50 Shades of Mania

First of all, I am so sorry for the reference in the title. I’m hoping it’ll make the topic of this post funnier than it actually is. The point of this post is that I want to record what my mania has been like for the past six months or so, for future reference. I’m starting on a new medication that’s supposed to reduce my mania, and I’m hoping it helps. I’ve had some debilitating bouts of mania in the past six months and sometimes it’s been all I can do to function.

I have bipolar type II, which often presents as having prolonged manic and depressive episodes. What that means for me is that I spend weeks constantly feeling or being predisposed to feeling manic, then I slowly transition into weeks where I am constantly feeling or predisposed to feeling depressed. Right now, I’m in a manic phase, and it’s been pretty hellish. What’s been particularly hellish is that my previous three periods of mania have all been radically different from each other, so I haven’t been able to predict and adjust to the symptoms.

This week, I’ve been barely able to make it to my doctor’s appointments. Later, I’ve found myself completely drained after being in bright light and trying to talk to neurotypical and allistic people in their language so I would get the care I needed. I haven’t done all the things I planned on doing, including advancing my writing and career goals. Today, I woke up feeling shitty but have managed to take a few hours to get some things done, and my brain is clearer than it’s been for days.

Right now, I want to take this moment of lucidity to catalogue what’s been going on in my brain for the past six months or so, both for my own reference and so maybe other people can get some idea of what being manic is like. Of course, it’s also important that other bipolar people realize they aren’t alone with these symptoms.

Alright, here we go.

* * *

Six months ago – late December, during my winter break from classes

I was so mad to be manic during this period. My semester had been hellish. I was working 30 hours a week, taking 12 credit hours, and working a part-time fellowship. I wasn’t treating myself particularly well. I had hoped to take this time to recover from the semester and maybe even get done some of the things that had fallen by the wayside as I was overextending myself.

Then my brain was like, “NOPE.” I hadn’t gotten the brain buzzing feeling for a while since starting a new medication, and I thought that even though the medication didn’t seem to lessen my mania, maybe it had at least made the brain buzzing stop. Evidently not. I spent days on end with my brain feeling like a disconnected TV channel. Anyone who grew up after the ‘90s may not understand what I mean, but channels on older TVs used to have this godawful “BZZZZZZZT” sound when they weren’t connected to an actual broadcast. My brain felt like a staticky, jumbled, black-and-white wall of noise.

I distinctly remember rocking on my living room floor with a blanket wrapped around me, sweating a little bit and weakly saying a joke like, “Stop my brain, I wanna get off” to a roommate. At least, I wanted it to be a joke. If I could turn it into a joke, maybe it would feel less bad. It didn’t. My brain was still going too fucking fast.

I didn’t get the chance to relax or get things done. I went into the next semester still tired and stressed out. I reduced my hours at work and didn’t apply for another fellowship, but I was still burned out and struggling. I managed to function. Sometimes, it feels like that’s all I can do.

* * *

Three months ago – mid-semester

I’ll be honest: I don’t remember when exactly this period was. As previously stated, I was burned out and struggling throughout the semester, and it’s kind of becoming a blur now. This manic period was a blur of anxiety and anger. I had never been so irritable in my goddamn life. I was incredibly defensive of my personal space and kept on thinking things like, “Stop fucking touching me” if a coworker or classmate did so much as graze me as they walked past me.

I was scared and had no idea what was wrong with me until I remembered that anger can be a symptom of mania. Knowing that didn’t make the anger go away, but I at least stopped being afraid that I was going to Hulk out at any moment. It was a temporary condition. It was going to go away eventually. I managed not to have a major outburst. I managed to function.

* * *

This week

My brain has been going too fast again. It’s not like the brain buzzing in December, though. I just flit around from thinking that I need to finish the story I’m writing but I also have to clean my room but I also haven’t played guitar in a while and I really need to find that physician’s letter so I can get my gender marker on my passport changed and so on. It’s pretty hard to get things done when your brain won’t stay on any particular topic. Of course, this kind of attention deficit could be due to my ADHD as well. But it seems worse than my usual attention issues.

Through the course of the past few hours, I have:

  • closed a bunch of tabs I had open
  • made a post on social media
  • posted a new writing on this blog
  • talked to people in a group chat on Facebook
  • come up with a new tagline for Tragic Gender Story
  • updated my resume
  • gone back to Facebook to check my notifications
  • gotten the idea for this post
  • applied for a double major
  • opened a document to write this post
  • reviewed requirements for another application but not actually gotten around to filling it out
  • opened up a bunch of new tabs again
  • gone out to say hi to a roommate who just got home
  • and then sat down to write this post again.

I feel like this is a study in ADHD amped up by mania. Yay for comorbidity!

More importantly, my sleep schedule has been completely screwed up. I’ve found myself waking up way too early with racing thoughts. I’ve been exhausted by the middle of the day from having my brain going too fast for hours, but been unable to fall asleep for more than an hour. There have been some exceptions, though. A few nights ago, I was completely exhausted around 6pm and slept until around 10pm, then woke up and couldn’t fall asleep until 5am, then woke up around 10:30am with my brain going too fast and SexyBack playing in my head. Not a typical way to start off my day. It would’ve been hilarious if I wasn’t so damn tired.

Last night, I napped around 6:30pm, woke up within an hour, still felt exhausted and fell asleep for an hour and a half, then still felt exhausted and didn’t fall asleep until 2am or so. Then I woke up at 7:30am, still feeling exhausted, and fell asleep again around 10:30 only to wake up around 11:30, still exhausted with my brain going way too fast. Today, I’m glad to have been able to (sort of) focus and get things done afterward, but I’m not looking forward to working late tonight and then possibly not being able to fall asleep when I come home, even though I’ll probably be exhausted. I have a long shift starting tomorrow morning. I hope I’ll be okay. I hope I’ll continue to function.

* * *

I hope this medication fixes things. I’m a little terrified, since it’s new and there’s no guarantee that a new psych medication won’t have terrible side effects. I just want my brain to stop going too fast for days on end. That manic feeling that I’m on top of the world and really good at everything isn’t worth having static in my head or getting angry for no good reason or not being able to sleep. I’m hoping to whatever celestial beings are out there that this medication goes well for me. I’ve been dealing with this bullshit for my entire life, and I’d like to eventually have more ambitious goals than, “Holy fuck, I hope I’ll manage to continue functioning and not let any of the neurotypicals in my life know that something is wrong.” Sometimes, mental illness is just complete bullshit, and I can’t dress that up with anything, not even titles with references to bad BDSM novels.


Note: I wrote this last Friday. I’ve been on the new medication for about a week now, and I’ve been exceedingly productive for the past few days. I’m not sure if this is due to the medication or the fact that my mania naturally fades through my cycles, making me go from debilitation to hyperproductivity and eventually back down into depression. We’ll have to see how the next few months go.

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