This is probably going to be a weird post. As I sit at my keyboard I am a ball of tingling nerve endings that need to feel release—that need a high—that need to feel alive.
No, I’m not a junkie. I’m just manic.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—four months ago in San Jose to be exact—if I had been asked what mania was I would have said that it was sudden changes in mood: going from a low of some kind (depression) to a high (excitement or agitation). I linked the condition solely to emotion. That it had a significant behavior component never really occurred to me.
First question of the night: why am I boring you with ancient history? Well, long ago in that distant galaxy when I was employed and had reasonable transportation I engaged in a variety of impulsive behavior. If I was putting much thought into my decision making I don’t remember it. Nor do I have great recollections of my specific actions. I just did stuff. I spent money on things I didn’t really need (like my ever expanding book collection). I engaged in risky sex with men whose names I can’t remember. I drank excessively. I tried meth on four separate occasions. It was all a rush, and for a little while in some of those moments I actually felt alive.
But enough ancient history. Fast forwarding to December 2017 finds me relocated to Nevada. By this time I was filling out patient intake forms for my future counselor and meds doctor. I’d had plenty of opportunity to think about myself and my life; it turns out that that’s the sort of thing that’s easier accomplished while unemployed. I was brutally honest on that paperwork. There’s stuff on there that my closest friend and family members still don’t know. To make a long story short mania isn’t limited to sudden fluctuations in mood but can also be impulsive, irrational behaviors. And when it happens, the rational part of the brain isn’t the part that’s driving.
Every day sucks. That is the reality that greets me when I wake up. It is the knowledge I have when I go to bed. To an outside observer neither of these statements may be true. But as far as my heart, soul, and mind are concerned they are. I’m too frightened of death to end my life, but I take no pleasure in living it.
So where was I? I have the attention span of a hamster at the moment. I should probably eat at some point, too. But with limitless reserves of crazy to draw upon—and also soda—food is much less important.
I’ve long been an adrenaline junkie of sorts. It started with rollercoasters: the anticipation as the cars ascend the track and the rush as they plummet. But after repeated rides it becomes harder to get the same thrill. The rollercoaster love started when I was high school aged; I actually did not like them at all when I was younger.
Piercings were next. A ring in the cartilage of my ear. Then another. Then a couple in my lobes. Two industrials crossing each other through my ear cartilage. Both nipples. Had I not worked in a customer service industry I certainly would have done my eyebrows. There’s a rush. Anticipation before the actual piercing. The body doesn’t seem to quite know what’s going on so at least in the case of the ears there’s really no pain. But there is a momentary endorphin high. No lie, though…the nipples were incredibly painful and I drank away the pain after I had them done.
Back again! The piercings started in college and continued periodically until well into my thirties. I’ve wanted more for several months now, in fact. Typically a new piercing corresponded to my feeling particularly low. But seriously—how much of a rush can one expect from a piercing?
My pattern of random hookups started after college. The experiences got progressively more experimental as time went on. I think I was twenty-three when I moved to Austin. Things got bad in Austin. I’d sabotaged my life in college and the places I lived and worked immediately afterward but I’d never spent several years in one place effectively doing one thing. In Austin the spending of money became excessive—often threatening my ability to pay bills. The alcohol consumption is beyond my ability to quantify. And the sexual behavior became considerably riskier to the point where I often didn’t ask status and never used protection; the fact that I’m not HIV positive might be a minor miracle. I’ve long since lost count of partners. I couldn’t claim to know what I was thinking before or during the encounters. I’ve been messaged on more than one occasion by former partners who I had completely forgotten meeting up with. These hookups with men whose names I can’t remember were thrilling. Briefly thrilling to be sure. But obtained relatively easily and with almost no strings. The potential risk was like the adrenaline rush of that first drop on a new rollercoaster—but while blindfolded.
I swear I’ve gone AWOL for the last time—if for no other reason than I have a deadline for this thing. I also took a Xanax—my first of the day. I have been feeling anxious so I’m not misusing the medication, but I’d be lying if I said its ability to calm me down wasn’t a helpful side effect. Eventually I managed to detonate my life in Austin and was forced to move back to California and rely on family. I tried—I tried for a long time not to fall back into the same behaviors that had been following me. But no matter what I did, how hard I tried, and how much I pretended there was no changing who and what I was at the core. And all those behaviors—from rollercoasters to piercings to wasted money to random sex—followed me.
I even graduated to meth. And boy, if I hadn’t had a job that required at least the pretense of hard work, God only knows what I’d have done. There were four instances spread over five months, three of them sex related. No lie—while I was high on that shit it was the best I’d ever felt in my life. Coming down was horrible; it was my daily depression magnified by 1000. But for a little while it was like I knew what it felt like to be truly excited by life—to want to be alive. It was a chemically induced lie of course. And fleeting. As fleeting as everything else I’d ever done.
Assuming any readers have gotten this far I’m guessing the question of why I chose this topic has come to mind. As has why I decided to air as much dirty laundry as I did.
For the past four days I have been a bundle of outrageous energy that has no release. I can’t invite men over. I can’t go hook up at their place. I have no connection for drugs. I have very limited financial resources—though I was able to order a new book and that momentary thrill helped a little bit just as I’m sure it’s arrival on Wednesday will. The help is deceptive of course. It solves nothing. Nor would any of my old behaviors. But that’s not stopping me from wanting to engage in them.
I feel horrible. I threw a pack of batteries across the room the other day because I couldn’t get them open. I almost broke the television remote in half when I finally managed to get the batteries out of the package I had thrown. And it’s a miracle my laptop keyboard is intact with how much pounding I have used on stubborn keys. This is definitely the first time in my life I’ve experienced mania and recognized it for what it is. It might also be the first time I’ve been unable to do anything impulsive in response. I have no idea how a person can live like this. On the upside it’s keeping me awake and I’m getting writing done—when I can focus long enough to actually produce anything.
Maybe—maybe—if I had known that mania could manifest in this way I’d have realized much sooner that I had a condition requiring medical attention. I’m familiar with bipolar disorder; someone in my family has it. But what little I knew wasn’t enough to lead me to think I ever had more than minor depressive episodes. So perhaps someone finds this entry—or any of my others—and recognizes something of themselves in them. And perhaps that somebody realizes that they’re not alone and that seeking help is not a weakness. I’m not saying that this can make up for how my actions have hurt people or that I will be suddenly overjoyed if this happened. But were such a hypothetical person able to avoid the kind of damage I have both endured and inflicted then it might have been worth living after all.