Blog #12: The M Word- Manic!

Hi guys! So up to this point, I have been pretty upfront about my own journey with mental illness & some of my history, specifically about being Bipolar. This blog will touch on sort of a sore spot or "trigger" for me-and that is the word 'manic'. Mania is obviously a big part of Bipolar Disorder (aka Manic/ Depressive Disorder), for some more than others depending upon their specific diagnosis. Personally, I experience mania more than the depressive side of it, but when someone uses the term manic to describe my behavior, whether it is accurate or not, it drives me crazy!

In this post, I will discuss my point of view being manic, and why the term bothers me so much. If you haven't read my previous blog, Being Bipolar, then I will catch you up quickly. I was officially diagnosed in around 2011, when my mom brought me to my primary doctor (not a psychiatrist) and told him a list of my symptoms. At first he decided I had depression, and prescribed an antidepressant. I tried that for a while, and not only did it cause a lot of stomach pain and vomiting, but my mom did more research and went back and told the Dr that she thinks I'm actually Bipolar. He quickly agreed and I was prescribed my first Bipolar medication.

At this time I was going through a lot! I had just lost my father, who I was EXTREMELY close with, when I was 17 years old. By 18 I had moved 4 hours away to attend the University of Central Florida, and started experimenting with different substances to try to numb the pain- mostly alcohol. I still managed to maintain my GPA, and even made Deans List 4 consecutive semesters. I maintained all appearances with my family that I was fine, but I really wasn't. I got to the point where I was drinking alone, and blacking out (almost on purpose) night after night- all the while appearing as though I was just socially 'partying'.

After about a year and a half, I could no longer maintain the illusion that everything was fine. I had a urinary tract infection that I ignored for almost a year, that may or may not have caused a psychosis. If it wasn't that, then I just had a mental breakdown. Either way, I was not in my right mind, and my mother noticed and took action. That is when I experienced my first Baker-act. After going to various doctors and ER's, they treated the UTI, but noticed my mental state was off. Long story short, they decided to put me in a psych ward.

The ward I entered was extremely scary, a state run facility with hundreds of people, men and women, some prisoners who were chained and followed by police officers, and other various mental patients. It was a bad experience overall. I just remember initially telling my mom and boyfriend at the time on the phone that it was like a summer camp- we did activities, crafts, etc... I think I might have been trying to convince them, and maybe even myself, that everything was okay, when it wasn't. The scarier moments that stand out are a grown man masturbating in front of me, bugs in my room crawling around everywhere, and sitting next to a shackled man in a prisoners uniform in the TV room, being offered free cigarettes from the staff, and other patients making me take them to pass it to them.

I'm sorry if the details are disturbing, but you can imagine how it was for a 19 year old girl who had never been to any such facility before to see all of those things. Again, I was in a psychosis, so my perception may definitely have been off, but today I can look back from a clear point of view, and remember the feelings and events that stand out.

So the worst part is that it was involuntary, and they would not release me until the doctor said I was able to, no matter how much my mom called & begged for them to. My mother, step father, and ex visited me at least once in the 3 or 4 days I was there, and saw the state of it, and eventually reasoned with the Psychiatrist to release me, by promising to follow up immediately with a Dr/ therapist when I got out. I was to stay with my mom and seek treatment ASAP.

I was still in active psychosis when I left, and actually thought I had somehow escaped. To make matters worse, there was a murder in my mom's neighborhood at that time. A friends mother was killed by her adoptive son, an old classmate of mine. I literally looked out the window waiting for the cops to arrest me, because in my mind I had just escaped from a psych ward, so obviously they were gonna think it was me who killed her! It is such a surreal experience to look back on moments such as those, and clearly see how irrationally I acted and thought when I wasn't in my right mind. I am just grateful that today I am, and I was able to come through the other side, as there are many who stay in those psychotic episodes.

So that whole experience traumatized me, and as I slowly got out of that episode, I distrusted all doctors and therapists. I had an extreme fear of Baker-acts, and refused to talk to anyone that could possible put me back in that environment. I sat for full hours in silence with a therapist who tried everything to get me to talk, while I refused.

