I’ve been having an issue since I first got diagnosed as having bipolar illness. I didn’t know how to tell when I was being manic. I understood hypomania: a sub-manic state that for most bipolar patients indicates something just above what the rest of humanity would just call “happy”. Think of “happy” and then make it super productive and lacking a need for sleep. This has been the part of my psyche most visible to my friends and family over the years, who have repeatedly and frequently remarked just how fucking much I can get done in a very short amount of time. And not done shittily, either. Done right. I’ve been impressing employers with this ability since I was about 17 (about the same time that, in retrospect, I realize the mania kicked in).
That’s hypomania, and it’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to get bipolar people to stay on their damned meds. Hypomania rocks. Really, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about it. Other than the fact that it almost inevitably leads to mania, or crashes you back into depression. Still, until the last few weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you when I was being manic. Manic was just normal to me half the time. Yesterday, while staring at the sunset in my backyard after a frenzy of gardening that I was having a hard time making myself stop doing, I got it.
I stood there in the dying glow of the Central Texas sun and had a mental conversation with my psych nurse about how I was feeling and whether or not I should give him a call (which I’m supposed to do before he goes on vacation this week anyway). In my head I recalled one of the last things he said to me before our appointment was over, which was that it is extremely difficult for people like me, who grew up as the only stable member of the household, to fucking ask for help. We’re simply too used to doing everything ourselves and just don’t trust anyone. Which is why, I’m guessing, that it took me until the age of almost 40 to do just that, ask for help. So there I was, compulsively wandering around my backyard (which looks amazing, I might add), having a mental conversation with someone who was not there. I stopped in fear for a moment and suddenly realized: girl, you’re totally manic. Seriously, hon, you’ve gone around.the.bend.
I stopped what I was doing and just stood there for a couple of minutes staring into the sunset that was far more colorful than it ought to have been for a normal person and let that sink in, along with the realization that, yes indeed, this has been happening regularly and cyclically for about 22 years. It didn’t occur to me to think anything was wrong with it because it was just normal to me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt crazier, for lack of a better word. Then I had another mental conversation, with myself this time, about that last thing that we talked about: about asking for help.
I couldn’t do it. I have carte blanche to call this man 24/7 as long as he’s in the country, and I could NOT dial the phone. Now, I realize that just having a mental conversation isn’t reason enough to judge myself as being manic, but there were many more indicators. It’s one thing to imagine talking with someone about something; it’s quite another to practically be there in your head. It’s one thing to watch the sunset; it’s quite another to be painfully aware of the colors and sounds, almost like taking LSD. It’s one thing to be working on a project; it’s quite another to be so energized that even when the project is done, you’re still scrounging for something to do.
I’m not sure if these are things that will even out the longer I’m on my various meds (I’m up to four now), and as I was detailing in my previous post “I Get It Now“, I’m not entirely sure I want them to, because as much as I dislike feeling nutty, I dislike feeling nothing even more. And maybe that’s why I didn’t make that phone call. Maybe I’m afraid of what all that means: things I’m too anxious to share even here, where I seem to feel almost zero inhibition at sharing my life with the world.
I’m also aware I have a history of being more anxious about things than is necessary. I may be doing just fine, but I wouldn’t know since I lack the context and perspective I need, and can only get if I make a phone call.