Oh, sweet, intoxicating mania!
There’s something about mania that makes the depression part of bipolar disorder. You begin to regain your energy and before you know it, you never want to sit still. You want to go, go, go, straight until dawn because you feel invincible, like there’s nothing that can stop you because you…
You get the point.
Mania, while highly energizing, is also the point where you can spend vast sums of money you don’t have, skip sleep or work to do something more active, or engage in risky behavior that you normally wouldn’t.
“Be aware that in a manic stage, the first thing that suffers is judgment,” said Dr. David M. Reiss, a psychiatrist in private practice and interim medical director of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, Mass.
While medications, therapy, and other treatments can help stabilize your moods, you can teach yourself to use your mania to your advantage.
Stick to Your Plan
Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist working out of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., said it's important to have a plan before a manic episode happens.
“Having close relationships with friends or family help a person with bipolar disorder have an extra set of eyes on them—these close relationships can give feedback to a person if there are concerning behaviors,” Dr. Mihalko said. “Living life on a budget day-to-day helps set a norm of how money is spent and managed. This provides a person to have a chance of noticing if the way they manage their money has changed.”
Keep Your Wallet Light
Dr. Mihalko said sometimes it's useful to take a harm-reduction approach, like having a way to minimize the potential for harm.
“Examples of this might be having very low credit limits on credit cards, not having credit cards, and having a small sum of cash readily available and the majority of funds in bank accounts that are more difficult to access,” he said.
If you set up restrictions such as an account with no ATM or debit card, or an account at an online bank that takes 2-3 days to transfer funds into an account that can be drawn upon, etc., it will force you to wait through a manic period before you can spend everything you have.
No one knows for sure if creative types are prone to bipolar disorder or if people with bipolar disorder are drawn to the arts, but there is a strong link.
Great artistic minds such as literary greats Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, and Jack London, and artists Edvard Much, Jackson Pollack, and Vincent Van Gogh all displayed behavior typical of bipolar disorder.
These men used their mania to fuel their artistic fire, spending long hours at their craft to change the landscape of their generations and those beyond their years.
Don’t worry if you can’t slather The Scream onto a canvas, or bang out the next Farewell to Arms in a weekend. The goal of using art during mania is to create something instead of absentmindedly destroying something during mania.
“They key is to have a good sense before hand of what behaviors or tasks you can take on while hypomanic that will not be disruptive, i.e., stay away from any tasks involving money, making significant decisions, involving interpersonal relationships, etc.,” Dr. Reiss said. “Other tasks, like writing, art work, hobbies, basic paperwork, can be good outlets. But still be careful to be sure you don’t get obsessively involved to the exclusion of necessary tasks and behaviors.”
Your mind feels like it’s going a mile a minute, so that would be a good time to train your body to do the same. All the extra energy of mania is best put to use physically.
No matter what exercise you enjoy—walking, running, biking, hiking, or dog sled racing—use your mania to shed a few pounds, get around town, or practice for an Ironman.
Also, getting into a regular exercise routine does wonders for your health, especially for preventing depression symptoms and helping to beat stress.
Learn Something New
Do you know how to speak Cantonese? How about Portuguese? Or maybe wood-working, coffee roasting, or beer making?
Using your extra energy to learn a new skill is a healthy, productive way to capitalize on your mania.
To start, just sign up for a class or start watching endless free videos on the internet.
When you’re done, there will be so much more that you know how to do. After enough manic episodes, you could be a genius, or at least a real life MacGyver.
Clean, Fix, & Repair
If your honey-do list doesn’t exist, make one for yourself. Fix that squeaky porch door. Clean the cobwebs from the ceiling corners. Fix the shelf in the kitchen.
While doing this doesn’t sound as fun as say, skydiving, it’s a lot safer and a much better decision to make, and you’ll have a much nicer, cleaner living space when you’re done.
Stay True to Yourself
Mania may bring delusions of grandeur into your mind, or make you feel invincible, but you need to remind yourself of who you are during your mania. As much as you feel like it, you’re not a superhero. You are human today just as you were yesterday. You have things you love in your life that need attention and forsaking them during your mania only hurts it.
Even if you need to get them tattooed across your forearms, your goals, ambitions, and hard work shouldn’t be erased by the frantic, fleeting desires of mania. As you already know, the feelings won’t last but the repercussions just may.
One Last Thing
No matter how great you feel during mania, remember that it won’t last. You’ll fluctuate back to normal, and possibly back into depression. Never neglect your treatment during mania, no matter how tempting it is.
Mania is temporary, but its effects may not be.