Chapter 11 – July

The transition from hypomania to acute mania is marked by a severe exacerbation of the symptoms seen in hypomania, and the appearance of delusions. Typically, the delusions are grandiose: millions of dollars are held in trust for them; passersby stop and wait in deferential awe as they pass by; the President will announce their elevation to cabinet rank. Religious delusions are very common. The patients are prophets, elected by God for a magnificent, yet hidden, purpose. They are enthroned; indeed God has made way for them. Sometimes these grandiose delusions are held constantly; however, in other cases patients may suddenly boldly announce their belief, then toss it aside with laughter, only to announce yet another one. Persecutory delusions may also appear and are quite common in those who are of a predominantly irritable mood. The patients’ failures are not their own but the results of the treachery of colleagues or family. They are persecuted by those jealous of their grandeur; they are pilloried, crucified by the enemy. Terrorists have set a watch on their houses and seek to destroy them before they can ascend to their thrones. Occasionally, along with delusions, patients may have isolated hallucinations. Grandiose patients hear a chorus of angels singing their praises; the persecuted patients hear the resentful muttering of the envious crowd.

The mood in acute mania is further heightened and often quite labile. Domineeringly good-natured one moment, the patient, if thwarted at all, may erupt into a furious rage of screaming, swearing, and assaultiveness. Furniture may be smashed and clothes torn apart. The already irritable patient may become consistently, and very dangerously, hostile.

Flight of ideas and pressured speech become very intense. Patients seem unable to cease talking; they may scream, shout, bellow, sing in a loud voice or preach in a declamatory fashion to anyone whose ear they can catch.

Hyperactivity becomes more pronounced, and the patient’s behavior may begin to fragment. Impulses come at cross purposes, and patients, though increasingly active, may be unable to complete anything. Fragments of activity abound: patients may run, hop in place, roll about the floor, leap from bed to bed, race this way and then that, or repeatedly change their clothes at a furious pace.

Occasionally, patients in acute mania may evidence a passing fragment of insight: they may suddenly leap to the tops of lves with garlands of flowers and wear the most seductive of dresses. Men may be festooned with ribbons and jewelry. Unrestrainable sexuality may come to the fore. Patients may openly and shamelessly proposition complete strangers; some may openly and exultantly masturbate. Strength may be greatly increased, and sensitivity to pain may be lost.

———

Our backyard is a saving grace. It’s green, it’s huge, it’s luscious, it’s great for sun bathing naked in the back away from prying eyes with Grace and Harold and Rachel. We had an interesting relationship in that respect, but we already knew the details of the others’ sex life so this didn’t seem like that much of a leap at the time. Rachel started to tend to the garden and pull weeds and wanted to add her own flowers. At first it was Impatiants and then Bee Balms to attract butterflies and provide bees a pesticide free source of pollen and gave us something to look forward to the next year. The landlord was thrilled about it, Bee Balms grow like weeds and can stand up on their own so they’re pretty easy to maintain provided that they have the right amount of sun. It relaxed her and in the evenings I would find her dirty and sweaty and happy and in need of a shower that we would take together. One time we had sex on the lawn, it wasn’t dirty. Then she found various catholic figurines buried in the back. Finally a garden gnome, upside down.

———

July I’m aware that I’m manic. After increasing medication it stays relatively level. I don’t do any stupid things anymore and it doesn’t really rise to the level of mania that I once experienced. It still interferes with my life, but with more positive than negative aspects. It wasn’t always like that. But it doesn’t matter. I still forget myself. I still forget what I am. And in July that happens more than ever to my own detriment. It took that summer to finally dial in the dosage to keep me alive. There’s still one week though, one week that nothing has ever stopped.

———

We finally discovered the attic that shouldn’t have fit into the top of the house considering that some of the top rooms had walls going to the top of the roof. It was luxurious up there. It smelled of dry cedar and we threw bean bags up there to form a sweat house in the summer to bake in hundred plus degree heat for no other reason than to do so. It was up there that we discovered small holes in the floor of the attic looking down into the “bedrooms” that made up the two studies.

