Dear Diary, I’m Manic As Fuck

Imagine that you are talking to someone who has never experienced pain. Now explain how it feels to stub your toe, in a way that they can understand.

That level of “err…” right there is what my face has been doing for the last week, trying to conjure up an effective analogy to mania. There just isn’t one. So, I’m going to take a pass on my poetic licence and just say it how it is. This is my scale, it’s not hugely detailed but it gives you what you need to know;

10% – I’m happy, I don’t seem to feel the cold and I’m mentally sharper

25% – My intelligence noticeably improves, I have a weird glow about me – you can see it in the eyes apparently. I can talk for hours, I want to and, genuinely, you want me to too. Everything is sexualised. The sun is deliciously warm, food tastes exquisite, everything is glorious – This is hypomania and it’s amazing.

50% – My brain begins to run a little too fast for me to handle. I can’t STOP talking or moving and people begin to notice that something is a little off. Food tastes horrific or it’s so strong it physically hurts my taste buds. I get prickly goose bumps, especially on my scalp and my temper flares. I have monumentally strong urges to make drastic life changes and my sex drive goes through the roof

75% – I want to, literally, scream or squawk; I don’t have to talk I just need to make noise. My brain is moving so fast it scares me. Psychosis begins to creep in as my self-control hangs by a thread. I can’t shut my eyes for the fireworks. I don’t want to touch anything or eat anything but I want to touch everything and taste everything. I hate the world because it’s all too much.

100% – I shatter.

3rd February 2016, 12:32

Something that no psychiatrist has ever asked me about are the hair follicles that erupt across every inch of skin, as soon as mania is on the rise. The slightest rush of air, the luxurious trace of fingertips or the brush of soft, supple fabric all elicit a shiver down my spine and an upsurge of goosebumps. I can even reach a stage where my triggers transcend tactility, where colour is as intense as an unexpected plummet in temperature. Overall, however, my biggest stimulant is sound. I’ve always loved music, my Dad is an incredibly talented musician and I grew up, learning to read and write music as I learnt to read and write, so, my ear is trained enough to hone in on a beautiful chord, a perfect cadence or a flat, lack-lustre tone. In mania, music sets off such a strong reaction that it, depending on my mood level, creates a love-hate relationship. During Hypomania the goosebumps are not so frequent and when they hit they’re blissful and warm, with a luxurious touch. Today, I am not in hypomania, I’m not even teetering on the edge, I am, already, tumbling down the rabbit hole. I know, because I’m currently listening to Katie Melua on my new IPhone (bought, on Monday, out of no necessity, other than my mania was hungry) and I can hear every note; feel every beat; every breath she takes, I take with her. I cannot even begin to describe how good it feels to let the music swallow me up, but whilst the bass laps at my ear, I can feel the harsh waves crash over my body. Every time Katie hits a perfect note, goosebumps rise so high on my scalp I reach to smooth them over, every time her blues band produce a beautiful melody the hair on my arms spike like sandpaper and every time her voice rings high in to the rafters, every follicle on my entire body flexes so much it hurts. ‘I Do Believe in Love’ on her ‘Piece by Piece’ album is killing me. However I haven’t thrown the phone across the room or even just paused it, I’m still listening because the pain is worth it.

3rd February 2016, 18:01

I’m on the train home and I’ve switched to Miles Davis, the goosebumps, are still, tormenting my nerves and Miles is a little harder to resist moving for. His ‘Birds of Paradise’; eloquent, sexy, stunning. One of the things I love about Jazz, besides how spellbinding it is, is that I don’t know where it’s going until I’ve listened to it, which is exactly how I feel about Mania. I can guess the next phrase, the chord progression or the final note of other genres, but, with Jazz… it has its own freedom, of which mania approves. Today could be my last day at this height, I could wake up tomorrow completely stable, I could plummet in to a depression or maybe I could sky rocket in to psychosis. I have done what I can to outsmart the fast-approaching storm but I won’t know, until it hits, if I’ll have to weather a minor gale or a hurricane.

