Monthly Archives: February 2012

Recounting Accountability

A couple years ago when I began attending a bipolar meetup group in the area, I was worried I’d fall into a hole.

This pit would be full of dark things, like the words “mental illness” and “disabled”, and the black sea of gook would engulf and drown any accountability I felt I had in regard to my actions.

I had seen this slip in places before, where one embraces whatever diagnosis is thrown at them after some turmoil, then relinquishes all control over oneself in favor of using the diagnosis as a scapegoat.

I ruined my relationship? Oh, it was just mental illness. I didn’t have anything to do with that.

I was desperate to retain some semblance of control. To retain me, my integrity, and the accountability that the general population is held to in regard to their actions.

I will not allow myself to use mental illness as an excuse.

The ride has been a bumpy one, and I’ve since rescinded the absolute nature of my goal.

This last year, for example, I had to come to terms with the fact that I could not keep up physically with the people around me. I couldn’t perform at work as well as the people around me. And trying to hold myself to the same standards of others (physically) was making me crash and burn, over and over and over again.

Is it beginning? I wondered. Am I using bipolar disorder as an excuse as to why I can’t work as hard as my co-workers? Am I watching my accountability slipping away?

I’d like to believe that the fact that I felt tortured because I couldn’t do those things somehow makes up for the fact that I couldn’t do them. Since I was struggling so much and wanted to work hard, is bipolar still an excuse, or an adversary?

My boyfriend, wise as he is, told me I couldn’t do more than I could do.

Maybe it was my personal standards that needed to change? If my standard was how much I can actually do, as opposed to how much I want to do, the excuse is no longer relevant. I am only capable of doing what I am capable of doing, and as long as I still push myself to do everything I can, I can keep those torturous feelings of inadequacy at bay.

You better believe that took some getting used to, and the adjustment seemed much more difficult than, say, just having my brain transplanted into a new robot body. Or rather, since the brain seems to be the issue, having a new brain transplanted into the body I have now.

Anyway, that compromise was very difficult for me. It wasn’t one I had really intended to make, but I was driving myself into deep depression anytime I tried like hell to keep up with the rest. Realistically, after something hasn’t worked for the last 8 years, I guess trying a new approach might produce better results.

But then that leaves that other, daunting situation, where mental illness is an excuse for bad behavior. Treating others badly, treating myself badly, and the like.

I’ve done some terrible things, terrrrrrrible. Did I do them when I was totally irrational? Some of them. Did some of them involve insensitive outbursts at people who didn’t deserve them? Yup. Did I leave a trail of emotional carnage in my wake like some kind of bipolar Godzilla?

You bet.

And I am definitely not proud of those things (which is why you will not be seeing a detailed list here pointing out what those things were).

I am certain bipolar disorder had at least something to do with these incidences, but I was there, I was the one who gurgled out poison words. I kind of wish I had some kind of clone to blame everything on, but I don’t. It was me.

But facing that fact is hard. It is much easier to say, “well, I wasn’t quite myself, so I wasn’t part of what happened,” but the distinction of whether it was me or not (internally) is only made by myself. Maybe if bipolar episode Sarah had a “B” emblazoned on her forehead everyone could tell whether I was the one creating mayhem or not, but as it is episodic, irrational me shares a body with sane (ish) regular me. There is only one mouth for those words to escape from, and if sane mouth is going to have any credibility, that means taking responsibility for crazy mouth.

And I know those moments, because you might be thinking, ah, but what about when my consciousness seems to be floating apart from my body and I’m subject to just watching it do whatever it wants? 

Sorry. Still counts.

Even if, at this point, someone close to me can tell that I am not behaving normally, those actions and words are linked to me.

I dated someone for a handful of years who clearly had periods more lucid than others. He would repeatedly attack me verbally, or threaten me, or worse.

I told myself over and over again that it wasn’t really him that was doing it, I knew him well enough to be able to recognize the little marker on his forehead when he was being completely irrational. But it didn’t make his actions or words hurt any less. Hell, I’ll be lucky if I can get over the shit I went through with him sometime in the next 10 years!

I waited for him to snap out of it. To grow out of it. It got worse.

I thought, maybe mental illness is making him an asshole?

Then I realized that wasn’t the case. He was just an asshole. He didn’t apologize for his actions, he didn’t try to do anything about them. He didn’t take any responsibility for hurting me over and over again, even though he knew he was doing it.

After being on the receiving end of that behavior, it seems so unfair that it hurts so much more when someone says something awful to you than it does to say those things yourself.

