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The afterlife of the party: Moving on from a manic episode

6 min read
28 February 2024

Topics mentioned: mania, bipolar disorder, depression, medication

Author: Caitlin

About: Caitlin, 20, shares her guidance on what a manic episode feels like, how you might feel afterwards, and finding help and support for bipolar disorder symptoms.

I realised the good things mania had to offer weren’t worth the chaos left in its wake.

When I’m in a manic episode, I feel like I’m the life of a party no one else knows is happening. I feel nothing like myself, but also more like myself than ever. It’s an all-consuming feeling whose ability to grab hold of me would put a heavy-duty vice to shame.

A lot of people with bipolar disorder find mania a relief from depression. A kind of desperate stab at happiness in the form of a euphoria which is at once both glittering and corrosive. For a while, I also found it a respite. That was before I realised the good things mania had to offer weren’t worth the chaos left in its wake.

What makes it especially difficult is that it’s not the same as the inaction of a depressive episode. Instead of being slow to reply to messages or hesitant to leave the house, mania demands action. It makes me irritable to the point of lashing out, it makes me paranoid, it makes me ramble incessantly. Mania can make me an unpleasant person to be around.

It’s important to take accountability and use that as motivation for becoming the best, most stable, version of yourself.

Acceptance

It’s frightening to know that your mood and behaviour can change so suddenly and without your control. I find that some memories of mania are hazy while others are in startling clarity. The confusion of having these gaps in your memory can be just as painful as remembering all of the embarrassing moments in vivid detail.

Even when the particulars are uncertain, it’s important to accept what happened. Although you might not remember much of it, or you know that the only reason it happened was because you were not yourself, it’s important to take accountability and use that as motivation for becoming the best, most stable, version of yourself.

The events of my manic episode were what made me so determined to seek treatment. In times of uncertainty, I found that the best route to take is the one that inspires the most desire to prevent anything similar happening in the future.

You’re not a failure if you have an episode, even with safeguards in place. Living with this illness isn’t a choice, so it’s not your fault for experiencing its symptoms.

Prevention

The usual treatment route involves medication like antipsychotics or mood stabilisers. They work to prevent mood episodes becoming severe, and in some cases prevent recurrences altogether. There are a lot of options, so you can shop around and see what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down if you’d like to change your medication. It can be a lifelong commitment, so it’s important to find one that fits.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder. It’s something you have to manage throughout your life. That can be daunting to cope with alone, so therapy can be really useful. Having another person explain your moods and help to identify triggers can make it feel like you aren’t shouldering the burden all by yourself.

Usually, “crisis plans” are associated with low mood, but they are equally beneficial for (hypo)mania. It doesn’t have to be a sprawling document.

  • the warning signs of an episode
  • what the people around you can expect from it
  • ways they can support you
  • contact details for your medical team
  • treatment options you would be open to trying

You’re not a failure if you have an episode, even with safeguards in place. Living with this illness isn’t a choice, so it’s not your fault for experiencing its symptoms. Sometimes a distressing life event can bring on an episode, or a treatment plan that you were sticking to might not be as effective as you thought. However, if you’ve put things in place which protect yourself and inform those around you, it’s easier to ride the wave and even curb some of the more serious symptoms.

Think of it as setting up a safety net instead of a protective shield. You are aware of the risk of falling, so you’ve given yourself the certainty of a cushioned fall rather than building a wall of defence which loses its protection and crumbles whenever it takes a hit. You want to work with the possibility of your fluctuating symptoms, instead of trying to totally cover them up.

It’s in the absence of mania and depression that I feel like my true self, and that’s what makes stability so important.

Stability

Experiencing stability as someone with bipolar disorder is not the same as someone without it. For others, stability is the norm, but it’s not usually like that for us, and that’s ok. Just because we need more support to ensure a stable mood doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

It’s in the absence of mania and depression that I feel like my true self, and that’s what makes stability so important. There were times when I thought my manic self was the most authentic. I thought the lack of inhibition was really just me getting over shyness or the confidence boost was radical self-acceptance, but that isn’t true.

Mania might feel freeing in the moment, but even better than that is knowing that I’ve traded in chaos for serenity, abruptness for gentleness, and paranoia for surety.

Just because we need more support to ensure a stable mood doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • Bipolar UK

    Provides information and a peer support service for people affected by bipolar, including friends and family. Find a local support group.

  • Doc Ready

    An online tool to help you build a list of what you want to talk to the GP about, and what you want to cover in the appointment.

    You can also find information and advice on speaking to GPs about mental health on their website.

  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday

Thanks for sharing your story Caitlin, 20

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