4th February 2016, 13:16

The prickles on my hairline are holding fast to Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered’. Her voice is shooting through me and it’s absolutely gorgeous to the point where I have butterflies in my chest and I’m choking back tears. Although, I just flinched at her diction on the word “Pint” at 2:58, but it’s okay because I know the piano is about to beautifully meander at… there it is, 3:08. The sound of those keys alone have brought a smile to my lips and right now I want to be a Jazz singer; I can hear my voice inwardly whispering how I’ve always wanted this, I can see myself on stage in New York, singing under a blue light, in a smoky jazz club. I remember first loving jazz, my best friend, Lucy’s, Stepdad was a fan and she and I ballroom danced round the kitchen to Nat King Cole’s ‘Orange Coloured Sky’. We were only 14 and for some reason I forgot all about my love for Jazz, bar that one song, for just shy of a decade, until, here I am falling in love all over again. Head over heels, heart and soul, body and mind, in love. This is an addiction that could never destroy me.

4th February 2016, 23:35

I have to be up at 5 for an AA meeting before work tomorrow and the tranquilisers I take for my psychosis aren’t kicking in. With my mood heightening, mania has made the decision to override the medication. It happens sometimes. So, here I am, writing about it, because I can’t stand another minute of fidgeting and flipping from side to side, on my mattress. I am living in a world where, when I shut my eyes, I see a blank canvas, on which an invisible pastel scrawls, desecrates, just scribbling and scribbling, faster and faster; pressing so hard, the picture is thickening with layers of crayon, closing in and I can’t breathe, until I open my eyes…Then I’m safe…until I shut them again. If that’s what my mania can see in darkness just imagine what it can see in daylight.

My bipolar demons aren’t satisfied with just rejecting the comfort of my memory foam, they’ve spent today rejecting food. I thought it was because of a bad reaction to the greying meat in my sandwich, but it has just dawned on me, as I lay with my eyes wide open, that it wasn’t bacteria, but mental health that was causing the issue. My mood has declared war on food, once again it’s a battle to eat; with me it’s not just a loss of appetite, it goes much further, I feel overly satiated after the smallest amount of food and get hit with wave after wave of nausea until I throw up or starve. There’s no denying that mania makes you thin, sometimes dangerously so. But when I’m stable, or depressed, I try to do as much exercise as I can, otherwise the weight piles on, so, trying to achieve an appropriate, healthy and stable body weight is tough. I find myself lying to a lot of people, telling them I never eat junk food or I’m just always at the gym; I’m not lying when I say I work hard to keep my figure, it’s just not in the way they think.

Not sleeping and not eating is making me irritable, I’m messaging this guy at the moment and he just used one too many emojis and now I want to punch him. I’m full of rage, because of one purple demon picture, rage so intense it feels like it’s about to burst from my chest. I’m breathing deeply and overruling the urge to take a swipe at him in my response. I need to extract myself from the conversation. He’s just replied with two sentences and five emojis; that’s too many for me to handle; my rage instantly dissipated, I want to bury my head in my hands and have a good cry.

5th February 2016, 8:43

What a delightful situation when two powerful mania-inducers are both symptoms of mania. Lack of food and lack of sleep wind up my brain’s clock, turning it in to a ticking bomb, utter insanity being the detonation. In times like these I experience a sort of split-brain; now that I am mindful of my bipolar and of what each stage means, I am rarely sucked in, until psychosis descends. I’m in that split-brain now. Half of me is in the rafters of arrogance strutting down the street to Judge Jules’ Trance Anthems (Jazz has been and gone) saying ‘I’ve got this. I don’t need to change anything, think of what I could accomplish without taking time out to sleep or eat!’ The other half is saying ‘Turn that music off, it’s a trigger and for God’s sake, call your psychiatrist, your meds aren’t cutting it.’ I have an appointment in nine days so I will just have to wait; where I’m from, unless you’re mid-breakdown or post-suicide you will not get seen for quite a while, regardless of how high priority you are. Luckily, due to my “psychology based mentality and insight”, my psychiatrist trusts me enough to alter my meds to temporarily ground me and that is exactly what I shall be doing. Until then, I can feel my mania brewing; it’s gargling salt water and exercising its vocal chords, preparing to scream in my face, so loudly my ear drums will shatter.

I have things to do today, I have a job, I’ve organised an evening out with friends. Tomorrow, I’m going in to London for a fancy lunch and a visit to an indie theatre. I cannot afford to be manic, but then, my mania doesn’t think that’s any of my business.

