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.