Grace and I frequented the Lodge all the time when we were first ransacking the city night after drunken night. She knew one of the owners — there were four at the time — who was in charge of posters and promotions and artwork. I weaseled my way into printing and putting up posters for them as a quid pro quo for me getting in free every time. I heavily abused that privilege. I think that in the long run they overpaid me. But I would make up for that when I grew in my relationship with B. She was the one who held the show together. She’s a frantic woman who is loveable but would later on call me on the phone late at night when everything was falling apart to talk to me with an exaggerated scream that was throaty and pronounced very syllable of my name with precision. It wasn’t my job to calm her down, it was what friends do for one another.

When I began working there I was exposed to music in a way that was novel and insightful and I hadn’t really listened to music before going there. I listened to some post rock before hand and was relatively obsessed with Godspeed You Black Emperor on my Grado SR60s which at the time I thought were the shit in terms of headphones and they were better and still are better than most headphones under $100 but looking back I realize what a naive young man I was. At the Lodge I sat on blankets and took in new music and sampled the various different genres that were both adequately represented and horrendous imitations of popular acts that I still only tangentially know about. Local music became a love. The small stage in a literal term since the stage itself was just 1.25 feet off of the main floor and went back 10 feet and was 14 feet long. That sounds large until you fit a five piece band and drum kit on it. It was intimate in a way that no other stage has ever presented. At the High Noon with its stage 3 feet off of the floor the musicians loom up above and seem distant though they are just a few feet in front of you when you’re rocking out front row. Same thing goes for the Frequency even though that has a shorter stage than the High Noon. The Lodge was just a large step. Front row meant that the musicians, the entire act, was in arms reach as though they were playing in your living room. It was intimate, it was personal, it was live.

I fell in love.

Then one drunk night, after I got to know everyone there, it happened. Adam told me to go for it, referencing the small Berhinger sound board with all of four inputs on it, and try mixing. I had no fucking clue. I’ve never seen anyone run it and had only the cursory knowledge of equalization from playing around with iTunes. I knew nothing. I started from nothing. And I did okay — in that I didn’t fail. It’s hard to fail at the Lodge. So it’s not saying much. I was entranced by what I was doing while a guitarist ran into the crowd with a strobe light duct taped to his head. Grace hovered while I assumed a commanding position and she asked me what I was doing. I said I didn’t know. She said I looked baller up there. I don’t know what that means, even now when I use it myself. And while the strobe light made lunges into the crowd I was focused on doing a better job. I swept the EQs, a technique I would rely on in a more limited form later, to find the right level. At the time I was still hearing differences like an untrained layman, 3db differences, now I hear 0.2db. I couldn’t hear the difference until I went too far and I split the difference. Now it’s instinct to move the EQ to a certain position and adjust the gain respectively. But it was back then that the sickness took hold.

Engineering is a bizarre sickness. It destroys love of music and rebuilds a new appreciation of it. It’s masochistic in that everyone is a wreck before doing it knowing that if anything goes wrong it is on their shoulders and there are butterflies that are not the queasy sort but the kind that come from the rush of not rehearsed creative output but on the fly seat of the pants jerry rigging of things that should never really work together but some how do with just another application of gaffer’s tape while everything that can go wrong does in fact go wrong in the world of live sound and the job of the engineer is to hold back the tide of failure for just a few hours. It’s sickeningly addicting. After each time you swear that that was the last one, like a last cigarette burning the insides of your lungs, but you always go back to it and go through the same rush of the addiction. Some will say that it’s the same as thrill seeking behaviors, I like to think of it as different, it’s the thrill of masochism because a thrill that doesn’t measure up, like a lame roller coaster, is over and done with, engineering sits deep inside when you don’t perform well and performance wise it has once elicited a full unopened bottle of beer flying at your head by a hipster douche bag for something that isn’t actually your fault.

Grace never caught on to why I did it. I looked baller up there because of her, because she introduced me to it, and that was about all she really cared in a nice way. She then had me let her in and she would come early with me and smoke cigarettes outside in front waiting for bands to arrive which is on band time, about an hour later than engineer time. We would talk about what the line up would be and whether they would measure up to their recorded material (or later on if I could make them better) and she would laundry list me with related bands all of which I would have to listen to at some point but never seemed to have the time she had for researching music. And then the vans would show up.

