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What It Feels Like for Me to Experience Mania in Borderline Personality Disorder

Tonight I can do anything.

“Take me to the cinema,” I say to my carer. “No, no… let’s go bowling,” I beg. “God, I really wanna go visit Megan,” I say. Or wouldn’t it be awesome to take a flight somewhere and just get out of here? I think to myself, secretly Googling prices and times. We could leave now. We really could.

While most of these suggestions might seem perfectly harmless, they are the workings of my manic mind — a mind currently high on life, ready to fly, though likely to burn out at any given second.

I have borderline personality disorder and am more prone to experiencing borderline’s depression than I am its mania, so I am familiar with suicidal thinking, hard-hitting depressive episodes that last anywhere from hours to days, feelings of worthlessness, lack of hope, etc. But once in a while, I will experience small bursts of mania. I can’t quite decide if these small bursts are positive or not. On the one hand, they fill me with energy and drive, but on the other, they consume me and fill me with a dangerous sense of urgency.

Largely due to my severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which I have previously written about on The Mighty, I have spent the past seven years inside and fully dependent on my carer. Realistically, I can’t set foot outside my front door without panicking. Right now, however, in the height of a manic episode I tend to forget about my illness. It’s with extreme anger and rage that I tell myself I can “defeat” it, that it doesn’t exist at all. When my carer gently reminds me I shouldn’t push myself, I want to scream at him and tell him he doesn’t know me, he doesn’t understand. I want to run outside into the wind and rain. Literally. I want to run and keep running – it doesn’t matter where I’m going so long as I am moving forward, away from this illness.

There are times, rare as they are, that I will give in to the mania. Take the past weekend for example. I woke up early and asked my carer to take me into Belfast, the largest city in Northern Ireland. He was shocked and wary, but I convinced him I’d be fine. See, that’s one thing I’ve gotten really good at – manipulating myself into believing I’ll be OK. It’s so convincing that I managed to fool us both. Now, Belfast was hard, really hard… but I did get through it. And as I expected there was a lot of mania: compulsive spending, wanting to go everywhere, to experience everything. I talked to people, I laughed, I later cried. I felt alive – and that felt wonderful.

What I failed to prepare for, however, were the days that followed. After our trip into Belfast, I had to spend three days lying in bed recuperating. I couldn’t move. My energy levels were low, my muscles ached to the point of crying. I was massively emotional and suicidal – all because of one day out. I experienced extreme guilt and shame at my reactions to things. I mean, if you could have seen me out there, running around Belfast like a kid on too much candy, and that’s just it; my moments of mania are extremely childlike. I was wild and free, but then something terrible happened. The child became afraid and ashamed for having “lived,” for having felt excitement. And then I go into myself again — tired, torn, eaten and spat out by the world, scared I would never feel that excitement again.

I cannot begin to explain the fear I experience when I feel the mania slipping away from me. It is like watching a beautiful sunset dissolve into darkness – never to reappear. I can feel the energy inside of me dying. I watch as it turns from happiness and possibility to despair and hopelessness.

I begin to loathe myself for having wasted it. Ten minutes ago, I was ready to book a flight to Glasgow, just because. Now the idea alone would give me a panic attack.

Once the mania has worked its way out of my system, it is replaced by a dark and gloomy, heavy depression which tends to last for days. And even though I know this cycle never changes, that the mania leads to depression, I still crave it, still desperately hold on to the next time I’ll feel those small bursts of energy, those giant waves of possibility.

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