By Bipolar UK Ambassador, April Kelley

My family at Bipolar UK asked me to write a piece on ‘mania’ because there’s not necessarily enough content out there. I have previously touched on it, and I admit I have usually dressed it up in humour, regardless of whether it is the good or the destructive. So, let’s give this a proper go…

As always, I’d like to start by saying whilst I’m an ambassador for Bipolar UK, I am not a medical expert. I do however live with bipolar type 2 and having experienced episodes of mania myself, I can speak with knowledge and understanding. I respect every journey is different and my experiences may, and likely will be, different to others – but I hope sharing my experiences might resonate with others, whilst respectively knowing every journey is different and helps to give information to those who are looking for information.

I’m a firm believer that when I become manic (hypomanic… however you might define it but to be clear, but not full-blown psychosis) that anything is possible. But let's break this down.

A couple of analogies for you:

You know when you go on a really good first date? The chat before is bam, bam, bam, then you meet and they look as good as they do in their photos, the conversation in real life is just as good. You’re presenting your best bit, you’re on top form, the butterflies are out of control and you secure a second date! Yeah, that.

You know Bradley Cooper in the film, Limitless? Yeah, that.

Elle Woods defying the odds in Legally Blonde? Yeah, that.

You know in Titanic when Jack yells “I’M KING OF THE WORLD”? Yeah, that.

Truth be told, I believe that what could be argued as some of my greatest personality traits are enhanced massively by me having bipolar – that ‘spark of genius’.

Some of the things I’ve achieved, the way my brain works differently from others and the abundance of puppy energy are thanks to the part of bipolar I’d sign up for should I see it on paper. Because who wouldn’t want to see the world in a way not many can, surges of creativity which tend to only come to fruition when you can power through a month's worth of work in a week? So, yes it can be that unexplainable spark of genius so many would desire, but it can then tip into the inability to finish a racing thought.

I hope this doesn’t come across as arrogant, but when I’m on top form, I find I can enter any room, assess who’s in it and make myself malleable enough to come away with friends. It’s being the life of the party and intoxicating to others whilst simultaneously feeling dead inside and toxic to yourself. 

And therein lies the risk, the tightrope because what goes up must come down. Me and my troops over the years have learnt that it’s not necessarily always managing my lows. It’s making sure I don’t go too high because the higher you soar the further you fall. 

So where, what and when is that tipping point? I’ll be damned if I know. When you’re in it you’re too busy buying the whole bar a round of drinks, up at 3am cleaning the house, making plans for the next 6 months because you want to tick everything off your ‘Bucket List’ at once.

The only way I can describe it in retrospect is it’s like driving with your "check engine” light on, ignoring it and driving faster.

I love the highs. I wish they would stick around longer… but I guess that’s why so many of us are on mood-stabilisers. Those focused moments of highness make all the other parts of bipolar bearable. I’m invincible, I’d take a bullet for any of my friends and probably survive it. The sky’s the limit, my heart is open and I sincerely think anything is possible.

And like many drugs out there you continue to chase the high, but those drugs usually run out. There are no such measures in place for a bipolar high. So unfortunately, I can’t give you personal experience of that tipping point because I’ve never coherent enough to self-analyse – that is until I begin to realise the mess I’ve created and the mistakes I’ve made later down the line. 

I’ve blown money, I’ve kissed the wrong people and I’ve said many, many wrong things to name only three minor repercussions to my highs. The toughest thing I always find is that in the moment it was the right thing to do, to say, to buy and only on reflection do I realise how inappropriate it was. It is then when shame punches me in the gut and deflates my high. I now have to deal with my actions and I’m mortified. I’m never cruel, nasty or confrontational and yet that never stops the tidal wave of embarrassment which overcomes me. 

Have I lost people over the years? Of course. Have I had to apologise for my actions? Always. Do I live with regret? Answer pending. 

I wish I had answers for you and me. I wish I could share a trick with you to help our ‘odd’ behaviour but I don’t.

What I have realised over these lockdown months is that I am surrounded by those who join me on the highs to keep me safe, those who won’t let me apologise for anything, those who’ll take my credit card off me. Ultimately those who don’t make me feel different or ashamed and this is the conclusion I’ve come to…

Your behaviour is only ‘odd’ when you’re around the wrong people. Read that again.

Silly I know, but it’s as simple as that. I don’t need people around me to make me feel more different than I already feel. I need people around who will still be there when I wake up the next morning and go “oh god, did I really say and do that?” and they don’t bat an eyelid at it because they’ve signed up to all the ‘April’s’ that are on offer. 

A cloak of shame follows us around all the time, but it’s hard to drape over you when the right people are around you deflecting it. 

There’s no closure to this article… the highs are so complex and personal to the individual, so I’ll just end it with my previous statement: 

Your behaviour is only ‘odd’ when you’re around the wrong people.

 

All my love, 

April x