Is Mania A Spiritual Experience? [Bipolar]

by Chris Cole

I was eighteen years old when I first experienced acute manic psychosis. I had just arrived at the University of Georgia for my freshman fall semester when I suddenly had what seemed like a profound spiritual awakening. I felt as if I was waking up from a bad dream, as if my mind and body were merely figments of my imagination. I felt an incredible transcendence and oneness with the universe, an experience I could only fathom to be spiritual. Back then, I didn’t know anything about bipolar disorder.

My first thought upon being struck with this overwhelmingly blissful state was, “This is what God feels like; I must be Jesus!” It was from there that I began my deluded descent into madness. I ran upstairs in my dormitory, assuming that my friends would be my first disciples, and tried to perform miracles to prove my divinity. When they attempted to calm me down, I punched one of them in the face, calling him the devil, and ran back downstairs. Campus police promptly met me in the dorm lobby and arrested me on the spot.

On my way to jail, I was no longer feeling so ecstatic. In fact, it was the most excruciating fear I had ever experienced. I began believing that the police officers were the Pharisees taking me to my crucifixion. They placed me in my own jail cell, and I began stripping off my clothes, demanding for the officers to come look at my naked body. Throughout the whole experience, I felt almost completely dissociated, as if I was watching a movie of myself with little to no control of the actor.

After a few days of trying to convince my parents that I was returning humanity to the Garden of Eden, they realized my condition might not be from taking psychedelic drugs as they had thought. I was escorted to my local psychiatric hospital, and once medicated, came down from my messianic mission to create heaven on earth. The only problem was, I had never been more certain of God in my life, and the clinicians just kept telling me that it was normal for grandiose delusions to take on religious and spiritual themes. I was not convinced.

My thoughts immediately went to the biblical stories I grew up with: how God tested Abraham’s faith when he was told to sacrifice his son, and how God communicated to Moses through a burning bush. Were these not examples of delusions and hallucinations? Even Jesus was convinced to be the Son of God. Were the holy men of the Bible bipolar? I had a lot of questions, and my questions seemed to be forcing me to choose one side or the other—either spirituality or psychiatry.

It took me about a decade to finally integrate both truths and find some peace around my manic episodes. I studied spirituality and psychology, and I came to the conclusion that bipolar disorder and spiritual experiences didn’t need to exist in opposition. I’ve come to some basic definition of spirituality as the transcendence of ego. In this sense, mania was indeed a spiritual experience, albeit an unmanageable one. This didn’t mean my bipolar diagnosis was bogus, and I’m not saying all psychotic episodes are spiritual. But I can now rest easy knowing that my experiences were both spiritual and bipolar.

If I’m honest with myself, a major sign of my mania is increased spirituality, but at the same time, a major sign of my depression is a lack of spiritual significance. Finding balance in recovery means that I am able to seek both spiritual and clinical solutions to my bipolar symptoms without fear that I am falling out of grace with God. When I was first diagnosed, I had the idea that either bipolar existed or God existed. There was no space for both.

My spirituality has necessarily evolved over the years. Because of my history with manic psychosis, I have to guard myself against dogmatic or superstitious beliefs. I try my best to live a life of love, and I rest assured knowing that the more kindness I spread to the world, the more aligned I am with my spiritual path. Telling my story of recovery has become part of this spiritual process. My faith means a great deal to my health, and without it, my recovery wouldn’t be as strong as it is today. I hope that by sharing my story, others going through the same difficulties might not take so long to make sense of their own experiences.


Chris Cole has authored a book recounting his experiences, and he’s now a life coach for folks in recovery.



Author: Pastor Bryan Lowe

A repentant rascal with definite issues, but who is seeking to be authentic in his faith to Jesus Christ. An avid reader and a hopeful writer. Husband and father. A pastor and Bible teacher. A brain tumor survivor. Diagnosed with clinical depression, and now disabled. Enjoys life, such as it is, in Alask.a (Actually I have it pretty good.)

4 thoughts on “Is Mania A Spiritual Experience? [Bipolar]”

  1. Hello!
    It’s been now 15 years that I started to become very sick.BDL,OCD. Very serious problems with self-mutilation, that I could say that Guilt finished by bringing me there .Tried all sorts of pills, 21 electrochocs, on and on and on!!!!!
    I live in a small town of 8000 people and there is a small emergency there, which in theses 15 last years, I went there for self-mutilation, taking full of pills,etc…around 225 times!!! Imagine, me as a Christain! Thats apart of all the times I was put in and often locked up in a bigger hospital not to far from home etc…..
    I changed Drs ( Psy) and both of them blame it alot, like they say, its my religion.I stopped them right away, No! it comes from my father with the abuses I went threw and always making me feel guily all the time and that it distroyed my life…….
    Explaining abit for you to understand abit.
    I often freekout with God . Do I am scared of Him.Every, every moring this guilt is always there and I spend my days repenting over and over again…
    It sonetimes comes a time that if people around me died and they didn’t have Christ in there lives, that they are not saved, That I didn’t speak of the Lord , it would be MY FAULT that they are in Hell .I use to freak out inside of me, but never ever say a word about this and other things.
    Never do I speak to my Psy about my aboundant tourments that i go threw ( there are times that they could be strong and sometimes, it could calme down, but the guilt is always there that is always eating me up)
    If I do speak to my Psy, they will blame God and I don’t want that. Even with what I am living, I love God even if I ´m scared…..
    I am all the opposite of what my heart really desires.
    I am a Christian but I woukd wish so hard to shine for Him and love Him more!
    I lm afraid to talk really about what I am going through spirtually too.
    What to do???


  2. Bryan, this is an awesome article!! Thanks so much for finding & sharing it. Do you know Chris Cole and how has yr experience been similar? Would love to hear. I am not bipolar, but I have been beside others in their manic states, and never really heard what it was like for THEM.
    BTW I’m coming to the ABI reunion in November! Will I see u then?


  3. I’m wondering if anyone in this forum has researched Dr Abram Hoffer, psychiatrist. In his fifty years of practice, he helped over eight thousand people with mental illness to recover. He found that at least eight percent of his patients were actually suffering from nutrient deficiencies. He gave them high dose NIACIN and other supplements, with rapid and excellent long term results..

    Also, Dr Caroline Leaf, neuroscientist. Addresses mental illness from a biblical, scientific perspective. She is more like a very dedicated evangelist than a scientist in the way she explains how the brain functions. He book
    ” Switch On Your Brain “. Gives guided skills for helping the brain to heal.

    Just asking if anyone has seen any of these findings and therapies.

    Ty for being here. It is so helpful to me.


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