The Little, Yellow Cat

The oversized chandelier, ornate bathrooms and servants’ quarters on the third floor didn’t quite match the nicotine stained walls, broken window frames and three write-off cars that lay in the driveway. The house had a tragic beauty to it that, at the time, I adored. I was a 20-a-day smoker and whilst I never really liked using the stuff, I loved the smell of weed, so it made no odds to me that my new housemates, new landlord and even my new walls reeked of the stuff. I’d found the house on a spare room website and had made up my mind, before I even arrived, that I’d take it. The location was great, the room was huge and a large portion of my housemates were musicians; the pièce de résistance was discovering that they actively encouraged me to make as much noise as possible. The Grade II listed property, once a place of un-rivalled charm, had been run down over the last decade; there was subsidence towards the back and missing tiles at the front; the windows had no double glazing and the basement flooded, however, with all its faults and for all the times I and my housemates would moan, we loved the place. The manor pulled you in and had a way of making you fall in love and nothing seemed to be able to stand in its way.

On the day I moved in, I let my bag thump to the floor of the hallway, half of the contents instantly sprawled across the floor. Catching something in my peripheral, I looked up and there, sitting quite majestically, atop the wooden radiator cover, was a little, yellow cat, who I later found out was called Sub. Just like the rest of the house she, too, had been tinted with the smoke that billowed from bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. I instantly went to say hello. Moving as slowly as I could, with my hand out stretched, I barely got halfway across the distance between us before she bolted for the door. Every day we would follow the same routine; she would set up camp and wait for me to see her, I would try to make contact and she’d run. She only really got on with Jonathan, I know you shouldn’t have favourites but I completely understood why that particular housemate was hers. I quickly grew to be openly jealous of the affection that she showed him; I loved cats and she was terrified of me, I reminded myself not to take it personally, after all, she ran from most people.

She’d been brought to the manor, with her sister, by an ex-tenant, who, upon leaving, had left the pair behind. Her sister had been re-homed, leaving Sub on her own, she was petrified of the next door neighbour’s cat but that didn’t stop her spending most of her life outdoors. It didn’t help that the manor was an abrasive environment. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t an immoral disposition in sight, but there also wasn’t a clean, sober or sensible person among us. With a cocaine dealer in-house and a weed dealer who visited regularly we were a far cry from your perfect neighbours; parties would go on for days, sometimes stretching a week, and the base would shake every pane of glass in the house. Sub, as a result, would disappear for an impossible amount of time and return with a couple of extra ribs showing.  Jonathan would feed her but she never kept the weight on and she had a permanent, unhealthy, greasiness to her coat. Things took a turn for the worse when Jonathon left and not long after, the dog arrived; whilst he was adorable with humans, he would chase her across the garden and back the moment they locked eyes. She was withdrawn, miserable and jumpy; sometimes I felt like she was living the cat version of my life except she got more sleep.

I was still at the manor house when I got sober. My room got cleared of alcohol, it was no longer frequented with strangers lolling on the floor or snorting God-know-what off of my dresser. It became my safe-haven, I filled it with candles, cushions, I cleaned it within an inch of its life and regularly aired it out; I even gave it a lick of paint. It didn’t smell of cigarettes anymore and when I shut the door, bar the vibrations, you could be forgiven for thinking I was the only one home. Sub wanted in. She would appear, mewing at my door, whenever they upped the volume. She’d take refuge on my bed, in the warm, quiet and clean aired space and I would join her. She was my companion in the evenings, before I could trust myself enough to go out. If my boyfriend wasn’t busy, she was happy to third wheel. Over time and with a lot of ice cream-based-bribery she began to let me hold her, pick her up and give her a proper cuddle; as her hard shell softened to me as did mine to the world in general. On days when I was struggling I would think about getting home to her, I would spend money on cat treats instead of booze, if I wanted to go downstairs and join the party I would make myself feel guilty for contemplating leaving her all on her own and if I had a craving for alcohol, I would think how much Sub would lose if I went back out there.

When the time came for me to move I knew I couldn’t leave her. Luckily my Landlord had no problems with a cat-free home. My friend and I picked a house that had a garden, specifically for her, it was surrounded by space and I knew she’d love it. We moved in April and by summer, Sub had lost all the yellow from her coat. She is no longer slick and greasy but white and fluffy and nowadays, she’s capable of inflicting snow-blindness when she lounges in the sunshine. Jonathon has come to visit us in our new home and even he can’t believe it’s the same cat; she’s forgotten all about her outdoor ways just as I have forgotten mine; she couldn’t teach you to hunt any more than I could tell you how much a double at the local costs. Sub epitomises my recovery and how I feel inside; she no longer runs and hides from people, she’s still and calm and happy, if, perhaps, a little spoilt.

When I’m struggling, I think of her, I’ll seek her out, sit, fuss her and give her a quick health check and remind myself that whilst she played a massive part in saving my life I think I might have saved hers.