Monday, May 07, 2012

Manic Episode: Another Side of Bipolar Disorder

By Richard Albertson

Mypomanic Episode: Another Side of Bipolar Disorder

Welcome back, my friends!

Sorry for the extended absence!. I've been extremely busy with other projects, which I should have to come back to soon. Also, I wanted to confirm this essay was perfect, cause this one's rather hard.

So far, almost all of my articles have focused on depression. As someone with type II bipolar disorder, that's the side I know best. Also , it is the side that is easiest for somebody who does not have bipolar disfunction to understand. Everyone has been depressed at some point in their life. Wanna understand bipolar depression? Take your depression, magnify by about a jillion, and there ya go. Pretty easy to understand, right? The other side of the coin is not as straightforward. A good analogy, I'm hoping, should make it easier to understand.

Let's imagine that the average human brain is like a Volvo. The Volvo gets great mileage and is one of the safest, most dependable cars on the road. You wanna get to work on time, day by day and with very little fuss and worry? Then the Volvo is the vehicle for you.

The bipolar brain is more like a Ferrari.

The Ferrari is fast and flashy. It's sleek, fast looks practically demand and can get shallow chicks to sleep with you. It's sleek styling and predatory looks practically beg you to drive at deadly speeds. You would like to make it to work in 40 seconds flat? Then the Ferrari is the vehicle for you. Unfortunately, it drink gas like your Aunt Janie drinks gin and has a tendency to spend a little more time in the store than on the road. The insurance charges are astronomic and you are nearly guaranteed to wrap it around a tree sometime.

Now then... a depressive episode feels like the times when the Ferrari is in the shop. It's up on the lift, and you are going nowhere. You cannot even show off the pain job by rolling it into your driveway. Not just that, but you have to walk to work while all the Volvo drivers practically blaze by at 35 mph. You imagine them laughing at you as it starts to rain. Your anxiety deepens as you imagine them aiming for puddles near you . You've learned that the occasional sociopath WILL soak you for his or her amusement.

But then the day arrives when the store owner calls. Your chariot awaits! You go down to the shop, pay the exorbitant bill, and fire up that 16-cylinder Italian ego trip.

"I' ve missed you, Farrah," you are saying . Who cares if the guy at the shop gives you a strange look? If HE had a Ferrari, he'd name her Farrah, too. Your foot hardly taps her accelerator and she purrs delightedly. She has missed you as much as you've missed her.

"Good girl," you say, then ease Farrah's shifter into first, the action so smooth that instinct alone tells you that she's out of neutral. You pull out of the shop's parking lot and into traffic. Initially, she's just pleased to be off of that awful rack and back on the road where she belongs, but each red light, each school area is irritating . Sand only makes pearls in oysters. Sand in an engine is death, but Farrah complies and stays at the speed limit... For now.

You pull into the car park at work, all eyes turn to you and your beautiful machine. You pull into your space and reach for the key to kill her ignition, but you stop short.

"Just once," she begs. "Please. It's been so long."

You know this is how it starts, but you're still in control. Just once will not do any harm anything, right? It's not like you are doing anything perilous. Besides , what is the point in owning an auto like Farrah if you can't show her off?

With her gears still in neutral, your foot presses hard on her accelerator and her engine screams delightedly. Those that were not looking before definitely are now. Many are impressed. Many others are jealous. And Farrah, at long last, feels warm and tingly.

"Ooo baby," she purrs. "You're the only one who knows how to touch me right. Again. Please."

"Sorry, babe," you assert, a little defeated. "I gotta go to work now."

Farrah pouts as you shut off the engine, sputtering a little to let you know she's put out. You promise her a full tank of premium and a stretch of deserted highway tonight followed by a loving sponge bath. You know which will make her happy, but you can tell she's still sulking.

When five o'clock rolls around, you dash into the carpark to find Farrah waiting. It is a beautiful day, so you decide a little sun would be wonderful for you both. You drop her top, fire up her engine and gun the accelerator - a little - as you exit the carpark. No harm done, and at last you're out on the open road where both of you are more happy... For all of roughly 20 seconds.