Epiphany?

Like that Family Guy episode where the inmate (waiting to stab Peter’s friend Joe) sits on the bunk in prison and says, “I wonder what this feels like?” before jestingly stabbing himself in the leg and screaming out in pain. “Is that what I’ve been doing to people all these years?!?”

Maybe it was the growing up I needed to do in order to take responsibility for what I was doing. Getting emotionally pulverized for 3 years really made me realize that regardless of what is going on in my head, I am responsible for the things that come out of my mouth. Period.

So bipolar disorder? Not an excuse.

And I still have outbursts, and irrational periods, and urges to do weird, nonsensical things, but the difference is that I have a system set up, something to counteract those things when they occur. Whether that is a system of thought, a system of medication, a system of people to call, or a plan in the event things get totally out of control.

If none of those help and I make a mistake, then ok. It was me that made it.

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Revenge of the Tremors

And not the big worm kind.

Lithium is a drug that seems to be notorious for various things, tremors being one of them.

When I first began taking lithium it was definitely a wild ride. I didn’t have any of the other side effect symptoms (thank goodness) minus dry mouth, but I definitely developed a bad case of tremors.

Tremors involve a rhythmic shaking of the hands, arms, head, legs, or trunk, so it can happen pretty much anywhere but is most often occurring in the hands.

So basically you shake, and you can’t control it. Daily tasks can become comical, but definitely frustrating. Try signing your name! Or pouring some coffee! Or putting on makeup!

When I first had tremors (I think around 8 months ago), they were pretty severe. For me they were accompanied by feeling extremely week in my arms and legs (as my legs were shaky too, though only really noticeably when trying to go up and down stairs or hills) which made things considerably more difficult. Shaking is one thing, but having muscles seeming to give out entirely? Yeah that’s another story.

What is interesting to me is that, thinking back, I definitely had tremors in my hands and legs at times as a child. I didn’t know why (and I still don’t), I just knew that I was randomly very shaky. Thankfully I seemed to grow out of it for the most part, or at least up until beginning to take Lithium.

Anyway, after a few weeks, the tremors began fading away, and up until last week I hadn’t seen any sign of them.

I was scrubbing the tub. (Rub a dub dub!) Scrubbing away to get a beautiful shine on that puppy when suddenly things went haywire. My scrubby hand dropped the sponge, it didn’t seem to want to clench any more.

Tremors!

Back in my hands with a vengeance! Maybe I overexerted my scrubbing muscles, who knows, but there was an hour period where I literally couldn’t even type on the computer. My fingers mashed wildly at the buttons with no strength or accuracy… so I gave up.

It was certainly an unexpected surprise, and I guess I just need to remind myself every so often that my body is still getting used to being more active. I’m also expecting some blood tests this week, so hopefully that will rule out anything out of the ordinary.

Return of the Psychiatrist

Starting off this week with a bang! I got a call from the east coast this morning (apparently I’ve finally bugged the company I was previously employed at into submission) telling me my final paycheck is in the mail. I am so ready to have some closure with that situation, I never want to have to think of all of their ridiculous crap ever again. I also got a chance to wear one of my favorite dresses to work yesterday, which wouldn’t be a big deal if I had been able to fit into the darn thing over the last 6 months! To top it off, I woke this morning to clear blue skies and sunshine, which is very unusual for Seattle this time of year. To me, morning sun is synonymous with optimism, so any time I am lucky enough to get some it almost guarantees a great day!

Alright, alright, enough with the exclamation points.

In addition to those great things, I got a letter on Saturday from a local hospital/clinic that confirmed they are going to pay for my “medically necessary” doctor’s visits for the next 6 months.

Last year when I was really depressed I began seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in years. And I’m talking like seven years. 

I don’t think I gave him much of a chance. 

I was in depression mode, so it didn’t matter how clever or down to earth he might have been, I was extremely skeptical. On top of that, he had no basis for how I normally act or what a normal mood is for me, because by the time I met him I was so far gone there was very little of the usual me left.

I was desperate and in the depressed head-space (and had been for a while) so I had no clear memory of what “normal” was for me anymore, I couldn’t communicate what that was. When I’m that depressed, my thinking and feeling becomes so skewed that I have no frame of reference of what I’m talking about. I either can’t reflect on those “normal” periods because of where I’m trying to look at them from, or my interpretation is so muddled that I can’t discern which periods are which.

