A Day in the Life of Mania

My mind is racing 100 miles per hour. All I can think of is how fast I can get my words on the page, so I don’t ever forget all the great things that have happened to me in the past days, weeks, months, years or even decades. My pen flies across the paper as the ink fills page after page in my notebook. Good thing I buy notebooks on sale, so I always have a blank page on hand when I need it.

This is a regular occurrence for me during an episode of mania. It usually happens in the middle of the night when I’m alone. If I’m around people, there’s another story to be told.

One morning, after experiencing mania for a week, I call my best friend because all I want to do is talk to her. I end up at her house and we go shopping. I won’t stop talking. My heart is pounding out of my chest, and I run out of breath and can’t talk anymore. My friend suggests I be quiet for a moment. I try, but I just can’t. I have to say the words as fast as they come into my mind. I know that proves how important they must be.

We eat lunch, then are headed home. I feel pain in my chest and feel like I can’t breathe. I call my doctor’s office. They close early on Wednesdays. I punch the button for the on-call nurse. I hand the phone to my friend. I can’t speak at the moment. The nurse tells her to take me to the emergency room. We stop at her house first. I go inside and lay down on the couch. I am so afraid that if I move, I am going to have a heart attack, so I stay as still as possible. Before I know it, my friend is calling 911. I am relieved that help is on the way and will be there soon. I am glad I don’t have to move.

In a few minutes the first responders arrive. She asks my name. I spell it in sign language. That’s what I do when I can’t talk. She asks me to spell her name in sign language too, so I did. I hear an ambulance. I realize it’s the one that is coming for me. I ask, “Why is it not here yet?” It seemed to be taking forever. However, they reminded me that the subdivision is like a maze, and it takes time to get from point A to point B.

When the EMTs come in, they hook me up to an EKG machine after putting stickers with metal dots on my chest. They ask me if it’s okay if the new guy rides in the back of the ambulance with me. I replied, “But the other guy is cuter.” My friend couldn’t believe I actually said that. She thought it was hilarious. The EMTs take me out the front door and put me in the ambulance. I was excited. I had always wanted to ride in an ambulance. The guy in the back keeps treating me as we head off to the hospital. It’s not really that far, but it does seem to take a while to get there. When the EMT gives me nitroglycerin for the chest pain, it goes away immediately. I’m like WoW. That was fast. That’s so cool! I feel better now.

When we arrive to the hospital, my friend, who rode in the front of the ambulance, told me, “That was worse than driving in a snowstorm in the middle of February.” The EMTs roll me into the hospital. The nurses show them to an ER room that is ready and waiting for me. Immediately there are people flurrying around me, hooking me up to an IV, doing another EKG, drawing blood I presume. Once several people leave, the nurse looks at me and says, “We need to get your medical history.” I quickly reply, “I don’t know my medical history.” She mentions, “That‘s okay,” and starts asking me questions. I realize I know all the answers, so I knew I didn’t have to worry about it.

The doctor comes in. He seems kind of gruff. Next thing I know, they are taking me to get a chest X-ray. It all happens so fast. Then I go back to the room. My friend speaks to the doctor privately, just outside the door. I accuse her of asking him if I had a certain condition. She said, no she didn’t. I didn’t believe her. I told her and the staff that I’m acting this way because I am currently experiencing a manic episode. My friend didn’t know what that meant. She just knew I wasn’t acting like myself and that something must be wrong. That scared her.

Once the test results came back, the doctor talks to me and says everything looks healthy. They found no abnormalities. He tells me it was probably indigestion that I was experiencing. I take offense at this because I know what heart pain feels like and I was definitely having heart pain. The nurse tells me to keep the appointment with my primary care physician that I had already scheduled for the next week. I am discharged from the ER and go home. I feel fine now.

At the appointment with my primary care physician, he told me I had experienced a panic attack. He told me about the time when he had one. Like me, he also thought he was having a heart attack. He even drove himself to the hospital. He said he knew he shouldn’t be driving, but he knew he just had to get there as fast as he could. He talked with me for nearly 30 minutes offering advice and encouragement.

The next day or so I have anxiety that lasts two hours. I also wasn’t sleeping very much. I talk to my counselor on the phone. He tells me I have the option of going to the psychiatric hospital associated with the clinic. It had been two weeks since the mania had started. I knew this was a good idea and I needed to go, even though I am scared to death when I get there. However, after an hour or two, I feel right at home, because it reminds me of summer camp. I spend a week being examined by doctors, joining in on group therapy sessions and becoming best friends with my roommate. The mania hasn’t left by the time I am released, but after a week, I was ready to go home. Besides that, I wanted to see the Property Brothers in two days, which I did.

The mania ends up staying around for a total of six weeks. The med used to stop it, put me into a deep depression. I did get better a year later and was stable for nearly three years. I didn’t experience mania until six years later.

The following is what it was like then: Currently it’s 12:33 a.m. I’ve been journaling in this notebook since I got home about 6:30 p.m. with a break for supper in there as well. I keep telling myself I need to stop and go to bed, but I just can’t. I feel compelled to keep writing even though I knew what I was writing and could finish it in the morning. But that doesn’t seem to matter. I keep writing and writing and writing. Even though it’s getting later and later and later. I am not phased. I am still not motivated to go to bed. Finally, I make myself stop and force myself to get in bed, lay down, close my eyes and be still. Otherwise, I would stay up the entire night not even caring that I didn’t get a wink of sleep.

At this point I had been experiencing a mixed episode of mania and depression for nearly seven weeks. I had not been sleeping much and out of the 336 recommended hours of sleep during that time I had only slept 196 hours. That’s a total of 17 nights of lost sleep and I was exhausted. I hope the doctors gets this figured out soon, because I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Diana Henderson is a former journalist and works with individuals with disabilities in Southwestern Kansas. This is a real-life account of her experience with mania. She hopes it gives you a better understanding of what it means to live with bi-polar disorder.

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