My journey through bipolar disorder, focusing on manic stages, has had a lasting effect on all of my functioning relationships and became one of the biggest struggles of my life. Mania has the ability to create some of the saddest moments of the illness.
Why would mania be a struggle, it’s the “happy” part of bipolar disorder right? Essentially, yes. Words akin to mania are passion and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, so are lunacy and craziness.
Deep in the throws of mania, I’m an emotional “yes man”. My inhibitions are lowered and I’m craving socialization, so nothing sounds like a bad idea. I am incapable of checking myself.
Mania creates hardships for your support system because it burns people out. When obsessing, I’m needy and pour myself into others, thinking they are as needy as I, and will enjoy the attention. Usually they do not. It pushes people away.
Along with relationship danger, a major symptom of mine is overspending. Slithery snake. I start buying new, more expensive groceries. It’s food, right? I move up to household items like decor. Then purchases for the kids and I. At the beginning of these personal purchases, I buy useful things. Bedding, books and outerwear. Magazine subscriptions, tattoos, photo albums and other useless things follow. When this spending isn’t enough, I start gifting to people; to just about anyone that smiled at me.
In a pub years ago during one of my highest points ever, a man said he was MIA from the US Army. He’s in Canada & wants his family to be here with him. His wife couldn’t collect benefits because the government cut them off when he ran. Living here and sending money back home!? Tssk, terrible story! I wrote him a $100 check, it cleared, and I never saw him again. It’s deathly embarrassing to me to this day. Overspending has been hard on my family and my mental health, almost debilitatingly so. Sometimes felt for months, even years afterward.
The spending my kids witness is painful to think about. They receive a warped image from me about the proper handling of money. When I’m well, I budget and comparison shop. In the frenzy of mania, they observe so much reckless spending. I detest the thought of encouraging these behaviours.
The most important person in my life is my husband. All of my symptoms and their repercussions are his as much as mine. He’s my support system, my best friend, and our home’s breadwinner. When things like a maxed out credit card happen, he’s stuck with the fallout through no fault of his own.
I’ve known the luxury of being a stay at home Mom for years. It’s helped me heal when needed, but also causes massive guilt. I’m not contributing financially, yet get us into dire financial situations.
We’d develop a parent/child relationship rather than a husband/wife relationship regarding money. The frustration my husband feels is completely valid. While manic, I’m offended if he puts limits on my spending. We’ve changed my access to bank accounts, I’ve lived on cash only, and he’s had to stand firm with those decisions. When well, I realize the importance of the limitations. With our years together, he recognizes my signs well and questions me if he sees them.
A difficult side effect of my medications is that my libido is non-existent. There are fights in every marriage about sex, but when a “sex-deprived” head and a manic head argue about it, it’s amplified X 10. There is a symptom of bipolar disorder that takes away all sexual inhibitions and usually leads to sexual partners outside of the marriage. Thankfully this has never been a symptom of mine, but the opposite end of the spectrum wasn’t helpful either.
He has patience when I’m in the midst of a false relationship and still waits around for the inevitable blowouts. It’s a process to explain my illness and symptoms to my husband. He tries, is supportive and is still here! Even when he hasn’t fully understood what was happening to me or why. He is the best partner and I really do understand how fortunate that makes me.
Friendships have suffered so much through the years that I can count the real, true ones I have left on one hand. No romanticized images, they’re the real thing.
I have 2 family members in my support system. I wish that number were higher. One might believe that family would be quicker to love, support and forgive. One could be wrong.
One friendship I had in mania was realistically over before it even began. I drank. A lot. Again, a new questionable friend. I knew who she was and what she was capable of, but didn’t care then. It’s judging and gossiping about her, right?! She’s fun and always game for drinking! The end with this cretin was when she cheated her way into a mutual good friend’s marriage. I sunk hard and deep afterward.
I realize it seems I am putting the blame on other people. The reality is, I was so “high”, I wasn’t capable of noticing how their toxicity would affect my life.
There’s only one piece of sunshine in my friendship story. My best friend has seen years of my ebbs and flows. She helps my self-doubt. But when I’m closing in on a depression I start to lose faith in relationships. Even my best ones. Would my best friend ever talk to me again? Does she even know the real me? I wonder, if she lived geographically closer to me through the years, would I have driven her away? She somehow always makes me understand that, no way, that would never happen. She’s an amazing soul like that.
My friendship tribe is also growing within groups in the mental health community. I gain knowledge, strength and support from the groups.
My saddest act during mania is being stable and healthy but still having to take seconds every morning to check that it’s only happiness. It’s a daunting task. Because of my experience with the illness and it’s fallout, I’ll sadly start to hold back my true emotions. For fear of becoming too giddy, too happy, or too involved. It’s sad. I am an intelligent woman, yet that means less and less when mania starts to take over. Our support systems or doctors will hopefully notice indicators. That’s the only way, with help, we can begin to heal.
In a manic phase, you can have a high and mighty, “God complex” of sorts. Do not step off of the high pedestal that is mania. A slip into depression with bipolar disorder can be hard, fast, and for some time, you may feel it will never end.
Medications, therapists and support groups are to be used with zero guilt. It might sound like a cocktail, but if my 8 pills a day (plus talk therapy) can keep me stable, happy, and healthy, it’s beyond worth it. My life and all of its branches only function peacefully when l am well.
If you’re doubting yourself or scared, ask someone you love if they think you’re in mania. If they say yes, you and your support group have learned to handle it to the best of your abilities. But if the answer is no, go and bask in that sunshine, because it IS true, pure happiness you’re feeling and it is the only thing we should ever settle for.