Happiness, Excitement & Stress do NOT necessarily mean MANIA. Happiness & Bipolar Disorder.

One of the hardest challenges people living with bipolar disorder face is the fear that they cannot be happy, excited or experience stress in a normal way.

There is an assumption in our society that this is mania.

I believe it is NOT true.

The following article are simply my beliefs as a person who thrives with bipolar disorder and experiences a life full of happiness, excitement and stress.


Happiness that comes from feeling good about yourself…

self-esteem, self-worth, integrity, dignity, self-respect, what you’ve achieved, your family, how you treat people, give to people, gratitude for your life etc


Happiness and excitement that comes from what you plan to do in the FUTURE…

it is also JOY,

but because their is a GOAL that MAY invite the stressors of OVERWHELM or a drive of URGENCY…

the joy could lead to MANIA.

Therefore, happiness and excitement about what is current or in the past MAY be SAFE and not lead to mania at all.   It may be happiness and excitement about the future that may have the potential to welcome mania into our lives.


There is NOTHING WRONG with being happy and excited about the future.

We simply have to be more careful and pay attention to our sense of URGENCY and STOP when we feel URGENCY and /or OVERWHELM.

We must PAUSE…and take time to calm down and focus on one step at a time instead of the big OVERWHELMING picture.

The KEY here…is we have to be able to RECOGNIZE what URGENCY and OVERWHELM feel like in our bodies so we can respond to them RIGHT AWAY, before MANIA can kick in and we lose control.

On a different note:

Happiness or energy that feels excessive or strange to you could be mania.

The amount of happiness we feel, that is considered normal happiness, is often in proportion with the cause.

If we feel extremely happy and a burst of energy from experiencing something that is ordinary to us…

The chances are we may be experiencing mania.




We cannot avoid STRESS in life.

There will ALWAYS be stress in our lives.

To believe that we cannot handle stress dis-empowers us.

We have to learn how to cope with STRESS and how to receive support when we are OVERWHELMED.

People living with bipolar disorder already have the tendency to hold everything in an be STRONG.

This way of being for us, holding everything in or hiding everything, IS NOT HEALTHY FOR US.

By telling us that we must maintain a stress-free life…it encourages us to hold everything in.

I believe we appear to NOT handle stress well because our whole lives we have held the pain, the suffering, the loss, the wounds and the damage INSIDE OURSELVES.

Therefore, when stress happens in our lives…coming from the outside of ourselves, it is too much, we have an episode.

Our own shame, guilt, internalized stigma, self-fear, lack of self-trust, low self-esteem and other self-destructive emotions and actions are enough stress to cause relapse without ANY external stress.

In fact, I believe that internalized stigma is more stress than any daily external stressor.

One reason why I believe I have not had a significant episode in 15 years…is because I don’t hold anything in.

I do not hide anything from anyone.

My transparency frees me from internal STRESS.

It does not mean that I don’t have stress, it means that when I have stress, I let it out.

I am not ashamed or disgraced to have bipolar disorder.


Relapse Detection: How to detect if you may be experiencing relapse of episodes of bipolar disorder.


Every person living with bipolar disorder, no matter how stable, lives with the realistic concern and fear of relapse.

However, how we respond when we notice we are vulnerable or beginning to experience relapse determines the consequences and severity of an episode in our lives.


This article will look at relapse from the perspective of:

  1. What to notice in ourselves when we are experiencing relapse.
  2. Recognizing triggers of relapse.



Part 1: What To Notice To Detect Relapse



Our Interest


If you have a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, you could be relapsing into depression.


If you become obsessed with a goal that you cannot stop doing, you could be relapsing into mania.



Our Energy


If you have unusual difficulty waking up in the morning, getting out of bed and doing your daily routine, you could be experiencing depression.


If you have more energy than usual, more excitement, more passion, more pleasure, more exuberance and more irritability, you could be experiencing mania. Especially if there is a sense of URGENCY that goes along with it.



