An Emotionless Manic Episode?

When I experience mania it often happens one of two ways. Either I have an experience where I am so overwhelmingly blinded by what is happening in the moment that I get lost in it (my actions directly feed into the mania itself) or I have something more like an out of body experience where everything feels far away and like my mind is in no way connected to my actions.

I woke up pretty early Wednesday morning, considering I was still taking Seroquel. Normally I couldn’t do a darn thing until at least 9 am, but that morning I felt quite alert and functional.

That is… until I started making breakfast.

It was very much like my inner self had gotten bored with looking out at the world through my eyes and decided to go back into a more secluded room in my brain to listen to some records and eat nachos. My body was set to autopilot, and while it cooked and ate breakfast, then took a shower and got dressed, my mind was flashing a million miles a minute and listening to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” about 78 times in a row in my head.

(Thanks, Corey, for playing that darn Guardians of the Galaxy trailer repeatedly for the last two weeks!)

Then, the rocket took off. Vibrating skin. Tingles. Feeling high for no reason. Out of body experience. And ultimately… confusion.

Normally this is the sort of thing that, while slightly, you know… dangerous, it tends to feel amazing. Euphoria up the yin-yang. Feeling invincible or like another entity entirely. But all I felt was confusion because none of the emotion was there.

By the time I made it to the doctor’s office (which I agreed to go to earlier but really have no recollection of the conversation) I was also wildly dizzy. The nurse was concerned because apparently I was walking like a drunken Frankenstein. All I could really keep saying was, “wow I feel weird, you know… I really do feel weird.”

“I think I’m having a manic episode,” I said to the doctor after things had settled down a little bit.

“You don’t look like you are having a manic episode,” she said.

“I know, that’s what is so confusing, I don’t feel it emotionally, only physically.” Said me, the cracked out robot.

“Maybe the Seroquel is dampening the emotional aspects while the rest remain unaffected,” she suggested.

The only thing I could pinpoint feeling was confusion, which was simultaneously alarming but also somehow not a big deal. I had come to the doctor to talk about the side effects I was having, and at that point I couldn’t discern what were side effects, what was (maybe?) mania, what was anxiety, what was stress. It was all one big pile of spaghetti.

“Ah crap.”

What I did glean from the hour long conversation was that my psychiatrist wants my regular doctors to look into my side effects because he is extremely set on keeping me on Seroquel. After backing down to 25 mg the bleeding issue seemed to stop, so I had no evidence of my experiences to offer up to the white-coats checking me out. Still, they took eight vials of blood and ran several tests that I was far too “elsewhere” to make any fuss about.

They tried their best to brainstorm what might be causing the bleeding because apparently less than 1% of people who take Seroquel experience that side effect and, like my psychiatrist, they weren’t convinced that was what caused it. They were offering up anything and everything from rectal trauma (no, I can’t say anything like that has gone down) to HIV (sorry folks, I’ve been tested for that!). All in all everyone is hoping the blood tests might speak for themselves on this one.

By the time I got home hours later, I was starting to come down a bit. After devouring half a pizza I felt much more like (an emotionless) version of myself.

One of the things I seem to quickly be learning is how psychiatric medication is not straightforward in its effects, and while it is fine and dandy to be told that the idea is to cut out the “extreme” portion of mood swings or slow them down, the effects I’ve had seem to be like someone rolling the dice to see which symptoms are about to be dampened and which are about to be exacerbated.

This seems to be a good approximation of improvement for many doctors, but for patients like me who have reached a point of becoming familiar with how their symptoms work and the patterns associated with them, trying to dampen them with a piece of swiss cheese (that lets some symptoms through and muffles others) is wildly confusing and alarming. This odd manic hiccup does, however, also somewhat explain my potential hallucinations lately.

