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What is Mania? The Height of Madness

A Person With Bi-Polar Disoder Explains Mania

By Asa Merritt | @asamerritt

May 12, 2015


Less understood than the depressive side of bipolar disorder, mania is a state of heightened function, expansiveness, and sometimes, religious experience.

Thompson’s second manic episode led her on a epic quest from Massachusettes to Manhattan to find God.

“I knew I was going to die. I knew that time had sped up a lot. And I knew I had to get back to New York to fight some final battle, and that would be the end. Those were my convictions,” said Thompson.

Of all mental health disorders, bipolar disorder is one of the most commonly misunderstood. Formerly called manic-depressive disorder, people with bipolar disorder experience bouts of both depression and mania. Mania is powerful (its etymological root, “maenad,” refers to women in Greek mythology who ecstatically worshiped Dionysus, the God of madness), but many have only a vague conception of what the word means. The shape and tropes of a depressive episode have entered the public discourse; the nature of a manic episode has not.

In this audio piece, listen to Margot Thompson*, 32, describe moments from a manic episode she experienced last summer. Thompson has bipolar disorder and is an active member in the Icarus Project, a global support group and media project.

Thompson’s story contains nearly every primary element of a manic episode: expansive thoughts, a decreased need for sleep, euphoric feelings, erratic behavior, and a psychotic break. It is a functional case study. Her narrative also demonstrates that when the mind sheds reality (without the assistance of recreational drugs) the experience is not always unequivocally negative.

Margot Thompson is a pseudonym.

About the City Mind Project

CityMind explores mental health in New York City. The articles produce reflect the mental health concerns of particular communities, explores access to quality care and delves into larger social issues concerning stigmatization. The stories are New York based but reflect the larger issues of mental health nationwide. We hope the project will serve both as a news source and a resource.

About the Project