My First Mania Rash

I’m sorry for ditching y’all for a bit; I’ve been all over the place trying to write as much as I can while making sure I don’t give too much away on here!! So I have a new post today; it is a ~throwback~ to my first year in college during my first ever finals week. I hope you enjoy lovelies; I haven’t forgotten about you! xoxox

 

December 2015

One year earlier, age 18

University

 

Today is the first day of final exams. I ride the bus from the 24-hour library to my freshman dorm. I am one of only four riders, and everyone except me slumps over in their seats with naked exhaustion. Though it is 1:30am, I feel wired, and I know I won’t fall asleep for a while. I have a psychology exam in the morning, in only 7.5 hours, and even though I feel confident, my body twitches with increasing anxiety. Because there are always the what ifs. What if I fail? What if I didn’t try hard enough? What if I’m not as good as everyone else? What if this happens, what if that screws me over? My mind swirls, wide awake, while my body deteriorates with fatigue.

I get to my room and take off my sweater and look in my mirror to make sure I haven’t gained weight and…Oh. Oh no. What happened to my skin? My chest is polka-dotted with splotchy red patches. The skin of my throat burns hot to the touch. I poke my ribcage and watch my fingerprints dissolve. A cherry flood rushes to consume me whole, to gnaw straight through me, straight into my rapidly beating heart.

But it’s not just my chest. I touch each of my biceps, and they are being eaten alive too. I lift up my tank top and find a crimson stomach. My back looks diseased. Even my thighs turned fluorescent since the last time I looked at myself.

Lastly, and most horrifyingly, I reach my hands to my face. It too is metabolizing itself.

My skin is a Jackson Pollock painting of scarlet red and translucent white. I am simultaneously fascinated and disgusted. I fan myself with my hands—maybe I’m just overheated—but I cannot get my body temperature down. I place my hands on my hips and contemplate my next move.

I want to share this scientific mystery with someone, anyone else. I open my door and run straight into my hall’s sweet, docile, overreacting Resident Assistant. Before I can say “But isn’t this cool?” she has a rescue squad on the phone, coming “as fast as we can, ma’am.”

She does not think this is cool.

The rescue squad appears in an ambulance, lights flashing and sirens blaring, too quickly for me to completely assess the situation. I don’t have time to put my sweater back on, so here I am, in 40-degree weather, wearing a tank top and jean skirt. But I am Still. So. Burning. Hot.

A police officer shows up too, for good measure. He looks at my driver’s license, takes a minute to figure out how to work it (there are like three other people at my school from Arkansas), and leads me to the back of the ambulance. I try to sit on a bench with the EMTs, but they insist on me lying on the stretcher in the middle. I reluctantly comply, not in the mood to fight. “I have a test in the morning”, I keep reminding them, but no one seems to hear me. “I need to sleep. I do not function without sleep.” Nothing.

Eyes eager and hearts craving to put their training to the test, the EMTs don’t attempt to hide their enthusiasm at my…predicament. I stare back at each of them in turn and realize how young they look. They are probably my classmates, not much older than me, if not my age. This does not make me feel better. I hear a voice in the distance, but I cannot turn my head towards it. The stretcher holds my body perfectly supine, facing the ambulance doors, and the EMTs have left my line of vision. The voice tells me that she is about to put a needle in my arm, that we need to pump Benadryl into my system as quickly as possible, that we cannot wait a second longer. And ding! I realize why everyone is so concerned with my rash. They think I’m having an allergic reaction! The EMTs probably want it to be an allergic reaction. That’s a good story to tell back at the station. Anaphylaxis! Pass the Epi Pen! She barely made it; I’m serious!

The high and sudden dose of the antihistamine drags my existence down to the bottom of the deepest ocean. I’m woozy; I’m swaying; I’m light as a bird; I’m heavy as a boulder. Everything, everyone is a blur. I don’t remember how to move my arms, my legs, not even my head for that matter. Luckily this little white bed I’m on in this little metal room is comfortable. I sink deeper into the cot and smile lazily at the human blobs.

I somehow, out of pure stubbornness, manage to stay awake. Though I see and hear little—everything is so murky—I remain conscious. Just barely. We get to the hospital. They insist on rolling me in on the stretcher. I argue with them against rolling me in on the stretcher. I try my best not to slur my words as I try to convince them that I’m fine, I can walk, the stretcher is unnecessary. I don’t have allergies. I’m not dying. I’m just very sleepy, and I have a test in the morning. In my very nicest voice, I ask them to please just take me home.