The question then became, should I go back to UCF? Luckily it was summertime, and we all had a couple months to decide. I somehow convinced everyone I could do it, and my ex agreed to look after me as he had transferred to a school in the same city, Orlando. I wasn't fully ready though, and only lasted a couple weeks before both he and I saw that it wasn't going to work. So I moved back home with my mom and started another journey- my journey with addiction and institutions. I used my moms excellent healthcare to run from rehab to rehab, leaving anytime things got too real or painful- but that's a different story.

I say all this to give you an idea of everything that happened in such a short amount of time. It was a lot for anyone to deal with, and I have found that putting things in a timeline, either in my mind or on paper, helps me look at a crazy time in a clearer way. So back to the topic of this blog- the word 'Manic'. I have been called this hundreds of times, it feels like. Most times justifiably, and other times not so much. I know logically now that I lean more towards mania, though I have definitely experienced the depressive side as well.

But if I'm being honest, it is really freaking annoying to be constantly monitored and have my behavior under a microscope. Every time I get a little hyper, the people around me start to worry. That worry translates to questions and a hyper focus on my every move. That is usually around the time I hear the word manic- as in "are you feeling manic" or "you seem a little manic right now, is everything ok?". I get it, I have given plenty of reason for loved ones to worry in the past, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating! I compare it to being a lab rat, under constant monitoring.

Another reason that I am so sensitive to the term is due to instances in the past where the word has been used negatively towards me. As much as I love my mother, and as a mom now I understand wanting to protect your kids, she has been the main person to use my diagnosis to control me. She and I have always had a toxic yet loving relationship, but that's a story for another time. She has had a role in at least 3 of my Baker-acts- which is in stark contrast to the first one, where she tried everything to get me out. So she, wanting to control me or the situation, used terms like manic to tell me that I'm not acting right. There have been plenty of times where I really wasn't manic, but was being told that I was. Those are the most upsetting times for me.

Now that I have been stable and competent since before my daughter was born, about 2 years, I can approach my mental illness from a healthy place. I'm not saying I haven't had any problems or mood swings in that time. I have had plenty of moments where I am a little up or a little down, or a little irrational. Coupled with hormones, being 6 months pregnant, I have had to deal with anxiety and changes in mood, but it is nothing compared to what I have experienced in the past!

I need to give a BIG thank you to my husband, who for 5 years has been my advocate, partner, best friend, support and so much more! He is the calm voice of reason who has never used my mental health against me or to hurt me. He actually helps me stay on top of taking my medication and monitoring my symptoms. He knows the right terms to use, and the ones that may trigger me. I know it can't be easy to be my partner at times, but he does it with pride, and doesn't ever let me make myself feel like a burden. With my anxiety and panic attacks, particularly this pregnancy, he contacted my doctor, got my prescription, and makes sure I take it at the right times. It took time for me to see he wasn't trying to control me, but rather help me. Now I see that his help is invaluable.

So what is the take-away? I would say to be sensitive to those who have any kind of mental health history. Choose your words carefully, and always come from a place of love, compassion and understanding. I have found "you-statements" can make a person instantly defensive, so avoid statements like "you are so this" or "you keep doing that". Rather, phrase a comment starting with "I feel" as in "I feel like you are a little hyper, is everything okay?". I know it might feel like walking on eggshells, and I know not everyone is as sensitive to certain words or sentence structures, but if you really care about the person, you will learn what they prefer and follow their guidelines!

This post has been very cathartic for me, and I am glad I can clearly communicate my needs and expectations today! Thanks so much for reading this, I know it was a little longer than usual! If you want to read more from me, please subscribe below! And if you got anything out of this post, please share with your friends and family! Comment below if you can relate in any way, whether you deal with mental illness yourself or have a loved one who does. 

I really appreciate having a space to speak my truth from my perspective, and love hearing the response from my readers!

So thank you again!

Love always,