Bipolar is no joke, yet there is nothing in the world that makes me laugh more than my own rapid-cycling existence.
Yes, I’m a rapid cycler. One of those. Like a bread machine with a setting to cut the time of making bread in half, only I never come out fully done. There’s a spectrum even for bipolar and I fall on the more extreme end of all things. Not only do I cycle fast, I have mixed cycles within a single day, and as if that isn’t bad enough, the real cherry on the cake is that I also get to cycle seasonally. It’s like pulling off a really cool trick you have no control over.
When I’m not out of my mind, I’m having an out of body experience where I get to watch the entirety of my whole sad condition play out as if I am both the ringmaster and lion in a circus under a big striped tent. Every cycle makes me feel like a ragdoll thrown into a washing machine.
Boom boom doosh doosh boom
You’re all fucked up now! Of course I don’t get the satisfaction of having any real bruises or broken bones show up at the end. It leaves me with a vague sense of not really knowing what has just happened to me.
Even now as I type this out, I can’t stop laughing. This morning I woke up in tears. I didn’t wake up and then begin crying. I woke up already crying. Talk about escalating quickly. Life’s too short to live the same day twice, if you ask me. Screw that, what am I talking about? Life’s too short to carry a single emotion from one hour to the next.
One of my biggest preoccupations at the moment is what is stability? What is bipolar? You’d think I’d be something of an expert on the topic. As it is, I was handed a diagnosis neatly labeled and putting me into a categorization I hadn’t even known existed. Here I thought we all cycled at some point or another. I didn’t notice stability had been absent from my life, until someone told me it is absent from my life. So I’m not really sure how to talk about “being” bipolar yet. I’m still absorbing the part where I am different on some astronomical level.
Intelligence is lethal for bipolar. When it became clear the feds weren’t going to show up and bust down my door, I started concocting more elaborate scenarios to explain what is called an “impending sense of doom.” Mind you, I had experienced this emotion in the months leading up to the pandemic, but nobody likes a know-it-all. Otherwise admirable traits such as a “bottomless imagination” only work against me. Going to the grocery store to buy some milk could turn into an episode of espionage at any given moment. I’ve had one such manic episode before.
People think depression means you’re not able to leave your bed. The only reason I stay in bed are in the rare moments I can’t block out all of the voices in my head, which, as it also turns out, is not a normal human feature. Supposedly. What is normal? Maybe it’s normal to hear voices, and it’s not normal to only hear yourself all day long. When I’m depressed, I want to do the most dangerous, absolutely destructive things I can come up with. I might cliff jump today, go on an adrenaline trip, see if I can’t jolt some feeling back into my body.
Depression also means you’re supposed to lose interest in your favorite activities. I simply find a way to poison my favorite activities. Instead of losing interest in reading, I pick the most abhorrent books available to me about sociopathy and murder, stuff to leave me with nightmares because I have an incredibly high impulse for inflicting as much damage on myself as possible. My psyche is nowhere near as scarred as it could be.
I guess there’s also rumors or these stigma things that people who are bipolar are dangerous. I’m about as dangerous as a teddy bear. I engage in as much air pollution and tree-cutting and global warming as the rest of the world. I recycle, though. I don’t have any human connections. I’m highly introverted and prefer isolation to a hermetic degree, probably to keep everyone else safe. However, it doesn’t change the inner feeling I get when I find out people are jealous, of all things, jealous they don’t get the “bursts of energy” that come with mania. I do not wield a super power.
Mania is exhausting. When I experience mania for more than a few days at a time, exacerbated by sunny days and at its worst in the summer, it feels like walking through a desert without any water. You are just waiting for the rain to come. It’s like a long day at the beach. When you get in the car, you have sand in places you didn’t even know existed. There’s a gritty, metallic taste in your mouth. You smell like lake water and there’s gross algae in your hair. All you want to do is shower, wash the whole day off of you and start over. Finally coming down from a manic streak is like finally getting that shower or drink of water you so desperately need. There’s a tangible release from your body. You’re left with muscle aches and a sore body because you’ve been tense the whole time. Since you can’t keep the mania from happening, all you can do is let it keep you on your toes. It’s a balancing act to not lose even more control than you already feel you’ve lost. It’s very easy to slip outside of yourself when you’re manic. Like a cat chasing a laser on the wall, only you’re too aware to want to watch yourself look that stupid.
Any direction is good if you don’t know where you’re going is not advice for someone who is manic. They’re already lost on a map they drew for themselves.
Let me tell you something. There are rabbit holes in the world, and we all fall down them at one point. My entire life is a rabbit hole. Very rarely do I suffer from any lack of energy whatsoever. The difference with mania is that your energy is not being focused on the task at hand. I have to use most of my energy to direct my impulses before I even focus on what task I am doing, which hopefully, is a task I should be doing, and I haven’t completely found myself lost in Wonderland yet wondering what way to go. Granted, coming from a recovering addiction, the euphoria that sometimes accompanies mania is like seeing an old friend. But it’s a false high. I can reach the same levels of optimism, bliss, and euphoria from writing a good poem on a lucid day.
Have you ever gone to church on a day you didn’t want to be in church? You start to get antsy towards the end of the sermon, right before the closing prayer, and you’re already halfway off the chair, ready to bolt the minute you hear “Amen.” Most of bipolar is dealing with that feeling of always being on the edge of your seat, prepared to jump ship at any moment. It’s rarely smooth sailing. You might make it to harbor, or you might get shipwrecked. If it’s my life, there might be a siren not too far away deliberately trying to lure you to your death. (He’s really a very cute siren, though.)
Impulsive spending is another feature. Bipolar opens a lot of gaps in your reasoning. For example, whenever I get this urge, I prepare for the Apocalypse. I buy things the house needs, like soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, and hair products. If I don’t buy what I want, I can justify the spending. What I can’t do is change the fact that this urge to be productive, to leave the house, to feel prepared won’t go away until I act on the impulse. It’s primal instinct, really. Even squirrels store nuts for a winter day, you know?
Speaking of instincts, I forget to eat. Something about mania overrides the body’s natural functions, like sending out hunger cues. Not eating in and of itself leads to physical symptoms everyone experiences. Like maybe you want to pass out. Or you can barely walk. You feel nauseous and dizzy and your legs and arms shake. Sometimes this happens anyways. For some reason, mania takes away physical strength and coordination. Not only is my walking unsteady, but I can’t carry as many plates at work. Usually I can stack a few plates on my arm, they’re heavy, but if I am manic, I lose the ability. I might go to put a dish into the tub and miss. The plate falls and breaks. Typically I don’t do these things. I might push a door that needs to be pulled.
Apparently bipolar is called a “burden” I get to carry that nobody else does, even though we’re all expected to function at the same level. Well, I’m functioning. At least Sisyphus got to push the boulder. Personally, I see being bipolar as the punchline to my life. For right now. I suppose the next time I sit down to write about bipolar, I’ll be somewhere along the “suicidal ideation” end of the spectrum.
I might not, though. It just depends on my mood.