The Ups and Downs of being UP

I’m not going to lie – there have been numerous times when I want to go off my medication because I want to bring on manic episodes. I know that’s a very dangerous thing to do – I learned some time ago just how critical it is for me to keep taking my medication regularly. So I wouldn’t intentionally stop taking them no matter how much I might think I want to.

But when I am feeling this way it is because I want the clarity, the feeling that I know the answer to everything, the certainty that I can save the world and bring peace. I long for the high of being connected to the universe, of feeling the energy of every living thing, the self assurance that I can change the world and make a difference. I know that these are delusions, that I don’t really have all the answers, that I can’t literally bring about world peace. But I crave the way the manic periods bring me a sense of purpose, of feeling good about myself, of feeling worthwhile.

Of course in reality it’s never as good as memory recalls. My high periods frequently included impulsive, reckless and downright dangerous behaviour, of an attitude of “fuck the consequences”, of a fools bravery that I was invincible. It also made me not a very nice person, as I lost the mind to mouth filter and said things without thinking or caring that they might hurt people. I would be irritable and annoying and pick fights – all for no reason other than to amuse myself at how easily I could push buttons and how angry I could make someone.

But of course time and distance always makes us gloss over the negative aspects of a memory. When I am longing for the manic periods it’s because my mind is choosing to only hold onto the more palatable aspects of those times. It remembers the allure of the self confidence but conveniently chooses to ignore the unpleasantness of the arrogance. It remembers the feeling of seeking thrills, but blatantly forgets the troubles recklessness brings.

If I knew I could control myself, if I could know how far to go and when to stop – I would embrace the mania. It makes me feel so good. But I know I don’t have control, and that’s the whole dangerous problem. So even though I wish I had the exhilaration of self assurance, I take comfort from the fact that lacking it means I don’t take stupid and unnecessary risks for the hell of it.

Still sometimes I miss that brave (and stupid) manic me – because I see my “normal” self as being too much Clark Kent and not enough Superman. Except in reality when without the meds I’m more like Jekyll and Hyde and I know that’s definitely not something to aspire to.

Confessions of a Drama Queen

As a child I was called a “drama queen” by my family. It was because my emotional range was never mild. When I was happy I was over the moon, when I was sad it was like my world was ending, I could fly into a rage and out of it again at the drop of the hat. I never felt anything by halves.

The depth and range of my emotions allowed me to excel at performing arts because I could put myself emotionally into a characters shoes and genuinely act the part. From the beginning I loved the theatre, and I always thought that it was my interest in acting that influenced my melodramatic style. Of course now I realise my dramatic flair was what led to my love of the theatre.

I abused my acting skills – particularly when I was getting into trouble or wanted someone to feel bad for me. With a single thought I’d put on the water works in an instant, turning the tables and becoming the victim. I learned that lying was infinitely easier for me because I could make myself believe the lie just through feeling it. I became a master at manipulating the emotions of others.

When it came to strangers and people I wanted to keep at a distance – I was a human chameleon, forever changing my persona to suit whatever “role” I decided to play. I created different personas for different situations, complete with names, backstories, and particular traits. When I went out to a pub or club, if a guy came up to me to talk – I was “Nicky from London”, or “Jade from New York” always “in town for a few weeks” just for business. I would make up some fancy career and even put on the relevant accent to enhance the lie.

Of course I look back now and realise I wasn’t a very nice person. I obscured myself in layers and layers of bullshit. It made it impossible for anyone to get to know me, to understand me. I thought it was to protect me from being hurt, but really it was to gain the upper hand so that I could make people bend to my will. I was an expert at emotional blackmail, at lying to get my own way, and just manipulating outcomes to benefit me.

Hindsight is a bitch – and I see now that none of this made me happy. It made me lonely and alone. I didn’t form true friendships because I couldn’t be myself, I couldn’t give people a chance to see me. I was selfish, and self centred, and spoiled because I was used to getting my own way. It was my way, or tears and tantrums until I got my way. I broke people. I’m sad to say it, but I did.

Sure I know some of my behaviour it wasn’t entirely within the realm of my control, but I still hold myself accountable and feel bad about the things I did. Since being diagnosed with, and treated for Bipolar, I have learned what self control is. I no longer manipulate people or use emotional blackmail to get my own way. I still hide my true feelings, but I don’t falsify them to upset others, or make them feel bad for me.

I can still be a drama queen, but I keep it mostly within the realm of my mind, or in story telling. I don’t play with people’s emotions anymore, I’ve grown up and abandoned using people as toys.