I've been hospitalized for mania three times in the past ten years, the last time in 2010. This post is an account of a mania that occurred in 2002. I chose to write about this manic phase because I happened to have my camera with me a lot, and I took pictures that may help you to understand what I was going through.
In this picture, I'm standing on a beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago. I had recently started a new job and was hanging out with my ex-boyfriend a lot (didn't make much sense). Anyway, he was gearing up for a really busy time at work and wanted to visit Chicago before he became swamped.
We decided to go to Chicago for the day and drive back late at night. It was a ten hour drive round trip. I know that lack of sleep can trigger mania in me, so I always try to make sleep a priority. For this reason, I was afraid to make the trip since it seemed unlikely that I'd get enough sleep, but my ex-boyfriend said, "Don't worry, you can sleep in the car on the way back," and I stupidly agreed to go. This picture was taken shortly after we got to Chicago, and I was feeling very happy and even-keeled.
I ended up staying up all night in Chicago and didn't sleep as my ex-boyfriend drove back to Louisville. When I got home, instead of sleeping, I decided to drive to my favorite part of town, park, and wander around. I didn't have any plans to go anywhere specific or meet anyone. I just walked around talking to strangers and taking pictures.
The people below are a very nice couple I met and chatted with at a coffee shop. I'm a friendly person, and I often make eye contact and smile at strangers, and even exchange pleasantries when appropriate. This was beyond that. I was engaging people in long conversations. I'm not sure what they thought. I'm lucky that people in Louisville are polite compared to many of the other places I've been.
After I left the coffee shop, I hopped on a trolley where I spoke with these young men.
When I got off the trolley, I met this man on the sidewalk.
I had quite a long conversation with these two guys, although I don't remember what we were talking about. The one with the beret asked me out for ribs. I got in his camouflage truck and he drove me about 30 miles from my parked car. We had fun eating ribs and drinking beer - by then I was fully manic and didn't take the "no drinking" advice from my doctor seriously. I don't recall any wild drinking, but I remember having a couple of strong microbrews.
After the ribs and beer, he invited me to his apartment and off we drove. When we got there, he put on some 80's music and started dancing. As I was taking everything in, I noticed he had a lot of knives on display. All of a sudden, I felt uncomfortable and realized that I wanted to leave. I asked him to take me back to my car and he did. I'm really lucky that he was a nice guy.
You may notice that, in this picture, I'm still wearing the outfit that I was wearing in Chicago. I tend to wear the same clothes for days when I'm manic.
I thought this young girl selling candy was really cute.
The next day, I returned to the same neighborhood for more roaming. I was having some religious delusions that I can't remember very well anymore. For reasons that made sense at the time, I decided to walk into my church. The door was open and I found a few friends there and had this picture taken with one of them. I was wearing a t-shirt that says, "City of Louisville - 1778." I remember that it meant something special to me at the time, besides it being the year that Louisville was founded. It seems like everything becomes an important symbol when I'm manic.
After I left the church, I walked to a park with a large fountain. I left my purse on the ground and jumped into the water, completely immersing myself and imagining some kind of self baptism. I got out sopping wet and wandered over to a picnic area where I started talking to random people and families.
The family below was really nice. Reflecting on the situation now, I'm sure they assumed that I was mentally ill, homeless, or both. They were really soft spoken and gentle and offered me food and drinks. I stayed with them for a while.
I don't remember how I landed in the hospital, but I did. I was in for a week. I almost lost my job, since I had just started a few weeks earlier, but I talked them into giving me a chance to work, and I ended up working there for two years until I completed my master's degree and began teaching.
I asked my mother if she could remember how I ended up in the hospital in 2002. She said, "No, it all runs together for me." Hearing her say that made me realize, yet again, how hard it can be for family members to deal with the instability that bipolar disorder can bring, and gives me another, in a long list of reasons, to keep my commitment to staying well.
Although I don't remember how I ended up in the hospital, I can tell you that most of my manias have degenerated into hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, irritability, and uncharacteristically aggressive behavior. For an account of that, see Relationships. I'm sure the lack of sleep and drinking alcohol contributed to this mania, and I'm sure I missed some doses of medication during the days I've described.