All I really remember from my visits is him saying (because he must have been repeating me), “Yes, I know you already said this episode should be over by now.” Apparently I was just a parrot exclaiming I should be coming out of the depression at any moment, because my episodes don’t normally last a year.

At the time, I was also completely oblivious to how complicated my case actually is, and it took numerous times of him actually telling me things were complicated before I began to listen and reflect on what he said.

Complicated? C’mon. But I admit I was overwhelmingly naive about my own situation. I don’t think it was until I’d tried the 15 different medications that didn’t work out that the weight of the word complicated really began to sink in.

Now that I have a better grasp on all of the elements and I’ve talked to numerous folks with bipolar disorder, I guess it is nothing less than truthful to say what I experience is complicated. Bipolar disorder is complicated even if it is your standard “right out of the book” case, but on top of that I have very rapid, sometimes hourly mood swings as well. Then sprinkle in the anxiety, PTSD, and OCD symptoms and it just becomes a big old stew pot of crazy.

When he began mentioning the possibility of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), I scoffed & fled. Surely I wasn’t that far gone, right? Surely I didn’t require such extreme measures. And surely he must be even crazier than I am for bringing it up!

After my hospitalization we parted ways, I was put onto the Washington State disability program for healthcare and it didn’t cover seeing him. It was months before I found out they weren’t going to cover seeing any psychiatrist, even though I was admitted to the program for having severe depression. They definitely made me believe that wouldn’t be an issue, so I was more than a little frustrated when I was denied access to a prescribing doctor.

Now that the paperwork has gone through, I’ll be seeing the same doctor again. I couldn’t afford to go otherwise, and even just on the phone when I made the appointment (before my paperwork was finalized) I was told I needed to bring a $300 deposit to see the psychiatrist since I didn’t have insurance. Ahem. Yeah, right.

Since I’ve come out of the depression, I wasn’t initially planning to go this route, but after having a couple of those brief manic moments within the last month or so I’ve concluded it might not be a bad idea. Though infrequent, I really could do without those intense delusional moments, so I’d like to at least see what he has to say about things.

Honestly I am expecting to feel very embarrassed when I get in his office. I was pretty irrational the last time he saw me (in June), and I barged into his office on more than one occasion (not during my scheduled appointment time) hysterical and in tears. It is difficult to think about now that I’m in a completely different place, and I at least owe him an apology for the way I treated him.

Recently I’ve decided that I admire him for bringing up the possibility of ECT rather than despise him for it. He didn’t hesitate to lay out all the options, and I think that it is so important for doctors to introduce a patient to all the treatment options, not just a few. At the time it really scared the heck out of me, and in that depressed head-space I couldn’t seem to believe what he was telling me. I really do appreciate that he tried so hard to help me though, even if I couldn’t see it at the time, and that’s one of the reasons I’m going back to the same person.

So my first appointment is this week, and I’m working on revising my “symptom list” that I’ve been compiling over the last few weeks in potential preparation. The care I’ve been awarded by the hospital doesn’t remove the problem of ridiculously priced medications, but at this point I’m not sure what kind of route we’ll be taking with that anyway. The last round with this particular doctor, we pretty much explored every option possible, as far as medications were concerned. But, again, things are significantly different from the last time I was in his office, so I’ll be quite curious to see what happens.

Honestly, I’m just looking forward to having a conversation I can understand with him. If I can do that, the goal of the week will be met.

Now You See It? Now You Don’t!

I experienced something odd earlier this week. I’ve been waiting it out to see if it happens again, but it hasn’t.

Hallucinations are not usually in my repertoire, or, well, I guess they are (based on my latest research about them) just in a different fashion.

I don’t see the things that most people with hallucinations do apparently, because even when I’ve seen faces in the sand or ugly carpet at the movie theatre, they aren’t usually demonic or anything. They aren’t frightening, just odd, and it feels very much like I’m living in a world created by Jim Henson. Door knockers may take on a persona, but they never seem to talk back, so it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. I’ve attributed this largely to an overactive imagination that constantly wants to take shapes and turn them into other shapes, even though they are (apparently) technically some kind of hallucination.

That said there are very few instances in my life I’ve seen something that absolutely wasn’t there, and when I have I generally have the excuse of having a fever, or that they were caused accidentally by a medication I was taking, or whatever.

Monday was a little bit of a different story though.

I was walking to catch the bus with Corey, and I swear I saw him holding a plastic grocery bag. I thought it was odd (because I couldn’t think of why he’d be bringing a bag to the bus) but when I turned to ask him about it I was mid-sentence before suddenly realizing he had no bag at all. He never did.

