I’m bipolar. Tragically bipolar, I like to say. I have a really bad case of it.
For those of you who don’t know what the disease is like, I will describe a manic episode. You can’t calm down. You are jittery like you’re strung out on a pot of coffee. You can’t sleep, sometimes for days at a time. You are happy, really happy, like dangerously so. If you can’t imagine what danger could come from being happy, just keep reading. You eat constantly but can’t gain weight. You have tension headaches. You grind your teeth. It can get pretty nasty.
So I was going through a really bad manic streak. I had not slept in a few days and was beginning to see flitting shadows out the corner of my eyes. I was at work, happily working in all the bullshit that comes with being in the service industry. I got through working the dinner rush. Everyone had their pizza and they were all eating with great vigor. But the rush had been fun. I was running around the kitchen and I had my blood up. I was manic with an adrenalin buzz and that was when I broke.
I started laughing. I went around and grabbed all my co-workers and told them to come to the kitchen. I had to show them something. Then when everyone was standing in the kitchen looking into the dining room full of people, I busted out in a run. I jumped up on the salad bar sneeze guard and got on all fours. I began to pace back and forth on my hands and knees, growling like a puma. In my mind at the time, I was not a puma. I was not suffering from hallucinations. I was a man on a salad bar pretending to be a puma. I growled and swiped at the customers who stood by trying to get to the salad bar. I thought this was the funniest thing I had ever seen, or that anyone had ever seen. I thought everyone should be laughing. I thought this was something a normal person should have thought of a long time ago. I was, at that moment completely crazy.
When I jumped down off the salad bar I ran back into the kitchen howling. All my co-workers were staring, my manager was having some sort of attack, and the customers were totally silent. I ran to the back office and grabbed a shelf to steady myself. I was laughing so hard I was seeing spots. And I was crying. All my co-workers slowly flowed into the back office and stood there with looks of startled disbelief. I couldn’t respond when the manager fired me. I was laughing too hard. I just hugged him, grabbed my bag, then stumbled out of the restaurant and out the door into the streets. I don’t remember what happened after that.
But I haven’t worked a day since. The way this disease works is that you can’t get better, you can only get worse. Once you start getting treatment, you stop getting worse, but before that, every episode causes more damage. I had that day something that was once described to me as a “Manic Storm”. Once you have had one, you are pretty much as fucked as you can get. One manic storm and you are classified as a class three manic bipolar case from that day on. Even if you never have another one.
My sleeping schedule is dictated by how my meds are working that day. Sometimes I can sleep fine, I get up and my day is normal. Sometimes I can’t summon the strength to get out of bed. The day has already beaten me. On those days, depression is the fate of the day and everything will be a struggle. On the manic days I just can’t sleep or I can’t sleep until deep into the morning, and I end up fighting to get a night’s sleep by sleeping all day. Sleeping, eating, socializing, memory, concentration, basic health, sexual appetites all these things are in sway all the time. One day to the next, one hour to the next.
I simply can’t hold down a job. Even with meds I am not stable enough. So I sit at my home. I play with my son when my mood allows. I watch movies. I think about my writing. I think about my past (I have too much time to think about my past). And everyday I wish I had a job. I wish I had somewhere to go that would distract me from the things going on in my head. Wish that there was something to pull me out of the house, and into the world. But until I find that thing, or they invent a better drug, I will be sitting here idle.