Summertime Mania: The Incident

I woke up happy and ready to face the day. Summer-time mania was always the best. I had talked to my psychiatrist a week or so prior about the fact that my meds hadn’t been fully effective and I was still experiencing relatively severe bouts of both hypo-mania and depression. She informed me there was nothing to do really, other than be vigilant. 

I have to admit that I love certain parts of mania. It’s like a drug. Sometimes I still think about what it would be like to stop taking my meds just to experience that sweet spot between peeks; it’s a magical place where I’m confident and able to accomplish great things. I feel like I can do anything. The truth is that I glamorize it in my head. The severity of the depressive crash is dependent upon the severity of the high. I sometimes forget about the deep depression that follows; I forget the fact that it doesn’t take long for me to spin out of control during a manic phase and I forget the impact the decisions I make during those episodes have on my life. My ability to attain long term goals is essentially destroyed.

During a recent manic episode I purchased a tattoo gun and gave myself a tattoo, free-hand, having no experience. This was a decision made while taking my meds appropriately. It could have been much worse. I have no patience during one of these episodes. I want what I want and I want it now. Every desire feels like a necessity; if I don’t get it I will experince extreme displeasure and it isn’t worth it to wait.

Keyes, my fiance, and I had saved up a large trash bag of cans. After the deposit rose to 10 cents, cans were as good as gold. Especially to a young couple with no jobs and a few too many habits—including a pack or two of cigarettes per day, alcohol and marijuana. Alcohol was my thing and he preferred marijuana – both of us were starting to smoke more and more tobacco. We were babysitting a friend’s daughter because her mom was having some issues at home. Keyes and I lived with my mom so we asked her to babysit while we went to turn in the cans and get some beer and cigarettes. We had also started smoking 99 cent cigars. I really loved the harsh feeling in my lungs and they were cheap. With the cost of gas factored in we were able to get a six pack of Milwaukee’s best, two steel reserves and a pack of cigarettes. The local store didn’t carry most of the things that we wanted, so we had to drive 34 miles to the neighboring town. I was pleasantly surprised that the alcohol content, in the cheapest beer, had gone up. $5 for a six pack of 6.9 ABV.

knew that I shouldn’t drink with bipolar disorder, especially considering the 21 pills I was taking every day. I knew, but I hadn’t really learned how bad of an idea it could be. Drinking had been my ally for years. Bipolar isn’t my only disorder, I also have PTSD and anxiety disorder. Alcohol always helped with all of these things. It helped me sleep through the night without horrible dreams and it helped me with my social anxiety. It was the perfect medication. I knew I was self-medicating and I knew the implications of that; I just didn’t care enough to stop.

After finishing the beer — most of which I drank myself — I was hyper, and in a fantastic mood. I wanted MORE to keep the good times going. I remembered that a “friend”, We’ll call him Jim, had told me about a week ago that he had some hard liquor in his freezer that he was NEVER going to drink. He sold Keyes weed pretty often; the relationship didn’t go much beyond that. A bowl or a cigarette here and there, sold or traded for work. He lived just up the road and was always good about fronting us a little of whatever we needed and letting us work it off later. I couldn’t really smoke marijuana because it made me extremely paranoid when mixed with my bipolar meds, but I was definitely interested in the liquor just sitting there going to waste. Keyes and I decided to pay Jim a visit so I could ask for the liquor and Keyes could, perhaps, get a bowl. Jim’s neighbor/best friend was watching from across the street and informed us that Jim wasn’t home. I tried calling and texting numerous times (12 calls to be exact). About an hour later we decided to go back up and try again. Keyes had a torn meniscus so he wasn’t too thrilled about walking back and fourth but he was willing for the prospect of a bowl of weed. He hadn’t had any weed in around 4 days and he preferred to smoke daily. Plus, it was early evening still and there wasn’t much else to do. Jim still wasn’t home. The neighbor yelled from across the street that Jim was having dinner with a friend and wasn’t home! His tone was insistent and seemingly annoyed. After we got home, my mom had to leave for work. She worked night shift at a retirement home and never missed a day. Keyes ended up falling asleep along with the child we were babysitting – leaving me manic and bored – a very bad combination.

Eventually I decided to venture back to Jim’s one more time to see if he had returned. It was still light outside but dusk was setting in. He Still wasn’t home and I was starting to come down from my buzz! I sat on the porch for what seemed like an eternity; in reality it was probably 15-20 minutes. Still nothing. So, I decided to help myself and explain later. The front door was locked so I checked the side window. BINGO; it was unlocked. It was just a bit out of reach so I used a bucket sitting by the shed to jump up and shimmy through the window. In doing so I knocked a bunch of clothes over that had been stacked up by the window. I was severely intoxicated and in no position to fix what I had done so I continued on with the mission. I felt a little uncomfortable in his house without him there so I hurried to avoid an awkward moment where he walks in and I’m going through his freezer. It would be much easier just to send keyes up later to explain everything and discuss compensation. I was happy to see that the freezer had quite a few assorted sizes of liquor bottles. On my way out I noticed a nearly empty baggy of leaf-weed sitting in view so I grabbed it for keyes. The weed John sold keyes was not the same stuff he himself smoked; it even had mold in it occasionally so I didn’t see why he would mind.

