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When I Had a Manic Episode at Disneyland

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Disneyland smells like burnt caramel and sweat. There is a tang in the air. If I stick my tongue out, I’ll save four dollars. The California heat is burning a hole through my head. Straight through to the confetti and rolling dice. I’m lucky as an opera singer.

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I’m manic. My blood is sizzling. I have been awake for so long I have convinced myself I’m still dreaming. Unleash the pink animals. I am aware that something is wrong as I yell at my mother in the ticket line. Still, my words are bugs I have to get off me. It doesn’t matter that they don’t make sense: the park is rigged and I won’t fall for it.

A girl wearing plastic Mickey Mouse ears looks at me. I want to rip them off of her blonde head. My mother is tired and we haven’t even gotten our tickets yet. She knows something is wrong but can’t put a finger on it. It’s hard to call it a fever when it looks like blushing. She sighs and tells me it is not her fault I sprained my ankle an hour before. While stopped earlier, I was excited about being in LA for the first time. The “city of angels” while I felt holy. It was almost too perfect. I saw a girl with bleached hair walking up ahead and couldn’t stop myself from staring. I didn’t see the pothole I fell into as a result.

Now, I could barely walk. We bought our tickets and my brothers led us to the first ride they saw. Something about going so fast, you don’t even have a name. I went on a couple of rides. Span with the machines. Swayed in my seat. Clenched my teeth and felt watched.

While my brothers went on Space Mountain, a ride I felt evil radiating from, I stayed on the ground and sought out somebody to talk to. When I’m manic, I feel connected to everybody all the time. Nobody is ever dangerous. It seems people treat me different, too. Like they feel my energy and can’t help but be attracted to it. Men call me baby. Women look me up and down. I’m the virus you thought you wanted gone but you’re so glad to see me.

I walked around a bit, singing some fizzy pop song I heard on the radio earlier that day. Slurring syllables. I decided to go to a tiny snack stand, empty save for a dull-eyed employee with wet brown hair. He could use some of my charm, I decided. I’m always deciding. I introduce myself and ask him if he likes working at the “happiest place on earth” and before he can say anything, I tell him that Mickey Mouse controls the world. He’s everywhere. He’s pulling all the strings with his gloves. The man laughs, unsure what to say. I tell him I sprained my ankle and he asks if I’m OK. I know he wants to love me. I say goodbye and find someone else.

I sit next to a woman on a bench. I ask for the time and we talk for a while. She’s from Flagstaff. Flagstaff is on fire right now. She hates roller coasters. I tell her my name is Neon, I’m from Texas and I love her earrings. She doesn’t have to know I’m telling a lie. When her family gets off the ride, she introduces me. I make her boyfriend laugh. He loves me, too. They want to take me with them back to Flagstaff. Maybe I could stop the flames.

For a couple of hours after that, I twitch and sing. My ankle is bursting through my sock. Everybody knows what I’m thinking. I steal a glittering crystal out of impulse. It might help me. I pick at the food my mother buys me. Finally, she gets me a wheelchair for the rest of the day.

Denial is inherited. My brothers wheel me around. I am presidential. I’m splitting up families like the red sea. While they go on a ride, I wait and as I am about to wheel myself over to a photographer to ease my racing thoughts for a while, they come back. The world is funny like that, always saving me from myself.

The sun starts to disappear. I’m restless in my chair. I get up and walk around, even though it hurts. As the sky purples, we wait for the fireworks. When they start, I don’t expect to cry but end up doing so anyway. I haven’t cried in a month, but mania makes everything mean so much. Every pink is red, every whisper is a scream. Everything wants to be something.

When they’re over, we return the wheelchair and I limp behind my family back to the bus that will take us back to the parking lot. The air still smells sweet.

That night, I briefly dream about Mickey Mouse and his empire. Except he doesn’t have a tail. And he keeps laughing. When I wake up, I’m glad to have survived myself.

Getty image via VictorHuang.

Originally published: September 26, 2019
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