In this emerging blogger post, Brittany of BiPolarMania writes about experiencing manic psychosis as part of bipolar disorder.
Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms like delusions and hallucinations that indicate a break from reality. Paranoia is a common symptom of psychosis. When I was entering my final year of University I experienced a manic psychosis which is exactly how it sounds: I experienced psychosis as a result of a full blown manic episode and this episode would inevitably lead to my initial diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type One. A person with Bipolar One has had at least one manic episode in their life. Now what is mania you may ask?
According to WebMD, ” A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life. People in manic episodes may spend money far beyond their means, have sex with people they wouldn’t otherwise, or pursue grandiose, unrealistic plans. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely.”
This abnormal behavior can be any or a combination of the following: Flying suddenly from one idea to the next, Rapid, “pressured” (uninterruptable), and loud speech, Increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep, Inflated self-image, Excessive spending, Hypersexuality and substance abuse. I can tell you honestly that I experienced all, and I mean ALL, of these abnormal behaviors leading up to my psychosis and ultimate break from reality.
During the summer leading up to my manic psychosis I experienced flying from one idea to the next quite often. Often picking up projects then dropping them for other projects before I had barely time to start, let alone finish. I came up with several art projects targeted to different galleries and never even got past the idea stage to produce the art because my brain was racing too quickly. I could not hold down any one idea, let alone bring one of these thoughts into fruition.
Racing thoughts is one of the most known and common symptoms of a manic episode. I also experienced an increase in energy and never felt the need to sleep and if I did sleep it was for short intervals of time like two to four hours. My psychiatrist to this day asks me how my sleep is because it can be the first indication of an oncoming manic episode.
I would also stay up all night abusing drugs both the easy and hard kind, ranging from simple marijuana to MDMA, and even cocaine. Substance abuse and experimentation are a symptom of mania and in the months leading up to my diagnosis I definitely experimented, not only with drugs but sex. In a month span, I had sex with six different partners, some once and others on more than one occasion. I even had a pregnancy scare which led to me slowing down on that front but I could not deny this undeniable urge to screw. Hypersexuality is a problem among bipolar individuals experiencing mania.
The final and last abnormal behavior I am going to address is rapid, uninterruptible, and loud speech. It was this behavior that almost led to the doctors thinking I was merely drunk than experiencing a full blown manic psychosis.
I came into the hospital loudly demanding a pap smear for a rape I claimed happened two years ago. I could not be interrupted as I spun a tale of great delusion. “He was the assistant manager at a club here in Ottawa. He drugged one of the shots he gave me at the club then took me home in a taxi. He forced me to sleep with him and I could not react or resist other than to look at him while he was doing it, seeing as I was drugged with Special K or the like. I want a Pap Smear to make sure I do not have an STI and I will not accept a male doctor for men have done enough to me!”
I was practically shouting this nonsense at the intake nurse when she stopped me by abruptly putting her hand up and asking, “Miss Gushue, have you been drinking? Because none of this is making sense to me. How can you suddenly have regained a memory of a rape from two years ago?” I fired back “I am not drunk and I repressed it! It has finally slipped through the cracks of my brain because I am finally in a place to deal and cope with it.”
The hand comes up again, “Have you been doing drugs?” At this I got extremely defensive because for the past month I had actually cold turkeyed it. “No, I have not!” I roared, and I mean ROARED. The nurse then asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with bipolar disorder which at the time I found strange and thought nothing of it until two days later when I would officially be diagnosed with this lifelong affliction.
I left the hospital that night not feeling satisfied and still extremely delusional. I felt that I needed a physical to prove that I had been raped and give me grounds to hopefully go after and catch my rapist. I woke up with the same determination and showed up at the women’s sexual health clinic the next day with the same bizarre request.
The lady who did my intake interviewed me and asked why I believed I had been raped two years ago and how I thought it happened. As I explained I began to ramble and talk excessively about my past, a classic symptom of mania in bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder who are experiencing mania tend to “talk a mile a minute.”
