Imagine feeling amazing, super, great. Life is wonderful, you are wonderful, everything is brilliant. Everything has so much meaning, colour and flavour.
You feel so confident in yourself, like you’re the best at everything you do. Any feelings of self-doubt you might have had, have melted away, and now you’re standing tall and proud, ready to face the world, ready to change the world for the better.
Everything looks bright and sunny – colours are more vivid, birds chirp louder, everything tastes great and everything is wonderful and awesome. You remember your dreams when you wake up, and even they are vivid and magic.
You have millions of great ideas, too many to write down or get out. You feel so creative. You can’t sleep, but then you feel like you don’t need sleep anyway. You know you’re getting just 3 hours sleep a night and you still feel great. You want to read and learn and do as much as you can.
Your mind is so busy, racing, flitting from one thing to the next, and you can’t turn it off. You can’t stop your ideas from flowing, from overflowing. You don’t even want to turn them off, you want them to keep appearing. You know it isn’t quite right, but you still feel great. You feel a bit like you’re high, flying high, nothing can stop you.
You’re reaching out to people, you want social interaction and feedback. You over share too much with too many people. You have so much energy, you feel great, and you can’t wait to share how you feel with others. You’re chatting at a hundred miles an hour, hardly getting time to breathe. You’re not sure what’s happening – but you like it. You really really like it.
You feel so amazing, creative, happy and alive. You know that people can tell it isn’t quite right either, but if you’re honest, you don’t really care what they think. Because you feel so good and you love feeling like this.
You feel like you have no limits, like you’re superhuman and you feel like you could do anything. You want to bottle up this feeling and keep it forever. You want to share it, and for other people to feel it too.
Sounds good eh?
– – … – –
Or is it?
People you know get concerned about you, and reach out to help you and ask if you’re ok. They’re confused with how you’re acting and being. You tell them it’s ok, that you’re fine, and not to worry – you’ll fix it. You’ll fix it. You don’t know what’s wrong – but you’ll fix it.
You know you should probably get your head down and rest, but you also know there’s no way you can relax or rest. You can’t turn off, you can’t slow down or stop.
You start to realise that you’re forgetting to do the basics: eat, sleep, wash. You’re putting them all off for your ideas and creativity. Your tummy rumbles at you, but you’re too busy so you let it rumble on. You’re hardly eating or sleeping. You drop over a stone in weight, from a body that can’t afford to lose it.
You’re sitting there, busy, still in your running clothes, from a run that finished 3 hours ago. You should have eaten and showered by now, but you’re too busy, working on your ideas or wasting time on the Internet. You close off to those close to you, because you’re too busy with your ideas and thoughts.
Those who care about you try to step in again and have honest conversations with you. Letting you know that they think that what you’re doing and how you’re being isn’t right – that you need to sleep, you need to eat and relax. But you don’t want to lose the good feelings, the creativity and what feels like an aura of super powers: you don’t want it and the good feelings to ever stop.
You can’t focus – can’t concentrate, you can’t think about more than one thing at a time, but then five or ten other things pop into your head at once. And you spend way too much time on them all.
You start to feel way overwhelmed, like the wheels are going too fast and falling off, and it doesn’t feel right. You have to take time off work to understand what’s happening, to allow your body and mind to recover.
– – … – –
On the road to recovery
Then you realise that this isn’t right, and you need help. You try to find out what it all means. You start to overthink things, and diagnose yourself from information you find on the Internet. You try to understand what has triggered this. So you can get back to ‘normal’, so you can get rid of this crazy.
You’re over analysing everything, and when you’re lying there trying to get to sleep, you’re getting worried and upset because you can’t sleep. Lying there, confused, upset, quietly, silently crying. Lost and out of control. Not knowing what to do to get better.
You reach out to those closest to you to ask for help. You open up, cry in their arms. You try to be logical, but your emotions are all over the place and you don’t know why. You feel broken, and you want to be fixed. You realise that everything isn’t so amazing after all.
You cry at the drop of a hat, you have palpitations, and experience panic for what seems like no reason. You feel sad, broken and frustrated and wonder where your optimism, strength and ideas have disappeared to – where you have disappeared to? You calm yourself down and know you need to find out how to get through this.
You go to your GP and ask some relatives in your family who are medics for some help. You’re pointed in the right direction to get help. To help you understand what’s happening to you: Mania, or hypomania, or a manic episode. You get the help and advice you need to recover.
You’re not diagnosed with any ‘condition’, and you’re cleared that you don’t need medication, but it’s clear you’ve not been very well. You’re relieved. You’re referred to talk to a community psychiatric nurse and get your thoughts back in order. You walk in the park, and relax, you slow everything down.
