Hypomania is (not) hilarious

This is the sixth week since I’ve been out of the clinic. It’s been going quite well, relatively speaking. The months preceding that were such a mess that anything would be better. Mostly I’ve been enjoying a happy medium between depression and hypomania, with occasional ups and downs. There are still things I’m struggling to deal with, like remembering what you were telling me just now, but that might also be a side-effect of the medication. You win some, you lose some. The thought that the medication might be working outweighs almost any negative side-effect.

Most people don’t know much about Bipolar Mood Disorder or its treatment at all. A friend recently described another bipolar person to me as “literally crazy”. He didn’t know about my diagnosis then. He does now (I have forgiven you). I’m a Type 2, which means the depressive episodes are longer and more frequent than the hypomanic ones. It’s a lot easier to explain to someone why depression might be a bad state to be in, even if they have never experienced it themselves. Nobody wants to be sad, right? It’s much more complicated than that, but even if you can grasp the concept of a sadness so deep its paralysing, we’re getting somewhere. I’ve written quite a bit about my own experience of depression, but not that much about hypomania. Part of that is the difficulty of describing it, and part of it is the fact that when I’m most creative I’m usually in a hypomanic episode, so I don’t realise what’s going on. Retrospectively I can identify two poems that deal with it in some way: Quantum Mirror and Duality.

When I describe hypomania in terms of creativity and link to those poems, it might be hard to understand how such an episode may be a bad thing. The problem is that, just like depression, hypomania takes over your life. All I want to do is create, anything and everything. You’ve only seen the poetry because I’ve somehow managed to maintain some sort of good sense in publishing those that I don’t absolutely hate. But I’ve tried out other forms of creation too, and some friends have had the unfortunate experience of bearing the brunt of that. Like that time I wanted to make music so bad (dude, I am so sorry about the horror I put you through, although in retrospect it’s quite hilarious and sad). Shit, I still do. Let me make it clear that I don’t know the first thing about making music and I cannot sing. I should not be allowed near these things. And then I started painting watercolours. Not because I went to art classes or had some aspiration, but because I just desperately felt the need to create something, and the writing wasn’t forthcoming.

During this time you usually think everything you’re making is bloody awesome too. Like man, I’m a fucking genius. I own this shit! Why am I not famous? You’re almost always wrong. Very wrong. (Seriously man, I am so sorry). I’ve decided to share some of these LOLs with you, cringe-worthy as they are, so that you can see just how bad it can get. They’ll be appearing in the Dispatches from Crazytown from time to time, after I’ve had another episode of serious creative misjudgement. I try to rein it in, but guys, it is so difficult. Here’s the first disaster, from that time I played with Garage Band for four days straight and pooped out this gem. Feel free to judge me, I have already judged myself.

Click the picture for the link:

Terrified selfie
Tobogganing © Elle Warren 2015

“I want to say that I had the good sense to buy a car that I can afford, but that’s not the case.”

I concentrate so hard on all these things I want to do that I struggle to concentrate on the things I have to do. Like eat, and earn my keep, and sleep. My thoughts race all the time, so I come up with idea after idea and I want to put them all into action right then and there, so I end up committing to far too many things and not being able to execute all of them, which frustrates me. Because my concentration is so bad, my driving gets really bad, so I often catch myself going 170 km/h, which is bad any day, but terrible if you can’t remember stretches of the road. And then I remember how I came about this car I’m driving, which I bought brand new in December 2015. I am not bragging, it has always been my goal to buy a second-hand car. I just snapped one day and walked into the dealership and said, “I want to buy a car.” Being the sharks that they are, they were only too happy to help me. I want to say that I had the good sense to buy a car that I can afford, but that’s not the case. I was lucky that my employment situation, which was in flux at the time, worked out pretty well, and I am not royally fucked right now. Because hypomania makes you reckless and you end up doing things you really shouldn’t, like spending all the fucking money. And nobody notices because you seem so damn stoked with life that they’re just happy that you’re not depressed for a change. Except that hypomanic episodes usually precede episodes of depression. And when that wave hits, it’s like a baseball bat to the gut, and all you want to do is die.

Seasonal Love

In the tumult of the past weeks I have completely forgotten about this little scrap of information: Poetry Potion published my entry for their a-poem-a-day challenge on 3 March. It marks the first time my poetry has appeared anywhere other than this site. Below is Seasonal Love as it appeared on Poetry Potion.

Seasonal Love
Would it be alright if I kissed you
on your perfectly asymmetrical lips?
Turn around and let me risk you;
hold my breath with your fingertips.

Would it be alright if I missed you
and the curve between your spine and your hips?
Raise your head don’t let me forget you;
I’m not quite ready to abandon ship.

Is it alright if I can’t resist you
when you turn your voice just like this?
Hold my bones don’t let me regret you;
I have too much to lose, but not my grip.

The Terrible Beauty of Freedom

Nobody tells you how terrifying it is to leave a psychiatric clinic. They tell you how much good it will do to go there, how comfortable and safe it is in there, how intensive the treatment you receive will be there. Making the decision to go is terrifying, because you finally have admit to yourself what you’ve been trying to avoid: you need help. But not a single person tells you that coming out of there will be almost as difficult as going in.

