In my last post I wrote that I felt like I was moving into a manic phase, and I definitely was. For three days and two nights, I didn’t sleep. Didn’t want to. Didn’t feel like I needed to. Didn’t care.
You wouldn’t know it if you were watching me. My energy was high. I was alert. I wasn’t drinking any more caffeine than anyone else was.
For about one day, I felt like I could take on the world. Then all the other symptoms of a manic high came to play. I got paranoid. My thoughts raced in a repetitive, anxious rhythm, so disjointed and disoriented I couldn’t make them make sense.
More than that, though, I began to feel a deep sense of shame. Shame that my behavior has not been normal the past few days. Shame that people in my close circle have expressed concern about my well being. Shame that I am different. Unhealthy. Out of control.
But most of all, shame that I was enjoying myself.
Merriam-Webster defines shame as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.”
When I review my behavior over the last few days, yes, it was manic. But it was not cringe worthy. I gave it my all at work. I managed to avoid making impulsive, dangerous decisions, even though I really really wanted to do some dangerous, impulsive things.
But there’s no better word for this low, uncomfortable feeling that I’m feeling – shame. I feel like I’ve done something that I need to keep hidden from other people. I’m afraid of judgment.
Dr. Brene Brown writes and speaks extensively on shame and guilt. She says that “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
I don’t think there could possibly be a better or more fitting description for how I feel right now. I am afraid that I’m not good enough. That I didn’t perform well on the business trip. That my mania was obvious to my coworker and our hosts.
And especially that I enjoyed the mania. I enjoyed the energy, being up all night. The little bursts of vertigo and the knowledge that I was doing something most people would think was crazy.
The way out of shame is to talk about it. To make myself vulnerable. So I went to my sponsor and some close friends, and I shared that I was manic. And my Higher Power stepped in.
In AA, step 2 says “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” I still struggle with the concept of God. That’s why I claim a Higher Power – a power greater than myself. In this case, that power was G.O.D. – a Group Of Drunks – that helped me back to sanity.
I took the red eye home from San Francisco and went straight to a women’s retreat that a volunteer for where I met up with my sponsor and her sponsor. I had talked to both on the phone, so they already knew I was manic. If it wasn’t obvious over the phone, it was clear the moment I walked through the door.
I’m not usually a bubbly person, but that day I was downright extroverted. It suddenly didn’t matter that I hadn’t slept. I was among friends. I could be happy and free. I said hello to everyone. Laughed and talked probably a little too loud. Probably with a little bit of a glassed over look in my eye. And always with a nagging suspicion that everyone in the room was talking about me.
The paranoia got worse as the day went on. The anxiety ramped up too. By the end of the day I was withdrawing. My physical body was starting to tell me I needed sleep, but my mind was running at a thousand miles a second.
And then an answer came. My sponsor’s sponsor suggested melatonin. Of course! My sponsor didn’t want me driving at that point (and if I had made the Walmart run myself, there’s a good chance I would have picked up alcohol…I really wanted to feel something different at that point). So she drove me to Walmart so I could buy myself a non-narcotic sleep aid.
Did I take it right away? Of course not! There was still too much to do and see. And I got to introduce the speaker (who happened to be my sponsor) that night. And there was the raffle. And then I started to dissociate.
I called it. Racing thoughts or not, it was time to sleep.
It still took a couple of hours of pacing, snacking, and writing to get into bed, let the melatonin kick in, and doze off. But I did finally sleep.
I talked more the next morning because the shame was still eating at me. Even after sleeping, I didn’t feel like I had come down. I was better, but only because I was back in control.
Even now I’m still “up.” But I took melatonin and slept again last night. I’m trying to get back into my regular, healthy routine. I’m trying to be okay with all of this extra energy that I have. I’m trying not to be afraid of a future crash.
I’m trying to trust that my Higher Power has a plan for all of this.