How do I feel? I say this with an exasperated exhale. I’m anxious, tense… in a word, manic.
Whenever I think or hear the word maniac, I imagine a cartoon character bouncing around, or a 1950’s domesticated housewife with prim hair held together with bobby pins and fitted clothes with bloodshot eyes vacuuming and cleaning endlessly with a loud smile pasted to her face anxiously awaiting her husbands return home from a long day of work so he can ask her what she did with her empty life today, and she can half convince herself that all the frenetic activities characterizing her existence are worth something, rather than the biting reality of nothing.
Or I think about Youtube videos I’ve watched of patients interviewed in clinics, laughing hysterically, explaining to the camera some convoluted justification for their urgent need to act irrationally.
I think of mania in the context of bipolar disorder, the swinging sine wave of feeling oscillating with varying and often unpredictable frequency, but with the all consuming magnitude of giant stars on the verge of implosion. When you’re manic, there is no subtle mood change comparable to the happy sunshine interrupted by grey clouds which temporarily dampen the day, only to pass and reveal more of that endless radiant warmth. No, mania is a sort of endless possession. You are along for the ride.
I never think of myself as manic, or mentally ill for that matter, though I feel that way. Depressed? I ask myself. Am I depressed? What is depressed? I cue my reality distortion field. Life is nothing more and nothing less than how you see it, how you make it to be. You can flex your genius and conjure whatever reality you want, whenever you want.
Moods? Bad mood? Where ever the attention goes, the energy flows. Thus, I can manipulate myself ad infinitum. Whatever the situation demands, I can manifest a waking reality and greet those that appear on stage. Method acting.
There are no moods. There are states of being. There is soul crushing emptiness, and there is soul gushing fulfillment.
I feel manic. Why? Because transition. Because, I am nothing. Because, I chase, and chase for that hit of dopamine, desperately reaching for that floating dream to grab hold of, the one that will take me to Neverland and allow me to float on, forever entranced and elated by existence.
But of course I wake up in a pit of filth, and the dream vaporizes, or rather, condenses into hard reality.
What is the point of life? Aye, whatever you want it to be, my conscience reminds me. My conscience has a conscience, and so on and so forth. Somewhere, there is a subconscious spirit operating my motivations and moods, evading all my philosophical efforts to probe into his deceptive depths and gain the passenger seat. But that spirit is too damn cunning. And so, I’m a victim to myself, this spirit.
Who are you? they ask, the throngs of people I meet. I’m a nobody, quite honestly. I have a name, and a variety of roles and responsibilities and titles attached to it. But I am a nobody.
Well, who is a somebody? that spirit inside me asks, flicking me in the forehead.
A somebody is someone who matters to others. Aye, the spirit says, go on.
A somebody is someone who contributes to the greater good.
I ask myself if I really mean this. No. I think someone who matters is surrounded by crowds of people fawning for their blessing. They have money, they have influence, they have status and, most of all, they have purpose. Of course, you can draw a circle around this person to denote the magnitude of all these things, and try to measure their worth. I see these people with large circles. How do they get so large? I ask myself. More education? They must be smart. They must have a supportive family. They must have been born with money. Or maybe, they were born with a great attitude, and maybe they don’t have to compete with the mania that perpetually dislocates any sense of self, and any semblance of balance.
I think I broke up with my girlfriend yesterday. I might be in denial. I can feel the sense of loss, of being alone on a damp island surrounded by impenetrable darkness, with only the lapping sound of cold dark ocean to keep me company, along with my thoughts. My thoughts. These are not my thoughts. I’m running on habit. I’m running on the amalgam of a lifetime of responses to perceived necessity, dealt to me by my parents, my teachers, my peers, my culture. With each utterance they proclaim value this. And my attention is guided, and habit is reinforced. And all the while walking in a labyrinth, a circle round and round, getting nowhere, but passing time all the same, and occasionally throwing a party to celebrate this idea of progress.
I broke up with my girlfriend because I was unhappy in her presence. I can care and love her, but she makes me feel… I pause, because I don’t know what words follow. Miserable? Anxious? She makes me feel like I have a purpose, and that sole purpose is keeping her happy, is solving the innumerable dramas that unfold from moment to moment, problems that I apparently am responsible for, and capable of, solving.
I’ve been popping Adderall recently, fueling my mania with tunnels of pleasant euphoria lasting hours. The highs are higher, as I spend days riding waves laced with amphetamine salts, and the lows are lower, as I eject and become a catatonic corpse, pantomiming meaningful charades until I decide to catch the next salty wave.
Melatonin helps my circadian rhythm find itself again, allowing me to sleep without the aid of alcohol, which further compounds my corpselike behavior the following day. The amphetamines don’t solve for anything. They’re more of a distraction. A pleasant distraction. I’m not quite sure if I’m more productive, but the pleasant tunnel eliminates noise and distraction that instigates the natural course of mania that would otherwise take place. But with amphetamines, I can control the highs and the lows. I’m not a victim to the throws of my listless imagination which suddenly decides to wade into dark horrifying landscapes, at worst. Or at best, dive into blissful abstract fantasies contained in new books or creating new works of art or engineering little projects, none of which reinforce the purpose that I coined and promised myself I would commit to.