Grace would drop a bra strap to the side of her arm and push up the remainder of her cleavage so that it nearly spilled out of her shirt, tank, blouse, whatever. She was a predator of musicians. It wasn’t that she particularly liked musicians, she loved music but was never a fan girl of any sort, it was that they were easy prey. Her prey was drunk, tired, unshowered, in need of a good bed, and not around for long. Outside of the tired part, these were the things she was looking for for a long time. And being drunk, tired, unshowered, and in need of a good bed, the promise of sex on top of that worked about 30% of the time before when she hung around the Frequency and later the Dragonfly. When she had me as an in, as part of the crowd that ran the Lodge, now she seemed like she belonged and wasn’t in any way a fan girl. She was just hot and hanging out with her friend and very available. I know she had sex in the back on that old couch and hopefully not in that horrible bathroom but I wouldn’t put it past her. When I said that she broke up relationships, musicians were the primary prey, both local and touring. One was a marriage. That was a one night stand taking too far, on his part, not hers.

It was our thing to do. I would push myself in a pseudo masochistic way and she would prey on the lonely musicians only to discard them the next day. That was the Grace I knew way back when. The one that used men for her own purposes and discarded them. She still has commitment issues though. Harold is helping with that. But it was at the Lodge that we really bonded as friends talking for hours before and being in a dirty but lovable venue spending time that we could have been doing enriching our lives with great books or something but we chose the Lodge and music and beer.

I only have good memories of that place, filled with life long friends like B. and Grace, and others. It was bumpy. I sank about $2000 into it to help it stay afloat and have a better sound system and I never was paid… Totally worth it.

July. It marks an anniversary of sorts. Not quite, but it marks my first recovery like it did Rachel’s. It took her only a handful of months before she recovered for a time before her mind lather rinsed and repeated the process but without nearly as much force the next year. January, a shit month for the both of us. But we would go through it together again and again and again waiting for the worst to happen only for it to occur only a few times before she normalized to the point that it was no longer an issue that dominated every part of her life for months on end. She was aggressive like I was. At least we would go through it together. That’s all that I asked.

July. It marks my total ascendence from depression that plagues winter months. I always remember the half year point from the first time I got better from seeking help, when I walked through the park again knowing more about myself than I had ever previously known. It makes the very first time that I said that something was wrong and something had to be said and something, anything, had to be better than what I was going through. My first time that I stood up and said this was in December. Christmas that year was hell. In January I would feel better, I would sit on the park bench and throw snow balls into the frozen lake with a snowy splash. I recovered, to a degree, but enough to feel better than I ever had during the lean months.

I was failing. I couldn’t keep the classes straight or in any sensible manner. I was failing in one and was acing the other. It wasn’t the usual evidence of depression, it looked like a lazy student, but it was depression. I was and am capable of doing great things while depressed that makes it look like I’m not in any way diseased, but I am. And I was. I was very far gone.

The slip happened early in the year, all the way back to October. The descent was gradual. It started with a missed day like it would later. It started with me missing and me not caring and me staying home and doing nothing and passively absorbing not culture but simply mass media. It spiraled from there. One day became two, and two became three. Slowly the anxiety built as missing a single day spiraled into the next (and so on developing into an infinite series). The overwhelming fear of others judging me, examining me, for why I wasn’t in class only added to the mix as my diseased brain feared the worst for relative strangers. It was the fear that I might look bad because I was weak and useless and without any sort of any worth though those around me would say differently not that their opinion would matter in any sort of way whatsoever. No opinion would matter. I spiraled down into a hole without anything that would bring me up except for a single class and a single friend. I put on a show for her. I pretended like I was doing alright. I pretended like going to class with her was as effortless and easy and anxiety free as anyone else in college who only struggled through the usual BS that college presents. I pretended. I lied. I always lie. But once I didn’t.

I told her that I thought I was bipolar.

She scoffed and said no.

I had lied so much she was right to say so.

