This essay is meant to serve as an instructional guide for those of us seeking to make the most of one’s manic episode while on vacation. No one wants to ruin a perfectly good vacation from a simple manic episode, on the contrary, the episode can become a fun and interesting part of your trip to Aruba. This, however, can be tricky. There is a fine line between enjoying the creative burst that your manic episode provides and falling completely off the deep end. Walking this fine line can make your trip that much more exciting. This will be much more exciting than say, renting a jeep and driving through traffic to the California Lighthouse, which is an overrated experience.
The first step you need to take in effectively channeling your manic episode is to properly calibrate the extent of the episode against past experiences. For example, you may be suddenly overcome by the feeling that you can write an effective essay on the Oscar nominations. This would take a degree of creativity and hubris. Compare these feelings, let’s say, to the 30 hours you had spent in the hospital lecturing people on the correlation between themes in Lars Von Trier films and the Agile software development methodology, while somehow believing you were the second coming of Christ. So how do you feel now in relation to your worst moment? If full hospitalization is a 100, how are you feeling now? 10 percent of full mania? 20 percent? If you’re within that 10-20 percent, then you’re in the sweet spot.
Below that 10 percent you won’t feel the buzz, and above 20 percent, you should probably return the jeep and cut your vacation short. Either way you’re eventually in for about three hours of going through security and US Customs at the Aruba Airport.
You’ll be better at calibrating the depth of your manic episode if you’ve had a few before. If your very first manic episode happens to be in Aruba, you’re screwed. Just go home. If you happen to come across any American tourists who are looking at you funny for screaming about being trapped in the Matrix, just have your loved one explain that you’re having a bad acid trip. Understand that even in the best-case scenario, it may take a month or so for you to get a proper diagnosis. If you have the cognitive power to dial your medical insurance provider, they will most likely instruct you to get in touch with a 24-year-old social worker from Wesleyan University. Let them know that your brain is not functioning correctly, and you most assuredly need to speak to someone who can prescribe medication. You’ll have three weeks to think about life as you’re trying to find and meet up with the right kind of therapist. You have a few options here during this wait period. You can throw in the towel and head into Shepphard Pratt (www.sheppardpratt.org) or you can opt to stay out of the loony bin and self-medicate with alcohol. This was the path I had taken, but it is not for everyone.
Where were we? So you’re having a manic episode, how do you know? Over time I’ve learned the tell-tell signs. The first is that I’m plagued with the irrational feeling that I have something interesting to say. When this happens, I become increasingly uncomfortable being away from a keyboard. During one of my first manic episodes, I had jumped in the car to head to Chicago to meet with a solution provider at Salesforce, only to turn around when I realized I needed to write an essay on how and why Donald Trump was the Antichrist. Was I wrong per se? Of course not, but the thoughts were not as profound as I had believed.
Before we go much further with my description of the disease I need to make one thing perfectly clear. Bipolar disorder is a superpower. I understand that this is a controversial statement, but it’s true. The Dr. Muggles won’t completely understand this, they have only read about manic episodes in books so they can never fully understand. So congratulations again and welcome to the league of mutants. Let me give you a brief tour of the powers you will be granted as you take the tour of Xavier University with the other X-Men.
Brilliant Creative Powers.
Increased Intelligence and Pattern Recognition.
Increased Confidence and Ego, Bordering on Solipsistic Narcissism.
Increased desire to buy items which you feel are useful, aesthetically-pleasing or likely to attract the opposite sex.
Increased Sexual Feelings and or Desires.
Before diving into any of these in particular, let’s talk about the overall job requirements of being an effective X-Man. First and foremost, you need to effectively channel your power for the good of humanity. This could mean saving the world a la Greta Thunberg, or simply having sex with a 52-year-old waitress who has been going through a dry spell. Please note that being on the autism spectrum is almost the opposite superpower as being bipolar and having a manic episode. Some autistic people claim an increased ability to focus, whereas you will have an increased ability to write a poem about frogs, while simultaneously painting an impressionist rendition of Lake Baikal.
