I’m Infatuated With Manic Me
So I’m bipolar and I’ve chosen not to medicate. I tried it. It didn’t help and made me feel like trash. Maybe someday I’ll try again, but for now, it’s just me and this Jekyll and Hyde shit show. I know, I know, I’m probably going to get lots of flack for this, so let me make it clear that I’m not advocating that anyone go off their meds or choose not to try medications based on my experience. I’m not a doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I’ve always been hypersensitive to all medications; the only thing that doesn’t bother me is ibuprofen. I’m not into spending the rest of my life with the spins and nausea.
So here we are. I’m just a writer who’s been blessed with a brain chemistry that takes me on wild creative carnivals that can last for weeks preceded by or followed up with devastating depressive episodes that lay and flay me till I can’t feel anything but the brain bruise.
Over the years I’ve learned to manage a happy life around my episodes through trial and error. That’s not to say I can control when the mania and the depression take over, because I have no say in the matter. But I have been able to identify triggers and signs that give me a heads up when shit’s about to hit the fan so I can put up the hurricane shutters and stock up on Cheetos and tequila. I make sure my support people are aware of which mental state I’m heading into. Could be up, could be down.
When the mania shows up, I’m always so fucking into it. I love the whirlwind creative energy that keeps me up at night and wakes me at the crack of dawn. I dive into the whirlybird scribbles of ideas and abstract thoughts racing through my mind. I feel like I’m living in a Kahlo, Dali, Pollock painting. The paint is splattered on the canvas. The clocks drip down the wall. A monkey chatters on my shoulder. Everything is brilliantly non-linear in a Tarantino kinda way. Scenes bounce between my ears.
I also know that over the next weeks I will lose between 5–10 pounds (which I will later regain when I’m morbidly depressed but never mind that now). I’ll probably also start a movie or a book or maybe both. New creations will be stirred on the stove and colorful martinis will be shaken and poured.
My usually introverted, bookish, stay at home self, will suddenly want to go out every night of the week. My annoying body dysmorphia will disappear, allowing me to feel like a sexy beast for the manic cycle(during which time I’ll want to fuck anything that walks, but more on that later). All the things I love, all the things I want to be. Passion, beauty, and creativity are coming to me in a rush of endorphins and energy. Bye-Bye sleep. Hello, my amazing life!
Because hey, what’s not to love about feeling zany, sexy, and creative right? So loving the mania has always been the easy part. Tolerating and embracing the depressive side has always been a bitch of a thing. I fucking hate it. I did hate it. I still want to hate it. But that’s like hating half of who I am.
I used to get so pissed off when I’d feel the first twinge of depression scabbing my mind and sucking my energy. I would fight it with every tool I had. I’d ramp up the workouts, meditate double time, write in my gratitude journal, and spend hours outdoors. And then, a few days after the first tadpole of darkness takes a nibble, I’d find myself in the jaws of a swamp monster unable to cope or move. And then I would feel even shittier because it beat me. All of my efforts were useless. I could never, ever win. The despair was overwhelming and only served to exacerbate the inevitable depression. Yet I continued to fight, refusing to learn the lessons of this illness.
Yes, I’ve been pretty stubborn about my depressive episodes for the better part of my existence. Every time it happens, I have this notion that with perseverance and discipline, I’ll wake up the next day to find the darkness has evaporated due to all my efforts. But it doesn’t matter what I do. When it comes, it comes. I’ll wake up and have trouble getting out of bed for days, and if I do, all I can manage is a slow shuffle to the couch. I’ll struggle leaving the house for the smallest of tasks. Phone calls and texts will go unanswered. The drafts I was previously obsessed with will be forgotten. The thought of writing a sentence exhausts me. I want to cry, but I hold it all in, which makes me feel even more wretched. And so it goes on, forever and ever. There seems to be no end in sight, and each day feels more impossible than the last.
Because the deep depressions are so miserable I wasted years trying to push back against them; raging against the machine. But recently, as menopause has torpedoed my chemistry, I’ve decided to embrace the depression as part of who I am, because I am so tired. I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of pretending I can skip this part.
Now, when I feel it coming on, I let my people know that I’m going to be resting for however long it takes. When it really hits me, I get on some PJs, turn on Netflix, and settle into my favorite comfort foods. When I feel like crying I really get into it and let myself sob it out. I just let go. It feels better this way. There’s something about the tears that heals the broken parts of me. I dunno, hard to explain, cuz like I said, I’m not a doctor. The closest example I have is the flu. It comes for a week or so. You can either bundle up cozy in the bed and let your body heal restfully or you can battle it out in the rain and stress your body even more. One of these options makes sense, the other does not.
Now I work on looking at my depression as a necessary process of healing and coming out on the other side. Surely my mind needs a break from the mania and this coming down part is the balance. No, it’s still not my favorite, but fighting it makes the days seem longer. Beating myself up only amplifies the pain. Imagine slamming a broken bone against a brick wall; that’s what it feels like. I’m done with that way of being.
What does make sense is loving myself and all of the ups and downs that come with me. Maybe in the next life, I’ll be better balanced, but for this one, I’m going to honor the darkness as well as the light.