Huh?

So that is weird, I would say, but not life-threatening or, really, much more crazy than what I would normally admit to. Maybe the image I was seeing was one produced solely by my head, not by my eyes, maybe I was confused or some wires got crossed.

Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have thought too much more about it, but something similar happened again later.

One minute I saw him taking off his shirt, then I was distracted by something else and looked away. When my attention returned to him when he sat next to me, he was wearing a shirt.

“Why did you put your shirt back on?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” He replied.

“You took your shirt off,” I said, “why did you put it back on?”

The verdict?

“I didn’t take my shirt off.”

Bizarre!

In both situations I could have sworn I saw what I did, and in my head when I replay the memory, it looks just as if I’ve described it.

So like I said, I spent the rest of the week waiting to see if anything else out of the ordinary occurred, but it didn’t.

I suppose if I’m going to be subject to any sort of hallucinations, very bland “oh he’s holding a bag… oh no wait, no bag” hallucinations are the safest, I’m sure. Everything else I’ve read about on the internet involves being visited by various shadows or bugs or people and it all sounds particularly threatening feeling.

But disappearing plastic bags and reappearing shirts are probably the least threatening things I can think of, so really I feel much better already.

What does concern me a little are the implications. Obviously if this is something that begins happening on a regular basis, there might be an immediate issue in need of resolution. As things are currently, I’ll just add it to the “weird shit that happens to me sometimes” list that I’ve been building to show to my next psychiatrist.

5 Tips for Supporting Someone with Bipolar Disorder

Since becoming involved with the bipolar community here in Seattle, I’ve had a number of people contact me who are friends or family of someone with bipolar disorder, looking for information on things they can do to help.

I think anyone who can act as a support person for someone, especially if that someone is living with bipolar disorder or other “mental illness”, is extremely admirable. Everyone needs some kind of support in their lives, and sometimes having bipolar disorder can mean needing a little bit extra.

By the time these folks get to me, they are usually worn out. At their wits end, stressed, frazzled, desperate, you name it.

So what do you do? How can a support person stay in a position that is supportive without getting burned out?

I’ve got 5 tips to share that could potentially make an enormous difference.

5. Have an emergency plan. 

If your friend or loved one is at risk for suicide or exhibits potentially dangerous behaviors (during manic episodes, for example) it is really important to be prepared for the possibility of an emergency. Speaking with the person while stable (though preferred but not always possible) about their wishes of what should happen in the event of an emergency could potentially be life-saving.

The stress of supporting someone who is in crisis can be extremely overwhelming, and that stress can be ten-fold if you don’t know what to do to help. I’ve discussed this topic a little more in depth in In Case of Emergency, so if you’re not sure how to go about creating an emergency plan, please check it out!

4. Patience is a virtue. 

Despite the advances in modern medicine, it is extremely unlikely an episode will subside abruptly (and if it does, that may be additional cause for concern). Unfortunately (as most of us with bipolar disorder know), we just have to wait it out. Even after emergency treatment, for example, a depressive episode could last months or longer while waiting for medications to begin working, or looking for medications that will potentially work. It is really important to realize that recovery from an episode takes time, and accepting this will ultimately help fuel the amount of patience available for the situation.

Trust me, we wish things would suddenly snap back to normal too, and there’s a possibility that the person experiencing the episode might be getting down on themselves for not recovering more quickly. The more patience you have, the less pressure they will feel, and the less stress someone recovering from an episode encounters, the quicker the recovery.

3. Be open.

Being open is a two-way street, being open about what you’re willing to share (talking) and being open about what you’re willing to hear (listening). I suggest doing both. I think the most important part of being open is not necessarily always having an “answer” to the things being shared with you. Usually just a response of understanding of what the person said is helpful, or words of encouragement and support. It is ok to give your opinion, but just remember that unless you’ve experienced what the person you’re supporting has experienced, it probably isn’t wise to jump to any conclusions. Check out A Sudden Change of Behavior in a Loved One for more tips.

This can be a difficult thing to do for anyone, so if it initially feels uncomfortable that is normal. Some people (myself included) never properly learned how to talk about what they’re feeling, and others are experiencing feeling things they’ve never felt before -so they may not know how to describe them! This can make things confusing, but including someone like a therapist in the support network can help everyone learn how to accurately describe the situation.

Being open is also important because as a support person, it is important to have an idea of how things are going. I would say keeping close tabs on somebody’s mood isn’t usually necessary, but if someone is acting unusual and doing dangerous things, or is feeling suicidal, emergency action might be necessary. The goal is to notice these behaviors sooner rather than later, so if you’re able to talk about what is going on you’ll have a much more realistic chance of doing that.