So let’s think of these superpowers as we would the ability to fly like superman, and let’s think of your goal as saving koala bears from the forest fires, and let’s think of lithium as the drug which throttles your superpowers. Taking too little lithium can be an extremely dangerous thing. Your superman self would be so powerful that one false move and you’ve flown clear into the stratosphere, and without being limited by gravity, you’re stuck out in space, freezing with no saved koala bears. Taking too much lithium, oh let’s say greater than 600mg per day, can have its own problematic ramifications. If your superman takes too much lithium, he will be perfectly content to sit on the sofa eating Cheetos, while watching reruns of Matlock. He will get off of the sofa once per day to look at the burning flames, but he will stay on the ground and no koala bears will be saved.
What we really need is a superman who can fly around quickly to spot koala bears, but also return to earth when he needs to pick up additional koala bears and move them to safer ground. Understood? Maybe not, but that’s the best I can explain it at the moment. Where am I going with this? When you do have a creative spell, try to focus on jotting down the gist of your ideas, without spending too much time focused on any one idea. When I was in Aruba and my brilliant ideas were coming hard and fast, I was fortunate that I didn’t have a full-sized keyboard, or I would have spent the whole vacation fleshing out my first idea. I was lucky that I only had an Android phone with Evernote (note taking software). Since it took me a long time to type, I was almost forced to write down the premise of the idea and move on to the next.
When you have your first idea it’s like you have moved your first koala bear to safety. You need to get back up in the sky to spot the next koala bear. Don’t spend three hours on the ground looking for more koala bears in that area. It’s not a productive use of superman’s time. You can revisit each story when you’re no longer manic, or (hopefully) just a smidge manic. When you’re just a smidge manic you won’t have the creative ability to think of new brilliant essay ideas, but you’ll have enough manic powers that you’ll be able to more effectively turn a phrase. So, spend your time thinking of ideas, and let your later muggle self be the one who has to jot everything down, check spelling and go to Starbucks for coffee. Having a manic episode is like the pull of a creativity slot machine. You’re always certain that you’ve won something, but you won’t know how much until you’ve left the casino.
I’m not trying to disparage Dr. Muggle here who is trying to rid you of your superpowers. Dr. Muggle is the best chance that you have of turning into an effective superman. Also, Dr. Muggle has liability to take into consideration. No one is going to criticize Dr. Muggle if you do not write the Great American Novel. Dr. Muggle may also harbor a belief that you are not Vincent van Gogh. Just keep in mind Dr. Muggle is a product of his or her own belief system. In my case I have to deal with Dr. Psychiatrist Muggle, and Dr. Psychologist Muggle.
Anyway, by the time I had made it back from Aruba I had lots of brilliant ideas which I could decide to expand upon or not. The more ideas the better, as you have little to no chance of dreaming up brilliant and crazy shit while you are not in the middle of an episode. Sure, you could come up with ideas without mania, but that’s the long way around. I would gauge that my creative productivity is 3-4x greater than without mania, and my intelligence is increased to the point where my thoughts are better and more easily articulated.
So let’s get on to the next superpower that the Dr. Muggles will most assuredly scoff at. Increased intelligence and pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is probably the most dangerous of the superpowers, since the pattern recognition is the most scary in several ways. One problem is you can lose the ability to distinguish whether the patterns you’re recognizing are important or not. Anyway, during my first manic episode a close friend said that he believed that my IQ had shot up 15 points, but that I had gone “DSM Crazy,” and he considered what I was doing, “Beautiful Minding”. Is there a correlation between increased pattern recognition and intelligence? Most assuredly. I recently took an IQ test for a manager position at work, and most of the test consisted of pattern recognition between sets of shapes. When you’re manic, you’re recognizing patterns, but these patterns may be completely unimportant to others, and they may be completely unimportant to you as you exit the manic episode. Either way, your pattern recognition superpowers were still working.