Ironically, after all of my hard work I came home and passed out without even drinking any of the alcohol. I had walked home awkwardly, my hands full of randomly sized alcohol bottles. Some tiny airline bottles and some pint sized. My memory of the details are fuzzy but I distinctly remember dropping the bottles several times over the two block stretch.

The next thing I knew I was being woken up to my fiance inviting a police officer in. The officer radioed something to the effect of “I found the bottles”. He said it in a much fancier, police officer-y way. I was laying back in a recliner with the alcohol surrounding me, most of it on the floor beside me. Keyes was tired and confused and returned to his position on the couch where he had been sleeping for the past few hours. The officer immediately mirandized Keyes and asked him to get on his knees so he could cuff him. This woke me up fast! I was not happy. I whispered to keyes “don’t say anything”. I knew better than admit to anything; intent was irrelevant at this point. I immediately argued Keyes’ involvement and asked why he was being cuffed. I told them, “He had nothing to do with this! Why are you cuffing him and not me??”. The officer replied, “He’s larger than you and I only have one set of cuffs.” I knew this officer pretty well – as I did most of the officers in Spray. That’s what happens when there are only 150 people in the entire town. It took everything in me to restrain myself. I really wanted to show him that I was the one he should be worried about. I really had to pee though, so I asked if I could use the restroom. Knowing me well, the officer didn’t see an issue with letting me use the restroom while waiting for back-up. He also wanted to avoid exciting our 5 dogs any more than they already had been.

It took a lot of convincing convince the cops to leave Keyes home and take me to jail. I had to waive my Miranda Rights and admit that I had went through a window alone and taken the alcohol and marijuana. I was content knowing that I was the only one going to jail that night. I was so confused. I asked over and over why I couldn’t just talk to Jim. The cops kept telling me that it was a bad idea and Jim was very upset. I told the officers to look at my phone and they did, confirming that I had called 12 times, attempting to contact “the victim”. My BAC was still pretty high when I arrived at jail around 3 a.m. I was still pretty schnockered. I realized later that I had forgotten to take a lot of my meds that day and really needed to take them.

I spent the day in jail before my fiance (now husband) showed up to get me.

I was so happy to see him. Something changed in me as I sat thinking in my cell. It was my second time in jail but this time was different. I didn’t understand why everyone saw what I did as such a bad thing. I decided I needed to change my life or something terrible was going to happen. This wasn’t the way I wanted to live. I didn’t want my fiance and my family to have to deal with this. I needed something to change. I had been in therapy for quite some time before this incident (it was helping, even if it didn’t seem like it). I just needed to be more honest and intensify my plan. I had been seeing my current counselor, Rebecca, for over a year. After being burned by a counselor in the past, I was reluctant to see another but was convinced to give her a chance. It was once of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was finally happy with my therapist! Once I got out of jail I immediately came to her and told her that I wanted her help and I was willing to do whatever it took to change. I put all of my trust in her and we came up with a plan together.

It has been over a year since the incident and I haven’t touched alcohol since. My fiance stopped drinking as well and joined me in every therapy session. He did everything in his power to help me along the way. We quit smoking tobacco and weed not long after we quit drinking. We got married in December, after I had been sober for 5 months. It has been a very long road but things are finally looking up and I’m learning to appreciate what I have. It took almost a year to resolve the court case and things got pretty ugly. I was looking at jail, or even prison, time due to the nature of the felonious charges. I’ll get into that later.

I’m now 7 months pregnant and healthier and happier than I’ve ever been. Keyes has a job as a Peer Support Specialist/Youth Partner, helping others who struggle with addiction and mental illness– god knows he has experience in that area. There are a few essential pillars I relied on in order to make these changes concrete. My husband’s support has been vital, if he hadn’t quit drinking along with me – if he hadn’t been patient– if he hadn’t quit drinking along with me– if he hadn’t been patient – if he hadn’t been there for me, I wouldn’t have done it. Therapy has also kept me strong. Therapy has given me structure and consistency. My therapist is great at her job, I don’t know where I would be without her. Those two pillars are extremely important but I’ve also taken my medications responsibly to avoid undue mood swings and immersed myself in healthy hobbies. I’ve surrounded myself with great people who have made me stronger and inspired me to continue down this path. I have a new family through the church who has been there for me without passing judgement or asking questions.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect upon my decision making abilities and the boundaries I crossed that night. Being sober has left me with a lot of time on my hands; some of which I used to do research. One of the most interesting things that I’ve learned thus far is concerning decision making impairment in individuals suffering from bipolar disorder. A study that I read states that, Bipolar disorder is characterized by marked difficulty in regulating the pursuit of goals (Johnson, 2005), with the onset of manic and depressive episodes linked to the attainment and failure to obtain goals, respectively (Johnson et al., 2008). Although particularly elevated during mania, impulsivity represents a trait feature of the disorder (Strakowski et al., 2010). Learning this was awakening, but not surprising. I learned that I need to take my time and ask for help when making a big decision. With the help of my therapist and psychiatrist, I track my moods and practice extreme vigilence during manic peeks and dark depressions. I’ve been forced to humble myself. Im 30 years old, and I have to reach out for help more than other people my age.  I’ve accepted this because the result is worth it. I’ve finally found some peace.

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