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Mania

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Edited by Annie Storkey, Friday, 27 May 2022, 11:53

I have just blogged about my recent depression but now I want to tell you about mania, as I guess most people don’t really understand what it is like.

I consider hypo-mania, that is, low grade mania, a normal part of my every day life. When I am hypomanic, I have constant racing thoughts in my head, like a dialogue with myself (just to be clear, I’m not hearing voices; I’ve never had auditory hallucinations). I have a heightened awareness of my surroundings, of colour and noise, and it is often an enjoyable experience, though the discourse can cause anxiety when you replay conversations and mistakes from 30 years ago.

It is hard to say when hypomania tips into mania, I think it is when I start feeling tipsy and my thoughts become more grandiose. My internal discourse contains grand speeches where I share my words of wisdom with the world and everyone hangs on my every word. I see myself as charming and engaging, with my eyes twinkling like diamonds (and I can understand how someone with psychosis might be deluded enough to imagine they are diamonds). I am excitable, wanting to engage with the world, to run down paths with my arms outstretched. I am lucky that I have a lot of insight and control when in a manic state so I don’t do anything to embarrass myself in public; this is how I manage to continue as high functioning within society. I’m also lucky to have seldom experienced psychosis, though I understand and appreciate the thin line between reality and delusion in mental illness.

I can tell my moods from my shopping habits; I told my GP when my depression started by looking at my PayPal account. When I am manic, I shop more and buy frivolous items or several pairs of identical shoes in different colours. This morning I started browsing for colourful tops for my summer holiday, yellows and corals. My Mad March Mania is very late this year.

If you want to read a book about experiencing bipolar disorder, I recommend Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, an autobiography of a manic depressive written by an academic expert on manic depression. I don’t agree with everything she says from a medical perspective but her descriptions of her emotional states and behaviour were very recognisable to me, as well as the vulnerability of academics/medical professionals declaring their mental illness.

Annie


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Depression

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Edited by Annie Storkey, Friday, 27 May 2022, 11:05

I haven’t blogged for a while as I have had a major bout of depression and didn’t want it to be a distraction for my students (though I did record it in my research journal). But EMAs are done so it is time to talk about it.

I always have a bout of depression in February and have recorded about it previously in my blog. Like many people with bipolar disorder, I also get seasonal affective disorder and this usually means a couple of weeks when I am down followed by a seasonal burst of mania in March (mad March amongst manic depressives is a common phenomenon). But this year my depression hit the same week as war broke out in Ukraine and I already had a sort of post-pandemic malaise. Consequently, my depression was deeper than normal and accompanied by a severe worsening of my generalised anxiety, ranging from being convinced that my office floor would give way due to the heavy shelves, to an overwhelming fear of my sons being sent to war and our world being destroyed by imminent nuclear strikes. For the first time in over 20 years, I made contact with my GP to discuss my mental health. The GP clearly knew less than me about mental health and appropriate treatments (she spoke to a psychiatrist who recommended fluoxetine, which the GP didn’t know was Prozac. Prozac is not an appropriate medication for someone who has mania). I still haven’t got an appointment to see the psychiatrist. But I also contacted NHS psychological and wellbeing services who were quick to assess me for low grade CBT, which I will start next week.

My depression lasted nearly 3 months and has gradually improved over the last few weeks. During that time, I have kept up with a heavy marking load and teaching commitments but this has meant increased tiredness and my research has been a bit neglected, though obviously the practice part of my action research has continued. I had wanted to start data analysis in February but that was not possible with my mental state which continued into March and April, when I also had my methodology chapter assignment and NVivo training to do. April is, of course, an intensive marking month. So here I am in May, familiarising myself with my transcripts ready to start coding next week.

I have felt ‘normal’ for a couple of weeks now, though normal is a somewhat loose concept for a manic depressive. As my next blog will discuss.

Annie


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