In a perfect world, there would be no mood disorders. I would be a reasonable, emotionally stable person: happy when you’re supposed to be happy, sad when you’re supposed to be sad, and the rest of the time, a contented medium. But I don’t live in a perfect world, and as such, I’m a bloody mess a good portion of the time.
I’m a manic depressive. I cycle through ups and downs not unlike a pendulum that swings back and forth. Sometimes, though, I swing over to one side and the pendulum freezes in midair, hangs for a while in that position, before swinging back the other way. Coping with my moods often means hanging out in either an amplified or a depressed state, just waiting for the switch to get hit. In those moments, I find myself thinking that between the two, I’d much rather be depressed.
Depression is a cool lagoon, contemplative and serene with it’s dark, unfathomable depths. It washes over and caresses me, encourages me to be silent, withdrawn, creative. Depression shuts my mouth and opens my eyes. Be invisible. Observe. It says. Depression makes me tired and encourages me to sleep. To take naps. To lie still with my eyes open and day dream. It is calm, relaxed, and above all, resigned. While I am adrift in these waters, there is nothing to do, nothing to say. There is only the wait (the weight) — because I know that eventually the cowl will be removed from over my mind. I need only be patient and not give in to the sadness. Feel the waves wash over me, and not let the current drag me under. I feel well-equipped to handle my depression.
But then there is the other end of the spectrum. The Mania. The spark, the fire, the catapultic launch from the cool, contemplative waters of depression into the frenetic nuclear combustion of the sun. It consumes me, every inch of flesh suddenly alight and crawling. My every thought transforms into a long run-on sentence, there is a frenzy underneath my skin, in my head, in my chest. A need to go in all directions at once. All of my reactions are on a hair-trigger; one false move and like a match to a trail of gasoline fumes, I go up in flames.
My body trails along like a flag hung off of the back of the roller coaster that my mind is riding. Up, down, side-to-side, whipping in the air currents, fraying at the edges. My mind races and with it my heart pounds in my chest: fight or flight activated but there is no danger. The only immediate threat comes from the beast ravaging my mind.
Mania is an assault on my senses. The frenzy of my mind overtakes and disables me — I need to do everything, and therefore find myself paralyzed, unable to do anything but imagine all the ways shit can go wrong (Oh, hello anxiety disorder, glad you could join the party). In how many ways can I obsessively envision my loved ones coming to harm? How shall I plan and create contingencies for all the ways in which life is about to become up-ended? Allow me now to sit here and wait for the sound of the other shoe dropping.
Mania feels like no end in sight. My mind will continue to race like this, my heart to pound like this, until I hit some proverbial or physical wall that will arrest my ascent. Until then, I’m just along for the ride. But all that energy has to go some where — blood will out. So maybe I clean the bathroom grout with a toothbrush. Maybe I binge eat myself sick. Maybe I take it out on my own self, picking away at nails, flesh, and other offending tissues until the beast is satisfied with her pound of flesh.
Mania forces me to eat myself alive in mind and in body.
When does this ride end? I want off.
I don’t feel all together prepared to manage prolonged bouts of mania. Maybe medication would help, but being a breast-feeding mother of a six-month-old, I’m not willing to take the chance that she could wind up medicated too. Therapy is also only helpful up to a point. I can’t see my shrink every time I find myself flung up into the air by a manic episode. I work my way through the calming techniques, the breathing exercises, the threat assessments that he has trained me on, and I try to remain patient.
This, too, will end. My new mantra: This, too, will end.