Imagine this: You have been taken hostage. You are put in a room with the people you are closest to; your family, your friends, maybe even your boss and co-workers. You are forced to ingest a liquid, a truth serum, if you will. This liquid immediately destroys your natural filter, the thing that stops you from saying the thoughts that are going through your brain. One by one, your captors bring your family, friends and co-workers towards you. They sit back and watch. Suddenly, the words spill out of you, swift and sharp, each thought spoken out loud at the very moment it is born. Truths dribble down your chin onto your chest, into their ears, all over the floor. You are incapable of lying. You have no boundaries, no concept of personal space. Your captors put strangers in front of you and you stand inches from their face, touching them as you talk talk talk. You have no fear. You dance and sing. For the first time in your life, you are truly genuine. Tact goes out the window. You tell strangers they are fat or that they are “hot” or that they should go to the gym. You bring up uncomfortable, traumatic past events that haven’t been spoken of since. Secrets are revealed, unloaded, offered up willingly, purposefully… everyone knows everything.
What if that was you? How many friends would you have lost? How many relationships would have been ruined? What would you have said?
Well, that was me for 11 days in the hospital. The truth serum was the brain tissue inflammation mixed with “evil p” (a.k.a. prednisone (steroids)). The result came in the form of bipolar hypermania symptoms. People with bipolar disorder go through extreme highs and lows. Hypermania refers to the mania when it is very extreme – when the patient is in a highly frantic and euphoric state. Usually, when a patient is in a manic state, they talk excessively and at high speed. They flit from one subject to another and become very easily distracted. I was told that one day my team of “white coats” came by on their rounds to see me. I was writing on the white board in my hospital room. I turned as they entered and started talking nonstop about nothing in particular. Apparently, they just stood there and listened for a few minutes, looked at each other and then without a word left the room. I think I vaguely remember that, but the way I imagine it in my mind right now makes me laugh out loud. In extreme cases, someone with bipolar hypermania may experience delusions and hallucinations or act violently. They may also become confused and disoriented. I briefly touched upon my “Harry Potter/Jesus/Creator Delusion” and you already know that I had given death threats to those closest to me, even throwing things at their heads. At one point, I sincerely believed that my mother was going to kill me. I couldn’t remember my oldest friend or my sister or my boyfriend of almost 6 years. I was very confused and disoriented, indeed.
Some other interesting things happened during my time in the hospital. The language centre in my brain was quite active, I was speaking Tagalog and French better than I ever had. My ability to absorb information and learn was quicker, smoother, almost effortless. For some reason I was extremely flexible despite all the inflammation running rampant in all areas of my body. When I bent over to touch my toes, my palms touched the floor. I have never been able to reach past my ankles. I sang a lot at the hospital. My favourite Disney songs, Michael Jackson, songs from Sound of Music and Annie. I took requests. My master keeper, who is a trained singer and the most honest and critical when it comes to anything vocal said it was the best he had ever heard me sing. Oh, and we can’t forget all the creepy messages I wrote myself. I was writing constantly. I was writing when I wasn’t writing. My mind was always running, sprinting, falling over itself. It wouldn’t stop. It wouldn’t even let me sleep. When sifting through these messages, I see that I wrote “Let me out!” several times in very strange and distinct writing. One of my keepers, who has years of experience working in the mental health field, says it was my way of figuring things out, that I was doing the best I could to understand how to take control of my mind again. Fascinating, isn’t it? Apparently, my parents bought a tape recorder in the second week of my hospital stay. Yes, it is true. The tapes patiently wait for me somewhere in this house, they wait for the time when I am ready to hear them. My master keeper told me that he recorded a few hours of a night that he calls “the most traumatic night of his life.” I don’t remember this night at all. I wonder what “she” sounds like… the “she” that was left behind when I was gone. I will find out one day, but not today. Definitely not today.
As well as manic periods, someone with bipolar hypermania may go into a severe depressive state. This is characterized by fatigue, despondency, and extreme sadness. When the depression is at its most severe, the patient may become silent and motionless. One of the real risks during this stage is that of suicide. Manic and depressive moods often arise without warning and last for some time- even weeks or months if no treatment is given. Living with someone in either the manic or depressive stage is not easy although they are usually not dangerous to others. However, they may become a danger to themselves if not treated. During my time in the hospital I think I was more “chipper” than down, although most of the times I don’t remember was when I was violent or on a low, so I could be wrong in saying this. I am experiencing the “lows” more now that I am at home recovering. Nothing serious. I’m keeping things in check. I haven’t been violent or thrown anything or uttered death threats since my release. There have been some outbursts, yelling, screaming, crying, but it never escalates into anything physical. Thank God for that.
This week is mental health awareness week. I have been thinking a lot about the millions of people who struggle with mental health issues everyday… even more than usual. I was on facebook the other day and I caught some comments that a few nurses were writing about a “crazy drugged up patient” who had made a silly or strange comment or command to them. I know that the nurses didn’t mean anything by it and that they care deeply about their patients and that strange comments from high patients naturally induce some kind of reaction from tired, overworked health care workers, but I had this pang go through my heart when I read it. That was me. That was totally me, talking a million miles a minute about things that didn’t make sense. I am that crazy patient. That’s how all the nurses and doctors will remember me. That’s who Elena is to them. I know I shouldn’t care… but, wow, I really do. That wasn’t me, people. And that “crazy, drugged up patient” is actually a really beautiful, rational, intelligent person who is really lovely to talk to. Sigh.
So, I guess you want to know how many friends I lost from my non-filtered adventures in wonderland? None. Yes, I know, I am one lucky girl. I am lucky that this happened at a point in my life where I have ensured that the people close to me are the people I genuinely love and care about. I am lucky I had no real dark secrets, just “embarassing” things I guess, but now that I have released them out there, they really weren’t a big deal at all. I mostly just told my family and friends how much I love them and when I came home from the hospital I even wrote emails to people who weren’t really my friends telling them that I loved them too! Basically, I am just one big love machine. I have to tell you that it feels really good to tell the truth, to have no secrets. It’s liberating. My filter is back, although I do struggle during my manic episodes to keep it in check. I do slip up from time to time, even now when I finally feel like the mania is decreasing, but I can tell you that even though I have somewhat of a filter, I find that I still can’t lie. I can’t do it. I don’t know if I will ever be able to again. I’m okay with that… actually, I am more than okay with that. It sounds like a really good way to live.
Now, you all know that I am a theatre person. I have told you that several times. Having bipolar hypermania symptoms plus being a theatre person plus being a gemini plus being a person who naturally tends to have highs and lows anyway is absolutely a lethal combination. It’s quite laughable, actually. My dear brother says that my blog is very melodramatic. Well, yes, I dare say it is, but I hope you all know that everything I say here is sincere, that it is the truth… my truth. Yes, I use fanciful metaphors using epic story lines and comic books and I start my blogs with imaginary hostage scenarios, but I do that because I am a writer and I love stories and metaphors, high stakes and drama… and I also don’t want you to get bored. Let’s be honest here, people, my situation isn’t the cheeriest one out there, so if a little melodrama and theatre makes you laugh or smile or helps you relate to what I am writing here, than why not? I just want you to know that beneath all that, all the frills and jokes and metaphorical wonderment, it is all real, that underneath all the mania, the euphoria and the lows, I am real. I am here. This is me. No lie.