By: Sabrina Ruediger
This series is exploring the mania, including psychosis, in manic episodes of Bipolar I and my experience with that in a psychiatric hospital. I was inspired by a poem I wrote during my stay at Aurora Behavioral Health Psychiatric Unit in 2016, “Aren’t You Jealous”. I had been coming down from a manic episode in my Bipolar and was getting sick of the patients with depression joke that they wished they were bipolar so they could have mania, which they seemed to think would be a great time. They asked us to write poems during art class, which we then read aloud to the group. My poem shut up their jokes for a little, but when do the rest stop? Mania is often thought to be “fun” for some reason. But mania is not fun.
A few characteristics of Mania in the DSM IV:
-Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
-More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
-Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
So what does that mean to you? Feeling really good about yourself, plus being able to talk a bunch, all without having to sleep? Awesome! Now you see when I see those words I cringe. Because those words together in that order mean some of the worst memories of my life and some of the most insane things I’ve ever done. Those feelings are painfully strong both mentally and physically. The intensity is shocking to you body and mind and it is in no way a glamorous time. Its hard if you’ve never seen it or experienced it yourself to understand that, though. That’s why I tried to depict what it’s really like as best I could to share the truth about mania.
Psychosis is a huge part of mania. There’s this place you can get stuck in in psychosis that nobody ever talks about right before you’re full blown psychotic where you’re seeing things and hearing things thinking things, but you’re not quite gone enough to believe it all. It’s the most horrifying place I’ve ever lived. I’d describe it as what I’d imagine it’s like waking up in the middle of a surgery and not being able to tell them you’re awake.
I’m one of the lucky ones, though. At twenty-two my doctor figured out my diagnosis and got me straightened out. I walked out of that hospital and felt like I was alive for the first day in my life. I had no idea what it felt like to live without constant drastic changed in mood and wild misperception of reality. The past two years have been an experience I did not know was possible.
A lot of people never get that. Some people can’t get their medication right, some people don’t have access to the medical help they need, and some don’t even make it past twenty-two to try. This years World Bipolar Day is an opportunity to share our experience with those who do not know; to inform and spread awareness about our disorder. We are so strong standing together and those of us who are survivors and fighters can live amazing lives and do amazing things.
I made this about Bipolar mania because its personal to me but I just like to bring light to the whole community of us with mental health disorders from Anxiety to OCD to Schizophrenia because part of why we suffer so much is the general lack of education. We are Bipolar Strong. We fight and surrender everyday to be beautiful, loving, creative members of our society. We are women and men trying out best every single day to get out of bed and make something of our lives despite the challenges we face everyday. I’m proud to be Bipolar Strong. We’ll overcome it together.