2. Share the love.

You may feel like this is something you have to take on alone, but you don’t. In fact, the more support people someone has, the easier it is for everyone. Expand the support network by including other friends or relatives (who are supportive), doctors, therapists, support groups, religious organizations, etc. Being relied on by another human being can catch people off-guard, especially if the episode came on suddenly or was unexpected. The extra responsibility can be stressful and draining, so the more people to help take on that responsibility the better.

I learned pretty early on that sharing intense feelings with someone can have something of a burdensome effect for the recipient, so I try to spread out those conversations to a number of different people. If everyone just takes a little bit of that emotional weight, I can take off the whole load without crushing any one person.

Personally, I like having a group of 4 or 5 people I really like to meet with and talk to (just friends really) when I need to talk. I also have a great therapist, but having those other folks means I can call someone to meet me right away if I need to -so no waiting to schedule an appointment. My boyfriend who I live with is my go-to emergency man and he tends to kind of keep tabs on how things are going overall. In addition to all of that, I also go to a support group. Quality is important, but quantity doesn’t hurt.

1. Put the mask on yourself before putting it on others.

The number one suggestion I make to people is to take care of yourself. Helping someone who is in trouble (especially when they’re someone you love) can mean putting yourself on the back burner, but it is really important to do the opposite. Take time to relax and do something you love, take the opportunity to laugh at a joke and hang out with a friend. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself and your emotional wellbeing.

It may be that someone is considering you a support person in their lives because they value your emotional stability when they don’t have any, so it is important to maintain that for yourself, as well as for them. Failing to take care of yourself can also place pressure on the person you’re supporting, as they’re likely to take the brunt of any expressed frustration and exhaustion. It is possible they also feel guilty about taking your time in the first place, so allowing yourself to become rundown by not taking care of yourself can add extra feelings of guilt and anxiety.

For those with a network of bipolar peers, like me, I provide support to others when I’m able, and they provide support back when they’re able. Supporting our friends and peers is important, but it is probably more important to remember to support ourselves first since many of us are still at risk for potentially triggering episodes. I don’t take it personally when someone isn’t available to support me because I understand the value in needing to take care of myself first.

 

Providing support also means finding a balance between what you realistically can do for someone and what you aren’t able to do. By following these 5 tips, both you and the person receiving support should be better served, providing a bit more stability in a rather unstable place.

The [Bipolar] Artist’s Statement

I’ve been something of an artist my whole life, but I’ve only recently began taking on the task of seeking funding for big artistic projects.

I look at applying for grants very much like applying for scholarships, because worst-case scenario -you just don’t get any money. There are no further negative consequences (and I’ve grown a hardened skin to rejection long ago) so I don’t feel like I have much to lose by applying.

I’ve also recently (within the last year) been exploring an art-form which is rather unique, so I feel like, if anything, that should probably shift things in my favor, even if just a little bit.

Alternating Chevron Sash, 2011. Wool, 73"x2"x.125"

The technique I’ve been using is somewhat dead, and I think that’s why I like it so much. I’m resurrecting an art-form of the past, something that hasn’t been widely employed in at least 200 years. If nothing else, that just seems plain cool to me.

Yesterday I was working on my “artist resume” (it is something of a list of where one’s artwork has been shown in the past) and I was hitting a little bit of a road block.

This weaving is something I’ve been doing only for about a year and a half. Before that was basketry. And before that was film. And before that was fashion. And before that was painting and drawing and mosaics.

That’s when it hit me. My artistic resume is just a sporadic as my employment resume.

I’ve been told it is common for people with bipolar disorder to jump from job to job (for whatever reason, being fired, stress, etc). and that fact can be somewhat of a trademark of bipolar disorder itself.

As far as employment, well I wont lie… I’ve had  11  12 jobs in the last 5 years. Some of them were overlapping, some of them I left because they were just plain ridiculous, and others, well, something just happens. 

I don’t entirely know how to describe it, but usually it starts with depression. The depression comes on, and the anxiety has got me in a lock, like a boa constrictor. At that point, something usually triggers the final meltdown. Sexual harassment. Being physically threatened by a co-worker. Intense physical illness. -Just to name a few. I’m already so out of sorts that I no longer have the capacity to “deal” with these sorts of stresses at work, so I move on.

