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Partying My Way Through Mania

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It happened again.

It couldn’t have been just the Ambien abuse, or the blow, or the underage drinking, etc. Maybe chalk it up to a sleep disorder — but then again, who doesn’t have an issue between the sheets these days? “What happened last night?” seems to be a valid question to ask that kid standing in the mirror picking the dryer lint out of his belly button who can’t manage to match his socks or get his shit together.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

It might be trite to say, but I am fucking good at partying, especially when I’m in a manic state. Being the life of the party is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. And with that expectation comes abuse, lack of limitations, and insufficient authoritative control. Rock and rolling is what I do best.

At this point, I was (mis)diagnosed with dysthymia, general anxiety disorder, and a bad case of chronic insomnia. After seeing not one, not two, but three different shrinks, they were all convinced I was just growing up, that the reason I stayed up at night reading Byron and studying quantum physics was a lack of interest in the academic, and that my depressed, angry frame of mind was just teenage angst. Granted, my “fuck you” attitude was at an all-time high, and the amount of times I told loved ones to fuck off was astronomical.

Here’s what I remember of this ill-fated night: I was playing drums for this punk, doom metal Sabbath-similar trio of older dudes outside of D.C. at this local dive. I was manic as fuck, high on a little of the good stuff, energy drinks, and somehow was paid in beer, ignoring my 17-year-old status or “misplacement” of identification. I also had school the following Monday bright and early at 7 a.m., in that other part of my life that was built on maintaining academic integrity, growing up with schoolmates, etc.

So the gig goes on for about two hours, and I’m not even tired. I was on fire. After playing, I caught a ride back home (I also didn’t have my license at the time, go figure) somewhere close to 1 or 2 in the morning. One of my buds caught wind of a party off in Great Falls and said we should go check out the tail end of it and see if we couldn’t finish the dregs of some poor parent’s liquor cabinet. We go, and upon arrival, it is a total shitshow. A friend passed me a half-drained plastic handle of shit vodka. I finished it in between rounds of shots and smoking joints — and that’s about all I remember.

I blacked out and woke up in a hospital bed at Sibley Memorial, concerned mom and pops looking over me, the doctor checking my chart and shaking his head with paternal disappointment. They weren’t mad that I had snuck out or that I was drinking underage — they didn’t know about the blow — but were worried for my general well-being and health, as parents often are. My friends, being the saints that they are, had driven me to the emergency room after I blacked out and started puking every which way, showering me off and attempting to put a lid on yet another high school incident without calling the cops or an ambulance. With a BAC of .24 and, luckily enough, no traces of drugs found in my system (not exactly sure how I pulled that off), the ‘rents drove me back to the house in silence as I lay in a drooling slump in the back of the car with one of the worst hangovers I have ever experienced. At least I got to keep the hospital socks as a souvenir.

This is just one of the many events in my life where I ran too fast, flew too close to the sun, and got burned. Monday morning, my mother dropped me off at school in my Ambien-induced funk, where I have zero recollection of just how I was able to walk into an institution and somehow sit myself down in a classroom, only to fall face-down into a desk, struggling to remain conscious in a World Civilizations class of 30, completely unaware middle-class conscious bodies. What they thought of me, I can only imagine.

It was bad, my mental state. And all of us were just confused, unsure of what I was dealing with and how to deal with it. I was highly volatile, “armed and dangerous” by the good graces of what would soon be known as “The Dark Passenger.” My friends were out of the know — and as far as I was unconcerned for my life, they would never find out what I was going through. Little did I know it would only get worse without proper treatment. None of us were prepared for the trials and tribulations that were to come.

Most cases of bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, and other related mood disorders are discovered over time; I didn’t just wake up one morning and think to myself, “Wow, I’m a kid with a ragingly acute bipolar disorder, and that is going to affect me the rest of my life.” No. That was learned over time, through misdiagnosis and, for better or worse, living through modern chemistry. Somewhere around my sophomore year of high school, I was in the throes of mixed episodes, not quite sure why I felt the need to stay up for days at a time in my room, sneaking out barefoot in the middle of the night to chase the moonlight. Because of the Ambien, I would sleepwalk and not be able to get a grip on what was real or not. My perception of the “real” was a blurred line of the altered states between waking life and dreamland, causing me to hallucinate and see things that weren’t there.

There was one time when I was fucked up and took too much because I was depressed at the time and thought I could get away from it all in my sleep. I whited out after an hour or so of sweating in my sheets, and everything went dark. Turns out, I was depressed at the time but had entered a mixed state when the night terror of night terrors came and reared its ugly head. When I resurfaced too fast from sleep, I dreamt of another version of myself in my room, staring at me from the edge of my bed. Paralyzed by fear, I couldn’t breathe, move, or take my eyes away from this shadowy silhouette. The longer I stared, the more intense the nightmare became. I eventually willed my body to slide my legs off the side and get out of the room. It was about 11, so my parents were still up, watching the hockey game with most of the lights on. It was like I was drunk and high, unable to walk a straight line and so far gone that I drooled over the stairs as I tried to make my escape. The old man witnessed this and started talking to me, but all I heard was gibberish, like he was talking through 10 feet of molasses. My head was pounding, sweating bullets from every pore and orifice, adrenaline taking my heart rate to an alarming rate as I made for the front door, with the intention of running off into the night. This was the first of a few overdose attempts, always seeming to end with me waking up in limbo.

It was just a phase, sure, but my will to live was squandered by the love-hate relationship with sleeping medication and the thought of torturing the fragile eggshell of a manic mind. Against all odds, I left the house after 4 a.m. when the drugs started to wear down, wandering through the lurid-lit streets of a “safe” neighborhood. Everything was so surreal. Even though I knew some things weren’t there and defied rational thought, I was so out of it that I believed them to be truly there. This was the first time I had heard the word “schizotypal,” as the shrink noticed how often I would stare off into space, counting phosphines on single-color canvases like the ceiling and the sky. There was nothing there, but I believed. The thrill of flying off into the cloud of psychotics would certainly bring me too close to the sun, but without Daedalus there to slap some sense in me, I would not be writing this today. This house where nobody really lives is a constant questioning of the visceral, a turn of phrasing with the bipolar chord progressions that compose my life. How that affected my current state has yet to be determined.

Looking back, I have no idea how I made it out alive. Every time I would turn my back on the drug itself, and try to avoid it, the long nights became more and more intense, increasing in difficulty and length, exhaustive in intensive foci on madness, sporadic intellectual ventures, women, and any and all problems that they had that could take me away from my own. I was — and probably still am — a sponge to this, but back then, it was bad. It was like any time I was fucked up on pills, I would discover a new love interest and try to “fix” her by staying up at all hours and listening to problems I shouldn’t be privy to. This was the start of sexual deviancy, where I realized that my tendencies and fondness for the opposite sex might not be entirely driven by love, but by lustful compulsion and the need for attention from someone. I’m not saying I “whored” myself out, but I sought and was sought after and allowed my body to be used to the fullest extent in the process of self-detriment and release. It’s healthy, in a totally unhealthy way.

Am I capable of maintaining a relationship? With a manic brain and a penis that loves to work, it’s hard not to be active in all meanings of the word. What remains to be seen, and what I’m about to get into, is my sordid past of relationships, heartbreak, and sex. A lot of sex. And the bummer of it all is that I don’t remember most of it because I was high.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Originally published: June 22, 2017
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