You realise you’re ok, you just need to get a balance and you’ll be alright. You try to learn what triggered it all, and try to avoid those things. Running fast, lack of sleep, stress, over training, pushing yourself and your body, thinking too much – it seemed to trigger it all. You talk, you write your way back to health and recovery.
You learn how to help yourself, how to cope – how to get your health and wellbeing back. You realise you’ve been on a fast train without brakes, and the driver has gone missing. You get in the drivers cabin and you learn how to put the brakes on.
You learn how important it is to get a balance, to relax, to do what you enjoy. You learn to lean on and speak to others close to you. Triggers, symptoms, coping strategies – you get to know them all.
You grow in self awareness and you find out what works for you.
– – … – –
You tell those close to you – your partner, your family, your boss, your best friend – what’s been happening, and what you think will help in your recovery. You don’t want to tell too many people, in case they think you’re crazy, broken, weak, or insane. You probably tell too many people, but you can’t help it – it feels like such a big thing you’re going through.
You think you’ve learned how to explain it: ‘You know what bipolar is? Well imagine the highs and the lows, but you don’t get the lows. You feel great all of the time, you have so much energy, and ideas, and you don’t need much sleep. Then you can’t focus, concentrate, and you sometimes get easily confused and upset or anxious.’
But telling people feels worse than coming out, and you cringe every time you start to tell someone. As if coming out as being mental or manic when you’re 32, is worse than coming out as being gay when you’re 19. It would be so much easier if you had something to show for it, like a broken limb, a bandage or a black eye.
Then you realise it’s all just part of life. 1 in 4 experience mental ill health in their lifetime, and you just became one of them. And you realise that it probably runs in your family. Time to get better.
You slowly start to recover and balance and normality come back to your life. You’ve learned what works for you. You let go of things more easily, you park ideas, and try not to let things get to you anymore. You try to slow down.
You realise later that after the high, usually the crash and burn comes. That you do get the lows and they seem so alien to you yet they seem to be all around you like a dark low level storm. A sort of depression, a total lack of motivation to do anything.
You get the strange desire to close yourself off from everyone. Or for the whole world to pause for a bit whilst you take a breather, and sometimes you even wish it would swallow you up.
You’re careful to get enough sleep, and you stop or limit stimulants like caffeine after lunch. You’re glad you gave up alcohol and you know you’re never going back there.
You try to be more ‘in the moment’, have fun, and spend time with those you like and love. You find out how to get better health and you realise how important being well and healthy is. You smile again.
With improved insight and help from others, you think you’ve cured yourself.
But deep down you know it will always be there, hiding away in the background, ready to show itself again. So you know you need to be careful and more self aware, and you don’t want to be ill again. You want to be well, and do well.
– – … – –
The possibilities are endless
You’re able to function again, you’re getting good at your job, and you learn how to run long again without getting the symptoms. The sun is still shining, and you’ve got a new more informed perspective on life.
You place an importance on sleep, rest, taking care of yourself, reducing stress, being social, getting a balance and having fun. You still feel like you can do anything, but you’re more grounded now, and you have a better understanding of yourself and what makes you tick. You realise why you’re here, what floats your boat – why you’re alive.
You turn the focus away from you, and want to help others instead – you reach out to others to help them. Your life is enriched by the people you’ve met, the people you’ve helped. You laugh more, take life less seriously and realise that we’re all on an axis of good and bad health (mental and physical).
Some people cope better with the stresses that life throws at us, and some people manage how they feel, better than others do. Some people struggle and shrivel up, whilst others learn to cope, thrive and grow (sometimes without anyone knowing their challenges). You feel ready to learn and grow.
You’ve learned to relax, you take time out and have fun. You miss that run that’s on the training plan, and it doesn’t matter. You know that rest is just as important. You listen to your body, you do things that bring you fun and joy. You notice when you’re over thinking or over analysing, and you stop it. You listen to those who care about you. You reduce stress where you can. You learn how to cope.
You’re not weak or broken. You learn what’s good for you, and you do it. Life is good.
You look back at your ‘crazy’ time and realise how well you are now. You feel strong, and happy and you’re grateful for everything you are, everything you have, and everything you’ve been through in your life. You walk outside, stand tall in silence, looking up to the sky, and you smile.
You realise that your window on the world is much richer for having gone through all of this and other challenges you’ve faced growing up. You are amazing, super, great.
Life is brilliant, you are happy and relaxed, and you can do anything you set your mind to do.