It took me three months to get to the point where I admitted this was something I had to do. During that time shit got rough, and increasingly so. I didn’t want to deal with any of it anymore. The clinic was so safe and sheltered. Physically and mentally you’re being cared for by a team of people who learn your name within a day. I hated having to go to classes with names like Life Skills and Coping Skills, but I was given very little choice. I hated it even more when I had to admit that those activities and everything else in the clinic had a positive impact on my well-being, that I had gained something valuable from them even if I couldn’t put a name to it.

Clinic wristband

Then I slowly came to the realisation that when I left that place I had to go back to everything I had left behind, everything that brought me there in the first place. Outside the clinic, nothing had changed, and I knew this very well. So what would be different this time? The answer, which dawned on me some time after the dilemma presented itself, is that I am the only variable in this situation. Well, me and my medication, which is an internal mechanism and therefore I guess still me. I had to make it work, because the world out there was still just as fucked as it was when I left it. The knowledge that you are going back into a place that drove you to your lowest, most extreme point, that brought out the worst of you, and that above all is inevitable and inescapable, is unnerving to the point of petrification. I almost decided to stay in the clinic.

My first outing was simple. On the way home we stopped at a grocery store to buy veggies for dinner. My heart was beating a million times per minute. I didn’t see the products on the shelves. Everything looked the same. I trembled when I had to pay. For the next few days I hid away and saw very few people. Only on the 5th day did I manage to go out in public again. I made it quick because I was still shaking when I had to interact with people. It wasn’t just that I was afraid of them, although I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t and am not, but also that I was afraid of what they would and wouldn’t ask me. I didn’t know what my answers would be. I still don’t.

Spending time in a psychiatric clinic has had one unexpected upside: I now know who the people are that really, truly care, and I am surprised at how many there are. In some cases I was even surprised by who did and did not show up. Being out here is terrifying. These people keep me in the game, not because they want something from me, but because they want me, simply put. As scary and as painful as this life is, they make it worth it, and without them I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m slowly finding ways to make it work, and leaving behind what doesn’t.

This is not a drill

You never think that you would find yourself in a psychiatric hospital. Today is day two. I stand in line to get my long list of medications in the morning and evening. They take my phone by 10pm. They take my blood pressure twice daily. I am relieved that the walls are painted a pleasant earthy colour, and that the throw on my bed is a soft and loving shade of blue – the kind that I like – and not some stark orange or red. I’m starting to feel at home.

How I got here is not that important. That I am here now and that there are other people who are also genuinely trying to get better is what gets me through the days. Every single person in this place understands the relentless pain rooted in something so deeply hidden that you can’t access it even if you tried. Everyone knows that sometimes it hurts because you are empty. That you feel useless, worthless, insignificant, a burden to your friends and family. We all know the words to say to each other to lighten the load, even though none of us have internalised them. We try. I try.

I have already and am continuing to write about what brought me here, what is happening to my brain and my body while I’m in here, and how things are changing. Dispatches from Crazytown* is my experiment at documenting mental illness, treatment, and recovery. I am not crazy. Nobody in here is crazy. You could walk past any of us on the street and not know that we had been in a psychiatric hospital, because there is nothing wrong with us. We are human, and we deserve to be loved. If you have a friend struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or any mental health condition, reach out. Go visit them in hospital. Make sure they know you don’t give a shit how crazy they may seem, you’ll always be there.

*Crazytown is my brain, so named because it moves in a self-repeating loop on several different levels at all times. 

Waveform:blue

Paysage aux papillons (Landscape with Butterflies)
Landscape with butterflies, Salvador Dalí (1956)

Falling in and out of depressive episodes is like slipping down a muddy slope. You know it’s happening, so you try to gain a foothold, grasping at blades of grass in a misguided attempt to pull yourself up. Instead you break an ankle and tear half the foliage down with you, ending up in a muddy puddle at the bottom of fucked creek. It’s cold and you can’t get up, and then a cow shits on your face. So you slither around in the mud half-heartedly calling for help, even though you get the distinct feeling that there’s no one around to save you, until eventually the clouds buckle under their own pressure and you finally get a chance to wipe the gunk from your eyes and enjoy the view of the valley from up here. That’s when you realise you’re not at the bottom of a ditch but on a terrace farm, only it’s badly planned and you have only half a meter between you and another bad break-up.

Maybe today you crawl 500 meters before you meet the farmer, who helps you get to town on his donkey, Kong. Maybe you rest a while in the rain. Maybe you lose your footing and end up a slope or two down. Maybe you take in the landscape and decide to swan dive as you watch it burn. I don’t know how this story ends. It’s raining and there’s cowshit everywhere.

What am I doing here?

Welcome to my experiment with failure and openness. Historically, I have very little experience with either of those things, partially because I kept myself away from any possibility of coming into contact with them. Frankly, the results haven’t been overwhelmingly positive.

This is my take two. I have never published my creative work because I’m terrified of these two things: failure, and openness. I am an emotional fortress. On this blog I want to overcome those two things together by sharing things that I have written, of which many are deeply personal (any many are not), and by documenting the process as I buckle the fuck up and submit those babies to fancy publications whose names I’m not sure I can pronounce. It’s going to be painful to watch, I promise. Also awkward. Have fun!

Peeing Man
Predicted level of awkwardness

Disclaimer: If you know me and you think a poem/piece is about you, it’s not, unless it is, in which case you should move on and pretend this never happened. Unless it’s a sexy poem. Then it’s definitely about you.

All the images on this blog are mine unless they are attributed to someone else.