From my initial bipolar diagnosis to reaching a “new normal” two and a half years later, I have questioned and analyzed every single emotional state and thought process, as well as every experience and memory I have had throughout my entire life.
Since I have type I bipolar I am more prone to manic episodes than depression. A lot of my reflecting compares being stable on medication (boring!), versus the whirlwind of creativity I seem to have when I experience manic symptoms (fun!).
I thought my mania was my creativity, and I mourned losing my creative and best self to medication, thinking I would never get it back.
I was wrong.
Even though I am stable while on medication (lurasidone and quetiapine) I have had several manic symptom “breakthroughs.” These occur when the conditions are just right, usually after poor sleep from late gigs, plus too much excitement, or too many busy days in a row.
My manic symptoms include: flights of ideas; racing thoughts; morphing into a chatterbox; boundless energy; hypersexuality; jumping from one task or idea to another without completion; thinking I am a genius (grandiose thoughts) or that I have magical powers; being extremely impatient, snappy, and irritable (spewing venom); and basically functioning at warp speed, while everything around me seems to sparkle with glitter and unicorns. When these symptoms present themselves, I have a treatment plan in place that looks something like this: I stay home, try to chill out, discuss what is happening with my husband, email my psychiatrist, take extra medication, and get to sleep!
In the moment, I feel more creative, my ideas feel abundant, and I feel like my most amazing self. My spouse and I have analyzed these symptoms, comparing them to when I am stable, and have made some interesting observations:
While I feel more creative, in reality, my racing thoughts are not coherent, and I can not articulate them well. I can not complete the tasks I start, and I am not accomplishing more. With few exceptions, I am not a better version of myself when I am manic— it just feels that way.
Knowing that I am not actually more creative when I exhibit manic symptoms has really helped me to:
- Not yearn to be in a manic state.
- Stop beleiving that my mania is my creativity.
- Not romanticize mania: it is quite scary. It is not desirable, attractive, or cute.
- Understand that I am creative when I am stable, because that is just who I am.
- Understand that my ideas are just as great when I am stable, it simply feels different.
- Realise that it is exhausting and inefficient to function at warp speed.
- Understand that being stable does not mean I am less intelligent, “slowed down”, or less creative.
- Realise that I can have daily ups and downs like everyone else.
My spouse has commented that although he likes spending time with me when I am “high,” and knew me this way for many years before my diagnosis, he prefers spending time with me when I am stable. (This was a major reality check!)
My psychiatrist has compared a manic episode to consuming too much alcohol. You are still you when you are sober. Consuming a lot of alcohol might make you feel like a better version of yourself, but you are slurring your words and can barely stand up straight.
You are not your mania, and your mania is not responsible for what makes you creative.
How have you come to understand your creativity as it relates to your mental health?
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