What does a manic episode look like? Part 1. | Bipolar disorder

I have been putting off writing this post.  It’s not easy to write about something that is so personal and risk being judged or labeled because of the stigma surrounding mental illness that still exists.  However, I feel so compelled to share and educate people on what those with mental illness really struggle with, Bipolar in particular.  Then maybe we can remove that stigma together.  So today I am going to share these deeply personal experiences in the hopes that it can help someone who thinks they might have Bipolar or maybe friends and family who may be seeking answers.

It’s important to understand that this illness manifests itself in many different ways for different people.  I can only speak from my own experience and it’s super important that if you or someone you know, think you might be experiencing some of the symptoms that I am going to share, that you seek the advice and counsel of a trained Psychiatrist or Psychologist to be properly diagnosed.

What I am going to share is the way that a manic episode manifests in me.  The easiest way that I know how to describe what happens for me is to give you bullet points.  So Here are 5 ways that a manic episode starts to show for me.

*One thing that is important to mention about Bipolar and mania is that sometimes the one experiencing it can’t see it when it’s happening, but someone close to you can.  So having support from loved ones during times like these is especially important.  Although, it can also be frustrating and draining for those witnessing it and trying to help.  Don’t give up on us.

So here we go:

  1. Creativity spike or over excitement.  One of the first signs for me that a manic episode is coming on is that I start to feel kind of a pressure build up of creative ideas.  I will start feeling really bold and strong like I can accomplish anything.  Which really isn’t that strange because a lot of people are list makers and goal setters and go getters.  But what this looks like for me is list making and goal setting on steroids, lol.  It’s like I just keep adding more and more to the list and I just feel super powered. And I start attacking each item on my list and I just can’t let it go until it gets accomplished.  I get really exuberant about everything so I talk louder and faster and more excited than usual.  Normally I’m a pretty quiet and reserved person.  So this is pretty out of character for me.
  1. Can function on very little sleep.  I feel like the energizer bunny.  I am so on fire that I can’t shut my mind down at night and I start to lose sleep.  This isn’t just a few hours, this is like pulling all-nighters for several days in a row.  It’s very frustrating because I know I NEED to sleep, but I just can’t shut my brain off.

In one of my recent episodes, when I was through it, I had a huge bruise on my chest from where I kept poking my self.  In my manic mind, I felt like there was a button that I could push that I could just turn it all off.  So I just kept poking my self trying to shut all the thoughts off.  I know it sounds crazy but remember this is a disease or disorder.  So if we think of it like a disease, it would be similar to a diabetic having insulin shock.  It’s very serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

3. Rapid weight loss.  This is caused by a lack of eating normally because I think I have to get so much done I don’t stop to eat.  I actually forget and I am not even hungry.  Normally, I am very aware of when and what I eat and how much water I’m drinking.  I’ve learned to be very careful about this over the years.  I’ve been reading a lot lately about how the brain and the gut are connected. There is so much that happens in the gut that can change the way the brain functions.  So it makes sense that cutting off the nutritional supply that your brain is used to would cause significant changes in your body.

4.  Everything resonates. So this symptom is where it really goes off the rails.  I start to see signs in everything.  I believe the technical term for it is grandiose or delusional thinking.  So for example I might see a billboard and say something like “Oh, I get it now, that’s what this all means.”  Or “Oh my goodness this is so big, it all makes sense now.”  I start to say things that make complete sense to me in my head, but when they come out of my mouth it’s making no sense at all.  At one point I start to think that people can or should be able to read my mind.  So I’ll just look at them like I’m telling them something and expect them to understand. This is when it’s getting really scary and on the verge of the episode.  Usually once it’s to this point, a manic episode can not be avoided.  So the idea is to recognize the early signs above, or someone close to you recognizes what’s happening and points it out so you can bring yourself back down.  Usually you can’t do that on your own, you need the help of someone else making sure that you are getting enough sleep and that you are eating and staying hydrated, etc.

