The switch up: a manic episode

CW: manic and depressive episodes of bipolar affective disorder

You know those type of false epiphanies? The kind that tell you this is your dream and what you have always wanted to do, but ultimately, they are catering to a certain need or want in that precise moment? That’s pretty much hypomania for me.

On the 28th of March 2018 I decided to create a blog and try my hand at content creation slash writing. I’ve loved every bit of it, but also on the 28th of March 2018 I was in a hypomanic episode, one which hit the dizzying heights where I remember proclaiming “I don’t even think I have bipolar anymore, I think they got it all wrong”.

Oh, you sweet, naïve little boy.

Those kind of episodes are a trip, your confidence sky rockets, you’re resolute in your every thought and deliver on your tiniest of whims. You’re a god in your eyes and never wrong. You’re righteous and magnanimous, following the fair and just moral compass. Yeah, it’s wacky.

I kept saying to my therapist that “I’m waiting for the downward dip” i.e. depressive episode. Yet, I was actually telling myself that I was cured – some might call this delusional, I prefer aggressively optimistic. Either way, it never came. One week, two, a month, five and a half weeks. I was finally slapped out of it by someone who seemingly had hulk sized hands.

Depressive episodes are depressing, I don’t ache with tiredness or stop washing.

I can’t read, I can only take in audio or visual stimuli – so I switch to documentaries (and most recently, podcasts). I lose the joy of cooking, so it’s just hand food or take out. I can’t exercise as my energy levels are so low and I find any excuse to be in bed by 9pm.

I had all of this but with the added bonus of anxiety surrounding my imminent move. For reasons eternally boring and regressive to the conversation, moving home is a big deal for me and I don’t have the support network – or ability – to do it without a serious head fuck, so, I have been self-medicating. I’ve drunk almost every night for 3 weeks – alone or otherwise – and over indulged in caffeine. It’s not been fun. I am hundreds of pounds poorer and quite literally in worse health than I was a month ago.

But I see a certain silver lining to this black cloud: clarity. In not being able to read, I am also unable to write, so my blogging and other activities have been on hiatus. However, there has been a looming uncertainty to what I’m doing. Being fuelled by hypomanic energy means that basically anything done in that time is a different me. I had that quite simply pointed out to me in this hard-hitting article.

Never have I read something so relatable around bipolar (ironically, also, 10 minutes after reading this I did a 360 and convinced myself that I don’t have bipolar as bad as her and should stop complaining – can I catch a break?).

“I will admit that I am not well. That writing this, right now, I am not well. This will colour the writing.”

This will colour the writing. Bipolar, or I guess hypomania, is that black gloopy stuff in the inkwell. It changes my narrative, my story, my actions and my thoughts. It’s the reason I’ve bought one-way tickets across the world and the reason I’ve put myself into dangerous positions with strangers. The reason I’ve been most successful at various times of life and the reason I have ultimately crashed and burned. It colours my writing, quite literally, every time I sit down at my computer.

I miss the concise thinking of mania, the strength of will behind my words and the bolstering of my convictions. They don’t fade once I’m out of the episode, they lay dormant, biding their time.

Yet, I like these moments too. With age, and experience, I have gained a slight advantage as I do ultimately know what’s coming. It isn’t much use when you believe your actions more than your thoughts, but it’s a comfort when reflecting weeks later. A poignant point of that article remains:

“When friends decades older tell me off for saying that I am old, at 28, what I mean is: I haven’t achieved all the things I could have done without this illness. I should have written a book by now. I should have done so many things! All the time, I feel I am playing catch-up. Always. I worry, and most of the literature tells me, that I will have this problem for life. That it will go on, after the hashtags and the documentaries and the book deals and Princes Harry and William – while the NHS circles closer to the drain.”

So, as I sit here reflecting on what my next steps are, I think of where I could be – where I want to be – and what I should be doing to realise those things. I know I don’t want to stop writing or annoying people with my blog, but I need to refine and reduce my output to ensure that it is sustainable within different episodes of life (and mental illness). I need to actively start putting my money where my mouth is and channel this energy into something that will bring more lucrative returns – as we can’t pretend we don’t need money.

I also need to be content with change and being wrong, I can’t always be in control of what I do or what happens to me, but I can be in control of how those things are perceived or how they become perpetual to my being.

Changing the name of my website and reducing what I put out there doesn’t detract from what I ultimately want to do, it just alters it. Being able to walk away from something and focus harder on another element is actually what I’d call progress.

Go me, progress.

Perhaps I’ll open an ice-cream shop in my next episode. Stay tuned.

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