A bit of mania…

Nutty Professor 14

It’s been an interesting few weeks for the old Scribs, that being me, and I’d like to…say a few words

It all started three weeks ago. After a mostly successful three-month agreement to go without drinking, I stupidly let myself slip off the wagon, planning to get right back on after a small break. (I thought of it as like being on a tour bus – jump off, see the sights, and jump back on the next one. Bad idea.)

Problem was, this little break coincided with my twice-annual Bi-Polar Manic period, which is sort of like turning into a snazzily-dressed werewolf – no inhibitions, creative genius, the ability to leap tall buildings, the charm of Fred Astaire, and the wit of…Woody Allen? Basically, you’re super-you, times a LOT. (I should mention that it’s an amazing experience, described by some Bi-Polarists like Stephen Fry as one they wouldn’t do away with, if they were given the choice.)

When you’re manic you have a heightened cognitive ability – your vocabulary is up, you can chat to anybody, charm the pants off a stranger, sleep is for next month, and amazing things truly do happen. Like the time I had a whole pub singing Happy Birthday to a girl I’d never met, talked funding to a table of CEO’s, and even approached Jerry Lewis, to list just a few.

Unfortunately, you also completely forget to even consider the most obvious things. Your bank account? Meh. Next week’s assignment? It’ll happen next week. The fact I’m riding a motorised scooter through a pub at high speed? Not dangerous at all!

It truly, honestly doesn’t enter your mind that what you’re doing is wrong, offensive, dangerous, or irresponsible. Life is great, you’re a bolt of lightning, and there’s the bar!

This all goes well, until you literally run out of energy, which for me has been up to two weeks, on a bed somewhere, unable to even lift my arm to eat -the real-life equivalent of the Werewolf waking up with torn trousers, wondering why he’s covered in blood, or Bruce Banner (The Hulk) waking up with his now-normal-sized purple lab-pants torn to shreds, somewhere in Uzbekistan, having leapt there on a whim.

And this is when you realise that no, your bank account does not mysteriously regenerate itself. Your assignments do not write themselves. You’re bruised from head to toe, and that vague memory of leaping through a window somehow seems painfully familiar…

(Other signs for me include longer nails, which I usually nibble, a Dean Martin-esque fondness for rolling tobacco, with finger-stains to match, about three thousand business cards, and bruises on every conceivable surface of my body. I once acquired Lara Bingle’s number during such a spell, only to lose it later when I wound up in London. But that’s another story…)

The thing is, you can’t explain why you did what you did. Because you were there, but you weren’t. You were charming, but you were being an ass. You wore a dress for three days, but you still went to uni. (True story).

Also, the amazing things really do happen. You really did meet that CEO. You really did swim in the harbour. And you really did hang with a model from New York. But it’s like Oz – you just can’t get back, and there’s no way to prove it. But unlike Dorothy, your life is in shreds.

And this is where it comes to the most important thing for sufferers of Bi-Polar, which is the understanding of others, and the people they love.

That’s not to say that it’s not my responsibility, or that of other sufferers, to control themselves when they’re prone to a spell. For me, alcohol is an accelerant, so when I’m prone, I need to stay away from it like the plague, like the Werewolf locking himself up when there’s a full moon, or Bruce Banner not watching the news, in case he gets mad. (Daily Show is okay.)

(Incidentally, I’ve just committed to twelve months without booze, but that aside, the same applies. If I drink when I’m prone, I only have myself to blame.)

Blips do appear – I’ve gone manic whilst on the phone, just prior to a meeting, only to find myself unable to write a sentence. And I’ve also drunk a bunch and not turned into a wolf. But to mix the two when it’s in season is crazy.

Which is what happened two weeks ago when I thought it would be a good idea to test the waters. I won’t get into details, but there was beer, and then whiskey, and the next thing I know I’m in Hong Kong, having spent all my savings on a ticket, and it’s Wednesday morning. But still manic, so no worries!

(Incidentally, I arrived at the airport aiming vaguely for Sweden at 9pm, with a bag containing two hats, a blonde wig, a pair of steel-capped boots, my hacksaw, a suit, two ties, and my computer. I had blood on my shirt, and asked for a flight to anywhere. When stopped by Police I simply told them I was fine, and they let me right through. Go AFP!)

It took me some time to realise what I’d done, but not before I’d had a lot of fun – something I’m not proud of, but glad I went through. Once again, I was crazy enough not to consider what I was doing – I got offered work on the first day, visited the visa office, hung out with Caribbeans all night, drank with pilots, and even spent time with the Police…and I mean with. (This time there’s proof)

But sure enough, reality appeared, the bank account was dry, and if it weren’t for the Australian Embassy, my amazing parents, the support of my friends, and a mysterious woman (no joke…), I wouldn’t have made it back.

I did need to spend some time at the airport – three nights to be exact. Which is much better than the eight nights I spent in Paris after a similar occurrence, which is, again, another story. (One that involves a frozen lake in Belgium…) But thanks to my amazing Dad, and the support of others, I got home.

As I mentioned – there’s many pieces to put back together now after my adventure, but that’s my responsibility. School’s back next week, work’s back online, and I have somewhere temporary to doss. I also have just one bruise to show for it…

But more importantly, I’m back amongst friends, and there’s a lot of support. Even Adrian’s saying ‘Hi’.

I’m not proud of all this – I do enjoy it, of course, but I also recognise how hard it must be to understand, and how stressful it must be for others. Not to mention how destructive it is to myself.

So to those it affects, those who worry, and those who support – many thanks.

And Adrian – I’m getting to it.

Next time, I will stick to cordial.


4 thoughts on “A bit of mania…

  1. I like this very much, James, and I understand more about what you’ve been going through. It’s been a rough trip for all of us. We’re just happy you’re home and getting back on track again.

  2. Thanks, folks.

    It’s tricky because on the one hand, it’s amazing to experience yourself at the limits, and find out what you’re capable of.

    But knowing it can be so destructive, to oneself and to others, is just as much a realisation.

    The reason I chose The Nutty Professor as the pic was because a) I watched that film in such a state, b) it’s a pretty accurate metaphor for what happens, and c) even TNP had to take an elixr to bring on the change.

    So I’ve done the right thing, by myself and by you, I hope, and just started a twelve month dry period. No elixr for me – period.

    And looking forward to it, too.

    Now, back to work!

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