Several people have asked me questions about what my mania feels like and how it affects me, so I thought I'd write a boring, informative blog post about what experiencing mania is like for me.
My mania is not quite like traditional mania. It has some similarities (energy, racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, etc), but it is also very different (mainly that I do not feel enjoyable during mine at all!).
It starts with the right side of my jaw tightening and getting a little uncomfortable. It's not painful really, just annoying. Sometimes this part starts before I have actually switched over to mania, so I know the switch is coming soon. Then, the tightening spreads to my throat and chest. Breathing gets very painful, but strangely only on the right side. It feels like there are sores all up and down the right side of my airways, so air coming past makes it sting. I really don't know what causes this at all.
Next, the tightening intensifies to feeling very uncomfortable and painful in my chest. I usually describe this to my husband as my heart being on fire. It's not in one place in my chest or in the same place every time, so I usually describe this as my heart, but it's not, because it actually happens on the right side. My throat muscles tighten and breathing becomes even more difficult and painful (it burns like nothing I can describe).
After a couple of days of experiencing this, I start to get this feeling of energy that starts in my toes and feet. It feels like there are little microscopic bouncy balls bouncing in my veins at super speed. It makes my feet and legs feel numb and tingly, and I shake. At first, it is a choice to shake, because shaking relieves some of the pain in my chest and the energetic feelings in my toes and feet. But after a little while, I can't choose it anymore. At the point that I can't stop shaking even if I try, my whole legs are shaking.
At some point, everything intensifies to the point that I have to lay down in bed and let it all out. This is when everything shakes, including my hands and arms. I'm sure it looks almost like I'm having a seizure. My hand muscles get so tight that my fingers almost freeze in their current position and lock up. This very intense part of it is the worst and feels completely unbearable. It lasts anywhere from 1-4 hours.
When the worst of it has passed, it's like everything winds down the same way it built up. My muscles always feel really sore, because of all the shaking and tightening, but they are able to relax some.
The psychiatrist said that my symptoms of mania match more of a panic attack (which I would agree), except that panic attacks don't last for days at time and they don't cycle, so we're sticking with calling it mania for now. Mostly because she tried to have me take an anxiety medication, and it made the mania MUCH worse.
I do not like mania at all and would not consider it pleasant in any way like some people feel with mania. Honestly, I think of mania as going through hell, because that's the best way I can think of to describe the depth of pain it causes. This is the way it has been for the last 20 cycles, including before I started taking medication, so at least I know it's not an adverse reaction to the medicine.
Although the mania is much more difficult to deal with than the depression, I feel like I grow so much closer to Heavenly Father during this time. It's something that is basically impossible to understand without feeling it (I never would have imagined a pain like this existed unless I felt it), so I can't rely on anyone else besides Heavenly Father to understand my pain. And I don't feel like I can be around anyone, including my family, when it gets really bad, so I am only left with the ability to pray. But I know that I am strengthened and supported through every difficult mania I face, and someday all of the pain of my broken brain will be healed!