Is a rapidly cycled manic episode with the mood elements removed considered improvement? To my doctors… maybe? To me… I haven’t decided. I was still acting awfully odd in public (and I was stared at by a lot of folks due to my lurchy movements and perpetual lip-synching to “hooked on a feeling”) and I would consider that one of the less exciting aspects of mania, while having to forgo the parts that make me feel good, or confident, or friendly (or, let’s face it; also wild, brazen, or out of control).

Instead what I felt was like a blizzard; my skin tingled and hummed in the pelting snow, and though I sat back nicely in my igloo looking out at the weather everything around  me was a flat shade of white.

This is turning out to be the most complicated bout with a medication yet, and it has been several days now where all I have felt is static. Part of me is grateful, considering the immense amount of stress I am dealing with right now… but there is another part that feels hurt, maybe even abandoned and empty.

How ironic is it that my anthem has been “hooked on a feeling” when all I’ve felt lately is their absence?

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10 responses to “An Emotionless Manic Episode?

  1. Reblogged this on Meanspeed® BPM Experiment and commented:
    mixed episodes are tough to write about.

  2. That sounds like the worst manic episode evah.

  3. That is a weird irony, wow. I totally have been here before with the manic episodes. This past one I went through, at first I was super in the moment emotionally, but then started getting extremely stressed, and that’s where the emotion stopped. I’ve never felt like that before- manic yet feel NOTHING. Like you said, a complete out of body experience. For me, I didn’t consider it getting better, bc it sucks not to feel anything at all. But I guess it could lead to some improvements? Thinking of you and sending you positive and healing vibes!!

    • I agree that it sucks not to feel anything, the only reason I would consider it being “better” in any way is that I’ve made it through some really stressful situations the last couple weeks with a minimal amount of emotional meltdowns. It is nice not to be running around like chicken little, but I am definitely missing emotions like “happiness” and “love” -that’s a big one. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

      • That’s definitely true!! It is better than being really sad and not being able to get through anything. I agree. Love is the one that is challenging. I wasn’t able to feel love for months and it took a big toll on my relationship. I do know what you’re going through (at least to an extent) and I am sending you positive vibes! 🙂

  4. Wow, sounds alot like a mixed episode (or whatever other new name they gave it). I think docs underestimate how distressing it is when you can’t really tell what you’re feeling.

    Hope you feel better soon…

    • It is interesting that you would say that (particularly since you aren’t the first commenter to suggest a mixed episode) because I have never considered the notion of being “emotionless” a sign of depression (though it is something I have felt on occasion). Having done some reading, you are right that it is.

      Normally my mixed episodes are severely emotional, much more-so than my manic episodes. I also tend to have several more symptoms of depression within my typical mixed episodes (suicidally/homicidality are big for me) and disturbing psychotic symptoms. That is part of the reason I wouldn’t normally classify this episode as mixed, but at this point it isn’t very clear. There is also a significant chance that this “emotionless” state I’ve been in is being caused by the Seroquel (and that’s why I landed on “manic”). Even so, definitely something to consider. Thanks!

  5. You have amazing insight into your symptoms. You described your episode so well I feel I can relate although I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a clinically significant manic episode. Thanks for sharing

  6. Most people have this randomly but back when I was I school I was bullied so I thought the best way to deal with it was to become nothing more then a hollow shell so I forced all my emotions to the back of my mind and I still do it to this day I hate it but its who I am now I just have to live with it now.

    • Hi Josh, I’m not here to debate you… but I can definitely relate. I spent a good portion of my life (and youth especially) pushing emotion to the back of my mind. While I can’t say for sure, I’ve had therapists tell me that this has been linked to my somewhat explosive emotional reactions (the emotions pushing out at random times). Frankly, it bothered me, so I have spent the last few years speaking with a therapist attempting to change the behavior. I still have some problems with it, but I honestly believe I am pushing things back less, and also exploding less often.

      I am definitely not at liberty to tell you what to do (or not, for that matter), but I figured sharing my experiences about this wouldn’t hurt. At any rate, I know how rough that can be, so good luck!

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