"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
August 3, 2012
Ah, Manic Mania!
by Sarah Hancock

Have you watched a loved one have a manic episode? Have you experienced mania? I have. Mania is a symptom of bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder-bipolar type. Mania can also be a result of drug use. There are three types of mania: hypomania, mania and mixed mania. Today I’m just going to describe hypomania and mania (they’re more fun). I’ll touch on “mixed mania” later.

Two weeks ago I went to bed and never fell asleep. In fact, the longer I lay in bed, the more ideas and more energy I had. I quickly became bored. Something about staring at the ceiling only increased my boredom.

Instead of clearing my mind, I began pondering the upcoming semester while mentally planning the agenda for my quickly approaching correlation meeting. As you can imagine, I didn’t fall asleep. I tried boring myself to sleep, counting backwards from 1,000, and restarting each time I accidently moved. That didn’t work either.

Forcing myself to stay in bed was annoyingly difficult. Truthfully, I simply had too many fun things to plan, too many ideas to sort out, too many projects to finish.

Come three in the morning, my boredom was getting the best of me. The vacuum stashed in the corner looked more and more inviting. Initially the only thing stopping me from getting up was my desire to let my sweetie sleep. After all, waking up to a vacuum at three in the morning isn’t conducive to getting the rest a normal person needs to work all day. Gratefully, I could still recognize that.

However, in order to vacuum, I’d need to rid the floor of everything, but it didn’t matter because I had enough energy to clean everything including the fridge and a month’s worth of laundry. In fact, I finally figured out how to finish that novel I’d started years ago! My newfound energy felt amazing! I haven’t felt like that in years.

I knew I could let the energy take over, getting a thousand things done, but that little voice of reason kept reminding me that giving into this immense desire and ability to check everything off my to-do list would only feed the insatiable energy. I was hypo-manic and I knew it. Hypo-manic means not quite manic, but headed in that direction. I knew how fun, fulfilling and productive it could be to give into the hypo-mania, but I stopped myself on purpose.

Making the decision to stop mania is hard. The only way to stop yourself from spinning out of control during mania is sleep. However, sleep is nearly impossible without intervention. Perhaps you think, “Well, just turn your mind off.”

As odd as it sounds to someone who’s never experienced mania, a bipolar mind doesn’t have an off switch. It’s all back to that chemical imbalance that causes psychiatric disorders. People without some form of bipolar disorder can turn their brains off to sweetly slip into slumber because their chemicals are balanced. If the chemicals weren’t balanced, they too could stay up for days on end thinking nothing of it!

Who in the world chooses to clean out the entire house at such a horrific hour? Who gladly and purposely gives up sleeping to vacuum? Who willingly and eagerly does a month’s worth of laundry while the population’s majority is fast asleep?

I have friends who prefer staying up late to finish projects while children sleep. However, they are exhausted the next day. Why? They aren’t hypo-manic. I am. I was more alert at 4 a.m. than I was when waking up the previous morning. In fact, as the second day of wakefulness progressed, I only became more excited and happy about life.

The longer a hypo-manic person stays up, the more alert and productive she can become ̶ to a point. Hypo-mania can cause a variety of different symptoms, one of which is an amazing amount of energy. The problem is, if hypo-mania isn’t curbed, the energy intensifies. Suddenly thoughts fly increasingly faster. Everything else slows to an annoying speed equivalent to cold molasses. Once that happens, hypo-mania melts into the background, launching into full-blown mania.

When manic, it feels like others can’t think or process thoughts at a normal speed, causing extreme frustration. Manic symptoms can also include a huge boost of self-esteem and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities without thought to consequences. It’s as if the brain makes decisions so quickly the concept of consequences doesn’t register.

Every brain needs sleep to continue functioning properly; mania doesn’t allow sleep. How can a brain function without sleep? It can’t. Consequently, when experiencing mania, people can begin making really bad decisions, not even recognizing them as such. For example: driving at speeds over 100mph (annoyed that every other driver is going the seemingly equivalent of 9 ½ mph), marrying some stranger off the street (because he smiled at her), shaving her long locks (thinking her new employer will be impressed by the creativity), or perhaps enrolling in two doctoral programs at the same time (initially doing well, but then unraveling midway into the second semester when the mania careens out of control). These examples are all from real people with bipolar disorder, and these examples are the most benign!

However, think about it, if you are used to feeling like a sad, unproductive slug with friends and family who berate you for your supposed laziness, when hypo-mania kicks in, you reach up and grab it in an effort to feel better and prove to your loved ones that you aren’t lazy.

I guess my point is, if you recognize you or a loved one suddenly needs significantly less sleep, becomes spontaneously more productive, and is having trouble expressing thoughts because the thoughts are too fast to explain, it could be a form of mania. It takes a lot of self-discipline to willingly turn off the happy juice (mania), but doing so before things swing out of control is vital. Mania almost always crashes into deep, severe depression.

Make sure you or your loved one talk to a professional who can assist in reining in the manic symptoms. It could mean the difference between turning off the mania or losing control of it ̶ usually plaguing you or your loved one with possible horrific consequences. The choice is yours, and as I said before, it’s not an easy one.

For more information on bipolar disorder, please see PubMed Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001924/


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About Sarah Hancock

Sarah Price Hancock, a graduate of San Diego State University's rehabilitation counseling Masters of Science program with a certificate psychiatric rehabilitation.

Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about psychiatric recovery. She enjoys working as a lector for universities, training upcoming mental health professionals. Sarah also enjoys sharing insights with peers working to strengthen their "recovery toolbox." With proper support, Sarah knows psychiatric recovery isnít just possible ó itís probable.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish-speaking and ASL mission for the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU. Sarah currently resides in San Diego and inherited four amazing children when she married the man of her dreams in 2011. She loves writing, public speaking, ceramics, jewelry-making and kite-flying ó not necessarily in that order.

NAMI San Diego's Fall Keynote Address: Living in Recovery with Schizoaffective Disorder

Having recently moved into a new ward, she currently serves as a visiting teacher.

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