Friday, September 23, 2011

What Mania Means to Me (A Guest Post)

I've been following more blogs lately and discovered this awesome thing called a "Guest."  One of the new writers I most enjoy is The Klonopin Chronicles. She is funny and honest, but mostly she is a good writer. And I am tickled that my first Guest Post goes to her:

What Mania Means to Me

The hallmark of mania for me is how I feel like a superhero, super creative, super smart and witty (why I created a page to dazzle you with).  When I was on a manic "high," I used to say that I didn't need to eat or sleep because I was bionic.  I got really angry with people who said I was wrong to feel that way and that I needed to go to the hospital and take meds so that I wouldn't.  I would get so angry that I would snarl at them and claw and hiss and refuse to get out of the car.  Wouldn't you?  After I was finished the treatment that stopped that wonderful, invincible, genius feeling, I would stop the stopping by not taking my meds, carousing until all hours of the night, telling anyone who would listen my bright new ideas that tied up every loose end in the universe with one beautiful bow.  Making plans to go to medical school and finish in record time because then they'll have to believe me when tell them that there is nothing wrong with being manic.

Now I can recognize when I'm starting to feel like that, and I know I have to nip it in the bud, so I let my husband know (like he can't tell) and I go see the shrink or get extra support or whatever.  It is the hardest thing in the world to voluntarily let go of feeling like that, but I know I have to because as great as the high feels, the low is going to suck even more, if that's possible.   So I take meds and gather my loved ones around me and let everyone know.  I have to stay in the middle, which is boring, stable and healthy.  But most of all, safe.

Because I *have* to avoid the downside.   I have to keep passing the open windows (thank you, John Irving).  Simply have to.  As good as feeling good feels?  That is nothing compared to how bad feeling bad feels.  The hallmark of depression for me is not wanting to be here. I don't think about suicide per se.  I don't want to die.  I just want not to be here.  Everything I've done wrong (which is basically everything), every mistake I've made, every conversation gone awry, every faux pas gathers together in magnified excruciation.  They jump on the conference table where the Committee is convening to determine exactly how worthless, no, *harmful* my presence on the planet has been.  As evidence of why I shouldn't be here.  Shouldn't *have been* here.  This whole time.

So.  Staying in the middle is a good thing.  Boring, but good.  Learning to feel my feelings, but not too much.  That's a tough one.  Because I feel my feelings.  A lot.  Possibly more than I should, whatever that means.  Some people don't feel their feelings at all.  Or try really hard not to, in whatever way they can. That's another topic for another time.  My job is to have that creative energy, but not too much.  And to channel it in ways that make me glad to be here.  And to let it be okay to feel sad, from time to time.  But if "worthless" pops up on the psychic horizon, it's time to blow the whistle.  Time to remember to do the things that help me, in addition to my meds.  Swimming.  Playing music.  Creating this page (or according to the Committee, "this stupid fucking page, how dare you think has any value whatsoever, you have some nerve, we can't believe we need to keep going over this").

I have a mantra that is blinding in its banality.  It's insultingly simple.  And yet it works for me.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my mantra comes from a sitcom (yeah I watch tv, I have teenagers, how can I not, don't judge) called "How I Met Your Mother."

"When I'm sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead.  True story." 

I wish I had known that years ago.  Decades, in fact.  True story.


  1. That committe never tires. You keep up the good fight. Lovely words to describe how all that feels. Be safe. A feeling is not fact. But this one is. I love Klonnie.

  2. Great post, KC! I've been struggling lately with the idea of going back on meds after being off of them for two years now. Thankfully, my extremes aren't quite as extreme as yours (I think). I used to be Even Steven on the meds, so I totally get what you're saying. Boring, but safe. The kicker now is that I've got more people in my life and under my care to potentially f*ck up, so I've got to take them into consideration. To medicate or not to medicate.

    I also think that, collectively, we're experiencing more and more inner turmoil, and it's not atypical to see depression and bipolar disorder rear their ugly heads. Part of me says go with the flow and be me, but the other part tells me to talk to my doctor.

  3. A very well written article which started with a very relevant topic name, "What Mania Means to Me".

    Too many people make the mistake of saying what mania "is" instead of correctly stating your experience as you did. It seems like you have found a strategy that is working well for you and it is great that you have shared it.

    In addition to UC's nice introduction about you, I would add that your brilliance shines very brightly.

  4. Thanks for a great post. As someone who, "yay" "gets to" struggle with bipolar, I could completely relate to what you wrote. This was perfect timing for me. I struggle with keeping myself from the mania because as you wrote it feels so great. Your post was a good reminder to me that while the high may feel pretty damn good for awhile, the fall-out is not so great.

    I also thank you for sharing because I believe the more people who can openly talk about this, the sooner we can lose the stigma associated with mental health issues.

  5. "People may feel out of control or unstoppable, or as if they have been "chosen" and are "on a special mission" or have other grandiose or delusional ideas."

    Well, it is a fact that we all live in a very crazy world. And when others don't understand something, they tend to create quick labels like "disorder". Certainly, there are some symptoms of the mania that are chaotic, but there is also a very high intelligence going on and there is an "order" to it.

    Why is drug abuse so prevalent in our society? Isn't that an artificial means to escape present "reality" to experience another dimension...freedom, release and openess?

    Mental health issues...I'll say. Who has the right to say that someone isn't "chosen", or "on a special mission" with "grandiose" or "delusionl ideas"?

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation ~ Henry David Thoreau

  6. Fantastic post, KC. Sorry it took me a few days to read it.
    I have often wondered if I am more than just depressed. I've been depressed to some degree since I was a teenager. I'd only been medicated for a short period of time when things were beyond difficult.
    Some days, I do feel like I could conquer the world, but most days it just feels like I'm stuck in quicksand and I'm sinking in slow-motion.
    I have zero motivation most of the time, and would be content to sit and do nothing day in and day out. That's not really possible for me, since I have a family to take care of, so I somehow manage to climb out of that quicksand sometimes and take care of them.
    I do often wonder if I should go back to therapy and get on some kind of meds. I would benefit from something, I'm sure.
    Thanks for talking about such a touchy subject.
    Keep writing! :)

  7. Wow. I have giant billboards that blazon my failures across my horizon. I've just always been a screw up. I have started to wonder, as an adult, if perhaps there might be something "wrong" with me besides the "attitude problem" my parents blamed everything on. I cling to hope that meds could "fix" me, but I am loathe to go in case the doctors side with my parents. Mina Klonopina, you are so very brave to share your heart with us.

  8. That final quote? My sister texted it to me one time, so I could look at it and smile whenever I was feeling down.

    I got rid of the phone, but I still imagine flipping it open and finding that quote when I need a pick-me-up.

    But that's an aside. I love this entry . . . but more than that, relate to it, although I'd never have put the pieces together just right without having read this.