There are hundreds of comprehensive lists out there, listing the signs and symptoms of bipolar, but diagnosing the illness is not as simple as one might imagine. I was diagnosed with type II bipolar in 2011, which has now developed into Rapid Cycling Bipolar. When I saw my psychiatrist for the first time that day he described me as ‘Text book bipolar,’ meaning it has always been obvious to anyone that knows anything about the illness that I suffer with it and did so for many years before an official diagnosis.
One thing that really bugs me is when I meet people who are just desperate to have a label, because for some insane reason a lot of people think it’s ‘cool’ to be sick. I have come across multiple people who were virtually jumping up and down, wanting to be diagnosed when all that was really wrong with them was a few mild, normal mood swings. There is a difference.
This is why I’ve decided to make my own list, addressing the main symptoms but writing my own, personal experience of them which hopefully people can relate to, and at the same time hopefully rule out the difference between a bipolar mood swing and normal mood swing. I’ll start here with mania and write about depression in a separate post.
Bipolar Mania is characterized as…
-Unusual/High amounts of energy
Whenever I get manic or hypomanic (a less serious type of mania) everything races: My thoughts, my speech and my body; everything speeds up. In the past I have used this energy to do things like clean the entire house when actually, normally, I never clean, or I’ve written entire university essays in one sitting. For this, having a manic episode can be quite useful!
This one is probably pretty obvious. Having a manic episode usually means that- for that time- everything is wonderful. You love yourself, you love everyone and everything. You feel really good about yourself, in my case meaning for a short amount of time I think I’m both highly attractive and very important, which is totally out of character for me. However, one thing I haven’t found cited anywhere on the net is the paranoia that so often goes hand in hand with mania. Despite being in an unusually good mood, I start getting paranoid that my behaviour is making people judge me and I fear that everyone is staring at me, that I am the centre of attention. Generally though this happens with hypomania (which I get more often), as in a manic episode- if you’re having one- you won’t usually know that there’s anything wrong, you’ll be in denial.
I get unbearable insomnia when I am manic. There are two reasons for this. One is that my mind and thoughts are going so fast that it is impossible to relax, but it can also often be because I don’t want to sleep; because I feel I have so many important things to do during the night.
For me, this one is a tell-tale indication that I’m having an episode. It doesn’t matter how much I have in my bank account, be it £20 or £200, it’ll be gone within a day. When I was at university I could actually be triggered into an episode by the large amounts of money I would receive from the student loans company, and one time I spent £2,000 in two days. I have never spent money during an episode on anything other than shopping for either myself or presents for friends and family.
-Irrationality and Poor Judgement.
Absolutely everything seems like a good idea when you’re manic, which is precisely why it can be very dangerous. One of the things I told my psychiatrist which lead to my diagnosis was the night I left my house around 3am and walked to a remote beach (alone), took off all of my clothes and went for a swim while the tide was on its way out. I was in such a bad way, psychologically, that I don’t remember how I got home that night or how I managed to swim to shore and survive for that matter. That is just one example of the many erratic things I have done during past episodes.
There are many other symptoms which indicate a manic episode but those are just the few that are most relevant to my own individual illness.