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A Look Inside My Recent Manic Episode

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Take a look at these two photos. One was taken during a depressive episode while the other was taken during a manic episode. Can you tell the difference? Neither could I, until I wound up sitting in my local emergency room after a night of binge drinking and a breakdown.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

It might surprise you to know that these photos were taken just one week apart. Seven days. If you had told me when the first photo was taken that I would be experiencing my most dangerous manic episode to date just seven days later, I wouldn’t believe you. That’s just how quickly this episode snuck up on me.

Friday night, I wrecked one of my most important friendships. We’ve been friends for the better part of a year and in one night, I blew it for one reason: hypersexuality. It’s a difficult symptom I deal with. My friend and I always made sure to keep a boundary between our friendship and a physical relationship. I pushed that boundary all night until I finally crossed it. In the moment, it felt amazing. But as I thought about it and realized what we had done, I knew I had either badly damaged the friendship or lost it completely. I wish I had seen this for what it was: mania rearing its ugly head.

Fast forward to Saturday night. I started the evening having a nice dinner with my husband (we have an open and very understanding relationship), which was something I hadn’t felt up to in months due to some health issues. Dinner didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary. Food, discussion and no drinks. It was peaceful and nice. The next stop is where the trouble started.

We made our way downtown to my favorite bar before heading to the club. Whenever I drink, I typically stick to the same drinks in the same order. It’s safe and I know that I can handle it. This night was different. From the first drink, I deviated. I started with two mixed drinks and a beer before stealing my husband’s beer. We didn’t spend much time at this bar before moving next door. I could have stopped here, but I didn’t.

Next door is where I started really drinking. As soon as we walked in, I was ordering a strong drink. I was dancing and having fun, while the hypersexuality was making another appearance. We moved to another bar across the street next. At this bar, I ordered more mixed drinks while I ditched my husband to go dance with and kiss a complete stranger.

I have no memory of anything else until after we heading home. We headed back to the club where I continued drinking my favorite (and very strong) drink, and stole his drinks as as well. He believes I had 10 of those drinks alone. I’m sure he’s right because I know I would have made it nearly impossible for him to not give me what I wanted. At some point, we left the club and headed home. In an attempt to sober me up, we stopped for some food. I remember getting sick on the pavement as soon as he opened my door, stumbling into the bathroom stall and doing it again in the stall. After making it out of the bathroom, we went home.

As soon as we got home, I headed to the tub. He sat with me in the bathroom to make sure I was safe. Apparently at this point, I switched from the lovey-dovey type of conversation to a very concerning one.

On top of telling him that I wanted to die, I couldn’t articulate how many pills I had taken in an effort to get rid of the physical pain I was in. I tried to sleep, but the medication I took gave me an intense itch all over my torso and scalp. He rushed me to the emergency room, which happens to be where I work. It was my shift, so I knew most of the people working. While it was embarrassing, I was relieved to know that I was in the best hands possible. My husband and I were separated when I was taken to the room so doctors could ask me questions while he explained to other staff members what happened. They ran every lab imaginable, and I thankfully hadn’t done too much damage. I sat in the ER for the bulk of Sunday waiting to be admitted, but the hospitalist was able to medically clear me to leave instead.

I looked at my lab printouts after leaving the hospital, and that gave me a huge dose of reality. My lactic acid was higher than it had ever been, but thankfully not critical. My liver enzymes were elevated, but not dangerously. My ethanol level (EtOH) was 114, which is the equivalent of a blood alcohol content of 0.11. This was four hours after I had my last drink. I had been extremely intoxicated, but thankfully I had someone caring for me.

Leaving the hospital, I was thankful for so many things. Thankful to be here. Thankful to see my daughter. Thankful I didn’t do any serious damage. Thankful to have had someone seek help for me when I didn’t have the capacity to do it myself. Thankful for all of the nurses who helped me and the nurse who helped my husband. Thankful to have an amazing therapist. Thankful to have a job that provides me with wonderful insurance and access to these things. Thankful for my family. Thankful that I made it out of this dangerous manic episode.

Prior to this episode, I looked forward to my manic episodes. They made me feel like myself. They made me feel alive and capable of accomplishing things. They made me feel like bipolar wasn’t a daily battle for me. This episode, however, scared me. It still scares me. Typically, I have a series of events over several weeks leading up to a manic episode. I have always known it was coming. This time, I didn’t. There wasn’t a noticeable sign until the day before all hell broke loose, and experiencing that again could be dangerous.

Today, I’m rebuilding and repairing all of the damage I’ve done to myself and to those around me. Please always remember to take your medications as prescribed. Never go off of your medications without the supervision of your psychiatrist or other medical doctor. If you have any kind of feeling that you may be starting to experience a depressive episode after having been in a manic episode, or the reverse, call your therapist or psychiatrist. If you have feelings or thoughts of self-harm in any form, please seek help immediately.

Lead photo via contributor

Originally published: November 7, 2018
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