Soon after the pandemic began, I could feel my mind starting to speed up. I was reading too many news stories about what was going on. I was doing what some people now refer to as “doomsurfing,” which is reading all the negative and almost-apocalyptic predictions about what’s going to happen in the world because of the virus.
I knew I had to slow down, but I was having trouble. My grandfather noticed it – I was talking faster, moving faster, everything was fast. These were all tell-tale signs and red flags of a manic episode.
Thankfully, I’ve read enough about Bipolar now to know what was going on. I know what my warning signs are for dangerous manic episodes and I know what to do when I spot them. Sometimes, this just means slowing down or as I call it “shutting down.” To me, this basically means getting away from stimulating activities and getting some sleep.
Sometimes, though, other actions need to be taken. The symptoms I had seemed more serious, so I called my psychiatrist. We talked on the phone for about fifteen minutes and I described my symptoms. He adjusted my medications over the phone and, sure enough, the symptoms soon started to ease up. I was able to get sleep and stabilize.
Bipolar is a subtle foe
This story may not sound like much, but I saw it as a huge victory in managing my mental health. I’ve educated myself enough about the disorder that I was able to recognize what was going on and take the necessary action. In doing so, I avoided further suffering and also avoided subjecting my family to suffering. In all likelihood, I may have avoided a psychiatric hospital stay.
I often don’t give myself enough credit when I do things well, so I wanted to acknowledge the mental health victory. I usually focus on the things I do wrong. I feel that Bipolar – like any mental illness – can be such a hard condition to manage because it’s a subtle foe. At times, it’s hard to trust my own mind because it can work against me.
That’s why I think reading as much as I can from the experts about Bipolar and how to manage it pays off. I’ve been diagnosed with type 1 Bipolar, which I’ve read means I’ve had at least one full-blown manic episode (and I’ve definitely had a few).
Red flags of manic episodes
Here are a few of the signs of mania, as described by the website Very Well Mind:
- Reduced need for sleep. This is a big sign that I look for often. Lack of sleep over a period of time can lead to manic episodes. That’s why it’s so important for people with Bipolar to keep a normal sleep/wake cycle.
- Increased rate of speech. I’ve experienced this one, too. When I’m in the middle of an episode, I can’t see it sometimes. But someone who’s a witness of an episode will be able to tell. I’ve been told that, when in an episode, I talk faster and have pressured speech.
- Flight of ideas. This is a tell-tale sign for me. I consider myself a creative person, but when I start “connecting the dots” and getting more ideas than I can handle, I know I need to slow down.
- High self-esteem/grandiosity. I’ve experienced this one a lot, and it can be embarrassing. When in an episode, I usually think I’m some sort of genius.
- Increased interest in goal-oriented activities. This one ties in with some of the other signs, like high self-esteem and flight of ideas. When in an episode, I usually have the intense urge to write and think what I’m writing is absolutely brilliant.
- Psychomotor agitation. This is another sign that is hard to tell for the person experiencing the episode. It basically means I have trouble sitting still and I’m prone to pace, wring my hands, and fidget.
- Increased pursuit of risky activities. I listed this one last, but it’s certainly not the least of the symptoms of an episode. I have done very risky and dangerous things in the pace while in the grips of an episode and, thank God, I haven’t hurt myself.
The bottom line is, the more I educate myself about Bipolar, the symptoms and red flags of mania, and how to manage the disorder, the better chance I’ll have to live a normal and fulfilled life. And when I do have little victories along the way, I want to celebrate them.