4 Things You Can Do To Curb Your Manic Symptoms

Your mind is racing, you’re not sleeping, you just maxed out your third credit card, and you’ve started scoping out properties for that brewery you’ve been planning (We’re going to be rich honey, I swear!).  Uh oh, it’s obvious- you’re manic as hell!

It starts young.

Alright, but your wife told you that you can’t quit your job to start that brewery, so what now?  Well, here are four tips I use when trying to quell that loud mind:

…(Oh, and obviously, listen to your doctor and take any prescribed medications).

#1: Put the Drink Down

This one’s tough.  It’s very common for people like you and me who suffer with bipolar disorder to self-medicate with alcohol.  Trust me, I know.

The thing is, you really shouldn’t.

I’m not going to pretend to be holier than thou; this is one I struggle with in particular.  There’s a reason I listed it as number one.

But of course you shouldn’t drink alcohol in excess if you suffer from bipolar disorder (or really at all). It’s a depressant drug that has a significant effect on mood.  This one’s obvious.

So why are you drinking then?

Well, let’s be honest, it’s hard not to drink.  I mean, it’s the end of a shitty day at work.  You and your colleagues just got over the hump.  What do we do now?  Drink.  

Happy birthday!  How do we celebrate?  Drink.

Happy Friday!  Drink.

But it becomes a problem when:

“Hi Daddy!  Can we… – ” Drink.

I’ve found that the urge to drink often passes like a wave.  When experiencing the intense urge to drink, maybe instead you could:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Call you parents, or another loved one.
  • Read a book.
  • Play video games.
  • Take a bath.
  • Drink some tea.
  • Tell your friends you’re cutting down on drinking.  Or if you’re too proud…
  • Tell your friends you’re on some crazy diet (that your wife’s making you do… ugh!) and you’re not allowed to drink.  For some reason we’re not allowed to talk about alcoholism or mental illness, but you can definitely talk about whatever diet craze you’re dabbling in.

Another one that works great for me is:

#2: Better Yourself – Learn Something New

Your thoughts are racing, you’re not sleeping, your brain is on overdrive.  If you can, focus that, and use it to your advantage.  Learn something new!

Personally, when I’m experiencing a period of mania, I like to use that energy to obtain new knowledge, or a new skill.

It’s the 21st century.  There’s no excuse for not knowing anything.  They call this the information era for a reason; you can learn anything online!  Why not use your overclocked mind to your advantage.

Yes, I understand that this is not a silver-bullet for everybody, and it comes with its own drawbacks.  But it’s better than a lot of other things you could be doing.  And honestly, what better use for your time, what surer investment, than increasing your own knowledge?

#3: Spend Time With Loved Ones – Do Something Different

If you have young kids then congratulations!  You’re not the only one with an inordinate amount of excess energy needing to be burned off.  Why not do something with them?

Go somewhere new.  Try something new.  Go out to eat.  Go for a walk.  Switch it up a bit!

No kids?  Do something with friends, your wife, your girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever.  Just don’t spend all your time alone trying to keep it on the rails by yourself.

And lastly…

#4: Talk it Out, Sleep On It

This one applies if you’re thinking about doing something… well, something stupid.  Like buying that BMW right now.  Or quitting your job today.

Talk about what you’re wanting to do with someone you trust.

I find talking to my wife helps when I’m thinking of doing something particularly rash.  Sometimes just saying it out loud will make me realize that quitting my job and moving out of state to start selling bicycle parts out of the back of my mini-van is probably a very terrible idea.  Otherwise, if I don’t reach that conclusion myself she’ll help me find the right path.

Being patient, sleeping on it (if you’re sleeping) can help too.  Anything that slows you down and makes you think through a big decision is important – especially if you identify that you’re experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode.

In conclusion…

These are things that help me.  Your mileage may vary.

What helps you?

 

 

 

 

 

Mania: My Superpower

You know, mania might be considered a kind of superpower.  Just check out some of these benefits!

  • Learn much faster than the average person.
  • Full energy with just a couple hours of sleep.
  • Suppressed appetite.
  • Accelerated weight-loss.
  • Greatly enhanced productivity, critical-thinking, and innovation leading to promotions and financial rewards.
  • A suddenly outgoing personality.
  • and so much more!

What’s not to like?  This superpower has enabled me to become more successful in 5 years than most people will be in their entire careers.  I’ve learned more things than a lot of people will learn in a lifetime.

My other superpower.

Here’s the thing though:

I’d give it up in a heartbeat if I could.

