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Dysphoric Mania Is Not 'Fun'

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

When I tell people who have other mental illnesses I have bipolar disorder, I get a lot of, “Well, at least you get to experience mania.” And while there’s no competition of whose illness is worse, that arguing point always baffles me, because mania is terrible. I’d rather be depressed than manic. And I know that may be surprising, so let me tell you why.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

What many people don’t know is there are two types of mania: euphoric and dysphoric. Euphoric is the type of mania most people think of when they hear mania. It makes people feel on top of the world, and usually, people explain it as feeling unstoppable — nothing can get in the way of their success. They’re the happiest they’ve ever been and there’s no bringing them down. Even this type of mania leads to severe debilitation.

However, the type of mania that I personally experience is excruciating. It does not involve euphoria, nor does it involve pleasure. Dysphoric mania, or mixed mania, is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Dysphoric mania is defined as experiencing symptoms of mania and depression at the same time, and it’s genuinely painful to go through.

Because all of that energy that comes with mania does not come out in the happy-go-lucky way of euphoric mania, but rather as rage. Pure, blinding rage. I often describe this anger as being so immense I want to slice myself open and crawl out of my own body. Not in a way of self-harm, but to escape the anger inside of me. The anger I experience in these times is physically painful, to the point where I lie in bed and writhe because I’m not an angry person, and I need some way to escape this all-consuming rage.

To give you a better idea of what mixed mania looks like (besides that all-consuming rage), I’ll describe a typical day in this rarely talked-about mental state.

When I wake up, I’m usually quite energetic. I’m ready to go, ready for the day and not really angry at anything yet. As I drive to work, I think the world is an extra beautiful place to be. People are inherently good and I love every aspect of my life. This stage isn’t so bad at first.

But then, as I take in my surroundings, noticing all of the things I must always miss on my typical commute, I think about how I need to die. I’m happy as can be, but I need to die because it’s just my time to go.

Then, I usually start crying because I don’t want to die. I think about how life is so beautiful, and how much I love it, and how I have the brightest future ahead of me. But I also think about how it’s time to die. Because I need to die before the depression hits. I’ve accomplished things I never thought possible and I’ve lived my best life, and now I need to die while I’m still happy.

This contradiction is how I experience depression and mania at the same time. I’m at an all-time high while having thoughts of someone who’s at an all-time low. It makes no sense, even at the time, but it’s also so convincing that I truly feel like I need to kill myself.

Once I get to work, the rage usually sets in. My co-workers seem completely incompetent during these phases and I hate everyone. The littlest things set me off. I’ll briefly consider a career change and make a mental note to look into that later. Suddenly, this isn’t the field I’m passionate about anymore. I don’t truly love this field. It was all a phase.

At this point, I usually take anti-anxiety medication to calm my mind down, because I’m ready to cry again from being so angry. The medicine helps me get through the workday, keeping me sane enough to have civil conversations and not lose my job. I’m still not nearly as passionate about the field I absolutely adore in a stable mindset — I’m still considering career changes and creating a new life, but I’m functional enough to make it through the day.

After work, I usually go home. I tend to get into trouble on Amazon, buying things I don’t need and spending money that’s way over my budget. Over the years, I’ve actually spent over $6,000 during these episodes. Then, I hate myself for it right after because it shows just how irresponsible I am.

Meanwhile, I’ll definitely be trying to avoid friends during these episodes because I have a 75% chance of ruining the relationship. See, I don’t have empathy during these times and have a very self-inflated ego, so when people begin telling me about their days, I honestly don’t care. If they try to vent or discuss their problems, I just don’t care. In fact, I have to force myself to even reply to their texts, because my problems are so much bigger than theirs and I don’t know why they can’t see that.

But that’s how dysphoric mania works. It’s all the mental energy, impulsivity and self-grandiose thinking of mania, while also experiencing the physical lethargy and hopelessness of depression. It’s rage, it’s restlessness, it’s suicidal thoughts and it’s awful.

I truly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Unsplash image by Eduardo Dutra

Originally published: January 3, 2020
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