More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Mania: The Noise inside my Head
by Deb W, Bipolar Bandit
Dec 24, 2020

After recently re-reading An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, I was shocked to remember how intense bipolar mania was. It was a nearly constant companion for decades. My memories of it seemed to have slipped away, but they could not possibly be gone. I had to have put them aside in one of the convenient little boxes I use for storage inside my brain. And, so, the reading brought them rushing back. I would like to share them because surely you have experienced similar symptoms or are doing so now. For those of us with bipolar mania, there is strength in numbers.

My strongest memory – because it had been with me all of my life – was of a second voice that was a constant companion inside my head. When I say constant, I mean constant. And when I say all of my life, I mean from my earliest memories. Twenty-four-seven, three-hundred-sixty-five, manic or depressed. The voice was like a second person – a second self. It spoke to me every second of every day and I couldn’t distinguish it from myself. It conversed with me endlessly about everything and anything that was going on in the moment. My doctors said it was not an auditory hallucination. However, it was literally inside my head, like a shadow of myself.

And though it was my constant confidante, it was also my harshest critic. It was the voice that told me I was stupid, ignorant, too loud, talking too fast, or taking up too much space on the planet. It could comfort me, bring me to hysterics, or even goad me into accepting my ignorance or uselessness. It was the first thing I addressed with my therapist. And when, after countless years of treatment, it was time to let the voice go, I was loath to do so. I was going to be bereft without it. Half of me – and half of my life – would go away, and I had to make a concerted effort to let that happen. By then, I knew the voice was not my friend. So, with the right holistic treatment regimen, away it did go. I’ve learned to live very well without it, and it has never returned. But it was not an easy parting, necessary or not.

Along with that one steady voice in my head, of course, was a cacophony of noise inside my brain whenever I was in a manic state. It made me reach for my hair to try and tear it from my scalp. With the noise came the racing thoughts and the fast-talking stranger who would take over the “me” that people were used to seeing. People would ask me to slow down, please, because they could neither understand what I was talking about nor the way in which I was saying it. The more they did that, the more irritated and angrier I became, because I was making perfect sense to myself. In fact, I often thought that I was brilliant. Now, isn’t that nauseating on a non-manic stomach?

It did not take much provocation to push me into towering rages, either. I have written about many of the things I did during those rages in “A Fine Madness”, part one of this “Madness” post. I’m pretty certain that I’ve forgotten more incidents than I have remembered.

And sleep, what was that all about? It was simply a waste of valuable time in which to be awake doing something more valuable. Nope. I did not believe in that. I used to scoff when anyone tried to talk to me about sleeping. I would tell them that Satan was nipping at my heels and I had to outrun him. No sleep for someone trying to outrun Satan!

When the perfect team of doctor and therapist finally materialized, and medications and behavioral therapy balanced out, sleep remained a contentious issue. I didn’t fight going or staying on the meds. In fact, unlike a lot of bipolar people, I welcomed them ecstatically. What I did not accept was the need to sleep more. Much more. I fought that for quite some time, until the realization finally struck that I was not going to get better without giving up my two hours a night for seven- or eight-hour nights. I laugh now when thinking back on my resistance as I happily snuggle under the covers and get a blissful eight hours of sleep all these years later.

One thing I loved about mania was the level of creativity it engendered. I probably shouldn’t say that but it’s true. My writing was superb, vivid, and profuse (I didn’t say that, my professors did). I won awards and was accepted into literary honor societies. I even wrote a children’s book (never published, of course). I wrote like a madwoman . . . . but therein lay the problem. Because I always fell from the highest high to the lowest low. And no one know who I might take with me on the way down. I knew least of all.

The culmination of all the symptoms of mania came together like cymbals clashing in total discord. My brain was blazing and my skin crawled. The image I had of myself was of a slippery, inhuman being vibrating in agony with a brain sizzling inside its skull. And all I wanted to do was to unzip myself from top to bottom, step out from my unearthly skin and walk away forever. The need to escape was soul crushing. The pain was agonizing. Not just for me, but for everyone else around me.

How did I finally tame that beast? Because it did get tamed . And I want anyone out there reading who might be feeling that kind of agony to know with absolute certainty that you can tame it too. I found the right doctor. And the right therapist. And started taking medication. And kept taking medication. And I continue to take medication. I have a treatment and crisis plan. And a support team. And a self-care plan. And I sleep at least eight hours a night (!!). I eat well. I do yoga, I meditate, and I exercise. I maintain balance and moderation in my life.

You say my life sounds boring? I laugh at you! My life is so very far from boring. My life is so very far from mad. Do I still live with bipolar mania? Yes. I always will. But I am seasoned and experienced now . . . . and my live is actually quite lovely!
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.