5.  Senses overload.  So for me personally, this is when I’m in full blown manic mode.  It’s like all 5 of my senses are extra sensitive.  I hear everything louder.  Everything around me seems amplified.  From the voices of people around me to the natural noises of traffic and hustle and bustle.  And then I feel like everything is interconnected like I mention in number 4.  I feel like I can see things more clearly.  I feel things more fully.  And my talking becomes very chatty.  I have to talk about everything I’m seeing, hearing and feeling.  So it can be very annoying to someone around me.  I just can’t shut up, lol.  I joke about it, but it’s a very scary place to be.  In fact the other thing that happens at this point is that I get the worst headache.  My head is pounding so hard that I think I’m gonna die.  It’s just like massive overload of all the senses.

The way that I always try to explain to someone what it’s like, is to compare the body to a computer.  When you keep opening window after window and giving your computer more jobs to do, it finally just freezes up and won’t do anything.  The only way to fix it is to do a reboot.  It’s kind of the same way with me.  Once I get to that point, my body just shuts down and has to be rebooted.  I imagine it’s like a short circuit in the brain. My brain is just saying “enough is enough” I have to shut this baby down.

Usually at this point I am pretty much out of it.  I can’t function at all.  It really is like my body just goes into freeze mode and is waiting to be rebooted.  It’s super scary because I literally have no control over my body at this point.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have only gotten this far 3 times in my life where I have had to be hospitalized.  But looking back now I can see many times in my life where I was in the manic zone but then managed to work myself out of it, usually by sleeping it off.

So wow! Yes, that is what a manic episode is like for someone who is experiencing it.  There are many more symptoms that manifest for other people such as uncontrolled spending, excessive drinking, or drug abuse, extreme rage, etc.  But the 5 symptoms described above is how it works on me.  And like I said in the beginning, I can only speak from personal experience. This is why I mention so much that it feels like being “broken”.  It literally is like the brain is broken.

I know this can be extremely hard for a loved one to hear and witness.  But just know that it is even harder for the person who is going through it. I hope this has been insightful and helpful for those who have Bipolar or those with friends or family.  I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get the proper help and diagnosis.

I want to leave this on positive note though, because there is help and a lot of good things that can come from this. I have been so blessed to have had great support in my life and have been able to get the help that I’ve needed.  If you have found this helpful or insightful, please like and share.  And if you want to know more, I am happy to share my experiences.  I believe we are all here to help each other on our journeys through life.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Part 2 coming soon.  A different perspective.

 

 

5 Habits to adopt for good mental health

In the last post I promised that in the next one I would be sharing the 5 things that I try to do EVERY day, that I have found really help a lot when trying to balance and maintain good mental health.  This is not meant to replace medication (if needed) or other forms of therapy.  And if you think you may be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, I highly recommend seeing a Psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and help you formulate a good plan of action.

This is certainly not just for those who suffer with mental illnesses.  These habits are great habits to adopt for anyone who wants to improve their physical, mental and emotional state. So please don’t click off now, I promise this will be worth it.

So let’s just jump right in! I am going to go in specific order of importance as they apply to me and my mental health, but I’m sure it may be completely different for others.

1. SLEEP- At least 6-8 hours of good solid sleep per night.  It might seem crazy that I put this as the number one habit to adopt, but it is so so important!  Sleep is when your body recovers, rejuvenates and repairs itself. If your not getting enough, your body can’t function as it properly should.  Besides the obvious negativities like poor focus, fatigue and lack of concentration, poor sleep is linked to overeating, a greater risk for inflammation, depression, a greater risk of heart disease and stroke and it affects your emotions and social interactions.  It also contributes to lower glucose metabolism and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and those are just a few of the negative effects.  So it makes so much sense to give your body what it needs so that it can function as efficiently as possible.

Everyone is different and requires different amounts to  be healthy but at least 6-8 hours per night seems to be a sweet spot for most people.  There are so many benefits too. It can improve concentration and productivity, improve athletic performance. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories.  And it can improve immune system functions among many other benefits.  For me it is paramount in keeping my mental health balanced and stable. Also one last word of advice for sleep is that if you find that you have lost sleep for a few days, try to catch a few extra winks as quickly as you possibly can.  Sleep deprivation is a breeding ground for mania or manic episodes.

