This post is a follow-up to a post I wrote last week: The Blessings of Mania. This is the flip side, what happens when mania stops being fun for me.
Imagine you are watching a nature documentary about bees with the volume turned the whole way up on your TV. On the screen is a huge swarm, which buzzes loudly. A narrator is talking over the bees, telling you about their behavior, but there’s still that buzzing in the background, and it’s kind of annoying.
That’s what the inside of my head started to sound like after almost a week of mania. My internal voice was still there, but my thoughts were noisy and chaotic and made me headachy.
I spent a whole day lying on the couch, staring at the carpet, unable to sleep because I was brimming with energy and unable to stand up and do anything without pacing the downstairs of our apartment. Three or four hours into it, I lost my ability to read without skipping sentences or forgetting what I’d just read. I tried to watch TV, but the sound of it grated against the loudness in my head, so turned it off.
I called my mom, my best friend, and eventually my doctor. They finally assigned me to a new psychiatrist, but he couldn’t see me for two days.
Over those two days, everything became infuriating. I hated the mental health industry and the new doctor I had never met. How dare they assign me to someone who specializes in geriatric psychiatry? I’m not even 25 yet! They just want to pass me off to the first schmuck who will take my insurance.
The dirty dishes in the sink, lint on the carpet, and the puppy’s accidents in the house made me livid. No one cares what happens in this house. I have to do everything. I’m totally alone in this. Minor peeves became a crisis. I started picking fights with my fiancé over petty things.
Then the impulses started: I’m no good here. I should run away. My fiancé won’t let me run away. If I could just harm myself I would feel better. I don’t want to die, I just want this to stop. Maybe I should just overdose and get it over with. I want to disappear.
Everything around me and inside me—people, my pets, the neighbors outside, my own thoughts, and time itself—felt like cars flashing by on a highway. I felt like the “real” me had checked out and left me with this monster in my body.
My fiancé became visibly weary and verbally expressed his exasperation with my mood shifts and his frustration at feeling powerless to help me.
I started having problems at work. I had to cancel my vacation to Virginia to see my best friend in September because Big Bee doesn’t want me traveling alone like this.
I started to feel like I needed to be in the hospital until my impulses and anger felt more controlled. I started thinking about the past hospitalizations, how it’s been almost four years since the last time, and how desperately I don’t want my life or my mental health to return to the way it used to be.
Somehow, I made it to Thursday morning to see my new doctor. Contrary to my angry thoughts about the whole thing, I think I like him. He listens carefully to what I’m telling him and explains all the scientific stuff I like to know about my brain chemistry and meds. He put me on a mood stabilizer I’ve already tried twice, under the theory that I’ve always needed high doses of other mood stabilizers because I metabolize them too fast to make them effective, and maybe I was never on a high enough dose of this one. He put me on an atypical anti-psychotic because it’s going to take 2-3 months to reach the optimum dose of the first medication, and I told him I couldn’t go on feeling this out-of-control for that long. He refilled my anxiety medication, and he told me that if I wasn’t feeling better in a few days, we would talk about admitting me to the psych unit until I was stabilized because it seemed like I was starting into a dangerous mixed episode (symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously).
That was four days ago.
I’m tired and kind of achy from my new meds, especially in the morning when I first wake up and feel groggy. My mind still goes too fast some times, but it doesn’t last too long. I feel more steady, less temperamental. I’m sleeping and eating again, which I think might be the most important factor in how well I’ve been feeling the past few days. It’s not perfect. My focus and memory are still off, I’m having trouble keeping track of time, and I’m not depressed, but I feel deflated. The energy and drive of last week isn’t there anymore.
I’m glad the worst of it seems to have passed, but I’d be lying if I said I envisioned myself maneuvering into autumn without some hiccups in the whole process. The meds have done one really spectacular thing: I’ve come down enough to gain some perspective on the last two weeks, and I’m not being so hard on myself now. I know this was caused by coming off of my old meds. I know I’m not a monster and that my healthy self isn’t gone forever. That gives me hope, and hope keeps me from giving up.