Gridlock. No one's going anywhere fast. The traffic blockage drives you nuts, but you try to grin regardless. You have gotten so many "nice. car, man" comments from the Volvo drivers that both you and Farrah's egos have slipped into overdrive. Ultimately, though, it gets old. You're bored by hearing how nice your auto's. You wanna FEEL how nice she is , and in this traffic, how can you? You haven't even been out of second gear yet! You've got to MOVE!

Speed isn't Farrah's only high quality. She maneuvers like... Well... Like a goddamn Ferrari! Whenever you see an opening in traffic, you seize it. Initially, you ensure there's a ton of space, but shortly ANY amount of space is enough as long as it moves you forward. Other drivers stop saying "nice car" and start to say "watch it, asshole!"

"Fuck them," Farrah says. "They're just envious, baby."

Finally, you come upon a stretch of open highway, just begging to be devoured. You stomp Farrah's accelerator and straight away know that what she announced is right. Who wouldn't be jealous of this speed? This freedom?

"At last!" she screams as you tear away from the nightmare traffic behind you. The wind whips your hair as the speedometer climbs. This is what she's BUILT to do, you tell yourself. It's just you and Farrah and all's well internationally. You drive off into the sunset, victorious, like in the films.

But real life isn't the films, and nightfall only means the day's close, not the end of the film. You pull into your garage and park Farrah for the night. You have to work in the morning, but you are too wired to sleep. You try watching Television. You try a steaming shower. Nothing works. Sleep just will not come, not with Farrah calling to you from the garage.

"Sleep is for those Volvo people," she asserts, spitting out the word Volvo like it had the arsenic taste of bitter almonds. "You're better than them, baby. All that you need is me. Come on. Let's go for a drive."

But you know better. You have been down this road before. With the help of a few Benadryl, you ignore her voice and drift off, but your sleep is not like real sleep. Your body is motionless but your mind spins like a shrieking tire. Dreams and fact melt together for one or two fitful hours of sleep and traffic bad dreams.

You are awake long before dawn, but you push yourself to stay in bed until the alarm goes off an hour later, then you are up in a flash. You sing in the shower. You skip breakfast. You rush to the garage to find Farra waiting.

"Good morning, baby," she is saying. "Ready to play?"

"Are you?" you ask, smiling as you sink into a child leather bucket seat that fits you like a glove. You deftly slip your key in her ignition and give it a twist. As you pull on your driving gloves, the temperature gauge starts to rise. "Like that, do you?"

"Sailor baby, you get me hotter than Georgia asphalt," she purrs.

You bet your sweet ass I do, you believe as the garage door rises to release you from your jail. Your place isn't your place. Here with her. This is home. Here's where you belong.

Now, there are 2 other ways this eventuality can end?


The garage door is hardly up before you're skidding out of the garage and into... Another fucking traffic jam! No! No no no no NO NO NO!!! You honk madly. Farrah's engine growls at any Volvos who get too near. The admiration in the Volvo drivers ' eyes is gone. Today, they look upon you with fear as you fight your way through traffic, but who cares? They are just in your way, anyway, right? One Volvo tries to pull in front of you. You stomp the accelerator and he weaves out of your way nicely timed.

"My lane, asshole," you scream. "Mine!"

Your lane or not, the traffic light turns red and you are stuck. Time stands still. You scream and rev your engine, your foot to the floor, both you and Farrah quickly reaching redline. The temperature alert light comes on, but you ignore it. It just wants to slow you down, too. You smell oil smoke, but don't care.

"Go baby," Farrah shrieks. "Go! Go! GOOOO!"


Something snaps. Black smoke boils out of the engine compartment. Farrah's engine chokes and sputters as the light turns green. She has got enough strength to ease on the side of the road.

"This is all of your fault," she says, dying. You weep at what your anger has done.

The tow wagon guy clucks his tongue as he winches Farrah's front end into the sky. "Damn shame," he says. "Such a nice car."

