“I just remember when they finally gave me the bipolar diagnosis, it was when I finally let them see… “it” come out.” – January 29, 2017
I went home and cried the day my therapist told me, “I just don’t think we can run from this diagnosis anymore.” She had tried, very hard, to keep me in the land of “anxiety disorder” or “adult ADHD” but there comes a point where I fit too many of the criterion to ignore. We couldn’t medicate me correctly without the right diagnosis. No one can give an antipsychotic to someone who has “Anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified.” It doesn’t jive.
To wit… For about 11 days in 2010, I believed that I had imagined my wife, created her out of thin air, and that everyone in my life played along because they wanted me to feel okay. In retrospect, it’s a pretty big compliment in an insane sort of way. “I thought I had made you up” is an interesting way to tell someone you love them and probably would have held a bit more gravitas if I hadn’t looked skeptical about her existence. My closest confidantes reassured me that no, she was real. A prescription of Geodon helped me recognize they were correct.
I remember wondering what it would be like to completely let myself go… that instead of holding onto the fragments of truth, the boundaries of “acceptability” and “professionalism,” and the pride at never having “lost it”… what would that look like? It was never something I wished for and something I genuinely couldn’t imagine. What, exactly, was “it” that I let people see?
The best answer I have to that question is words. Oh my god, the sheer quantity of words is overwhelming. They perhaps aren’t good words, but I manage to put them in a certain order that conveys an amount of understanding and intelligence that puts me right on the intersection of being “smart” and “crazy” at the same time. So that is how I always hid. When I knew I wasn’t okay, I just withheld words.
Unless someone was the focus of my mania. Then they got all the words. Like the 5000 word email I sent to my therapist at 3 a.m. on April 21, 2010… the one that eventually got the diagnosis… where she responded, “It is helpful for me in understanding how fast your thoughts are moving. I think you do such a good job of slowing your speech and focusing on the conversation that it’s not always (or ever) evident. I think it’s more difficult than it needs to be.”
In 2017, it was someone else. That person was 100% of my focus. She got all the words. I truly stopped talking to other people in my life because I knew that I wouldn’t make sense to them. I hid from my wife that anything was out of the ordinary, trying to make jokes and giving her, perhaps, just enough to believe that maybe I was okay. Meanwhile, I poured the words into message after message to someone else. Some of the words were great — like high-level love letter type stuff. Some of the words make me cringe and want to curl into a ball and yell at myself to never talk to people ever again.
But that is the hallmark of it all. The words never stop. And when I have a focus for them… when I couple that with actual emotion and the incredible level of pure sexuality that comes with all the words… well, it’s a perfect storm.
Imagine your brain at the highest high it has ever experienced and then imagine that it doesn’t stop. It keeps going at that high for weeks. It is unstoppable until you decide to quit all of your medications which then shows you the best of brain chemistry gone awry. But you don’t care. The high will carry you through, you believe.
“I need to see the me that I was before all this,” I told the new focus of my attention. “I know that I’m in there somewhere and I want to know who that person is now.” That’s the calm way I say it.
“Fuck everyone who gets in our fucking way,” I eventually say, agitated by absolutely everyone else in my life who has the audacity to expect me to be my calm self. They don’t know the REAL me, I told myself over and over. They just want me to be the content version of myself. And fuck that.
What I never conveyed to anyone with any emphasis, of course, is that I stopped sleeping. I stopped eating. I could drink myself into oblivion and never feel an ounce of intoxication; it was just more opportunity for me to be “real”… whatever that was.
Absolutely every minute of my existence was about finding the opportunity to increase the high, to get the focus of my attention with me for even 15 minutes because that was the only time I felt okay. There are no words to appropriately convey this to someone who has never felt it: “If I don’t see you, I feel like I might die,” was a completely true sentence that I said to this person. It wasn’t just falling in love — I’m sure I loved her, no question — but it was also mania. It extended far beyond what the average person experiences because it is what this inexhaustible illness causes.
I will never stop feeling sorry for how much pain I caused the three people most directly involved in this. It is a shame unlike any other. For the person I focused on herself, for my wife whom I dismissed, and for my (former) very good friend who never did anything other than laugh with me and spend hours helping me enjoy my life…
That is what “it” looks like unleashed. That is where it started. With all the words and all the wrong brain chemistry and all the incredible lack of control. And all the stopping of medications to just complicate the whole situation to an unimaginable degree.
I cried when they gave me the diagnosis because I knew they were right. And I knew that someday, it might cost me everything.
And then it did.