But she was wrong.

I was.

And I was depressed.

She didn’t know that either.

It went down from there. I drew away more. I used her more to talk to professors in class as the pit in my stomach grew as I even contemplated the thought of raising my hand and voicing a question which normal people might only tangentially sympathize with because they have had anxiety but not to the degree that they feel like vomiting and can taste it in the back of their mouth and feel the stomach contractions looming and the ache of vomiting continually sitting in their gut. They’ve not felt like that. They’ve not felt like that in any way. Anxiety and depression is a dangerous duo in that they feed off of one another, and they fed, the feasted. And my mind caved. It imploded into a useless mush that only wanted to stay away from society and friends and stress so it hid.

Though missing my other three classes I went to one class religiously and sat in the front row next to my friend, I arrived early so that I could sit next to her because I knew that she would sit next to me. She would sit next to me, she would talk to me, she was the light of my life back then in a non sexual sense of the word, I would think of her that way afterwards when I felt better, but not then, depression had already plucked that thought from my mind. I would sit through Bayesian logic and how it applied to evolution and absorb the information over and over again as the professor reiterated the same derivations over and over as he tried to impart as much math to the illiterate masses and I sat quietly, being a math major, waiting for the answer to be said because I knew it but it felt like weights were attached to my arm whenever I tried to chime in. Though, it was a highlight of my life going to that class. I loved it. I forgot about everything else and just lived in it. It was a warm blanket to live in that I hoped to never escape from. And then December happened and it all got worse. I thought of killing myself.

Grace and I had been living with each other for several years at that point. She knew something was wrong. She helped, but she didn’t know what was happening. We were friends back then, not spouses, and she was off breaking up relationships. She would be there, though she didn’t know why or what for, but that’s why Grace is an excellent friend once you land on her friend list (a short list at that). Friendship to her is a serious commitment, not something bandied around online through acquaintances, being a friend to her means willing to take a bullet for them. For years only Harold and Rachel held a position on that list next to my name and only a few ever after that.

It was small at first. It was me wishing to escape, to disappear, a hollow forming in me that tried to fill itself but failed to. Just become nothing. Nothing insidious about it. Nothing to be alarmed at since most college students long for an escape and a release from the normal grind of every day life that wears them down to nubs and destroys every last facet of their lives. But this was different. It wasn’t a weariness that asked for an extended vacation, it was a weariness that asked for a vacation from everything forever. I stayed away from ledges. I saw myself hopping up on the ledge of the third floor of Helen C White and diving head first into the pavement after smoking a cigarette. I usually smoked up there. On the way down I would be weightless, I would float, wafting down, I would feel free. I scared myself. I stayed away from anything that I would jump off of. At the time the thought of suicide terrified me and the constant barrage of images depicting my death haunted my mind. Soon they wouldn’t haunt me, soon I would move toward embracing them.

My birthday came and I spent the time drinking. I drank by myself until I passed out while Grace was out with the latest guy (she always forgets my birthday, and I always hers). I can’t have just one drink. I’ve tried over and over again in my life until I finally stabilized (and got it right) to have just one, but once I have one I need another, and then another not in an effort to get drunk but through compulsion and a desperate attempt to find relief believing that if one drink made me feel a little better then a second drink would do more. That day I spent feeling horrible, and then thinking back on my classes. I was failing, I was flailing. I wasn’t a survivor yet. The semester was coming to a close and I couldn’t comprehend what to do next. While drinking I thought of disappearing, I didn’t know how or when or why I just wanted to disappear from the face of the earth and not live in some distant place on a beach or away from stress but just be gone. Death seemed like a vacation that I desperately needed. Still intoxicated the next day I made an appointment with a dean to try and at least get away from class.

