It is a cyclical thing, this experience. And coming down is such a relief this time. Three nights running of way too little sleep – but yet being unable to sleep – was taking its toll.
I feel like I learned two new, subtle, signals of a coming f”up” / manic period:
- Not being tired. This one may seem obvious, but it manifests in some ways I hadn’t noticed previously.
- Flurry of thoughts but not “pressured speech” or “rushed brain”. Again, the concept seems obvious, but the subtleties are new to me.
Waking up in the middle of the night is a non-subtle symptom. But “being less tired than I’d expect” is more subtle. It’s easy to miss: you just move along through your day just without being really tired.
But if you stop. And add up the hours of sleep you actually got. And think about how little caffeine you actually ingested. You realize, “I should be tired”.
Sometimes it’s just “I should be tired”. But sometimes, like yesterday, it’s “I shouldn’t be able to stand up – I haven’t had the caffeine or the sleep or even the food to sustain this level of activity and alertness”.
Which is why I think realize this might be helpful to me in the future. If it’s not sleep or caffeine or food driving my energy, it must be something else. So what is that? Well, it’s whatever chemical process drives the mania. And so if that “energy that shouldn’t exist” is present then it may be an early warning of coming mania.
I’ll watch for this in the future and maybe it helps me expect the coming flurry of energy, activity, and disrupted sleep.
I realized that I spent some time before my manic period* where, in retrospect, my thoughts were already moving abnormally quickly.
Again, this is subtle. It isn’t the non-subtle feeling of “I can’t talk or type fast enough to keep up with all these genius ideas that are sparking in my brain”.
If I had sat down at the end of a day and tried to recollect how many “great ideas” or “possibilities” or “interesting connecting ideas” I had thought of that day, it would have been maybe several multiples more than usual.
I don’t know a good number. But let’s say that, depending on the day’s activities and who I interact with maybe 5-15 is the normal range. Probably around 5-10 all day. Whereas the days leading up to the mania, each day there were several hours where it was 5-10 in that hour – so easily 25-40 for a day and the range is probably 25-75. I’ve compared it to a feeling of “Jason Bourne blue pills” (from the movie: The Bourne Legacy).
For comparison, a day of mania is probably a similar feeling just accelerated further: the active hours are 20+ / hour and the biggest difference is that instead of an hour here and there in a day, it’s 4-10 hours mostly sustained with few breaks of slowing down**.
At this point, those numbers are guesses, but they feel approximately right. I’ll definitely watch for them going forward to have a better sense of what the numbers actually are so I can better identify what is happening as it happens.
I’m counting the number of “ideas” because that is a large part of how this manifests for me. (And probably why one of my possible “triggers” is new ideas and the situations and conversations that spark them.)
I wonder if for others it isn’t ideas, but other things.
* I’m counting the first day of awakening in the middle of the night as the start of the manic period. I don’t know how else to signal it, count it, or measure it. That is a clear moment that I can use as the signpost for “started”.
** The feeling that you have 200 “great ideas” in a day I’ve learned can make the coming down periods worse: if you remember even a portion of those, you feel like a failure for doing so little about all the possibility you once saw. This reinforcing cycle feels like a very common part of cyclothymia for me.