In your mind, you finish his sentence. If only you knew how to treat it.

Welcome back to depression.

Or, it could end like this?


The garage door is hardly up before you are skidding out of the garage and onto the open road. Your foot to the floor, you quickly have Farrah over the speed limit, but fuck it There is no traffic, no cops, nothing except miles of open road. You cut each corner closer, but not because you're out of control. You do it because you are fucking amazing! Every move you make is the right move. The world is yours and everything is perfect...

. ...until you run right out of gas in the middle of nowhere during a thunderstorm and have to walk to the nearest payphone only to find you do not have any change, so you have got to walk all of the way back to your house. Once at your home, you reach into your pocket and find that you've lost your keys somewhere on the way.

Welcome back to depression.

George Carlin, one of the funniest men to ever live, once said the cliche ' phrase "more than satisfied" sounded like a medical problem. Well, it is...sometimes. "More than happy" is named euphoria, and euphoria is commonly an indication of a manic episode. Sometimes, bipolarity feels Superb. At the start of the upturn, you have hypomania, and hypomania can be very good. It's your chance to really shine.

Occasionally, when you are hypomanic, you are the life of the party - interesting, witty, friendly and filled with energy. Your intellect becomes razor sharp, your reflexes like those of a kung fu master. You make friends easily, accomplish incredible amounts of work, and have flashes of brilliance that shock and dazzle everyone around you. I LIKE it when hypomania works that way!

Sometimes , however , it does not. Sometimes when you're hypomanic, you are the total buzzkill - cranky, sour, sullen... And yet still filled with energy. Your mind is sharpened, but it's your tongue that is the razor. You are nerves are so nervous you twitch. Fine silk feels like sandpaper against your skin. You still have that eager focus, but all you concentrate on is the neighbor's goddamn stereo and if you had one oz. less of self-control, you'd crash right over and push the thing straight up his ass. But that wouldn't sort the problem, because dammit, you're pissed and you are going to stay that way. I Hate it when hypomania works that way... it's almost worse than depression.

Now, if you're type II bipolar like me, hypomania is the ceiling. You hit it, stay there for anywhere from one or two hours to a couple of weeks (dependent on how rapidly you cycle) and then spiral back down into depression. If you're type I bipolar, then hypomania is just the beginning.

Hypomania basically means "little mania," so for a full-tilt manic episode, take my description of hypomania and magnify it exponentially: the infrequent restless nights becomes days on end without sleep; the infrequent ego trip gives way to full-blown narcissism and delusions of grandeur; euphoria becomes psychosis; irritability becomes rage and anxiety becomes outright paranoia. Some even experience hallucinations.

Regardless of how high the ladder goes, unless you drop dead from exhaustion (which does occur occasionally) or wrap your Ferrari around a tree (yes, those on the upswing really do tend to speed) then you are likely to find yourself right back where you started. For some, that is a relatively normal mood. For others, it's welcome back to depression. Hope that you liked the ride.

And on that note, I am hoping you, my readers, have liked the ride. I will be taking a break from this blog now, but I am sure I'll be back I have got so many other stories, poems, screenplays and articles to write. I've got sketches to draw and music to compose. I have a life without bipolar disorder... or at least a life without thinking about it all the time.

The single thing I would like you to remember most of all is that no One IS A Disease. They're folks with an illness. Their illness isn't their life, at least not unless they allow it to be. Do not do that, folks. It sucks. Be people. People are OK unless they will not turn their goddamn stereos down.

Keep fighting, folks!

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1 comment:

Tahir said...

This is an excellent page about the other side. My son was a bipolar and he left us in May 2007. One of the main reason of coming on Squidoo is to share the writings of Moody my son. The idea was to tell people what went inside the mind of a person with suicidal tendencies. he never showed any signs or may be we failed. Now after 5 years I am sharing his writings his poems as I keep writing. It was not until he passed away I came to know about this ailment. Sharing is good and hope it will help.