Recently I have been noticing what I have to do to clean up after a night of mania, all the things required to be able to "present well." (Presenting well is what they say when those of us with mental illness are able to look ok on the outside and function just enough to get by.) This post-mania clean up and presenting well is one of the hardest parts of the illness and I wanted to share with you why with the story of a average day after mania.
After finally falling asleep at 7am, I wake up two hours later in a panic that I might have missed my alarm and I am late for a meeting. (I did not miss the alarm and now I am awake hours before I needed to be.) I think of the many tasks I still need to finish so my work does not fall behind, so I frantically lay in bed with my computer and get a few things done through the haze of sleep deprivation. I hope that everything I write sounds coherent. I have extreme stomach pain from everything I ate and drank last night in a binge eating episode.
I get out of bed and find that coming down from a mania and being extremely tired has made me quite dizzy, and I trip over my own feet and run into the side of the bathroom door. I barely brush my teeth and I shower, but don't wash my hair because that is too much work. I get dressed and try to pull up my pants without aggravating the now angry, red, and swollen cuts I made on my thighs and stomach. I know every step I take for the next few days will hurt. I make sure my son does not come into my room before I am fully dressed so he does not see the damage to my body. When I buckle my belt I realize my stomach is in fact two belt notches larger than it was yesterday thanks to everything I ate.
|For me, this photo is a bit embarrassing, but real.|
In order to not look like death warmed over, I sit in front of my extensive makeup collection doing everything I can to attempt to cover the huge red welts I have nervously scratched into my face. I put concealer under my eyes and curl my lashes to make me look less tired. A bit of light shimmer eyeshadow in the inner corner of the eye helps brighten the eyes as well.
At some point the night before or that morning I had sent my therapist an email saying I was not doing well, and he calls to help me look at what happened and see what triggered it. His call helps me realize the mania was not random, but a reaction to an event. This understanding stops me from falling into self-loathing, shame, and plunging into depression. Thank goodness for good therapists!
I try and interact with my son and husband, trying not to let the stomach pain and drowsiness make me too snappy. I fake a smile and hope my son has no idea how bad I am doing. I drag myself to meetings, with the pain of my stomach making me double over just a bit, and my brain being completely filled with what seems to be cotton. I can't really follow exactly what is going on so I smile appropriately and ask relevant questions, all the while knowing that while my body is in the chair, my mind is trapped somewhere else. I can see myself looking fairly presentable and not noticeably off to people who do not really know me, and yet I feel a million miles away trapped in a post-mania fog. I track the conversation while having a totally other conversation in my brain of how terrible I am and the agony that is life, which I have to live day after day.
I do all the things I have to do to "present well" and not cause too much alarm, and I go home. I get in bed and sleep, until my husband makes dinner and he and my son try and wake me up so we can eat together and we try to make tomorrow a better day.