How My Bipolar Mania Is Like a Video Game Power-Up

As a 19-year-old obsessed with video game culture and having been recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder I, I desperately tried to make sense of these severe symptoms I had been experiencing. The first thought in my mind, of course, was how to relate my mental health to my childhood growing up on video games — a great comfort throughout my life.

Having the coolest family who raised me the right way (thanks, Uncle Jon!), I grew up watching and playing the earlier Nintendo systems. I have fond memories of going to my grandmother’s and watching my uncle Jon play a plethora of Mario games on the Super Nintendo. My earliest memories are of me failing to clear the first jump of the first level of the first Mario game in “Super Mario All-Stars.”

What makes the Mario series diverse and exciting is the mechanics of “leveling up” with different power-up items.

Everyone with knowledge of popular culture knows of the mushroom that makes Mario bigger, the fire flower that lets Mario shoot flames from his fists, and last but not least, the elusive Starman that has Mario running at sonic speeds (no pun intended) and barreling into his enemies full-stop.

This is where my bipolar disorder comes into play as my own special kind of power-up.

My mania feels like I have been powered up by Starman. I am glowing rainbow colors as if I am radiating this cosmic energy. I am always moving fast. I cannot be stopped by anyone or anything. I feel invincible, my best self. Time is ever-ephemeral and the world is too slow for my starry-self.

Power-ups in video games are supposed to help you, but what happens when they are too much for the character to handle?

This is where I am still learning. I am in the tutorial stage if you will, of navigating life with my bipolar and manic episodes.

My Starman is a fleeting superpower that only I know how to use. Sometimes, when I am strong enough, I know how to use him right. I can use him to paint colorful self-portraits, bake new things and spread my glowing energy to give love to friends and family. Similar to Mario’s power-ups, my Starman has a time limit. He doesn’t grant me his powers forever. Yet I know that each time he appears, I will be using him to my advantage to discover new things about myself.

I may not be Super Mario, but I know I can be a super version of myself.

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Photo by Wells Baum on Unsplash

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