2. MOVE. YOUR. BODY.- At least 30 minutes daily of some form of movement.  I notice a significant drop in my mood within a couple of days of not working out.  It’s really kind of scary for me because I can feel depression settle in almost like a big black storm cloud if I go more than a few days without my regular workouts.  I personally do my workouts at home so I don’t have to get dressed up and wear makeup (cause I don’t go anywhere without makeup, haha), or worry about others critiquing what I’m doing. Plus it saves money on babysitters and gym memberships.  I have been working out consistently for over 25 years and have learned specific workouts that seem to have a greater positive effect for me.  Over the years I have collected quite a variety of videos, and equipment to keep me from getting bored doing the same workouts.

But whatever works for YOU is great!  As long as you are moving your body regularly.  Some people love the gym.  Some love to get outside and run or hike, and some enjoy the calming effects of a good yoga session.  It doesn’t really matter what, where, or how you move.  Just move and get those endorphins flowing!  Not only does it benefit your mental and emotional health, it makes you look and feel better.  And who can’t appreciate that?

3. HYDRATE- Drink at least half your body weight a day in water.  I’ve been doing this for many years now and it might seem funny that I rated this more important than a healthy diet (spoiler alert, lol).  And this is on purpose their are so many benefits to being properly hydrated.  Here are just a few:  Weight loss and good skin elasticity.  Hello!  Who doesn’t want to be more fit and have less wrinkles?  (I attribute looking as young as I do at 50 to drinking a lot of water every day for the past 20 something years). Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication.  It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function.  It aids digestion and creates better immune health.  It’s just a good solid healthy habit to adopt.

4. Eating a Healthy Diet. – Try and stay away from sugary processed foods.  And, I’m sorry for this one but, ABSOLUTELY no caffeine. Disclaimer, this is what I have found that works for me.  I am not a Dr. so definitely consult your physician on the best diet for you and your body type.

I have personally found that cutting back on carbohydrates and cutting out sugary foods and drinks does wonders for my mental state.  I know when I’ve gone to far with the trips to the ice cream store, because I start feeling lethargic, run down, lacking on focus and concentration and it’s easy for depression to set in.  And as for caffeine, this was a hard line that my Dr. set with me first thing!  I wasn’t thrilled about it for sure!  But it has had a huge effect on keeping me out of a state of mania.  When I’m entering a manic state of mind it feels almost like I’ve had a couple of cups of coffee or shot of caffeine.  So it makes sense that this would be something important to implement.

I’m not going too far down this road because it can be a loaded topic.  There are many options when it comes to healthy eating and different diet plans.  If you want more info on what I DO eat, please DM me and I’d be happy to chat about it.  Again this is what works for me.  The side benefits are many and your brain and body will love you for it.

5. CUTTING DOWN ON HIGH PRESSURE STRESS- Stress affects your body, from your brain to your digestive system!  This habit is probably the hardest one to maintain for most people.  We have so many things going on in our lives from work and family to school, and outside activities.  And that’s just naming a few.  These are just some of the many ways that stress can affect us negatively.  Headaches, muscle tension, chest palpitations, feelings of depression, ravenous hunger, and the list goes on. I have learned over the years that a good practice to adopt is that it’s OK to say ‘no’.  Don’t feel like you have to do all and be all just because you feel like everyone else is doing it.  Or that you just won’t measure up if you don’t.  Your good health is more important than anything else.  Even if it’s something you feel is really important! If you feel your body ramping up or getting anxious, it’s important to follow those signs it’s giving out.  If you are overwhelmed and over stressed to the max and you don’t heed the warning signs, your body will do a mental re-boot without your permission.  Trust me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.  Bottom line, down time is important and good for your body.

So that is a brief run down of the 5 habits that I promised to share with you.  I thought of at least 5 more that can be helpful as I was writing but I’ll save that for a later post.  Just one last final disclaimer:  Don’t just take my word for it.  If you are having warning signs, do yourself a favor and visit with your Dr.  You only have one body.  It might have come damaged somewhat, but there are still things you can do to keep it as healthy as possible.

p.s.  Not one of these habits is a fail safe.  You can’t just be one and done.  Of course each one is very beneficial and if you can’t do them all, start by adapting one at a time.  But they definitely work better in combination with each other.

If you made it this far, I hoped it helped and please share with anyone you think this might help. XO Wendy