***This post may be triggering. It details my personal experience with Bipolar type 1 full blown manias and mixed manias. Not all people with bipolar disorder behave as severely as I detail, or even severely at all. Experiences with bipolar disorder vary.***
At the end of Part 2 of this series, I mentioned that it was after my sixth Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that I likely quit my medications cold turkey. Because of that, my transition from quasi “wellness” back to complete mood instability was quite rapid. The scariest part was that I had recently returned to work part-time.
I have no clue what I was doing at my job at that time, but I remember one day sitting at my desk in another world, unable to work. My mind was racing, and it was filled with dozens of voices chattering and screaming at me. I was growing frustrated, furious, and frightened at the same time. I was battling demons in my head. The volume and ferocity of the voices built up so high that without any control I started screaming at the top of my lungs as a form of release. The whole entire floor of people at my company surely heard. Before I knew it my boss (a new boss), with my work colleague, dragged me into his office, and shut the door. I cried hysterically on my colleague’s shoulder. Apparently my boss called Human Resources who called my husband to retrieve me. They knew I was mentally ill, so this was not a complete surprise, I imagine. It seemed like only a few minutes before my husband arrived (from 30 mins away) and helped me out of the building and into his car.
In the car, the voices continued to torture me and I felt the car was taking me to Hell. I yelled for help, having delusions of persecution. My husband kept driving towards home, terribly worried. Then all of a sudden I opened the car door and moved to jump out. My husband grabbed my arm and yanked me in with force, and then stopped the car. Luckily we were close to the general hospital by then, so he took me straight to the emergency room (ER), while still tightly grasping my arm.
My husband helped me into the ER, but just in the vestibule I fell to the floor screaming with my arms and legs flailing around. The security quickly brought a wheelchair and hoisted me into it. At that point I became silent. Hubby then said he would leave for only a moment to re-park the car. Someone brought a plastic cup of water. I remember staring at the water and then throwing it in my face. Then we were called to the registration nurse. She started asking me questions, but I couldn’t respond. I just looked straight at her without blinking. It was as if I was catatonic.
I did not move or speak until they helped me into an ER bed. Then suddenly the screaming and fright began again. I still felt unsafe. Not at the doctor, nurse or my husband, but at God and the Devil. The hospital staff held me down and gave me some injection. Within minutes I started to calm.
I was quickly transferred to the psychiatric hospital down the road, this time to the adult psychiatric ward, not the dual diagnosis ward.
Chaos, screams, and violence are not permitted in the ward, as they can frighten or cause harm to others, including the one afflicted. Given this, hospital guards were called on about four or five occasions during my three subsequent hospitalizations for mania and/or mixed mania (often with psychosis). Two or three men would drag me into what is called an “isolation room”. The isolation room at my hospital was a small, mostly soundproof windowless room containing only a sofa-like cot (no linens), a toilet and sink. I was held down while the nurse administered an injection containing a strong sedative. Once I was calmed, I was locked in the room by myself. [One time, I believe, overnight.] They would check in on me and let me out when I was no longer a danger to myself or others. I recall that on a particular occasion they had a guard “shadow” me, as I called it, for a few hours. By “shadow” I mean that the guard followed me around the ward as I walked, since my behavior was still unpredictable. I recall during that hospitalization I had my own room. Usually rooms were doubles. I also remember during one hospitalization that a psychiatrist recommended electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), but I vehemently refused, and had a fit of rage because of it.
According to my husband, when I was well-controlled on medication I acted somewhat reasonably. I believe only a couple of times he visited did he immediately return home. One such time I recall seeing him, but was not able to speak. I remember seeing clouds above me, instead of the ceiling, and thinking that his head hair had some effect on their movement. He said I looked up and down between them several times. That spooked him.
After all of the hospitalizations above, I was growing more depressed than manic. This may sound horrible, but sometimes psychiatrists and therapists see this as an improvement, in a way. I eventually entered an IOP again, but that was short-lived.
I started to have suicidal thoughts and extreme anxiety. I thought maybe if I could take a mess load of Seroquel (a sedating medication) along with a great deal of alcohol that perhaps I would fall asleep and never wake up. So one day I took handfuls of old Seroquel pills. Then I started to drink. In my drunkenness I foolishly went to a bar, surely “drunk” with medications. I think I only managed one drink there before I was slowly slipping from my seat. I remember the bartender asking if I was OK. I don’t remember what I said, but I apparently paid. Later I found myself in front of the restaurant sleeping on a bench. People passed by seeing me sleep. One person nudged me awake and told me to call my husband. I actually managed to do that, but was mostly incomprehensible. Then in like a minute hubby arrived and nudged me awake. He dragged me into the car and into our house onto the sofa. I was growing unresponsive again. He called 911, and I vaguely remember the trip to the general hospital.
At the general hospital I started to awaken. Apparently the amount of Seroquel I took was not deadly. Nevertheless they forced me to drink a charcoal drink. I refused at first, but then the nurse said if I didn’t drink it they’d have to administer it in a way I wouldn’t like (down the nose), so I drank it.
That night I stayed in the general hospital’s psych section. It looked like a jail. Just as bad as an isolation room, but the toilet was shared with other psych patients. A guard sat in front of the bathroom. He saw me make several trips because the charcoal drink went through me quickly, if you know what I mean. It was not a pretty sight. I recall patients screaming. That was a first. Usually I was the only screamer.
The next day I transferred to a different psychiatric hospital than I was used to. There the psychiatrist gave me a very large dose of the same exact medication (Seroquel) that I attempted to overdose on. I found that disconcerting, but accepted it anyway. But my mood was still severally labile, despite. One hour depressed, another manic, then depressed again, then manic dancing down the halls and singing in glee, then (according to medical records) showing “bizarre behavior, yelling at times, thinking things were falling from the sky, saying I wanted to die,” and more. The records say I attended group sessions and AA meetings, but I swear I don’t remember them. Eventually I improved. On the last day I was allowed to visit the hospital’s mini zoo with my husband. Yet another IOP followed.
Strangely, the mania fully disappeared, especially with the change to two new medications. Instead, I was left with just typical major depression. This depression ranged from moderate to severe over the course of a full year. My psychiatrist struggled to ease it, but it was extremely stubborn. It was the longest major depression I ever had in my life to that point. I figure it was the result of three years of almost unending hypomania and manias. My moods finally fully crashed.
To finish this post series, please read my final part 4 of 4.