Every experience of mania is unique. It can sometimes involve delusions. Here author and businessman Stan L. Abbot recounts his first, and only, manic episode.
At first I felt extremely ill, at times looking down on myself from a vantage near the ceiling. And then, after many sleepless nights, the delusions began.
The most dramatic of these was my small-hours encounter with the soul of my dead sister. I soared down a tunnel of millions of points of light that spun faster and faster in a swirling vortex. I met my sister at the single point of light ahead of me. Calm descended and she passed me a blueprint for my future life – while also conferring upon me extraordinary powers to find simple solutions to all the most complex problems facing both me personally and the world at large.
Before long I had rescued Newcastle United from its unpopular owner and saved the Scottish Island of St Kilda for future generations. But day-to-day life was becoming more and more challenging: I could not hold a conversation without the aid of a large mirror as this was the only way I could synch my own speech with other people’s.
And then, after spending the night living “in the bush” with the pet cats, I morphed into a hungry lion in the Serengeti. I quickly faced a choice between becoming a voluntary psychiatric in-patient or being Sectioned. I was just coherent enough to choose the former.
Once in hospital I found myself with other patients who had clearly been sent to assist me in my mission to “save the world”. I teamed up with an ex-boxer, now born-again Christian, and we came up with plans to “rescue the world” in just seven days. Except these weren’t just “ordinary days”: I had created a new formula to explain how time actually passed at different speeds in different places and these “seven days” might turn out to be quite generous…
Meanwhile, my business – far from just about surviving in the wake of the financial crisis – was, thanks to some fancy legal footwork, rapidly becoming a pan-global empire with a huge charitable arm.
Under medication (temazepam and, more importantly, olanzapine) I began to come down from my delusional high after a couple of weeks and came home after three – an unusually short time, given that many psychotic patients are hospitalised for weeks and may go on to develop more extreme episodes or bipolar disorder.
- See also: Disorders explained
- See also: Sweet, sweet fantasy? Mariah Carey knows what all of us with Bipolar II know, hypomania can be both as sweet and sticky as honey
- See also: Pressured speech, racing thoughts, bipolar disorder
Of course, once you’ve been blessed with super powers, it can be quite hard to learn to live with the reality that they never actually existed, and I came to recognise that I was quite depressed.
My principle remedies were a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and the novel writing project came in part out of this, and securing a meeting with a senior Church of England figure to talk about the idea of meeting souls beyond the grave. When my mania was getting severe, but before I was admitted, I had broken down in Durham Cathedral and I felt I needed a better resolution to this incident.
It amuses me a little that it was this senior cleric who suggested to me that, in my heightened state, I had met not with my dead sister but with hidden parts of my own conscience.
Saved from myself
I hold the staff at Lanchester Road psychiatric hospital in immense regard for the quality of the treatment I received. But this was back in 2010. “If it happened again tomorrow, I don’t think they’d find a bed for you – at least, not locally,” was the sober reflection recently of the community mental health specialist who had helped manage my transition from psychiatric in-patient to recovery at home.
But actually, the NHS had not only saved me from ‘insanity’, but – by gently keeping a lid on my excesses – it had also saved me from myself and, indeed, helped to save my business and my loyal staff from the crazy version of me who might have destroyed it.
Mania is a symptom of bipolar 1 and other mental health conditions, but Stan L. Abbott received no diagnosis. He attributes his episode to toxic poisoning following a road traffic accident. Depression followed his come down from mania, and he pursued a course of CBT as a precaution following medical advice that his manic episode could be a precursor to development of bipolar. The author has recently published a novel entitled ‘The Episode’, partially inspired by his experience.