I chased my random thoughts around: ‘Go there, do this,’ they said. When a perceived voice said ‘Go to the chapel,’ I went to plead on my knees. When I detected the words, ‘Pray at the statue of the Virgin Mary,’ I obeyed instantaneously. I impulsively gave away my precious belongings too.
Around others, I expressed whatever unconnected ideas came to mind. At times my days consisted of a 10 mile walk; 10 prayer periods; 10 pages of diary entries and more. My behaviour was called manic and psychotic. Hypersexuality was a symptom of mania too. Sexual images were drawn from my memory and filled my mind with continuous disturbances.
My hallucinations (hearing of voices) continued as I returned to Ireland and I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. I remember watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with the other patients – chuckling and somewhat relating! I was treated with antipsychotic medication (along with other medications) and it certainly helped to reduce my racing thoughts. As I left the hospital and strived to live independently, mania showed up again in the form of thinking that I was ‘Christ’ – a disturbing experience which thankfully did not last.
A mixed mood
It’s worth noting that my state of mania also led to what is called a mixed mood – where symptoms of both mania and depression existed. For example, my mood fell towards depression. On the other hand, I still experienced racing thoughts and ‘voices’. There were warning signs to go easy and change my environment. The trouble was that I had a skewed belief in being ‘holy’ – this idea of perfection where no weaknesses or vulnerabilities existed. My mixed mood continued for several months.
Nowadays, my thoughts and feelings are more grounded in mindfulness. Some people with bipolar say they love mania or hypomania (less than mania): for example, they claim to be more productive and creative. However, my experience of mania is full of inner turmoil and despair. I find that ‘boring’ ordinary work is just fine and that there is greater depth to my writing when I am in an OK state.
Furthermore, there is actually not a huge difference between the general population and me. Indeed research has shown that many “normal” people have unusual experiences that mimic psychotic symptoms. As I mentioned previously, we are all somewhere along the mental health continuum – a person with bipolar and a person without bipolar can actually be on the same point of the scale. What’s more, I love the fact that I have recovered so well and that I am now living a very meaningful and fulfilled life.