought it was absolutely hilarious to throw food and silverware at my family in a restaurant several weeks ago. Then comes the agitation, verbal combativeness, delusions and psychosis, and other symptoms I do not wish to describe. An emotional and psychological crash. I am trying desperately to regulate the altitude at which my kite is flying. Such a process is trying and tiring and one that slowly chips away at your ability to fight.
I am unsure of why I have chosen to relate my experiences with bipolar mania. I have been so consumed with the highs and lows, fighting hospitalization. This has been a cathartic experience, perhaps one that will provide the emotional release and rejuvenation to continue the fight. I have not succumbed to the disease yet, and I am doing everything in my power to regulate the cycling of my mind and emotions and become well, whatever measures I must take. I hope sharing aspects of my journey will help me to heal, to raise awareness and prod others to challenge themselves to understand mental illness and the daily fight those afflicted experience, and to inspire others to open themselves and share their own stories and struggles. I beg you to understand the rough path I have trodden and to appreciate my willingness and trepidation in relating my story. I thank you immensely for such a consideration.