I’ve been going to start this post for the past hour but due to a ridiculous manic state, that I’ve been in for the past few days it’s taken me sixty minutes to actually start typing. I’ve opened WordPress multiple times, gone on twitter, created yet another Spotify playlist, read a list of the best movie quotes of all time, picked at my skin, put on my sneakers, decided not to go for a run, messaged a mess of random thoughts to random friends, watched a bunch of YouTube videos, changed my bedding, but finally I’ve sat still for a second to write this down.
I’ve struggled with manic episodes since i was about 13-14. You know all that crap about mental illnesses presenting once you hit puberty? Yep, that’s me. Back then it mainly presented as a lack of need to sleep and a compulsion for storytelling and over-dramatisation. I would stay up until four am watching TV, listening to music, painting, reading, whatever i could do without waking my family. I would then sleep for two hours and then get up and go to school, come home and do the whole thing again. The other main mania* symptom was my exaggerated storytelling, or lying. I used to lie all the time for no real reason. I would make up all these ridiculous stories to tell people just for fun. I loved seeing peoples reactions and finding out just how much i could get away with. These were all harmless lies that only served as entertainment for me. Even now I still come up with heaps of fantasies and scenarios in my head but I try to limit them to paper rather than to an audience. I’ve started approximately 15+ novels this past year alone.
I’ve just taken a momentary break to watch Dirty Dancing clips on YouTube. I don’t think people are watching or discussing this movie enough anymore. Feel free to contact me in regards to creating a Dirty Dancing fan club.
In my later teen years my mania mainly came out in an increased libido. I never really dated any one person, I had multiple guys and girls I would regularly have sex with as well as random one night stands. I thought this was fun and an okay behaviour but now I see that it was probably quite damaging. I hurt a lot of people and broke up a few relationships in this period. I don’t think I even overly enjoyed the sex itself it was just an activity that would solely hold my attention for twenty minutes. It fitted well into my insomniac lifestyle. There were some nights when I would see multiple partners and still not feel satisfied. However this has had major social complications for me. Even years later people still think of me as a slut and guys often approach me thinking I’m still as easy as I was back then. I played pretty fast and loose in regards to my health, condoms weren’t always used. I contracted a chlamydia a few times, had multiple UTIs and an unwanted pregnancy. However I have since learnt from this and often use my experiences to advise my friends coming to me with sexual health worries. So at least something good came out of these experiences.
When I turned twenty I discovered just how easily I could self-medicate my mania with alcohol. Even now alcohol is pretty much the only thing that dulls the mania, or at least makes me less aware of it. The problem with being manic and getting drunk at the same time is that there is absolutely no self control. Both work together to create this entirely separate persona of mine who has no awareness or responsibility for her actions. Which at times is really fun but also gets me into a lot of trouble.
Once after not sleeping for two days, then working a twelve hour shift, then drinking half a bottle of gin I ended up hitting a girl I’d been seeing. That’s sounds really bad, it was really bad I guess. I didn’t hit her aggressively, we were just play fighting in bed and I was a little too rough. I wasn’t aware of my actions until the next morning when she told me. I’d completely blacked it out having finally slept a little. She said I was just hyperactive and very excitable and that it was all innocent I just hadn’t realised my strength. She had to walk around with bruised cheekbone for a week. Which was terrible for her but a good wake up call for me that I needed to get in control of my manic periods.
Since then I’ve been a lot better. I’ve realised that, like when I’m having a depressive mood, it is better that I isolate myself from others. Even though I often feel this strong desire to socialise and surround myself with people I’m aware that that’s just my mania talking as most of the time I’m quite introverted. It is better for others, and myself in the long run, if I avoid society when I’m in one of these hyper-euphoric stages.
My main coping device is a checklist** that I’ve created that is set with an alarm on my phone. The alarm goes off at the same times each day and I’ve been very vigilant at making sure to answer the questions each time it does. Even when in public I will excuse myself to run through the list. I’m public about the list with a few close friends and will openly interrupt them and say Sorry I’ve got to do my checklist. Which they allow me to do with no judgement before we return to whatever activity we were doing prior. A few times I’ve tried to ignore it but I’ve always had one of these friends around who forces me to fill out the questionnaire. It is very important to have a good support group and I am very grateful for having such.
It’s hard trying not to drink when I feel like this. It’s ingrained in my mind that if I have two pints and a gin I’ll level out. I’ve tried smoking pot to help but that just gives me extreme paranoia and an even more distracted brain. So pretty much the opposite of what I need. Cigarettes are another bad one. On my most manic days I can easily smoke two packs. Which makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. Cigarettes carry the same train of thought as alcohol. I’ll just have a smoke and that will settle me. Two hours later I’ve had ten cigarettes and have ashed all throughout the house as I can smoke and do anything simultaneously. I’ve baked batches of scones with an accidental tobacco flavour, without realising lit a smoke in the grocery store, though my favourite incident was trying to put on mascara while having drag and poking myself in the eye. I don’t know why I was putting on my makeup at 3am anyway.
The one symptom that I hate the most however is the constant need to pick at my skin. Even while writing this I’ve gotten up multiple times and gone to my mirror to squeeze at pimples that aren’t really there. My legs and arms are littered with scabs from incessant scratching. Plucking out my leg hairs is also a good habit I’ve developed. These obsessions I hate the most because they are a symptom that people can visibly see. I once scratched practically all of the skin off the top of my left foot which was really hard to explain when wearing sandals during it’s healing process. Especially because all I could say was my foot was itchy. There’s no other explanation. Saying I was having a manic episode and subsequently scratched at it for ten minutes, sounds even crazier.
Anyway, this particular episode I think has been brought on by a combination of being sick of feeling so down and being downright bored. I’ve been awake for 32 hours which isn’t good but I’m limiting my actions. I’m not socialising even though a girl I really like asked me to hangout tonight. It’s hard because all i want to do is chat endlessly about the thoughts racing around my head. I’ve put band-aids over all previous scabs so I can’t pick at them and cut off my fingernails so I can’t create new ones. I’m trying to funnel all this energy into something more creative and productive. Though so far I’ve started writing three different short stories, watched a bunch of movies while listening to non-related albums, started to read two novels, attempted a sewing project and started a painting. So I’ve got a lot of little things started but I probably won’t finish any of them. If I could just focus all this energy into one activity I think I could probably change the world. Excessive self-confidence is a common symptom of mania.
Also I’m kind of annoyed that the memorable line from Dirty Dancing is Nobody puts Baby in the corner. I definitely think it should be I carried a watermelon.
*What a great combination of the same letters
**I will post My Manic Checklist in a separate post