Casting the Glamour: The Enchantment of Euphoric Mania
Euphoric mania can be exciting for those under its spell, but it can also be perilous if you don’t learn to navigate it safely.
Photo: Getty Images
By Martin Baker
“Casting the glamour” is an old Scots term for a magic spell or enchantment. It is the perfect metaphor for the wild, captivating, almost otherworldly impact of euphoric mania.
“It is an enchantment. And it feels better than any drug. It was hard for me to call it what it is: illness. And no matter how happy you feel, it is dangerous.” (Veronica Falletta)
Let’s explore this enchantment – and its dangers – from the perspective of the person with mania and others affected by it.
Examples are drawn from my experience as a caregiver to my best friend Fran, and others happy to share their stories.
What Does Euphoric Mania Look and Feel Like?
The clue is in the name! One friend with bipolar told me, “Euphoric mania can feel exactly like instant love.” The person in euphoric mania may present as confident, exotic, inspired, and inspiring. Fran was manic when we met. She was like no one I had known before: radiant, eloquent, and wise. Her insight could be extraordinary and was no less valid for being mania-fueled.
I asked how she got to be so wise. “Because I have been down there in the dirt,” she replied.
Word-play and creative language are common. I loved this aspect of Fran’s personality. My encouragement triggered an outpouring of verse, despite the fact she had never written poetry before. It provided a channel for her mania, although sharing it publicly brought unwanted and unhelpful attention.
Also common is the belief that specific relationships are transformational and healing, even life-saving.
This can work both ways. I put Fran on a pedestal until she pointed out this was unrealistic and unhealthy.
What Are the Dangers?
The cruelest thing about mania is that it directs a person’s energy outwards yet that very intensity pushes people away. Or as Fran puts it: “’Bipolarists’ destroy relationships.” Not everyone handles the intensity well. Rejection can be deeply hurtful and destabilizing.
Early in our friendship, Fran emailed and messaged me day and night. This was rarely an issue: I enjoyed her company and wanted to help any way I could. I failed to realize, however, that uncritical support can fan the flames of mania. I encouraged Fran in one of her manic projects for months until I realized the dangers. Things can deteriorate rapidly, as one friend describes.
“I used to tend bar and I fell in love at first sight with one of my customers. I became so manic after a few months of this that I was awake for seventeen days. I completely broke with reality. I lost the man, I lost my job, and had my first experience in the psych ward. It was a very public breakdown and I hurt a lot of people and burned many bridges.”
Breaking the Enchantment
It’s hard to accept that what first attracted you to someone – and them to you – was a symptom of mental illness. Genuine connections are possible, of course. Our seven year friendship is testament to that! But it takes courage. The first step is to recognize what is happening. It can be tempting to ignore the warning signs when things feel so good.
“Talking with him made my mania worse. It makes me wonder if he preferred the mania in some way. He never gave me the chance to show him the real me. I think he liked my brain that way.”
This is where trusted friends and family are vital. They can spot things you might miss or prefer to ignore. Once mania is recognized, it’s time to bring coping strategies into play. For Fran this meant a change in medication, although that might not always be the case as one friend records.
“I see my shrink this week. I use coping skills to deal with the mania when it gets too intense for my mood stabilizer to help. I doubt he will change my meds. We look out for delusions, irrational behavior, and hallucinations before we consider it too serious. I’m rational, just exhausted. But I am anxious to hear his opinion.”
The downward shift towards stability (or in Fran’s case an overshoot into depression) can be challenging. Things may seem dull after all the excitement. There can be a profound sense of loss. The only way through is to keep things real. Stay connected. Be honest about what you are thinking and feeling, and commit to the real person beneath the glamour.
Bipolar disorder can be cruel and unfair, but no matter what happens, Fran and I care about each other and meet as equals. And that is magic.