November the 11th.
It’s a date we have etched into our brains from the moment we’re born – in the build up to it, we buy badges and wrist bands, and use pins to attach poppies to coats. On the day itself, we wait until the hour strikes eleven, and we sit in silence, reflecting and remembering, thinking of those who died so that we could live.
This year, though, the date became even more significant to me – as it was the day that I got sectioned.
I have bipolar and, as well as having periods of depression, I experience mania. During these times, the world feels a much brighter place. I’m spontaneous, erratic and put myself in dangerous situations. The day I got admitted, I’d woken up with big plans: I was going to go to Blackpool to swim in the sea, and fly off a cliff (yes, I truly believed I had the ability to fly).
However, an anonymous tip off to the police stopped me in my tracks and I ended up being detained by them, and taken to hospital. A few hours later, I was put on a Section 2 (which is largely used for assessment and lasts up to 28 days) and taken to a psych ward.
As I write this now, on Day 37, I’ve been moved onto a Section 3 (which is used for treatment and initially lasts up to 6 months – but can be renewed) and, although I’m still not 100%, I truly believe (and desperately hope) I’m through the worst of it.
Recovering from a manic episode is challenging to say the least, and comes with a range of different difficulties. Here are some of the things I’m currently struggling with:
Can you remember being a kid and being determined to pull your first all-nighter at a sleepover? You’d down cans of pop, and fill your belly with sugary treats in an attempt to stop yourself from nodding off. Sometimes it’d work – other times, not so much. But, when you did manage it, it’d feel like a huge achievement – until your parents came to pick you up the following day, explaining how you were off to spend the day with relatives – and ‘no, there wouldn’t be time for a nap’
Well, imagine having three weeks of nights like this… Staying awake all night – or only having one or two hours’ kip – and then not having the time or ability to catch up on sleep no matter how much you needed it.
Living this way is as tough physically as it is mentally and, as this particular episode comes to an end, it’s taking a long time to catch up on sleep. Despite snoozing eight hours last night, I’ve already had two ‘accidental’ naps today. I can’t seem to watch anything on the telly without nodding off, and I have no idea how I’m ever going to return to my job when I seem to be sleeping more frequently than a toddler. But, I’m trying my best to not think about things like work – but instead prioritise looking after my body.
Forgetfulness and Embarrassment
Ever woken up from a night out with absolutely no memories from the night before? Perhaps you first remember arriving at pre-drinks, or getting a taxi to a bar – but that’s it…
Well, that’s just a small glimpse of how it feels to come out of a manic episode.
Instead of losing memories from a couple of hours at a party, I’ve lost practically every single moment from the last five weeks. The doctor on the ward says it’s perfectly normal – but it doesn’t make it any less scary.
Linked to the lack of memories is embarrassment. I currently couldn’t tell you much about any of the conversations I’ve had with anyone – I can’t remember what I’ve done, or said to people.
I know for certain that at some point, early on in the journey, I made a TikTok account dedicated to my love for potatoes. There’s some pretty bad videos on it – and it’s something I’ll definitely be deleting. But, with that in mind, I hate to think of some of the other embarrassing things I may’ve done. I have no idea if I’ve upset anyone, or made them angry. It feels like I’ve had no control over my actions for several weeks now, and it’s scary.
Lack of personal hygiene
When your brain is going a million miles an hour, and you have tonnes of projects you need to complete, personal hygiene tends to go out of the window. For ten days, I wore the exact same outfit (a blue ‘party’ dress that I refused to take off, even when I slept) and wouldn’t have any form of a wash. I also stopped cleaning my teeth and wearing deodorant.
Eventually, a nurse appeared in my room, telling me I had to shower – no ifs, or buts. It’d been too long – and I needed to look after myself better. I’d reluctantly agreed, on the condition I could then change into another dress.
I also wore a Burger King crown on my head that I refused to take off. I’d seen it the day before I’d ended up in hospital, and had taken an instant liking to it. I became obsessed with wearing it at all times; it became smelly, greasy and started to fall apart. Luckily, a kind member of staff went out of his way to fetch a selection of new ones, bringing them onto the ward (even though it was his day off!)
Although my brain’s now slowed down, and I no longer wear a crown, I’m still finding it pretty difficult to remember to shower and clean my teeth. I haven’t brushed my hair in several days. But, I’m slowly getting better and I’m sure that soon enough, my showers will become much more regular.
Plus, this morning, I remembered to clean my teeth – so that’s something!
Feeling Flat and Low
‘Life is a rollercoaster’
No truer words have been sung than that by Ronan Keating. Life is indeed a rollercoaster – especially when it comes to bipolar. The highs are so big you feel like you’re reaching the top of the world’s tallest ride (note: it’s called Kingda Ka and has a 525-foot drop).
But, what goes up must come down again – and, no matter how much you want to avoid it, the highs can’t last forever. Eventually you’ll come crashing back down to earth – and it truly sucks.
I know that I’m coming out of an episode when I sleep more than two hours at a time, and my head feels quieter.
The world, which was once sparkly, now seems dull and flat. Instead of partying, I’m spending my time sleeping and trying to piece together what’s happened over the past month or so. I keep finding myself in tears, unhappy with this new world I’ve entered.
Thing is, it’s not even like I’m now in a depressive episode. But, because things were so high, moving to a more stable level feels like a massive tumble down and, whilst I know I’ll get used to it eventually, I’m currently at a stage where it feels very challenging.
It can be hard to talk about money – but reckless spending can be a big part of mania. In my case, when I was at my worst, it felt a bit like I was playing a game of Monopoly – spending cash left, right and centre with no real regard for what I was doing. However, instead of buying fancy properties with fake bank notes, the money I spent was very real.
I don’t remember placing orders, but from looking at emails, I can see that I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on a whole array of items I don’t need – things like Venga Boys merch, disco lights, hundreds of glow sticks, and an inflatable dinosaur costume. I’ve placed lots of orders I’ve forgotten about, and my wife has been confused when she has yet again received another parcel containing something weird and wonderful.
I’m in a very fortunate position that my wife and I have some savings, so my actions haven’t caused us too much harm. However, I’m freelance, so I get absolutely zero sick pay – meaning it’s more important than ever that I’m careful with money – especially with the ever increasing cost of living.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with finances when manic – it only takes a quick Google search to see some of the ways it’s affected people – causing them to get into mountains of debt, losing their houses, and having their possessions taken away. It’s bad enough coming out of an episode feeling ashamed because of your actions – but adding on the loss of finances can be truly devastating.
So, what next?
My main focus right now is on recovery – whatever that might involve. I’m taking it slow – focussing on one day at a time. My mind and body have been through a lot, and I’m trying to be as gentle as I can be on them. I’m still in hospital at the moment, but hoping not to be for too much longer. But, whilst I am here, I’m doing everything I can to look after myself.
I know that, no matter what, I have it in me to get through it. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and we’ll get there.
Note: I’ve decided to set up a Ko-fi account so, if for whatever reason, you fancy getting me a ‘coffee’, you can do so. I’ll always keep my blogs free – and there’s absolutely zero obligation to do so (in fact, I feel pretty bad mentioning it in the first place). But, here’s the link for anyone interested: