Bipolar disorder Pendulum: stories and information What is bipolar? My Journey With Mania By Joshua Note When writing this article, I felt like sharing a few notes from my life to let you know that I understand and I thought: Cycles of weird grandiose thinking I could tell you about the help my mother sought for me in my teens and early twenties when she knew something was different about me; the psychotherapists that did their best, but were ultimately convinced by my delusions and cycles of weird or grandiose thinking. The first psychiatrist I attended who, despite me telling him I had read about bipolar disorder and thought I had it, turned me away with a diagnosis of GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and some anti-anxiety pills. About being offered a job as a salesman and then as the subsidiary-company CEO of a tech firm in San Francisco at age 23/24 and what it was like to feel so unstoppable that I talked my way into and through the whole process, until I ‘woke up’ or ‘shut down’ (depending on your outlook) in a board meeting one day, and found myself overwhelmed with anxiety, depression and emptiness to the point that I stood up, walked out, collected my stuff from my friend’s apartment and got on the first plane home to England, where I spent the next year wondering what was wrong with my thoughts. About repeating the same process but this time, leaving the first person I felt true love for in a long time, at age 26 and then doing the now familiar routine: grabbing bags, flying home from Malibu, pacing around my family’s courtyard with things in my head I couldn’t possibly comprehend or cope with the presence of. Just managing to stave off the intense urge to end my own life that recurred every other waking minute. Then finding myself calling her months after being so reclusive and depressed, and telling her I’d be back in California to see her soon only to, understandably, be told: I never want to see you again. About working on eight different children’s books because, again, my thought processes were so interrupted and sporadic (partly because of a disorder lots of us in the bipolar club have, ADHD) and my moods and mania so unmanaged that I set myself back around a decade to the point I’m at now, currently awaiting edits to my first novel. About the years when I really hit hard times mentally, when I lost all sense of reality, distanced myself from my family and friends, and all my symptoms fell into one big melting pot of different issues so much so that most of the people I knew turned their backs on me. When I said things to and about people that I would never usually say or ever mean. When I did things that were completely out of character and based on delusions and hallucinations of mine, not on reality. When I engaged in things that I had never even contemplated before and never thought I would, causing extreme personal damage, pain and upset. A period when my life was in the balance several times through the way I was living, then self-harm and suicide attempts and my ability to function in any real way was at zero. I lived in a world of twisted thoughts, mental fabrications and waking nightmares, and I hated every moment of it. About what it’s like to recover from that only to find I’d lost about 45% (I mean, at a guess) of my autobiographical memory and no matter what I did, I found that I just couldn’t seem to get it back. About the people who used me, who took money from me when I was in that period and those states or emotionally manipulated it out of me, making me feel bad for offering it when I was hypomanic or worse, outright asking for it when I was vulnerable. Money I couldn’t afford to give away and how much I think I’ll never get over that kind of abuse. About finally sitting in a clinic at age 30 and being assessed by medical professionals, who all concluded that I clearly had a dual diagnosis and told me that it wasn’t all my fault, despite my protestations. And I really could tell you in depth about the recent episode I experienced, the first major one that occurred in the year and a half since my diagnosis. When, through a clerical error, my medication had started being dispensed at a different dosage and one that I wasn’t aware of, at the same time as me starting a new medication within weeks of each other. What is a manic episode like? But instead I’ll just lay it out in brief: It started with flights of ideas and new concept designs that I thought were good. Soon I began to think they were revolutionary. I began paying a concept artist to work on my projects, and I began paying them double, because I needed it fast… these ideas were so good in my head that I needed to do them before anyone else heard about them. I hired an assistant through an agency because my projects were definitely going to take off and I knew I needed the help, I was sure of it. I found myself breaking my sobriety, and not just having a few drinks but consuming seriously life-endangering amounts of alcohol in a way that looking back, just came on in – like most things on this list – an intense wave. I heard from a friend who told me he was thinking about an idea I had in my 20’s and how we should make it now it was technologically feasible and right then, to me, it was yet another absolutely vitally important project that had to be done right that moment! Before long I had incorporated a company and was holding meetings at all hours of the day and night with people I had contacted from my past who lived all over the world. Despite some of them trying to get a break from my persistent calls by saying they’d be ‘available soon" I kept on calling and telling them we had to do things urgently. I started to donate money to charities, and clicking across Facebook on different people’s birthday fundraisers that I didn’t know and topping up/finishing off their efforts so I could see them all completed. Before long I started offering to pay for things for people I knew, including car repairs, and even a