"Up" - Does Anyone Truly Understand Up?

John McManamy Health Guide
  • This is the second post in my series on mania or, as I call it, “Up.” On the surface, “up” looks fairly straightforward, as this rough guide illustrates:

    • Splashing naked in a public fountain - mania.
    • Dancing on tables, out of character - hypomania.
    • Dancing on tables, part of your baseline personality - hyperthymic (ie naturally upbeat).
    • Standing on your chair letting out a war whoop during the Final Four - exuberance.
    • Wanting to run over all the shoppers in Walmart with your cart - mixed depressive-hypomania state.
    • Actually running over shoppers in Walmart - mixed depressive-mania state.
    • Feeling good or significantly less depressed than before - strong suggestion that your depressions cycle in and out.

    Unfortunately, life - much less our illness - never sorts itself quite so easily. A basketball fan letting out a war whoop is totally normal. But if we indulge in the same thing, are we likely to find ourselves splashing naked in a fountain later that night? This may be the true curse of our illness - even when we are relaxing and enjoying ourselves, we can never truly relax and enjoy ourselves.

    I’m extremely grateful to all your responses to my post from last week. To a person, you demonstrated through your own experiences how truly difficult and complex getting a handle on “up” actually is. A number of themes came up, which I hope to cover in greater detail in future posts. Very briefly ...

    The Horrors of Mania

    From Anon:

    My head races out of control - everything’s quicker - I would (and have) get down on my knees and pray for it to stop - the worse for me is the fact that I cannot get my head to shut down - I sometimes see myself as howling like a wolf to just get some relieve from this horrible racing brain. ... I would be howling mad and sitting with my arse in an institution (maybe even jail) if it was not for my medication!!

    Is It (Hypo)Mania?

    From John:

    [My doctor] advised me to take 50mg of Seroquel for a week. ...  Do you believe I'm in a hypomanic stage because I feel like I have gotten back my soul and my child belief?

    Raging States

    From Bluenoia:

    I was so angry that after a few days I chugged a wine cooler in 2 minutes, then smoked a bowl of pot in 4 minutes in hopes to "calm down". Note that I'm already on meds for depression, anxiety, hypothyroid, insomnia, ADHD and bipolar.

    The Dark Side of Hypomania

    From Donna:

    When I have been hypomanic, I only slept 3 hrs a night, felt "wired" instead of "euphoric", felt driven rather than purposeful.  Admittedly, I was far more creative then than at any other time. But it wasn't a beautiful creativity, it was a wild creativity painting huge grotesque masks. It was a creative muse that spurred me on to write poetry that was a little too edgy and "out there." Something that perhaps few people could understand...and I couldn't even understand.

    Cycling Depressions

    From Cathryne:

    I get up, brush my teeth and fall apart. Then for hours I'm OK, not "up" but certainly not depressed.  But some hours later or the next day it's the same cycle.  I want to throw myself in front of a train.  Really.  Actually. I feel I need hospitalization. I cry for 10 minutes to one hour and then I go back to not feeling as depressed or almost but not quite "baseline".

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  • The Trouble with Being Stable

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    From Sally:

    Three months ago, I was hospitalized for being very manic. Now, I'm not manic and miss it. I'm not up or down. I have no "feelings". I'd rather feel elated or so called happy. I sleep 7 or 8 hrs a night now, instead of 3 or 4 hrs a night. I wish I was more up, but the meds I'm on decrease my feelings.

    Clueless Doctors

    From Narelle:

    I went to one session with my new doctor where everything was misconstrued, even my vocal cord disorder (spasmodic dysphonia) which makes me sound a little shaky - and I told him that straight out - he said at the end of the session that I was very anxious as he could tell from my speech - good grief. I was not manic but he said I was as was talking fast - I tend to do that too with the vocal cord disorder as I try and get everything out quickly when I'm on a "speech roll" and I had told him that as well. ... So he told me basically that my personality was not my own, that I needed way more meds and ECT and that my shaky voice was not neurological but psychological - all in the first 45 minutes.

    Effect on Loved Ones

    From MerelyMe:

    My friend's son has become verbally aggressive...is highly irritable...engaging in reckless behavior and...she doesn't know how to respond to all this. Her son is on medication for his bipolar disorder but it doesn't seem to be curbing the mania right now and...she fears for him.

    Wrapping This Up (For Now)

    Significantly, there were no comments on how great it felt being hypomanic or manic. What I am hearing, instead, are people who just want to feel their “normal” selves, fully in control of both their brains and their lives, with a full range of feeling and emotions, without being turned into over-medicated zombies.

    What is also coming in loud and clear is a plea for understanding. That just because we actually feel happy every once in a while or get justifiably pissed off doesn’t mean we’re necessarily manic.

    I’m also getting that whatever we may be feeling on the inside, our loved ones feel it in full force on the outside.

    So much to talk about. Please, let’s keep the conversation going. Comments below ...

Published On: April 09, 2011