They refuse to listen to me. I succumb to silence.

The hospital, my school’s hospital, the hospital I want to work at one day, is scarily quiet. The patients must be sleeping, I think to myself. So I lie back and watch the hospital glide past me, like pressing fast forward on a TV. Who knew a stretcher could move 100 miles per hour?

The nurses tell the EMTs, my new best friends (not), that there are no rooms available. They casually roll me against a wall in the hallway, and then they leave me. I am okay with this because now I can watch the nurses. They move so quickly, and I move so slowly. My eyelids droop, but I swear I’m still here. I’m still awake, you better not forget about me. I strain my ears to listen to every word they say, and I’m positive they don’t catch on to my ruse. Mostly they sound confused about my being here, about what’s wrong with me. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

The doctor is decently attractive, so I smile and comply with everything he says. After he rules out anaphylaxis—much to the dismay of my EMT pals, I’m sure—he sets me up with an EKG, draws a few vials of my blood, and checks my heart rate over and over again, though I don’t know why. The EKG shows nothing of interest, thank goodness. My dad has a pacemaker, and I know how much of a pain it is to deal with a faulty heart. No abnormal thyroid levels, and I silently thank my mom for not transferring that over to me. But my stupid heart won’t stop racing, apparently, so the doctor makes me stay on my little stretcher in the middle of the little hallway long after my little rash disappears. I ask him to let me go, please, reminding him that I still “have a test in the morning”, and at 5:30am he agrees to discharge me. My heart is still racing, apparently, but he gives up and I am grateful for his lack of determination.

I sleep for three hours, the Benadryl has really kicked in, and I don’t know how I make it to my final. I don’t remember waking up. I don’t remember walking. I have no recollection of taking my test; I just want it to be over as quickly as possible. I sleep for the rest of the day, ignoring any other studying I should probably do. The History and Civilization of Classical India will have to wait.

Darkness. I sleep deeply forever and ever.

 

*****

 

I will later find out that this rash is my first physical sign of my bipolar disorder. I will call it my mania rash after I am diagnosed because it only happens when I’m manic, whether it’s my happy, confident manic or my anxious, stressed manic. My mania also explains why my heart raced for hours. My body goes on high alert when I’m manic, and it takes more effort than I am usually able to muster to calm it down. But for that night, it was just a huge, unexplainable pain in the ass.

 

PS: I got exactly enough points on the test to get an 89.6% in the class, which, hell yes, was an A! Round of applause for me! Barely scraping by in college; still alive but barely breathing. That’s how to do it. 🙂

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10 thoughts on “My First Mania Rash

  1. Not to worry! I have bipolar 1, and I primarly experience manic episodes. But of course if you have bipolar 2, you still experience hypomania, and perhaps you will have a mania rash as well. I don’t believe that my rash causes any other health problems, and it does help me and others around me recognize when I am getting manic. If you do see a rash forming, I highly recommend talking to a doctor about it. If you have more questions, please question away! xox

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  2. Oh my goodness what an experience. Well done you for getting an A, against all the odds. I didn’t realise bipolar can give you a rash, thanks for educating me. I Wonder if you could give me some writing advice, would someone in a bipolar state self harm? One of the subsidiary characters in my book self harms… I intend to develop her character more in book 2, and reading your blog might help me understand mental health issues better. I have experienced anxiety and depression (in the past) but have no other personal experience of mental health issues.

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  3. So what i call my “mania rash” isn’t a technical sign or symptom of bipolar disorder, but I have heard of other people who get a similar rash when manic. I believe it’s something about one’s sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) being turned on high when manic, leading to a “warning rash.” When I mania rash, i take an antihistamine called hydroxyzine to reduce it (same thing as when a benadryl calms an allergic reaction).
    For your second question: yes, people with bipolar disorder definitely self-harm. I’ve seen it time and time again at the hospitals and outpatient programs I’ve gone to. They hurt themselves when they are depressed, feeling useless, hopeless, irrelevant. They hurt themselves when they’re manic and not lucid, uninterested in the consequences. Bipolar disorder is incredibly confusing and surprising when one knows one has it, but very much more so when one just thinks one is crazy for no good reason. Self-harm can be a way of someone making sense of what is happening. Self-harm occurs for many reasons across a variety of mental illnesses, and definitely in bipolar.
    If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask here or in an email! I’m writing a book on my experience with bipolar disorder, so I’m passionate about others getting the word out as well. xox

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