Red Book. Carl Jung.

Sitting With My Mania

The fear that comes with mental health challenges. +What lies beneath.

Joshua Burkhart
5 min readDec 12, 2018


I could feel it creeping in last night. That plastic electricity under the skin. The way thoughts run just a little faster and scatter if you look too quick.

It was mild but its familiar enough to recognize the mania stirring.

My longest stretch of mania lasted for a summer. After that, it would come in a burst of a week or two. For the last few years it has been a couple hours here or there.

For the most part I feel confident I can handle my episodes, its worked for the last couple of years but you never really know if today will be the day the leviathan of mania will arise and consume everything.

The fear.

My greatest fear of mania is losing myself. Sometimes the thoughts will spin so fast they can’t be seen and I’m no longer there.

It’s not a peaceful quiet, its a loss of self, an ego death with no sign of a soul nearby.

That is the ultimate fear but it radiates out in all sorts of other forms.

I’ve fallen in love with a catfish while manic. I’ve maxed out my credit cards. I’ve done a bender of drugs and hooked up with a long list of strangers. Even hacked my best friend’s email account and lost said friend.

None of this has happened lately because I’ve done a lot of work to process my mania but when I feel it rising in my body I never really know what it will lead to.

People often think of mental health challenges in terms of their extreme states. The manic shift, the depths of depression, a psychosis or delusion, the cravings of addiction, or the moment of the inhale or needle.

These experiences can be terrifying but there is so much more to the story of one who struggles with mental health challenges.

For me, the thought of going manic is often worse than going manic. It's a risk that's always there, at any moment my mind and body can simply rebel and I’m left at their mercy.

I find there are ways to make this easier, ways to increase my stability but at the end of the day, true responsibility requires that I make room for the fact I can go insane at any moment.

That’s what stirs the anxiety when I feel the mania creeping in. I don’t actually think I’ll fall in love with a catfish again or blow all my money on a trip to Disneyland. I have safety mechanisms in place and more tools to help me ground.

But the experience itself reminds me of the times I lost control. It reminds me that I’m not in control, that there is a mysterious realm within me of chemicals and archetypes that dictate the experience of my day, of my life, of my self.

What lies beneath.

I sat last night with my mania. Normally sitting isn’t an option, I have to walk, I have to move, do something with my hands but last night wasn’t full-blown mania, just a taste, just an opening of the door.

When I looked through the door I was back in my childhood. I could feel the wood and chipped paint of our swingset under my fingers.

I heard the cabinets rattling in the hallway. I heard the screaming, felt the belt and the spoons on my backside.

I remembered being in bed and writhing with frustration. Wanting to break everything in the room to show just how much pain I was in and remaining silent, contorted in that pain because I knew too large of a tantrum, too much of a show of the frustration would lead to more pain.

I don’t think of my childhood often but the door of mania put me right there again. Scattered amongst the memories were odd images. A shining blanket laid out on the beach beneath the stars, a lobster type Kraken rising from the deep.

I felt the pressure of my childhood, the pain, the frustration, the worry and anxiety; it became clear to me in that moment that this is the energy that fuels my mania.

All that pent-up tension from my youth rushing up to find a new way to express itself, to create new experiences.

Triggers and lessons.

In our modern pharmaceutical society, most people don’t associate bipolar with triggers or having any meaning.

It is said to be the result of a broken brain, unbalanced chemicals. With all that talk they still haven’t found the “right chemicals” to “fix” the brains.

In my own experience, my is always triggered. Most of the time my manic episodes happen after I visit my family. Particularly after I feel rejected by specific family members.

When sitting with the images and memories last night this theme was repeated. The desire to be seen and accepted and the fear of being seen and rejected.

It's a simple thing really and yet I’ve seen it spin my mind out of control for weeks. The simple drive has decades of suffering to fuel it, empower, twist it in the mind and body.

I’ve seen this over and over again with clients. It's not always the case but triggers seem to play a larger role than what we think. They can be minor but when paired with trauma and pain they take on a life of their own.

Where there is a trigger there is a lesson. Nothing comes from the understanding of the brain as broken other than some brains function and others don’t.

When we recognize the psyche as alive, bearing blessings and wounds, holding triggers and channeling the power and conflict of our pains and traumas we open a conversation with our psyches.

We are better able to understand ourselves, the mind, and the human condition.

I am learning about the primal need for acceptance. The way the body and mind store memories we’re not even aware of. The way these all link together to create a flow of energy within the mind and body, psychic states that change and shift, that have a life all their own.

What about you?

What happens when you sit with the discomfort of your mind? With racings thoughts or a wounded heart?

What doors open up? What memories or visions arise? What does it tell you about yourself? About others?

Next time you’re feeling a shift within what would happen if you faced it? If you asked the sensation what it has to teach you?

Love and share.

I’m starting something new. Writing every day as I put my random thoughts on binary paper.

If you’d like to join me on this journey you can sign up for my email list here.



Joshua Burkhart

Transformation coach specializing in mental health, spirituality & relationships — the way we connect to self, society & cosmos.