My recent conclusion is that this is largely due to working full time. My body and mind don’t seem to know how to operate when I have to dedicate that much time and energy to work, and it becomes just a matter of time before I get worn down enough to become broken by it.

I’d like to be able to work the “normal” amount, I really would, and it is really difficult to have all of that potential income and insurance seemingly denied to me because I’m not capable of working that much right now.

At the same time, I am working 2 days a week (which seems like a much more realistic amount of time for me), so that’s something. At least I’ve moved forward from where I was a year ago.

Anyway, my artist’s resume has a lot of the same qualities, but I guess I never really thought about it before because there was never a “falling out” with any of the mediums or anything, I just lose interest. Or not even lose interest exactly, just get distracted by whatever new, shiny thing I find to do. Heck, in the last few months I’ve also woven my first rug and made my first quilt.

I’m an exploratory person, ok?

I’m like the Captain Picard of arts and crafts, I’m constantly boldly going where I’ve never gone before.

I’m not as familiar with the world of the artist as I am with… well, the normal world, so I don’t know how my resume will compare. Is it usual for artists to try a ton of different mediums, or do they normally find one they like and go to town with it?

I guess I just know that sporadic employment usually works against me while seeking a job, but I’m hoping sporadic artistic endeavors will not be seen in the same light. Strength or weakness? We’ll see.

Mania Eliciting the Magnified Self

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how depression can wipe out your sense of self.

I’ve been thinking even more about how mania does the opposite. Instead of eradicating the inner self, it seems to magnify it.

My thought is that manic episodes feed fuel to our inner most desires. It doesn’t create the desires, it just gives us the confidence and drive to play them out.

What happens when these desires/personas are amplified?

  • When the artist is amplified, one might be working on either huge pieces of artwork or hundreds at once.
  • When the entrepreneur is amplified, one might start or acquire businesses, or take on the persona of a business executive.
  • When the soccer mom is amplified, one might buy houses or cars they can’t afford, or bake enough cupcakes to feed an army for no apparent reason.
  • When the thrill-seeker is amplified, one might move around the country, fancy themselves race-car drivers or take up extreme sports of some kind.
  • When the bohemian is amplified, one might give up all of their possessions or sell their houses to regress into a simpler sort of philosophical living.
  • When the hippie is amplified, one might make an attempt to live in or commune with nature, become overly attached to various animals, or experiment with hallucinogenic drugs.
  • When the consumer is amplified, one might spend everything they’ve got (and more) on random things they think they need.
  • When the athlete is amplified, one might take up running marathons or body building or cycling an at extreme distances.
  • When the romantic is amplified, relationships might become suddenly very serious or blossom into immediate elopement.
  • When the comedian is amplified, one might spend night after night at the bar, getting as much time in with as many people as possible.
  • When the rockstar is amplified one might experience heavy drug and alcohol use that can turn into unruly behavior and unrecallable memories.
  • When the con-artist is amplified, one may fancy themselves a James Bond/spy type character, illicit various illegal activity for cash, or create various get-rich-quick schemes.
  • When the vixen is amplified, one might use their flirtatious demeanor for sport or personal gain.
  • When the carpenter is amplified, one might purchase a number of old vehicles to “fix up”, work on elaborate remodel projects, or be building any number of structures or projects at once.

I know there are many more, but these are a few of the traits I have seen amplified by mania, either in myself or in others. It seems common for these to overlap, and different people identify with any number of identities on this list.

This idea comes from a number of thoughts I’ve had recently, one being that I’ve been called out several times now for not participating in the “reckless spending” that is supposed to be a common symptom of manic episodes.

Personally, I don’t think one can always expect to couple reckless spending to mania. I think it is common because of our culture (as Americans, for example, we’re largely brought up to be consumers), but as an individual, consumerism is not something that I subscribe to. At my core, money causes me very extreme anxiety… so my most extreme desires usually involve some kind of banishment of money (something one might see with the hippie or bohemian, for example) or game to acquire it (like the con-artist). At that point, who needs reckless spending when I have the option of reckless earning?

So really, I guess I’ve just been considering how mania creates an exaggeration of the self (as opposed to some kind of “change” from one set of values to another) and how that information could potentially help in the diagnosis process as well.

In myself, I would say that most often in the last 10 years I have seen the artist, the bohemian, the hippie, the con-artist, and occasionally the athlete (though that one has failed to make an appearance for a while). Having a handle on these desires gives me a better idea of where an episode might go if things get out of hand, and can help me avoid situations (in theory anyway) that could potentially become catastrophic.