luxury holiday abroad for my friends. All of this despite me literally not being able to afford my promises, but knowing that I’d somehow make them happen as I always had done in the past. I began posting erratic and over- the top-messages and posts to social media, causing some friends to reach out and ask if I needed help which made me confused because in my mind everything was going just great. Then I started having really strange thoughts: paranoia, delusions about people and what they’d said and intense outbursts of anger and other emotions about them. Until finally one day I woke up, and came back to a sense of conscious awareness mid-conversation (via messages) with 4 people simultaneously. All angry at me, all with the right to be. I learned I’d pried into people’s lives and thus invaded their privacy, yelled down the phone and developed twisted thinking about people I knew. I then learned that several people had received messages from me, ones with all kinds of emotional outbursts in them. People that I can genuinely say I have and had no attraction to in the slightest or didn’t hate or have other strong feelings for in any way shape or form, but people who had popped up on my messenger and thus had been the people I gravitated towards contacting. I noticed later they were all people I thought had wronged me, used, or abused me in the past in ways ranging from feeding their bad habits to emotionally blackmailing money out of me. I blocked the people who hadn’t already blocked me because I was too ashamed and too confused to comprehend how I was to deal with them, and I was still having an episode. So… yes! I lost a lot of money and a lot of friends in one go… this wasn’t one of the worst episodes I’ve ever experienced but I still sincerely hope I never experience anything like it again. Though I suppose you have to hope. I reeled with upset, shame and embarrassment afterwards thinking I’d never live this one down because it somehow seemed much more my fault than I felt anything in the past was because it was after my diagnosis and thus, I felt much more responsible. This was a blame game and a negative pattern of thinking that I had to address before I could ever start to move on. Anyway, I just want to tell you about what I did since then, which is much more important: Getting help for bipolar First, I got myself back to my psychiatrist and into clinic. This helped me stop my drinking almost immediately. I made sure I was taking my meds at the right times again and got my mum to help monitor them with me. This helped me curb my spending and helped me get a hold of my emotions. I started to re-evaluate all the projects I’d started, downright stopped a few of them or put them on hold and tried to give myself time to think about them. I started (though I’ve not even finished) telling people that I really can’t afford to pay for things I had offered and that I didn’t mean the things I said, and that it was an episode, not things that I would usually say or volunteer. I still to this day find this kind of social negotiation so hard, despite people saying "well, if they’re your real friends they should just understand!" etc. It’s still no less embarrassing for me to have to admit it cogently. I did keep the assistant, but worked with them to help me restart a podcast that I had made when I was in my early twenties and had stopped when I hit hard mental times and episodes. It’s on the arts and a little bit about the psychology behind them. We have a resident psychotherapist on once a month to talk about mental health issues and we’re always interested to hear questions from listeners that we can discuss in those segments. You can check it out at www.thenoteshow.com. I just want to say I know what it’s like to suddenly feel you’re out of control; to do, say and be things that you never would if you were in a balanced state of mind. To feel hyper-emotions or persistently racing and grandiose thoughts and delusions about yourself and the things you’re doing. To have urgent desires that are out of control and the intense need to engage in things like reckless spending and other activities that you will no doubt live to regret. Recovering from an episode I’m still learning how to pick up the pieces and I think I always will be. But I’m writing my book again that covers the stories I’ve mentioned today and many other adventures in mental health, as well as continuing to work on my children’s book about a circus filled with twisted magical beings. I find it amazing that there are tools and places to reach out and seek support, like through the resources Bipolar UK offer, the live Facebook talks they do or the videos that are on YouTube. It’s so important to be reminded that 1 in 50 people will have bipolar disorder at some point in their lives and be able to understand what you’re going through. I am nothing special; I’m not even special in terms of bipolar disorder, I don’t think. I’ve found living most of my life very difficult and faced all kinds of trials and tribulations because of my condition, but I’ve learned to stop saying bad things about myself ‘because of who I am.’ Because it bears repeating as often as possible, we can get over these episodes. We can get past the highs and the lows, and despite the many times people will turn their back on us or judge us, we are not our diagnosis. It’s just a part of our experience. I hope that if you’re going through a manic phase or know someone that is, this blog might help you to find some smoother way through it, or realise what’s going on if you don’t know. I hope that if you’ve been through one recently or at any point, then this is a little reminder that there are people out there that understand and have experienced the same things. You are not alone. Joshua Note’s newly relaunched Podcast is available at www.thenoteshow.com. He is on twitter @NoteBloom and @TheNoteShowPod. His memoirs about bipolar disorder are still being written. His debut children’s book is being edited.