I sat in the antiseptic room waiting for the dean. The only thing to stare at was the clock as there were no magazines and the receptionist was too busy doing her own work for me to have any conversation with and talking to her in my inebriated state would only prove disastrous. So I stared at the clock and fiddled with my ancient cell phone. It took forever, the dean was running behind schedule and was late. I couldn’t stop staring at the clock wondering what the hell I was doing there as the minutes passed the appointment time and I wanted to walk away and crawl into a hole and ignore the rest of my life. He eventually did come. The conversation progressed in a blur not because of how fast or slow it was but because nothing in it made sense anymore. I didn’t know why I was there, I didn’t know what I was saying and kept my mouth shut and when I did talk it just came out with words like struggle and concentration and exhausted fluttering around though none of them really addressed anything. I couldn’t bring myself to say that I wanted to die on top of it. I thought I could get out without help. He said no. He said I needed a note from a psychiatrist or a doctor addressing my stress and that probably wouldn’t help because it was so late in the year. He gave me a number and I left having accomplished nothing, it was a number for University Health Services. Walking down Bascom hill I saw the giant U in the skyline where UHS was. By the time I was at the bottom of the hill I couldn’t stop crying and collapsed in the snow. Walking back the the apartment with cold tears, which was only about ten blocks away, was too much when I passed James Madison Park and looked out on the lake and remembered how long it’s been and how I should have seen the signs so long ago and how irresponsible I had been and that it came to this point, so I called. I got in. I didn’t say much, I didn’t want to talk, I began crying again for no reason and they fit me in that day, within an hour. Apparently I was lucky. In retrospect, it saved my life.

In doctor’s waiting rooms there are TVs or music playing in the background that grates on the nerves as they try to alleviate boredom with pointlessness. Psychiatrists and psychologists do not have said music. It is still. It is calm. It allowed me to breathe a little easier. There were just under a half a dozen other people waiting there all with various degrees of being distraught and none making eye contact and burrowing their faces into their cell phones which they shouldn’t have had out but never have I seen that rule ever enforced in any way except for a psych ward. At no point did I know what I was going to do or what I was doing there, my mind was numb to experience to thinking and just went through the motion because I was told to and I sensed something was wrong. The called my name and I was going to talk about my anxiety and fatigue and I didn’t know what. And then I told them about the lake. I had never told anyone about it before. I couldn’t stop sobbing realizing how far gone I was. Things had always seemed off but never wrong, never did I have an outside perspective until I was saying it aloud and hearing just how bad it had become. It would become worse, at the time I thought that was the lowest I would ever go, I would be wrong, but at the time it was the worst thing I had been through, the deep anxiety and worthlessness and apathy and lack of love of anything in life except for one class three times a week for one hour. I couldn’t believe how far I had gone while the Dr silently absorbed and wrote down everything I was saying and pronounced that I was depressed there and then in a single twenty minute sitting and proscribed me Celexa, an antidepressent. One thing they didn’t know yet was that I was bipolar. That changed quickly after I went on an antidepressant and two days later I was manic. That’s something that can happen to BP1s like me, SSRI’s up me, big time. They suspected something quickly after that. I was put on Lamictal. I didn’t feel better. It takes time, like it always does, and it too way too long. I didn’t tell my parents.

I got better though. Lamictal does work in time. Though, one time they took me off of it and I nearly killed myself. Oops. I got better and had another memory associated with lake Mendota, a slightly positive one, but not that much, just another memory really. In January Lamictal worked some of its magic. I had a snowball fight with the lake without keeping score and then sat on the edge of the sidewalk with my legs dangling above the ice. I wasn’t healed, but I was pretty damn good.

I have too many memories associated with that lake. It’s become a part of me, part of my life, both happy and sad and scary. While I drifted off, Rachel brought me back. She kissed my neck and asked what I was thinking about since I had been staring for so long. I told her about when I went in to get help and she hugged me, it was by no means the worst she had heard or the worst she could imagine. In the grand scheme of things it’s rather humdrum in both of our lives. These things become facts, dead facts, ones that only influence our lives when we really think about them or drift off for a while but in everyday life they disappear into the abyss of history. They seemed like something that could happen to a mind and that that mind would survive. Neither of us knew how we were alive though, by all rights neither of us should have survived. We were okay with that and we were content to stay away from finding the answer. To get close to it meant getting close to the reasons why we weren’t here and we didn’t want to think about that ever again. Looking back, actions help, actions can stem the tide, but without luck nothing happens.

