Experiencing Bipolar Disorder

Notes from Mania: The Mayhem, the Aftermath, and the Redemption

by Abhishek Thakore

Just a few months ago, I was ready to embrace my role as a world teacher. The secret keys of a boarding school had been passed down to me. I was to be its trustee and guide it into the future.

Alongside, my partner and I were selected by an airline to go to Expo 2020. Here, on a giant screen, our love would be proclaimed to the world. Of course, only I knew this – it was a secret to my partner.

Meanwhile, I was also supposed to be the safety-demonstrator in the flight. I had to test the flight and it was up to me to make sure it landed safely.

Having married a tulsi plant in the presence of birds, I was settling a private dispute with the sun and the moon.

It was a busy life as someone with bipolar disorder—and it all crashed from a psychotic episode of extreme proportions.

Around me, life was havoc. My incessant speaking, barely eating anything, not drinking water, and not sleeping was causing anxiety attacks. People were finding it hard to restrain me as I threw objects around and defiled paintings in my house. I refused to take my medicines, spitting them out. All the while being supremely confident that I understood reality better than those around me. I had been ‘switched ON.’ The problem was, I couldn’t switch off.

Such is mania—a powerful, heady experience that is completely imaginary and highly delusional.

The universe is a mysterious place but, everything is speaking to me. I can read the cracks on walls as if they are a language. In observing birds, I am able to predict the future of my friends and family.

Energetically also, it is an inexhaustible source of energy that one taps into. Sleeping for a few hours at night with a mind that is buzzing becomes a norm. However, this buzz is difficult for the brain to handle and impossible for friends and family.

Finally, I had to be hospitalized. I remember the story in my head when I was in the ambulance (and sedated)–I imagined being picked for some sort of a road/ traffic signal test. I was reading the faces of my caregivers and giving advice to them even as I headed to the hospital!

How does mania come in? It creeps in stealthily—starting from feeling high, happy, and productive and then slowly accelerating. The people around me can tell that things are tail spinning before me. But by then, it is already too late. It has arrived and like any season, it has to live its course.

On the other side of mania is a demolished palace of dreams (or illusions if you want to be more accurate). Once the brain has burnt all its feel-good chemicals, it recedes into a low phase. A sadness that is in stark contrast to the high of the mania that envelops one like a thick, impenetrable fog. Life sucks.

At these times there is very little one can do except remember that this too will pass. It is a battle each day, between sleeping away the blues or showing up for life. It all seems too difficult to respond to. So, one retreats into a cocoon.

All the while mentally chanting, “It’s a cycle. This too will pass.”

If mania is useful to surface the subconscious bullshit that has been brewing in the psyche, a low is great to illuminate the parts of one’s life that are not working. A critical eye can help in pruning those excesses.

Maybe then, mania and its aftermath are a cleansing detox?  Yes, I am a meaning-making machine and I need to give some interpretation to my suffering. It is hard to accept that it was all a play of chemicals.

When I look back at my manic episode, it is hard to believe that “I” was the one doing whatever I did and saying whatever I said. It feels unfair to be pinned to that identity and be held answerable for the nonsense that was on at the time of the episode. And yet, such is life and such are the rules and norms of this world. That as long as a majority of people are normal, a manic person will have to embrace his or her madness and reconcile with the shared consensus we call reality.

Between chanting that this is a temporary phase, meditating, journaling, doing body work, creating works of art, and taking medication, I smile to myself. Here I am in a world that will not understand other realities, other ways of being, and other worlds. I am here to do my best to fit in. I am here to pretend to be sane. If not, the consequences are dire.

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