The Push and Pull of Mania, Depression and Me

Before I understood my bipolar diagnosis, I just thought that mania was the creative, determined, hardworking, albeit irritable me and that the depression that came after was the sad, tired me. Depression, I understood. All too well. We are reluctant friends who do not like each other, yet find comfort in our quiet. Mania – well, she was new.

Mania comes in, kicks the door down and says, “I’m here to party, bitches!” But after a while everyone around gets tired of the party. Mania wants to work all day, fast, wants to plan projects and jobs without thinking it through. Mania wants to watercolor at 11 p.m. When everyone is sleeping, Mania wants to listen to music – real loud. Mania says, “Don’t go to sleep, you’ll miss out on all the fun.” Mania thinks three hours of sleep is sufficient. Mania talks back to people and snaps at strangers. Mania says no one else does anything as good as me so I must do everything for everybody. Mania says I’m witty. Mania says I tell the best stories and that I really can do karate in the backyard at 8 p.m., when I really know nothing about karate. Mania says I’m skinny and that my skin has never looked better. Mania wants to talk to strangers and make new friends. Mania wants to paint the house at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday. Mania tells me that the people I love are annoying and that I don’t need them. Mania tells me I don’t have to talk to my partner about decisions and says I’m better off alone. Mania says I don’t have to answer to anyone. Mania tells me to buy the expensive jeans, just don’t tell anyone how much they cost. Mania likes me…. until she doesn’t.

Then depression decides to move in, carrying more luggage than necessary to do the job. Depression is like an old coat that no one likes. Wool. Scratchy. Ugly. Smelly. Sad. Depression always overstays its visit. Depression is constantly unpacking baggage. Depression tells me I’m tired, sad and lonely. Depression sulks and cries for no reason. Depression tell me I’m worthless and that I haven’t lived up to my potential so just give up. Depression tells me that no one likes me. Depression tells me I’m fat and my face is looking old. Depression says not to smile or laugh. Depression tells me it is better to stay in bed. Depression tells me I’m a bad mom to my kids. Depression says I have ruined them. Depression wants to be in the dark, keep the shades closed. Depression cries with me and sometimes I even find comfort in Depression.

Just when I feel consumed by that old coat, dark and lonely, sad and uncomfortable, there’s a knock. Mania kicks the door down and announces her arrival. Depression packs up slowly over a few days, sometimes weeks. Mania calls more and more and I start to go out. And one of them leaves while the other one takes its place. I again am alone in this house with one of the two of my constant companions. I never know how long each stay will last. Weeks, months. Some longer than others. I do know this – it won’t last forever. One will go, one will stay. In those moments, in between — when one is coming and the other going, I can almost see my own reflection. Just me. Without one of my constant companions. Just me. Staring back at me. And then one walks in and I know it’ll be awhile before I’m alone again.

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