My Nightmarish Manic Episode
By: Samantha Steiner
A little over a week ago I had come out of a pretty bad depressive episode, only for me to jump right into a very bad agitated manic episode. I think I had maybe a day or two of baseline stability afterward, if that, before the switchover. I tend to be a rapid cycler a majority of the time, so after coming out of my depressive phase I was expecting to get slightly hypomanic or something but I did not expect full-blown mania.
This episode was not the wonderful, euphoria with the excess energy and the happy outgoing personality that everyone normally associates with the clichéd mania. This was different, even for me, but it was still a manic episode nonetheless.
It started gradually and then hit all at once out of nowhere. Everything was a massive haze and I have to piece certain details together because I am unable to recall every detail still. It was almost like I wasn’t even there myself.
I became hyper focused on writing and anything to do with writing; from actually writing to techniques and everything in between. It was a very agitated manic episode. It felt like I could feel no other emotions other than agitation and feeling like that is not pleasant in the least.
I literally could not get myself to do anything else unless it had to do with the subject of writing. It felt like my body was physically controlled and I was only able to do and focus on certain functions. I wasn’t sleeping, and when I did sleep it was maybe for about two hours and then I was wide awake and ready to go at it again.
I wasn’t consuming much food or fluids and when I did, it was because my boyfriend physically made something for me and brought it over to me. But then I would devour my meal within a matter of minutes and I would instantly get back to my research, writing or outlining.
I just could not take care of myself. Nothing at all mattered to be besides what I was hyper-fixated on during this episode. Everything else agitated me and pissed me off, but even writing agitated and annoyed but it felt worse not to do it. I neglected everything. I lost track of time and would even forget to take my medications which probably made things that much worse.
The worst part of it all was the isolation and the fact that I could not, and would not leave my house or any reason at all. The house could have been on fire and I would not have even wanted to leave it then. I would have stayed right in front on my laptop and continued on with what I was doing. I avoided phone called and when I did answer, I would have to keep the conversations very short because that was all I was able to tolerate.
I missed three appointments because I would not leave my house. It wasn’t just that I did not want to leave my house; it was that I felt like I physically couldn’t leave. It was a completely suffocating feeling. It was as if I left my house I would cease to exist or something. It was like temporary agoraphobia. My mind was completely warped at this point. I was also experiencing psychosis and paranoia. At one point, my boyfriend was sitting at his desk and I kept telling him to hold on because I thought he was trying to tell me something, but after a moment he said that he hadn’t actually spoken to me in a long time. Things like that kept happening over and over again where I kept hearing things that weren’t there. My whole reality was twisting.
I, in all honestly, should have been hospitalized with this episode. I don’t think I let it show on the outside how bad it was on the inside since I was isolating to such an extreme. It was a very brief episode but it was a nightmare, and it felt like it lasted forever since I had no concept of time.
I had thousands of ideas flowing through my head at the same time and I felt like I literally had to do them all at once, otherwise, I would have forgotten them and they would be lost forever. Everyone recommends to write the ideas down when that happens but that would not have worked at the time because for every general topic, there would have been a subcategory that had another subcategory, and yet another subcategory. The list, or outline, would have been endless and pointless in the end. I thought I was being super productive.
Three or four days after this all started, my therapist called me when I didn’t show up to our session. I recognized the number and I was starting to gain some clarity at this point. I also couldn’t take the agitated feelings any longer because they were so overwhelming and overpowering. I didn’t know what to do with them other than to just sit with them.
So I answered my phone. Immediately, I started to cry out of pure frustrated agitation and explained everything and about how I couldn’t leave my house and that I refused to leave my house. My therapist advised me that she was going to talk to my psychiatrist and call me back.
In the meantime, I started to gradually fall out of the episode even more. It was like coming out of a bad trip. I started asking my boyfriend how bad I really was, what day it was, and how long I have been like this. Everything seemed so hard to process.
About an hour after I talked to my therapist, a nurse from my psychiatric office called me and he advised me to increase my Vraylar dose from 3mg to 6mg and I did that immediately.
The increase ultimately seemed to help. I wish I would have asked for help sooner but the only thing going through my head at the time was, “I don’t want to go inpatient.” So that kept me from seeking treatment when I knew it was right there.
Everyone experiences different effects from mania and this is just my most recent experience. I knew coping mechanisms, I knew how to seek help, but I just couldn’t. The logical side of my mind was malfunctioning to an extreme and everything I knew went right out the window. I have been through this long enough to know what to do but that did not matter at the time to me.
While I was on the phone with my therapist that day she kept asking me questions to see where my mind was at and to see if I was a danger to myself or others. In the end, what it came down to was that I was not hurting myself or anyone else. I was not drinking or using drugs even in a severe manic episode which is hard to avoid for some people, especially me, because mania and using can go hand-in-hand.
My therapist told me that I did what I had to do. I was actually using one of my coping mechanisms to ride out this episode and it wasn’t like I was focusing on writing or researching anything bad. I wasn’t journaling about how much I hate myself or looking up suicide techniques. So even though I wasn’t all there, I as okay as I could have been at the time.
There is no way to explain a manic episode to someone who has never gone through one, especially these types of manic episodes where psychosis is involved. I hope someone out there can relate to this and see that there are not alone.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.