Well, as a general rule being happy isn’t a problem, but when people assume that’s all mania’s about, it becomes one.
This is Mania 101 (for Bipolar 101 click here)
There are two different levels of manic state. The less severe is known as Hypomania and is the maximum state is experienced by those with Type II and Cyclothymia.
It can often be quite pleasant with symptoms being noticeable, but mild. You don’t need to sleep as much, you have so much to talk about, you’re full of ideas and you’ve never felt so focussed on a goal. On the flip side, in reality you can be distractable and jump from goal to goal. Your confidence can lead you to over indulge, by becoming irresponsible with spending or sexual activity. It’s also not uncommon to not feel so pleasant but irritable instead.
The second is known as Mania, and someone experiencing this will be referred to as manic. Put simply, this involves what I described above, but to such a high level that it becomes debilitating and the consequences are far more severe. And let’s not forget the truly fun aspect that separates Mania from Hypomania: psychosis.
Of course, not all symptoms will be present at once (or they may, poor you), and while some people will have trends, not all episodes will present the same.
So what’s so bad about all this?
After all, Hypomania doesn’t sound so bad. Well, so long as you ignore losing your savings, upsetting your friends, and living with regret of poor decisions.
Mania is worse for obvious reasons. That confidence becomes Godliness, invincibility, mountains of debt, poor investments, unemployment, pregnancy, losing friends, and more. If you were irritable before, you’re aggressive now. And of course, there’s the psychosis which I could write a whole other post on.
Being happy is a problem because that feeling makes you blind to the consequences; uncomprehending of what others see.
But most importantly: if you feel good, confident, and perhaps even invincible, you’re not going to want to become stable again.
And if you don’t put in effort to become stable again, you risk escalating into a full blown manic disorder, increase the chances of episodes in later life, and decrease the likelihood of overcoming them earlier.
And of course, the phrase The higher the rise, the harder you fall becomes very true for Bipolars as mania is so often followed by an episode of depression. Where all the consequences of mania feel so much worse.
But here’s my advice:
I wrote a lot here but realised I could shorten it to this: trust other people. Allow a trusted person to be in control of your finances. Let others know about your condition and what to expect, and apologise in advance. Write a list of your symptoms and brainstorm with others how to resolve or lessen each issue. Keep a diary to be aware straight away when you’re escalating.
And everyone else, remember we’re still us. Except in the case of psychosis, our mind is still there, unfiltered and irrational. So there’s no need to baby us, just be honest and tell us if we’re being an idiot.
Of course everyone is different, so talk to your loved one with Bipolar. Find out what they specifically need from you.
Mania can cause many issues, but with awareness it can become easily controllable. You are strong enough to not let it control you.