My last mania was nearly a year ago. That time i felt it coming and was able to fight it off.
This time it had me firmly in its grip before i figured it out. What can i do but cope? Well yes, i could let it have its way with me, which always holds a certain romantic attraction. However, that sort of dark fascination is fading, and as i weather this mental/emotional tornado, i expect the next time its clouds gather on my horizon, i shall be even less inclined to go storm-chasing. I’m far too old to play Dorothy, and the truth is i do bring my loved ones with me when i travel over the rainbow. But while i’m skipping along the yellow brick road in pretty shoes, they’re facing flying monkeys and a forever-nap in a field of red. The gift that a lot of hard work and striving for self-awareness brings me today, is the certainty that i absolutely can do better, and as long as i continue to try my best, i’m not likely to drag myself or my family into that kind of swirling madness again.
I’ve been channelling my current obsessive tendencies into cooking. The other day i made vegetarian lasagne. The red sauce was made with my own herbs and tomatoes, and i made my own noodles too. It was my first time using durum semolina with the eggs in the well on the counter method. An Italian friend told me to boil the sheets briefly in salted water and let them dry a bit on a towel before using them. I used mushrooms and TVP (textured vegetable protein) for the sauce, and i had layers of ricotta/parm, plus chopped and wilted chard/onions. It was good, and the guys agreed that the TVP gives the sauce the meaty texture they’re looking for. The next day it was even better – i think it needed more time to set than a regular lasagne, so i’ll remember that for next time. The best part of it was that it took up my entire afternoon, from gathering sun-warmed tomatoes and fragrant herbs from the garden, to washing the last of the dishes and leaving them to dry in the drainer, until evening telly with the man-thingy. It used up nervous energy, and it gave me the opportunity to obsess over small details or run amok as i wished, it gave me a creative outlet, and brought me lots of positive attention when it was finished.
What i’m trying to say in a roundabout way, is labour intensive cooking is giving me a healthy, productive place to spend my manic energies.
Gardening is helping too, which is unexpected. I can work pretty hard if i want to, but it still has a calming effect on me, no matter how sweaty i get. It appeals to that part of my mania that is all tied up in romance:
Behold, for i am one with Mother Earth! I hold her in my hands as she does me
I till and i toil, plucking out danger and feeding her crushed eggshells and Tums antacid tablets.
<cue orchestral swell here>
I have had to temporarily suspend my walks, which has been tough. Mania is a state of being that seems particularly conducive to switching, and unfortunately walking down the road in past manias has resulted in me being in very dangerous situations in the past. There are some in my brain who “just wanna to go home”, and some who want desperately to get away, and they all attempt to accomplish this by getting to the highway and hitching a ride. I’ve been lost for hours and days, and more than once the cost has been almost higher than i could pay. It seems wise to avoid this potential trigger until i’m a little more in control.
There have been some hallucinations. Yeah, it can be deeply unsettling, but it’s not quite terrifying like you might think. My senses get a little screwed up, and i catch things out of the corner of my eye, but instead of a glimpse, i get a very intense and detailed image. I know that doesn’t quite make sense, but it’s what i’ve got. I’m seeing people from my past mostly, and knowing for a fact that some a lot of them are dead is actually helpful. No, really. The auditory ones are honestly worse. I’ve learned to acknowledge them immediately, and think/talk through it, because paranoia is a real danger for me while in a manic state.
So yeah, no walks until that shit settles down a bit.
Getting back into my other exercise stuff though, and i’ve cut out the unmonitored eating. I let it slip very consciously; too many things to manage, and i needed something to use, y’know? So i’ve been eating between meals, and at whatever time of the day or night i feel like it, but 2wks of that is quite enough. I can tell i’ve gained a pound or two, and that’s enough to sober me right the heck up, so to speak.
The hardest thing is not to see myself as a failure because i’m in a mania. I know that it’s just part and parcel of how my brain works. Unlike my multiplicity, if there were a “cure” out there i might want it, and while i don’t consider other people living inside my head with me to be a disorder, i’m comfortable using it to describe being bipolar (your mileage may vary, and that’s cool).
I just remind myself that i’ve come farther than i would have thought possible, so why not bigger, better, faster, more?
Ah… One small, measured and intentional step at a time, of course.
When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
~Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John