Grace noticed the change in our relationship with one another from when Rachel and I were curled up for warmth in the winter to the way we hung on each other now. It wasn’t like before where I was ignoring Grace or I forgot her when spending time with Rachel, we actually spent more time together with Rachel included in years. And she didn’t mind Rachel. But the constant leaning I exerted on Grace, my constant need for attention though passive on her so that she wouldn’t lose me because she too was tied to me through death, that waned. And what happened was better. The three years of our lives rewound and we went back to being friends as well as siblings. I was leaning on Rachel and Grace felt liberated.

But I still teased her like a brother. I teased her mercilessly after she went on dates, and failed. She started failing not because she gave up on the guy but couldn’t get them to sleep with her. Her ego was bruised. She couldn’t give it away. And in the mornings after listening to me and Rachel she had the exasperated look of someone who had been awake since 4am chugging coffee in an attempt to wake up only to drink too much and fight back the onrush of nausea. Rachel and I would make out in a disgustingly exaggerated way when Grace looked particularly ill. I think she actually vomited a little in her mouth once. She looked pale and particularly disturbed one day by our display. It was that day that I decided to fix her up with a guy. The only ones I knew were at Swing so it was a rather narrow class of single men who were also straight, but the ones that were were also horny as hell and relentlessly hit on Rachel. Maybe that would get them off our backs for good. It didn’t. I don’t know why I ever get my hopes up, they still hit on her and some hit on me too.

Grace gave up after three attempts.

The first one was uber christian, I didn’t know at the time, he seemed nice, don’t sue me. That’s a deal breaker for a violently atheist philosopher like Grace. She first noticed it when he prayed over his meal and she sat their wide eyed staring at the truck load of disappointment careening toward her. He finished his prayer while she was still staring and smiled and began to eat without a word. He didn’t do anything else wrong besides asking her what was her favorite bible quote to which she muttered something about Ecclesiastes which she found to be delightfully nihilistic. He was a nice guy, but some things are unforgivable to her. Still, she spent the rest of the date trying to deconvert him. This is not as long of a long shot as it may sound, she’s done this in the past. She’s even studied in a nearby chapel and stole a guy from there after a few intensive sessions with her argument against the existence of god a la John Mackie and David Hume. She tried it on this guy and his button down shirt and vest and tie that made him look like a flamboyantly gay Mr. Rodgers with his pink shirt that wasn’t quite salmon and not quite pink but rather bright in an effort to seem more masculine by wearing such a loud color but really just made him seem like he preferred the company of men. She was repressed though, deeply repressing her baser instincts, so maybe she could at least get to sleep with him and exorcise her need to get back in the sack with someone, anyone, even if she didn’t have an orgasm she just needed something, but she failed and he withheld and she confessed to me and Rachel the next morning that she couldn’t even masturbate properly after that date because he kept showing up in her mind.

She had forgotten what sex felt like it had been so long even though it was really just over a month and a half but sex is kinda like learning in a classroom, after a time it just evaporates from the memory and then a midterm comes around and nothing comes back and in the end she had nothing to go off of but bad porn because porn for women is hard to find in any good form and porn for men usually leaves something to be desired though it’s not story as most people think it’s just simple camera work highlighting the wrong things and decent foreplay that doesn’t involve dropping one’s pants immediately or cuming on the girl’s face.

The second one was as horny as she was, and she even contemplated it, but he didn’t want to use a condom. She was about to go through with it but backed out at the last second. I was watching a movie with Rachel on the couch and Grace collapsed on the corner with a desperate groan and told us all about it. The man was okay, maybe a 6 out of 10 for brain power but a 9 for looks, kinda Johnny Deppish but more muscular, and then the obvious. Harold came out hearing the commotion and I saw Grace stare at him like she was going to devour him even though she swore that it was off because he was still too messed up and her rules about younger guys about how they always piss her off in the end even though Harold didn’t really piss her off or do anything but be attentive when she was with him. She told us about the date and then said good night while staring at Harold’s door before slipping through her threshold.

