Storm A’ Brewin’ (Originally published 11/17/12)

“Manic depression is touching my soul
I know what I want but I just don’t know
How to go about gettin’ it”
– Jimi Hendrix, “Manic Depression”

I’m trying to hold back an ill-timed manic episode. I know it’s coming because I’ve been overly productive. I’ve been up late and sleeping little. I’ve been spending my time reading, watching TV, and writing. I’m not saying that this blog is responsible for, or related to, my mania. If I weren’t working on the blog, I would find something else to occupy my time at four in the morning, probably television. While dealing with my occasional periods of insomnia I have watched more complete TV series on Netflix than I care to name. Insomnia isn’t the only sign that a manic episode is coming. Another clue is the spending of money to the point of financial problems, and that’s not hard to do in my financial situation. Twenty dollars could screw my budget up. Yet, I still feel the need to spend. For example, I was online looking for a leather jacket for my son as a birthday gift, so of course I wound up looking at things for myself and wound up spending $100.00 on a pair of boots that I didn’t need. Luckily, I found out the boots were backordered just as my buyer’s remorse kicked in and I was able to cancel the order and get my money back.

I’ve also been thinking about the things I used to do when this type of mood struck me: going out, doing drugs, drinking, spending horrific amounts of money. Yet somehow, at the end of the night (or early morning), I still wasn’t happy. That’s the curse of the manic episode. It seems like a great idea at the time, but ultimately it is empty and unsatisfying and that’s when the depression can start to roll on in. Remembering what that emptiness felt like has, in a way, kept me honest. It’s very similar to remembering the physical feelings the morning after I was out doing cocaine and drinking. I would feel awful and swear it was the last time, but then a few weeks later I would wake up with same feeling saying the same thing.

This time, though, the mania has more of a restless feeling. I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I don’t want anything that will trigger my old behaviors, so I run through alternatives. I’ve become obsessive about staying in touch with people, so I will call, text, or chat online with friends, for no reason other than to keep myself busy (idle hands, remember). I will do anything that will get me out of the house. Luckily I have close friends and neighbors who don’t mind me just popping in on them and hanging out until odd hours. I’ve even gone to the supermarket and walked around for an hour without buying anything just for something to do.

Another coping skill I learned is the trade-off. I know that when mania knocks at the door, as it does now, I have a desire to spend and spend big. I can still do that to a lesser degree. I bought a video game, but I had gift cards I actually got it for free. Rather than buying a couple of DVDs, I rented a couple of movies for $3.00 each. These actions were much more satisfying. Now is also a good time to watch DVDs and Blu-rays that I bought but never watched. If these tactics get me through this manic episode, then I know what to do next time. I’m trying to stop impulses that I always gave into. It’s strange being aware of my behavior when I never was before; that I can recognize these things as they occur and stop them before they cause more problems. I’ve written several times about looking back on my life through the filter of bipolar disorder and realizing how and why certain situations occurred, but this is the first time I can recognize something before it’s happened and, if not stop it, then at least minimize the damage, It’s kind of refreshing, and, on the upside, I’m a smarter shopper because of it.

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