The truth is I’m sick of manic-me leaving depressed-me hung out to dry.  Manic-me promises greatness and elevates me above mere mortals, only to abandon me, and make me watch as it all crumbles like a house of cards.

No, not that house of cards.  And damn you Kevin Spacey.
That’s better.

Manic-me got a great job that depressed-me has absolutely no interest in doing.  I can barely get out of bed each day knowing the job that lies ahead of me.  Now what?

Manic-me tempted me with the joys of countless hobbies and skills from brewing beer, to programming video games, to playing the piano.  Each time I was abandoned on the cusp of discovering joy… on the cusp of growing a curiosity into a passion.  Each time I have been deceived by mania’s lies, then forced to watch as an all-consuming pursuit decays into nothing; it’s like watching a loved one waste away before your eyes, and I know it will happen again and again.

I’m reminded of the Greek myth of Tantalus, who was made to suffer for eternity by standing in a pool of water below a low hanging fruit tree.  Each time he reached for the fruit, the branches would recoil such that he could never satisfy his hunger.  Each time he bent down to drink, the water would drain away such that it was always just out of reach.

tantalus
Image not altered in any way.

I am a modern day Tantalus, constantly denied the fruit of a true, sustainable passion or purpose – forced to decay for eternity, just beyond the reach of what could sustain me.

If you have bipolar disorder I urge you to please not fool yourself.  Mania is not a superpower.  It’s a purveyor of false hopes, and a truly devastating partner to the destruction that depression already wreaks.

Becoming Bipolar

How does someone “become” bipolar?

For the first 28 years of my life I had no idea I had bipolar disorder.  Bipolar was a word you called your high school girlfriend when she was mad at you for “no reason” (Bro, she’s totally bipolar.  One day we’re good, next day she’s mad for no reason… oh, also I guess prom was last night?)

But really, how nuts is that?  My whole life I was just a smart, quiet dude, who was constantly being told I could do better than whatever mediocre effort I was marshaling at the time.  I had flashes of brilliance, flashes of energy, flashes of productivity and then…

Nothing.

I fall flat on my face.

I’ve started 1000 things and finished maybe 10.  That’s a pretty shitty record.  I’ve been a sometimes musician, artist, chemist, programmer, brewer, an on and on… you name it and I’ve probably tried it – hell, not just tried it but got pretty damn good at it.  But then…

 

My head is too damn big!

Finally, at 27 I convinced myself that I had ADHD.  Adults can have that right?  I mean it made sense, I couldn’t focus on a damn thing – that’s why I never finished anything!  My web browser always has 27 tabs open (16 at the time of this writing), I’ve got 6 separate emails started to 6 different people at work, and I’ve rewritten this goddamn sentence 8 times! (Also did you know you can change the color of the font?  Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know that?  DID YOU?!  Oh shit, right, back to the post…)

So I swallowed back a healthy dose of toxic masculinity fueled apprehension and fear of doctors (or anyone that might “know better”… or you know, women) and went to get help.  And Then I was diagnosed with major depression.

I actually look just like this.

Not exactly what I was expecting, but maybe it made sense.  I mean, I have a pretty negative outlook on… well, everything.  I’d always said I was simply realistic, but that’s just clever branding; negative is much more accurate.

So I took the meds, and wouldn’t you know it I got better!  Everything was great – until it wasn’t.  The depression came right back, the meds didn’t make a difference.  But then a month later I felt better again… so maybe it did work after all!  But then it came back.

I attempted to reason with myself: maybe my depression was just a reaction to the normal circumstances of life – I mean, that’s normal… right?

It wasn’t until about a year later when I finally hit a particularly low point that I decided to see a therapist – not just my primary care doctor.  That’s when the diagnosis came: I was suffering from bipolar disorder.

Oddly, this is the most accurate depiction of bipolar disorder I’ve ever seen.

And really for the first time everything made sense.  I’d been displaying symptoms since at least the 6th grade when I overheard my history teacher tell another student, “That’s Matt.  Matt’s an underachiever.”

I’d give my all to something just to give it up a month later.  I’d learn some new skill, some new job, some new task, just to abandon it.  I’d lose 30 pounds, then gain 50.  Every period of achievement in my life has been followed by a period of despair and regression.

Science has helpfully devised the following chart to illustrate this:

Interactions with a bipolar man
Science called – they’re pissed that your axes don’t have units.

 

So that’s how I “became” bipolar.  Turns out I had been all along.  And that’s a crazy revelation.