Monday, May 28, 2007
mania (excerpt from "Highways Of The Heart")
... There have been times in my life when I’ve been lucky, or blessed, to find myself on a road which becomes brighter and brighter as I walk. I have walked, struggled, out of foul depression many times, answering the call of the chemical imbalance in my blood and neurons as it rights itself for some period of time. I celebrate these times like a man who’s been walking the desert for days celebrates the sight of a clear river just up ahead. The river of light greets me like a long lost brother as I dive in and revel in its quenching, its healing. I slake my thirst for the light, and sometimes, often, I take far too much in and make myself sick. This amorphous river can and often has turned into a rubber room and a needle in the hip, and a slowly dawning awareness that yet another manic episode has snuck up and bit me on the ass, taking away my control, my sanity, leaving me gibbering and drooling and walking along hallways trying not to fall flat on my kiester from drug overload. It’s been the price I’ve paid, many times, for embracing the good feelings far too hard after living in misery for so long. It’s been a hard lesson to learn that when I start feeling good I have to share this feeling with a doctor, and risk having it taken away in the interest of retaining my grip on reality, no matter how tenuous.
My manic times. So many stories that can’t be told for lack of words to describe the magic that is mania. My last time in psychotic mania, well over four years ago now, was the last time I experienced personal apotheosis, that state of mind in which I was convinced that I was the Messiah finally returned to make everything better. I convinced myself, in the space of a week or less, that I was Jesus and had been in hiding until just the right moment, just the right time to reveal myself for who I truly was. Timing became all-important, and it became very difficult to hold everything in until the cosmos gave me the signal to stand and declare myself. By the time I was given the opportunity, I was absolutely crazed and stumbling around the halls of the psych ward, trying to bum a cigarette from the patients and heal those I came into contact with at the same time.
Always, in full-blown mania, I experienced on one level or another this amazing Messiah trip. I have been the Messiah a half-dozen times, feeling the power flowing through my veins to help me save everyone, correct all mistakes that have been made. It’s called psychosis, delusion, and it’s treated by drugs that are the chemical equivalent of a frontal lobotomy, in an attempt to rip the delusion away from me before I could hurt myself or someone else. I recognize the need for these all-invasive drugs, these massive doses of anti-psychotics, anti-manics. My, what if a manic episode was allowed to run its course? Permanent damage, I’m sure, but then fifty years ago, psychotics were everywhere in sanitariums and mental institutions, living out their fantastic delusions. And there they stayed, sometimes for their whole lives. I’m living in a time and place where I can walk free and interact with society, even though I’ve been convinced a few times that I was Jesus Himself returned to save the world.
I’ve met so many people while a patient in one ward or another who were on some sort of spiritual quest. Such a mind-set is so common among disturbed people, be they bipolar, schizophrenic, paranoid, narcissistic, or some combination or mixture. I’ve read that we are all born with an unconscious awareness of God, and it seems to me that this awareness has a marked tendency to manifest in those who lose touch with reality, and are, whether they’re aware of it or not, trying so hard to get back to bedrock sanity.
I’ve touched on those times when the light gets far too bright, and I’ve failed to react rationally. That’s part of my reality, my life. As I get older, I suppose I get wiser, confirming the old axiom. I’ve caught myself at least twice in the past four years starting my spin upward to the roof of the world, and was able to stop the trip before psychosis and delusion set in. Way back in my mind a small voice says, “And too bad you did, man, look at the fun you missed,” as I type ‘able to stop the trip’. That’s the penalty I have to pay for maturity, for sobriety. I have to stop having fun, or at least the kind of fun that involves delusion and insanity. One can only play these games for so long, before reaching the point of no return. I came so close to reaching that point, I think, a few times - it was like a drug, like a Nirvana that I just had to get back to, regardless of the consequences - back to that dizzy world of mania, where anything was possible, any prize was attainable. Oh, my, there are stories, but none that simple words can touch.
I’ve started to soar again, just a bit over the last few days, and I will have to watch myself as I continue to take that new anti-depressant. I find myself at my word processor, actually writing something original, and not re-writing some tired old short-story outline for the tenth time. My experience in the woods a couple of weeks ago was an indicator that my mind is opening up somewhat, not having felt quite that way in a long time. I feel hopeful that I may be coming out of depression and crossing over to the manic side, but there are old warning bells going off as I think of the transition, or the possibility of it. Despair is a sticky old bastard, and can’t be shaken off so easily. I wait, and I beware. I beware the return of despair, and I beware the return of that fast elevator trip to the top of the world.