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.

Fragmentary Principle

I don’t want to die
        not really
most of the time the instinct to survive keeps me alive
    but I feel like I am dead already
my heart no longer counts the beats
to the funerary ballad my lungs are composing
my breasts no longer sing
my veins are desiccated
a soft film covers my eyes
    vignette at dusk
my shoulders are calloused
from months of heavy lifting
    years fermenting in the yard
and a crack in my spine from one too many
my legs carry my weight
    if there’s any left of it
but they don’t know where they’re going
and my feet have lost all sense of direction
there’s a metaphor in here somewhere
my cheeks rustle like paper through autumn
    and through the uncomfortable grain of spring
at the edge of it all there it sits:
    one tiny hairline fracture
    cleave me open at dawn
my stomach is a rotten pomegranate
    left in the damp too long
my small intestines are sunburnt
entangled in the decomposing pulp of my liver
ruined by decades of medications
    cycle after unstable cycle
and I have to ask myself:
    is this really a life worth living?

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.