Journey in the Highlands – by John

It’s difficult to count now, but I suppose I’ve had around 20 intense high’s through my life. This is an account of a particular high, and looking back, I realise it caught me by surprise on New Years Day a few years back.

Four years ago, in conjunction with my psychoanalyst, I worked for some 12 months on learning to recognise the early signs of onset of my bipolar symptoms. It’s usually difficult to do this when getting elevated as rationale is already going out the window. We also developed a crisis plan which incorporated adding more antipsychotics to my medication diet, also focusing on sleep, and doing relaxing things such as reading etc. Previous to this particular high, I had successfully thwarted a number of highs by enacting this plan, and they had only lasted 2 – 3 days. I am now wondering if I had an overconfident perception then of saying goodbye to highs.

I guess everyone is different but the main early tell-tale for me is sleep. It’s amazing how you can miss a simple thing as adequate sleep when you are getting elevated, but it did on this occasion. After three nights of two hours sleep, the penny finally dropped and I enacted my crisis plan. But too late! – the momentum of the high had gathered steam. I was still sensible enough to inform my family, friends and close associates as I’m quite open about my bipolar. I always do this now as I have learned what emotional damage I can cause to other people in this state.

I also have a very positive minded younger brother who then starts regularly checking up on me, in fact it was he, not my many psychiatrists, who some years ago worked out my triggers. When I was in a psych ward once, he went round to my house and did some investigating. He got into my PC to check up on what I had been up to, and was suspicious about my email and phone output, saved the lot and later sorted them. As emails and phone bills go back years, he constructed a time/count graph and discovered that the peaks on my email output graph closely coincided with my previous documented highs. He’s in the wrong profession, my brother!

I can recall a day in a high some years ago when I looked at the times of my first and last email, and it worked out that I had spent 8½ hours straight at the keyboard typing emails! Another problem here of course, is that a day or two later you get hit by a barrage of replies, so then it’s like chasing your tail. The other thing that happens to me with emails concerns quality. My sentence construction and rational order really goes astray. I’ve often winced when reading my emails back on a later calm day, and if I had a rubber I’d ruin the screen! What I try to do now if I feel I’m getting elevated, is file my emails in the “drafts” folder and send them off the next morning after reading them through AND amending them.

Racing thoughts are another strong symptom of mine. So it’s “bing!!”- and it’s 2:00am. Sometimes I go for a walk through the streets in the dark, and when I get back some time later, I find that I cannot remember how far or where I’ve walked. My racing thoughts have jumped through hundreds of subjects and I guess it gets trance-like. There has been the occasional positive, once one of these 2:00am bings turned into a patent. I have to say that I have always been a skeptic when it comes to those famous BP people in history doing wonderful things when high, but I’m not so sure now.

Decision making is a real problem for me when high. I’ve been bankrupt twice in my life and both times it has been caused by me choosing to take the shorter and more risky path when elevated.

Once also when high I “did a deal” with a guy to go into a business partnership with him, and we shook hands on it. After thinking it through when balanced a few days later, I realised I was wrong so I had to go back to him and “undo” our handshake (he was not happy). The price we pay!

Other abnormal traits I inherit when high are “shortness with people”, “talkativeness” and “aggressiveness”. This is obviously not ideal and I’m still wondering how to contain these unfortunate behavior problems. Family members or friends just don’t understand our widely fluctuating experiences and seem to focus on how our behavior affects them and other family members.

My highs in recent years are not so pronounced as in my earlier undiagnosed days. My assessment is about 66% intensity as before and this is no doubt due to the lithium mood-stabilizer I take. Historically my highs  lasted 1 – 3 months and this was my worry with my recent episode after missing it in the early phase. Not sure about other bipolar people but I reckon I can “feel” the high in my fatigued body. The racing mind is alert but the body just goes downhill as time goes on. However, in this case, after 15 days I could feel the high subsiding.  I then really started to focus on sleep, and am now happy to report that I touched down and landed safely a few days later.

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