Daniel Woodnutt: Communicating the Unreal
Daniel Woodnutt is a software developer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Type I twelve years ago, and today he shares with us some of his experiences of and insights about mania.
Bipolar mania produces some of the biggest emotional experiences that you can get. Although they are mostly made of delusional experiences, they are so real at the time and can be so profound. When trying to tell people about these experiences, it’s hard to let them know how real it felt. Some of the feelings are quite enjoyable and intense to experience and are hard to let go. It took me a month after my recent manic episode to come to terms with what I experienced and to move on. With the delusions of grandeur, delusions, and emotional and spiritual signals, it takes a lot to process on your own, and you need to talk with other people to move on.Delusions of grandeur are one of the symptoms of a manic episode. They are quite simple. The person going through the manic episode has to find some explanation for the emotions that he or she is experiencing, as normally there is an explanation for emotions. In my early manic episodes I thought I was a saint, but now I thought I was a super-intelligent and self-actualised man. This made me feel super confident. It was unreal. The way I was walking round the streets, I felt like a Super Star and women were picking up on it, too. I had to fight of the delusion that I was God and even James Bond on a few occasions. It is crazy to be this confident and it is quite addictive, but I wasn’t emotionally stable.
A common delusion for me is that I am in communication with a secret organisation. I always seem to do this one even though every time I finish the episode I realise it’s all a delusion. This delusion will slowly build through the episode, and little things will happen that will get me to start building a theory, and at the episodes peak I’m communicating with them through lights or transonic channels or something. One of the things that mess with my head is that my cell phone and watch will do strange things, and I automatically think it’s the secret organisation. This communication that I’m doing with them creates some big emotions and heightens my mania. This delusion was so strong that it was waking me from my sleep in the middle of the night with voices calling me by name. I was hallucinating signals coming from them. The delusion had also even given me a nickname, “Nero”, which means royalty. I hadn’t heard this word before the episode, but it appeared at random on my cell phone in the middle.A manic episode is triggered by stress, and for me it means that my emotional system is under a lot of strain. When my emotional system is under strain, I experience signals that let me know about the intensity of what I’m about to say or do. The solution when my emotional system is under strain is to talk less emotively, to spend more time by myself and destimulate myself. The reason that I mention this is that it is great how the body has little signals that can help you through. The body knows what it would normally do when it’s stable and its signals that to you. Having had bipolar for a while now I’m learning to work out how to best read these signals to reduce the episode. Although I don’t get it right every time it seems the signals have a pattern and some are always good to follow. The signals come in the form of colours or merged colours and symbols. As I get them a second or third time I work out what is a good thing to do when I get that signal.
There is a spiritual side to what I experience and is incorporated in what is happening for me. I am a Catholic and believe in good and evil being independent spiritual entities that can communicate to us through our bodies. That we all have the potential to do good but also evil, so when I am in a manic episode I am careful of what is going on in my body isn’t evil. In my last episode it’s not that I did evil to another person; it’s that I listened and used my body in an evil way. So I have signals that let me know when I am slipping into something evil and move away from it. This wariness of evil in a manic episode is really annoying and it’s great that this stuff goes away. I had a great spiritual experience in the episode where I was feeling pure ecstasy so I watched the sunset in a quiet place on a mountain and I felt so close to God. I hear people talk about Nirvana. Well, for three hours I experienced it, only as a bipolar I guess.My uncle asked me what my episode was like and all I could come up with was I felt like I was God for half a day, which is true, but I had so much happen through the episode with the delusions of grandeur, the secret organisation and religious experiences. I had so many big emotional experiences that seem so huge to me at the time and of course there was the constant struggle to get stable. Mania is unreal; it’s so strange to people who haven’t experience it. The feelings of super confidence, of getting the attention of attractive women, of feeling like I was some big, super-intelligent and self-actualised man were enticing. But even with all that I would much rather a calm and stable emotional state where I can work, communicate freely with people, and keep to my budget. I have matured in my bipolar.