When looking back at my younger self, I know now that I was suffering severe depression and social anxiety disorder (actually, I know now that I was suffering bipolar disorder, but until that time mania had not presented itself yet). I was always paranoid, though I could not identify what I was feeling at the time, but it was in the realm of psychotic. I was convinced that people, anybody, especially my “friends” only asked me to hang out so that they could laugh at me. They were pretending to like me but I was the joke in the room. They thought I didn’t know, but I was on to them. This is how I get when I am going through depression.
I experienced my first hypomanic/manic episode just after my first year of college. It didn’t last long. It did however last long enough for me to make the life changing decision to leave all my plans, my relationship, my life on a whim to move to the other side of the country by myself. Once there, the mania dissipated and the weight of my decision landed heavily on my shoulders. What had I done? Where was everybody? Where was I? I was alone and scared thousands of miles from home. Enter paranoid social anxiety closely followed by depression. My depression and anxiety worsened quickly and dramatically. I developed severe social anxiety to the point that I would not leave my apartment except to dodge to my classes and back. There were exactly two people that I trusted enough to communicate with, only sometimes, and as long as nobody else was around. I was sure that I was the world’s clown; they didn’t know I knew it, but I did. When around people, I would catch a glimpse, or a look from them and my stomach would sink and churn, the room would spin and everything sounded as a distant echo. I had to run, I had to get out! I was in a constant state of panic. I had no idea that this was something that a medical professional could help with, I thought that it was just how I was, but I walked into a doctor’s office and explained everything. The whole time I was thinking that the doctor must think I am crazy, but he didn’t even act surprised. That was where I heard about depression and social anxiety. I didn’t even know those were things, but I read the information I was given and was shocked that I was not alone! At that appointment I was misdiagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder and was prescribed Paxil. This started a life altering mania.
Within weeks I did not recognize the world. It was beautiful. I had no idea what people were laughing at until now. It certainly wasn’t me, I was awesome. I got it. I got why people smile and laugh! I was confident, I was happy, it never occurred to me that someone would make fun of me. I finally got it! It was such a relief from an existence of darkness, guilt, shame and blindness. I was genuinely happy.
Then I started to really get it. I was understanding things about life and the universe that I believed nobody else got. I tried to explain the missing link between relativity and quantum, I stayed up for days working on assignments. They were genius! I was alive! Why did nobody see the magic that I was seeing? Was everybody blind to the universe around us? I kept trying to explain. People stared at me as though I was a wonder to behold. I was such an amazing, special person! They stared! They could tell that I was brilliant and they were amazed. I could see it in their faces. Oh, the stares…
I remember those stares a little differently now.
During this mania I began to experiment with mind altering substances. I found some likeminded people who understood the wonders of the universe, or at least tried. They were at least as blown away by them as I was. We ate many mushrooms to get closer to the truth, acid, weed, anything to enhance my already awakening genius. I was flying! I was on cloud nine, or at least I thought it was cloud nine. I had hit the north pole and flown head first into a manic episode. I wish I could say that this is where I found help. That I was admitted or that I came crashing down. This mania was one of the worse that I have suffered and I believe that it was sparked and sustained by the treatment for my misdiagnosed unipolar depression. I believe that the mania was so severe, and lasted so long because I was on the Paxil for so long. I eventually decided that I felt so god-like that I didn’t need medication anymore and I weaned myself off. I did okay for a while, but it was only a matter of time before the same psychotic depression hit again. This rollercoaster of antidepressant treatment to mania, to depression, to mania went on for years.
Oh the stories I will tell. I have had some of the most amazing experiences while manic, but have also made negative decisions that I will deal with for the rest of my life. I will leave off here for now, but be sure to come back for more manic stories. You don’t want to miss the one about my life with the mountain man….
I am not sure about anything but amazed by everything. I struggle with erratic moods. I don't know if it is a disorder, a gift, or a little bit of both, but I am going to try to embrace them, let myself feel them, and hopefully come out wiser on the other side.