I began to reflect on the nurse from the emergency room the previous night and her question of whether I had been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I began to ramble about how my father must have had it because he was a raging alcoholic with anger issues who could never seem to express himself or behave properly. Then I started to hyperventilate and exclaim, “I must have bipolar disorder!” The nurse at the sexual health clinic looked extremely concerned by my speech and behavior and suggested she call me a cab to go to the hospital to be properly checked out.
I arrived at the hospital and immediately went to emergency explaining once again that I needed a physical to prove I had been raped two years ago and that I feared I may have bipolar disorder. They told me to wait in the waiting room and this was when I experienced my first visual hallucination, however, my delusional brain thought it was a memory. I saw the club assistant manager “in my memory” forcing himself on me. I felt drugged and like I could not refuse and ultimately performed the act.
I snapped back to reality and immediately fell to the hospital floor rocking back and forth saying, “It’s ok, it’s ok, you’ll be ok.” The emergency staff noticed my strange behavior and immediately admitted me for a psych consult. When the doctor realized I was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as I insisted it had been over a month since drugs were in my system (which was true), she admitted me into the psychiatric unit for a three day observation.
It was upon entering my fourth and final year of University that I experienced this manic induced psychosis. It was possibly the strangest and most frightening experience of my life. I experienced paranoia, delusional thinking and auditory as well as visual hallucinations.
It was triggered by a LaSenza scout who contacted me to ask that I send in my portfolio to be considered for a Fall Photo shoot. At this period in my life I had been pursuing modeling as a means to supplement my meager income. The majority of the shoots I did were in the nude so when it came time to send in my portfolio I was afraid of my nudes being leaked – the paranoia already beginning of what would ultimately result in a full blown psychosis.
I emailed the scout asking for a waiver to ensure my nudes would be delivered safely over the big wide web. She did not understand what I was asking for and thought I was already asking for a contract to which she gave me attitude and stated that if hired I would receive upwards to $10, 000 but that I would receive no compensation for sending in my portfolio. She clearly did not understand what I was asking for.
This inspired me to don my journalistic cap and write a piece on the exploitation of models by major companies such as LaSenza. My editor loved the idea but did not understand the delusional reasoning behind my wanting to pursue this article which was to take down LaSenza and expose them for the unethical way they approached aspiring models.
When my editor overheard a conversation between me and another writer of my ultimate idea and plan to take down LaSenza she decided to kill the article because she was afraid of being accused of slander and with good reason. However, during the process of researching and writing this article my paranoia grew indicating the onset of my psychosis.
My paranoia got so bad that I believed LaSenza was possibly following my every move trying to stop my attempt to expose them as a power hungry and immoral company. My paranoia became so severe that in a state of delusional thinking I actually believed they were watching me through my laptop. I had left my photo booth app open and saw the green light that indicated my webcam was on and thought it was them tuned into my laptop watching my every move.
I did not stop to think rationally and realize I had photo booth open but minimized on my laptop. I even tried to stiff the pizza delivery guy when he accidentally forgot to bring his debit machine, thinking he was a spy of LaSenza who had tracked my whereabouts down. The scary thing is that in the moment all these delusional and paranoid thoughts seemed valid and rational but looking back, I can’t help but laugh at how insane I had acted.
Unfortunately this was only the beginning of what was to result in my most delusional thinking. I began reflecting on my experiences as a model for the article I intended to write about how photographers and companies take advantage of amateur models and came to the conclusion that I had been taken advantage of. I even went to a photographer I had previously worked with under the guise of writing a piece on specifically waivers and their necessity for models without proper representation. It was ironic because I was trying to expose him for taking advantage of me when really I was taking advantage and misleading him on my true intentions for my article.
I no longer have the recording of the interview but something tells me that I may have heard what I wanted to hear from him or that I even hallucinated his answers as proving me right – that he did in fact take advantage of me. What I do remember of the interview (again this could have been exaggerated in my mind or even hallucinated) was him confirming that photographers take advantage of amateur models without representation by paying them an extremely small fee than reproducing their image and selling it for more than ten times what they were paid.
I left that interview feeling smug but also dejected because I thought I had proved myself right – that I had been exploited as a model without representation. Again, this was only the beginning of what was to become my biggest and grossest delusion, that I had been raped as a result of my exposure to the underground modeling industry.
