By Emma Simkin

CN: bipolar, sex, suicidal ideation


Last summer, I was hospitalised for Bipolar Type 1. I was depressed for the first month of my hospital stay and the other patients would try to cheer me up. They would remind me: ‘You still have mania to look forward to! You’re so lucky, at least you get the ups!’

What people don’t realise is that manic episodes aren’t remotely like happiness. Just as depression is different to ‘feeling sad’, mania is different to ‘feeling good’. But if mania isn’t like happiness, what is it? I think it’s helpful to think of bipolar as an energy disorder.

For me, depression feels less like sadness, and more like exhaustion. When I’m depressed, my thoughts slow into mushy sludgey stuff. Words don’t work properly. Too tired to feel emotions. Body feels heavy. Chest aches where feelings used to be. My very existence exhausts me.

When I’m manic, my thoughts fly around at 100mph, colliding into each-other and creating absurd psychotic ideas. Sometimes these thoughts are exciting and bring extreme feelings of euphoria (imagine how exciting it is to discover time-travel!) Other times, it’s terrifying. People can experience a low mood when they’re manic, which is called a ‘mixed state’. Evidence shows that ‘mixed state’ manic episodes, people may be at a higher suicide risk than people who are depressed, which isn not surprising. Mania makes feelings more intense, even the painful ones. Throw in impulsivity and grandiose delusions that come with mania, and you’ve got yourself a very high risk of suicide.

The words in the ‘manic’ drawing are all copied from a diary entry, dated 26th May 2017, just over a year ago.

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