How we are thinking


If your thoughts and memories are more self-destructive than usual with the EMOTIONS of sadness, guilt, shame etc, you could be experience depression.


If your thoughts are racing through your mind, you are having multiple thoughts at once and/or your thoughts get jumbled…that’s mania.


If your thoughts are solely obsessed on a goal and you cannot stop thinking about it, that could be mania.



How we are feeling


Depression makes us feel bad about ourselves and the world.


Mania makes us feel like we can do anything, that we have special abilities or higher powers…if you are feeling unusually like omnipotent (all powerful like God)…you may be experiencing mania



Our behavior


Depression steals behavior from us. It robs us of our ability to function. If you are having difficulty functioning, you may be experiencing depression.


Depression steals our sex drive.


Mania gives us an abundance of energy to do an abundance of behaving. Mania empowers people to be highly productive if it is channeled in that way. However, mania can be incredibly destructive and cause people to do RISKY (YET PLEASURABLE) behaviors that they would not otherwise do…if you are experiencing these behaviors, you may be experiencing mania.


Mania creates an insatiable sex drive.



How we talk


Depression makes communication difficult. Thoughts move slowly and memory gets lost.


People experiencing mania cannot stop talking. They have a flight of ideas that may not even be connected because mania causes so many thoughts at once.



How we feel in our bodies


Depression can cause people to not feel alive.


Mania can cause us to feel this burning energy inside of our bodies. People with mania (once they know what it is) can recognize that they are out of control in both their mind and their body.



Part 2: Triggers of Relapse





Circumstances: Loss or illness of a loved one. Loss of a job or income. Loss of your home. etc


Home environment: there is OVERWHELMING pressure and demands on you and no time for self-care; lack of peace; constant stress between family members;


Stressful marriage/relationship: you are not getting your emotional needs met or are not getting the support you need; poor communication; not enough time together.


Financial Stress: Not enough money to make ends meet.


Children are blessings, but they cause so much stress on each of these levels. Being a parent is HARD…and extremely hard if you are a parent living with bipolar disorder.






Each one of us since the day we are conceived (I may talk about this another time) experience things that wound us.


Not all wounds heal.

In fact, many we just live with…and if we are lucky we nurture them so they don’t determine our choices and determine our lives.


We poke each others wounds all of the time. In fact, when we feel hurt, it is rarely what happens in the moment that hurts us….often times what happens in the moment connects us with all of our past hurt and makes us feel a WHOLE LOT OF PAIN.


Most of our early wounds are the ones that hurt the most and get built on by life. We seek out chances to heal those wounds by repeating hurtful things until we know better.

Those early wounds are usually happen in relationship with our parents, siblings (except in the cases of child abuse and sexual abuse that take place outside of the home) and our early peer relationships.


Rejection and denial of our emotional needs as human beings play a large role in the wounds that we ALL carry.


These wounds if torn open by an EVENT or the MEMORY OF AN EVENT can invite relapse.


People often don’t know their emotional wounds have been triggered until after the episode or after they have lashed out at a loved one or society. Some people never know and can’t understand why they feel the way they do.






I believe that a lack of fulfillment (a lack of giving of yourself…a lack of having something of value to offer others) can lead to relapse, particularly depression.


When people believe that they have nothing to contribute and are of no value, that may invite depression and drug use. If this value returns they may feel more inclined to join in socially, start trying to get out of their depressive state, and if drug use was prevalent they may even opt to drug test themselves in order to keep on a straight path.


All people have something to offer others of value. If this gets ignored or goes without nurture in a person…I believe mental illness may get significantly worse.



Why It Can Be Hard To See Relapse


I believe depression is very sneaky. It can creep in slowly and then just clobber people.


Mania, well it isn’t as sneaky, it makes you feel better than you have ever felt before and it is very hard to not want to experience it. However, the consequences of mania, may be why people choose to take medication and prevent relapse in the first place.