Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
I talk about my depression a lot, what it’s like to be back into writing even though I’m still in a depressive episode. But I have never told you what it was like to be a writer during a manic episode. Let me first distinguish between my hypomanic and manic episodes. During my hypomanic episodes I’m crazy energetic, but I’m not irritable or prone to fits of rage. I have no inhibitions, but I can still stop myself when I know I’m getting too high. The energy is just productive and a nice break from being depressed. During my manic episodes, however, I am prone to fits of rage, I can become irritable at a snap, and I cannot put a cork on the frenetic energy that pours from my brain. Because I lack inhibitions, I am not afraid to be mean or nasty or honest–and that is very problematic because I end up hurting those I love. The energy can easily turn into anxious energy, and this is when my psychomotor agitation kicks in: I have to be moving in some way, or else I explode in a fit of rage. Expecting me to sit still is like expecting a sex worker to remain celibate.
Luckily, my mania is treated.
In any case, the last time I was manic, I wrote 15,000 words in a day. In a day. With no problem. I did a million other things during that day too. I thought the story I was producing was pure genius. I’d finish it during my manic episode, revise it, and some publisher was going to see the genius in it and it’d hit bestseller’s lists all across the globe.
But that’s what happens when I’m manic. My self-esteem is inflated to obnoxious degrees. I’m not simply The Dancing Writer. I’m The Dancing FUCKING Writer. With this book, I was trying to combine my reality with the reality of a 19th century boy. So if you’ve ever read Emilie Autumn’s The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, I was pretty much trying to do what she did. I was using my experiences in psychiatric wards and trying to blend it with the voice I heard in my head (I’ve never heard voices) that happened to belong to a young boy from the 19th century trying to tell his story.
It was bad. Really bad. As in, I couldn’t even revise it to save it. But my manic thoughts were not a waste. In fact, they gave me creativity–uncontrollable creativity, but creativity nonetheless. A lot of artists who are afflicted with bipolar disorder can become more creative. They might not be able to utilize that creativity during the episode because it is hard to harness and control it, but they can use it later, after the mania has ended.
For me, even though the writing I did when I was manic was unsalvageable, I never let go of the concept. And I am using that concept right now to plot my current novel, which is much more controlled and less, well, frantic than it was when I was manic. The plot is different. The story is different, but I took the concept my overload of creativity gave me, and I am controlling it and harnessing it.
I am in no way glorifying mania–not even hypomania. What comes up must come down, and it often results in a crash that leaves you a crying mess the next day. I would never wish a manic episode upon anyone. The lack of inhibitions can be dangerous, the rage is destructive, and if you’re self-aware like I am, you hate yourself more than ever during these moments because your mind will not shut up and you have no idea where all the energy is coming from. You’re like Superman on red kryptonite.