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When Mania Gives You Too Many Good Ideas

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I’m there right now, in mania. It isn’t so severe that I’m parachuting out of my office building or directing traffic stark naked, but it is there. I have the intense racing thoughts. I’m not sleeping, and I have great, I mean great, ideas.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Currently, I want to build a fenced-in cat house/cage outside my bedroom window. This way my cats can enjoy being outside without becoming prey to a larger animal. Is it a terrible idea? Not entirely. But, it isn’t the idea that is dangerous, in this moment. What is dangerous is the urgency and the fact that it isn’t the only idea I’ve had in the last hour.

I also want to go back to school and finish the degree I never could finish because of my bipolar disorder. I want to finish my memoir and even host another writing group. I want to start a zillion Pinterest craft projects. In fact, that’s where the idea came for the cat cage, from Pinterest (which I have been browsing relentlessly for the past two day and nights when I can’t sleep.) I have decided to eventually open a food truck or a hole in the wall restaurant to have a place to serve all of the delicious meals I’m about to start perfecting.

The funny thing is, I’m immobile currently. I just had knee surgery. It’s all I can do to get myself some toast or slice up an avocado and bring it back to the couch on crutches so I can continue to ice my knee down.

That is actually when the mania started, with the pain pills. Narcotics and mood stabilizer meds are never a good combination however necessary they may be. My psychiatrist and I debated the importance of even having the surgery for fear that the pain killers may push me into a manic state. My mind held off the mania for the first four weeks, as I tapered slowly off the heavy pain killers and onto a less potent one. Yet, my mind could only take so much. Now, I’m in mania, and it’s taking hold of me.

There is good news though! I caught it. This is the hardest part of mania, not realizing you are in it. If you don’t see it and you don’t address it, then how in the heck are you supposed to beat it?

This time, I caught it, and I caught it early. It started with the good ideas (and oh, how they seem so good!) The cat cage, especially! Looking at all my racing ideas now, I try not to get discouraged that I have so many ideas because they all seem so good. Yet, after having gone through many manic episodes, hitting bumps along the way and learning to cope, I have realized this one glorious thing: Just because the ideas are too many, too fast and too bright, doesn’t mean they will not be valid for another time.

Stop. Think about this. Many of your ideas may be good ideas at another time, a time when the world doesn’t hold so much urgency and mental demand, a time when your mind isn’t fast-tracking toward disaster and a time when the world has calmed once more. These ideas might be useful, helpful or even great once you’re out of mania.

What do I do to make sure I don’t lose them while I come down from my manic high? I write them down or sketch them out. I do not act on them. Now, I know this takes an incredible amount of self-control, self-control you don’t think you have while manic. It takes practice.

When your ideas start flowing, double check yourself and ask: “Am I manic?” If you think there might be even a 10 percent chance that the answer is yes, then stop. Write the ideas down, sketch them out, record them. Heck, you can plan them to the last detail on paper and even do a small craft project here or there. However, don’t act on your grand ideas until you are certain your mind has stabilized.

You’ll know when that is, as long as you’ve admitted to yourself you were manic in the first place. Believe me, I know this is half the battle. It is so discouraging to admit to yourself that you are struggling, especially when the mania feels so good. But remember, what goes up must come down. If you let yourself get too far into that manic high, then you will come crashing down in a flurry of depression and disaster.

Try to catch the mania early, as hard as it is. Get help, talk to your doctor, monitor your meds closely and do everything that helps to pull you from your manic state, even if it is just practicing sitting still and breathing.

I will admit that I’m manic now. My ideas flow now, my thoughts race and oh boy do I feel so good. Yet, as I sketch out the designs and I jot my plans down, I am also dialing my psychiatrist’s phone number right after I finish writing this article. Because my brilliant idea of building this glorious cat cage outside of my window must wait.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 18, 2016
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