The deeper I got into the writing process for this proposed article and reflecting on my modeling experience, the more I reflected on relationships I had with other models, photographers and other people I had encountered while working. One of these reflections was on the time I did a fashion show for Melia Concepts at Lobby Nightclub. During a run through for the show I had the entire club to myself to practice my dance number because I had the lead role in the show in which I was supposed to lip synch Kristen Bell’s famous “Doctor Long John” scene from the movie “Burlesque.”
I noticed the DJ who put on the track so I could practice was someone I had slept with previously on one occasion, a.k.a. a one night stand, and that the minute he realized it was me who would be performing in the show immediately bolted and took off down the corridor to the adjoining club.
This resonated with me and in my paranoid thinking I thought he was guilty of something, something that I did not quite recollect. I began remembering the events of our one night stand and the details of that night did not seem to add up. I blacked out half of the sex because I was ten shots deep since it was St. Patrick’s day and I had ended the night in Mansion nightclub which is where he worked as the assistant manager.
I remember not going home with him that night but having forgot my leather jacket in his office with my bus pass in it. As a student in the city of Ottawa, my bus pass might as well have been a bar of gold, it had that much value. I remember him texting me asking if he could come by and drop it off and possibly come up to hang out for a bit. I was also really sick and hacking like a disgusting 80 year old smoker when he came up and passed me my jacket. He sat on the bed and immediately began kissing me then one thing led to another and we were having sex.
The next morning I woke up and instinctually had the gut feeling I needed to go to the pharmacy and pick up Plan B because I remembered enough to remember he didn’t use a condom. In my paranoid and delusional thinking I thought this was the first indication of foul play since I had never, not even with partners of years let a man have sex with me without a condom. The memory of him bolting when I went to rehearse my part for the fashion show only seemed to confirm my delusional thoughts and I thought he bolted because he knew he was caught and that his victim had come to face him.
I went to the hospital demanding a physical to prove I had been raped two years ago (as I mentioned earlier) which in hindsight was totally insane. I showed up at the hospital around one in the morning with this bizarre request and the nurse on call asked me I had been drinking, assuming I was drunk.
I demanded to see a female doctor and only a female doctor is who I would agree to see but they were short staffed that night and the only doctor on call was a male. The nurse then asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with bipolar disorder which at the time I found strange and thought nothing of it until two days later when I would officially be diagnosed with this lifelong affliction.
While under the three day observation at the hospital, I experienced a visual hallucination that I was skeletal, as in skin and bones. I determined that I needed “to fatten up” and stole literally all the snacks from the small cafeteria where the patients would have their meals. I shovelled rice pudding, after rice pudding, down my throat and I don’t even like the stuff!
I was truly deluded and thought I weighed like 70 pounds when in actuality I looked healthy and fit to any sane person not experiencing hallucinations like I was. I also became deluded and thought my supposed rapist was going to send somebody to kill my family because I now “knew.” I would call my parents from the hospital regardless of the hour screaming at them to “get out of the house now!” I genuinely believed they were in danger that’s how deep rooted this delusion was.
The good news is, I finally got my sanity back but not until after weeks of “coming down” from mania with the help of an antipsychotic and lithium, a mood stabilizer. There were still residual bouts of paranoia like when a white van took the same path as me while I was walking. I became convinced they were following me and were going to kidnap me. So I ran home as fast as I could and locked all the doors, sinking to the floor so “they couldn’t see me.”
But with time, more specifically time to let the medication work, I began to become grounded in reality once again and was extremely embarrassed by my behavior and especially my delusions. This however would not be my first and final psychosis for three years later I would be hospitalized once again as a result of manic psychosis where I delusionally thought I was a celebrity spokesmodel with billions of dollars who could afford to go around town giving out Chanel number five to people to promote “my business” in a onesie nonetheless (Yes I actually did that).
Visit Brittany on her blog BiPolarMania.
The post Let’s Talk About Psychosis is the hub for all psychosis-related content on Mental Health @ Home.