Major depression came before the manic episode.
Prior to my first manic episode at 22 years old, a string of horrible events occurred. After coming out of a year long abusive relationship with a narcissist, I found out my dad had a liver tumor that was going to kill him. I quickly found myself in a depressive episode.
I was in university at the time – my third year. I did not feel sadness but more of a darkness. The depression was not severe enough to stop me from carrying on with every day life, so that’s exactly what I did.
My first panic attack happened on a city bus on my way to work three weeks later.
I ditched class for a week to go to Montreal to see a friend. The darkness followed me everywhere. Even my friend could sense it. Something was very wrong…and it was getting worse.
Over the following days, I knew something was changing inside of me. Every once in a while I started feeling little pings of terror “from within” – a type of terror completely new to me at the time.
It wasn’t until I got back home that it hit me. I was staring at the other people on the city bus when I suddenly dissociated for the first time. My first panic attack followed…my heart raced, my body twitched with terror.
I’m dying, I thought. I pulled the line to get off the bus. I sprinted to the hospital by foot, knowing I was going to die any second. When I ran through the doors of the hospital I screamed for help. They took me into a separate room where I sat alone due to my hysteria.
This marked the start of my manic episode.
I started having daily panic attacks, sleep paralysis, insomnia and seeing spiritual messages everywhere.
The darkness was with me always, growing stronger by the day. I started to feel an awakening of my spirit with the growing of the depression. I believed I was experiencing some kind of enlightenment.
I could have died and not cared. It was like swimming in the deepest sea of the most beautiful emotions that are impossible to describe unless you’ve seen it too.
I was convinced that there were hidden spiritual messages on the license plates of passing cars or in song lyrics that only I could hear. I started believing that I could see “the other side” of reality, and that I was special.
My purpose in the universe unraveled before my eyes. I stopped sleeping completely, and stopped attending classes. I heard flute music at all hours of the night as I sat awake scribbling philosophical notes on a notepad. “Songs of the universe,” I called them.
More panic attacks plagued me day and night mercilessly. If I finally did manage to fall asleep, the adrenaline of panic awoke me with jolts every hour.
I also frequently woke in a state of sleep paralysis. During these episodes I saw shapes and shadows of figures moving around my house.
I had out of body experiences (OBE’s) and hallucinations.
At the peak of my manic episode, I fell asleep on the futon in my living room. I vividly remember getting up off the futon and walking heavily to the other side of the room.
Each step I took was heavier and heavier, like walking through drying concrete.
Something wasn’t right. I felt the familiar surges of panic inside of me as I stood there. It was then I noticed my own body lying on the futon. I was outside of my body completely.
In a split second, I “jolted” back into my body on the futon, waking up immediately in a sleep paralysis state.
I couldn’t move. Frozen in place but consciously awake I thought I was dead and moving onto the afterlife.
When I started to regain control of my body as the sleep paralysis wore off, I looked at the TV set across the room. It looked abnormally massive. It didn’t look like my TV set at all. I then watched it shrink back down to regular size before my very eyes.
Mania or spiritual awakening? I didn’t care – I wanted it to stop.
My manic episode was both magical, and terrifying. To me, it was like entering a bizarre sci-fi movie where the monotony of life became exciting and mysterious again.
When I wasn’t completely euphoric I was terrified. Derealization made it impossible to go to the grocery store, go to class or even go outside in general.
I found myself dissociating at all hours of day and night – entering a strange “other world” or leaving my body completely. My health declined very fast.
I was never a religious person, but one night I started praying desperately for relief.
I experienced a sudden and fast spontaneous remission of symptoms.
The entire experience culminated to a single point one night. I put on the movie “American Beauty,” and watched it for the first time. Exhausted and tormented by my symptoms, I tried desperately to focus on the movie to escape my inner world.
This movie may not seem like anything spectacular to some people – but in a manic state, normal things can take on a whole new form of meaning.
At the very end of the movie, the main character Lester Burnham quotes:
“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about I’m sure, but don’t worry, you will someday“.
Auditory hallucinations of “cracks” and “clangs” inside of my head happened that night.
After hearing this quote by Lester Burnham combined with the beautiful piano music triggering the emotional response – I felt a shift. The sensation felt like an internal light turning back on.
A profound shift in awareness happened in one single moment. Like a tidal wave of “realization,” I absorbed that quote and went over it again and again in my mind.
That night when I fell asleep, I had auditory hallucinations of “cracks” and “clangs” like metal on metal inside of my head. These sounds were very real to me at the time, as if they were happening right beside me.
My hallucination involved seeing “little workers” repairing “whatever was broken” inside of my brain. The clangs and cracks were as loud as lightning. I felt the presence of the little workers, and saw their faces clear as day as they repaired my broken mind that night.
When I woke up, my symptoms were gone.
When I woke up the next morning, my symptoms were gone. There were no panic attacks, no derealization, no inner terror, no bizarre euphoria and no spiritual messages that could be seen.
Gratitude for my stupid little life, I thought repeatedly throughout the following days. I don’t know why this six letter phrase impacted me so intensely. Nor does it make any sense that words could end an episode of severe mental illness so rapidly.
My spontaneous remission didn’t make any medical sense at all…
I did not experience another episode of this nature again for close to ten years.
Following my episode I went on to not have another for close to ten years. My second manic episode was vastly different in nature, and had no spiritual undertones at all. It occurred after the birth of my daughter.
To read this story, see http://circumnavigating-madness.com/2019/10/24/my-postpartum-depression-the-descent-into-hell/.
Mania can be dangerous if not treated quickly. I was one of the lucky ones who made it out okay. If you are experiencing a manic episode, you must seek help.
Mania can manifest symptoms of insomnia, euphoria, restlessness, agitation, terror, panic attacks and psychosis itself. My own manic episode had strong spiritual undertones and hallucinations. It also caused racing thoughts, insomnia and panic attacks.
To read more about the symptoms of mania, see https://psychcentral.com/disorders/manic-episode/.
A really good mood is not the same as “mania”. Mania is dangerous and a medical emergency. It is experienced by those with bipolar disorder.
Books written by people with bipolar disorder:
Rescue from Darkness: A Memoir of living with Bipolar Disorder by Wendy Roste. See here.
My Bipolar Life: From the Valleys of Depression to the Mountains of Mania by Ronald Allan Reimche. See here.
Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar by Natasha Tracy. See here.
If you are experiencing mania, please seek medical attention immediately.