Give me back my mania
“She’s mad but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire”
Story by anonymous.
Journal entry written after 4 months of being medicated for bipolar:
While there are lots of hard, simple words that encase identity more or less specifically — astronaut, bartender, disappointment — psychiatric disorders feel more fundamental. If you're bipolar, or depressed, or schizophrenic, that's the tectonic movement underneath every second. Not feeling that anymore has flattened the extremities of my life. Things are more than a little dull. That might sound a little hysterical, I know. You might remark that everyone dies a little as they get older, that this is not unique to me. And that’s true; every life is marked by a certain sensual decline. After first love, there’s second love. And as life goes on, you sort of pretend to get what it’s all about. One is easily desensitized. But giving up mania is another matter entirely. When you're manic, the main hallucination is that you feel that the universe has a meaning you're locked into. Nobody riding a manic episode wonders what they’re doing with their life. In mania, I found beauty everywhere — I would repeat the word “ricochet” like an incantation, seeing the ineffable flow of life coursing through that thick bundle of vowels. Euphoria was that easy. When you lose that, your life becomes a little meaningless. A kind of numbness sets in. And that's ultimately a really good thing, because large parts of life are meaningless, and that's something I have to learn to accept. Every day contains big chunks of nothing much at all. You walk home from work the same way every evening, bathed in the glow of buildings you’ve examined frequently enough that they don’t register as anything more than light pollution. All through your working hours, you’ve made warm but routine small talk: little noises simply signifying that basic affection, or at least nonaggression, is being maintained. Alone in your apartment, you begin your evening routine, so you don’t have to think about doing anything else at all. You’re an expert at ordering in for one. Sitting alone and eating in the dark, you can devote your attention to thinking all of the thoughts you’ve already thought before.
This is far healthier than thinking everything is meaningful, when it simply isn’t. When you live a normal, boring, double shot coffee type of life, you can focus on occasionally doing something true: loving someone well, or painting something beautiful, or just not fucking something up. The reasonable mind is empty much of the time so that it can be wholly occupied when something good comes along. I’m now actually capable of emailing friends, because I no longer think that every message I send is a major moment in the history of the world. I can write something without thinking I am the next Tolstoy. Paint, without convincing myself I am Picasso reincarnated. I agree with all of what I’ve just written. But I still sometimes think I'm missing out. Without bipolar — without a diagnosis that completely describes my traits and justifies my behaviour — I face the question of who I am. What is left behind? And the question has an obvious, yet unsatisfying answer: I'm not one thing in particular. I’m a nobody. Just like the other 8 billion people who occupy this earth. I'm a set of organs composed of cells that are constantly being recycled, all conspiring in the service of all kinds of behaviors no longer united by a disease. A disease that worked both to consume and ruin my life. Perhaps this is why I'm not hesitant about telling people that I'm bipolar anymore: it's something big that I can say I am. I always mention it on second dates. I usually tell employers about it after they’ve established that I'm a reliable employee. While the motive is not entirely selfish (I feel like it's important to warn people what's up in case of the unlikely event that I have an episode), there is a selfishness there. Because, weirdly, it lends me a kind of credibility. It's a more florid identity than I would have otherwise. After all, there are millions of other 29 year old females and none of us stand apart from the next. My illness gave me an identity that I could hide behind. There are also many, many writers who have written their stories about mental health and addiction and Bipolar and mania. Sometimes I can't help but feel like, yay, look at me. I’ve nearly killed myself, I’ve swam in interior heavens, I was seeing seven psychiatrists at once. I’ve OD’d more times than I can count. I thought I was a Messiah. I'm so, so special. Really, it's all a little disingenuous, because my medication seems to be working so very well. Sure, I'm still technically bipolar, in that I require daily management. Whereas before I trusted my every passing whim, I now constantly wonder if my feelings are unreasonable. But all of that maintenance work occurs privately. If you met me outside the context of this story, you'd just think, here's a girl with blue eyes that chatters a little much and can have a solid resting bitch face at times. I seem to be keeping it together. But can I tell you a secret? My god, do I miss that euphoria, that gloriousness, that feeling of complete invincibility.
And I desperately crave to get my mania back.