People describe mania as happiness, but it’s an inept description, much like trying to characterize the black void of depression as “sadness.”
Mania is much like having too much life pulsing inside you. It’s so strong that it keeps you awake, makes you angry, pressures you to talk too much, peaks your desire for sex, for clothes, for alcohol. It is a ‘high’ that feesl like a drug. Except you haven’t gone to a party and swallowed MDMA.
You are you, just a sped up, wound up, riled up version of yourself.
The manic-depressive stereotype is that we start to feel “great” and go off our medication to feel even better. But for me, and I am certain for others, this is not the case. (Hypo)mania is frightening. As good as I feel, I remember what it was like to be fully manic, and I do something to nip it in the bud, so to speak.
These past few days, I started to notice some of my key ‘mania-is-coming red flags’ in addition to the typical list of symptoms (not sleeping or eating enough, for example).
Here’s my short list, which I’ve talked about before:
—Feeling Too Attractive.
When I look in the mirror and think to myself, ‘I look really good,’ I know there may be a problem on the horizon.
—Drafting Angry Emails
I under no circumstances send rude or angry emails at work. But I do dream them up and draft them. And then I notice that my anger may have much more to do with my state of mind than what’s going on around me. This isn’t always the case, but it often is.
—Losing My Train of Thought Mid-Sentence
I find myself saying to someone, “wait a second, what was I talking about?”
—Contemplating the Purchase of a Very Expensive Something
This is a traditional symptom. But I’ve come to notice my specific tendencies. Usually I decide I need something like a new computer.
—Talking to Myself
I find myself imagining arguments and rehearsing responses aloud. Speeches I plan to make to my boss or a colleague about a problem I’m having at work, for example.
And so even though I want, sometimes, more than anything, to give into it—stay up all night, skip the medication, stop eating, make some bad decisions—I don’t. Instead, I make sure I get sleep and stay on my medication.
That said, during this hypomanic time, I have energy and ideas and enthusiasm about the world. It’s what got me started writing on this blog again. My problem is that once the high subsides, my lizard brain tells me what I’m doing is stupid. That people would make fun of me if they found out. That this would hurt my professional career. And on and on and on.
So, I’m saying it here loud and clear and if I fuck it up I fuck it up publicly. For at least the next 30 days I am commiting to posting once a day on this blog. I don’t care if it has to be one sentence. I’ve been inspired by Seth Godin’s idea of shipping instead of succumbing to the lizard:
Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.
Skip meetings. Often. Skip them with impunity. Ship.
Trick the lizard if you must, but declare war on it regardless. Understand that the only thing between you and the success you seek in a chaotic world is a lizard that figures out that safe is risky and risky is safe. The paradox of our time is that the instincts that kept us safe in the day of the saber tooth tiger and General Motors are precisely the instincts that will turn us into road kill in a faster than fast internet-fueled era.
The resistance is waiting. Fight it. Ship.
So that’s what I’m going to do. The really hard, seemingly impossible part of this, will be achieving this goal when my mood dips down. Nevertheless, I think I can do this.
(As I type this I start to think, “god–this post started off talking about mania and now I’m talking about shipping. Jesus I need to revise but it’s already 10 o’clock and I have to turn the computer off and go to bed. My plan was to schedule the post for the morning to get to work on time, but maybe I should save it as a draft and review it in the morning and then hit publish.”)
And then I say to myself, SHIP!