Again, this is extremely difficult to explain to the skeptical and disapproving Dr. Shrinky Muggles. Present them with the following poem:
The Cloud Allegory, by H.P. Linkwater:
I watch an array of passing clouds,
First I notice animals before others,
Then I notice that the animals pass by in alphabetical order.
I think the animals are beautiful
I think it’s interesting that the animals are in alphabetical order
After a few letters I grow concerned that I don’t understand why the animals are appearing in alphabetical order
By the time we get to the fourth letter, I’m worried that the next animal will be an elephant
More letters go by and I’m increasingly afraid
As we get further down the alphabet, I’m wondering how this could possibly be happening
I wonder if this is a sign from god that only I can see
I also start to question whether the clouds looked like animals at all
I wonder if the shape of the clouds was just a matter of opinion
But I’ve seen a beauty and a symmetry that others haven’t
And hey, what the fuck is everyone else doing that’s so much more important than cloud watching huh? Anyway, this may or may not help the Dr. Shrinky Muggles understand the idea. There is another kind of pattern recognition. Imagine if you’re Russell Crowe in the aforementioned, “A Beautiful Mind.” Do you think drawing scatter plots of imaginary CIA agents is an effective use of your time? Shouldn’t you be inside doinking Jennifer Connelly? So anyway, while I haven’t seen an immediate use case for the mania-induced pattern recognition, I do associate this pattern recognition with a sudden increase in intelligence. My thoughts and words come faster and more clearly than they otherwise would.
Here’s another way to look at the potential consequence of ignoring the creative genius and pattern recognition of the manic episode. Imagine yourself in the position of Dr. Shrinky Muggle.
You watch superman walk.
You watch superman fly.
You watch superman fly higher towards the stratosphere.
You watch superman flying in increasingly erratic shapes.
You listen to superman’s family grow increasingly concerned.
You give a pill to superman who comes down to the ground.
A team of nuclear physicists rushes towards you.
They state that superman was sketching out a mathematical formula in his flight pattern.
Again, Dr. Shrinky Muggle will shake his head at this story, unable to equate a manic episode with superpowers, or being horrified at the suggestion that the manic episode is something to be treasured. Again, bear in mind that Dr. Shrinky Muggles are well-intentioned, as they are the only ones with a chance of keeping your manic superman from flying off into space forever. Also keep in mind that Dr. Psychologist Shrinky Muggle attended Wesleyan University.
OK, where were we? Let’s move on to increased feelings of confidence and ego, bordering on solipsistic narcissism. I’ve always felt that during manic episodes, I have increased feelings of confidence and narcissism, but not to the extent to which people of the fairer sex would flock to me. The feeling of confidence can be a good thing, and these feelings of confidence are the feelings propelling you to believe that you could write an interesting essay on the Oscar nominations. So, like all of your superpowers, the confidence is a double-edged sword. With no confidence you’ll have no belief in your creative abilities, and you most assuredly will not share them with the world. If your confidence level rises too swiftly, you’ll believe that all of your ideas are genius, and follow through on ideas that would not stand up to the harsh scrutiny of daylight, or your company’s newly-drafted human resources guidelines for acceptable behavior in the workplace.
What do I mean by solipsistic narcissism? The night I was hospitalized I thought that my pattern recognition was super-human. I thought that these powers were granted to me, and to me only, and that I had special meaning to impart to humanity. I also knew, in the back of my mind, that people who considered themselves the second coming of Christ were often considered crazy, and I wanted to get home and see my dog, so while talking to Dr. Hospital Shrinky Muggle, I intentionally toned that shit down. I convinced one of my friends to sneak my dog into the hospital. Then he bit a nurse. Smushy is like that, he bites motherfuckers. There are other layers of self-centeredness. For example, while driving around Aruba, jotting down brilliant ideas into your Andriod-based Evernote application, you may go two or three days not remembering that your sister, who was schizophrenic, is now suffering through the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The ‘brilliant idea superman you’ remembers your family but believes saving koala bears will serve the greater good.