The last guy gave her a look during a lull where they were getting pretty intimate and a little drunk and said that one of his fantasies was to get a handjob in a restaurant. He didn’t specify where or how but she left. She was on the date for all of an hour when Rachel and I saw her walk in, kick off her heels in the middle of the room, unzip the back of her dress, and force Harold’s door in and left us wondering until morning what the full story was.

It was bad. We stopped setting her up on dates.

No one, including Harold, thought anything would last between him and Grace, but it would serve well for the time being. It wouldn’t last at all, but it was fun for the both of them.

If you include the original run and brush over the month and a half they were apart, it was the longest relationship she had had.

But god were they like teenagers.

In all my life Grace was the older child even though she was six months younger than me. She was sometimes like a parent to me and the most I could offer was some sibling advice. But the way she and Harold carried on turned me and Rachel into the fucked up parents of the house as we drank our coffee in our pajamas and Rachel read the NY Times while I browsed WaPo and The Atlantic while Grace chased Harold out of the bathroom as his towel fell down to the ground. Or we would find them making out on the couch while she ground against him in an attempt to jump from first base to home base by pushing through denim or he would greet her in the afternoon with a grope and she would groan and laugh and then they’d disappear and Rachel and I would be left staring at the atrocity. The second time around Grace seemed to own the relationship as going no where but she was fine riding it out.

Sex was the meme of the house as my mania grew and this year instead of me stealing or buying a business or spending the remainder of my savings I just wanted sex. Each year my upswings take different forms and latch onto different things, some years it’s spending, other years it’s partying and drinking, some years it’s creativity, this year sex was the focus and Rachel loved it.

Figuring out where and when to have sex proved to be more difficult with a job in the way.  Mornings were a bust because of work but early evening and late evening and night were all options that I signed up for and if Rachel didn’t want it I would either go do it myself or cajole her as much as possible into having sex. At work I would send the dirtiest emails possible to Rachel, using my phone of course, I’m not dumb enough to use the firm’s own mail servers. I got rather good at them. My latent writing skills found their outlet in describing sex in as many ways as possible bordering on the absurd and the strange. Still, writing dirty emails is rarely a release in any way but instead makes the mind think about sex even more. It’s hard to focus on legal materials when you’re horny to no end and you’re sporting a mild erection the entire time you’re working.

It’s good that I was with Rachel while like that. Who knows how many women I would have slept with that July. Without her I wouldn’t have just been with one woman, I would have been with as many as possible. Each night I would have gone out to a bar, to a restaurant, and though I might have already started a short relationship was back at her home waiting for me to make a date with her I would be out on the town looking for someone new and using her as a backup plan in case the night was a bust. And soon it would become a game. It wouldn’t be just about sex it would become numbers like cycling and pushing tenths of a mph higher each time I go out biking and the numbers could go rather high since when manic I’m rather charming and interesting and fun and adventurous and ready to do things that other people would think twice about and say no because in reality the idea is a really bad idea like having sex on the Capitol steps but being with someone who is willing to do anything and everything is intoxicating. I want to be around me when I’m up. And this would go on and on until I would come down. That would be in September.

I still felt this pull. I still felt the need to be with as many people as possible. But Rachel contained that. I wouldn’t be able to hurt her or use her. But sex filled my mind. It filled my phone as I would spend time going through pornographic pictures finding ones that were aesthetically pleasing and posting them, a new one every day, on my phone for a wall paper only to go looking for more and consuming more no longer in a sexual way but through a drive that no longer made sense in any respect. She put up with it. She saw that it was an outlet that proved to be more harmless than the alternative and that I was a gentleman about it as much as I could be, the pictures were at least well composed. It helped that she was okay with porn to begin with. But my consumption of it would have strained any normal person. Thankfully, Rachel is abnormal in more than the obvious ways.

As July continued I grew and grew and grew in energy until I was sometimes shaking without end as my hands tremble and my legs quake and physical exercise becomes a rather uncoordinated thing. Harold and I continued to bike with one another, I no longer disappeared to Milwaukee (that was a one time thing) but my legs would shake the bike on the down stroke as I was no longer able to fully coordinate my muscles. I was biking farther and faster than Harold who couldn’t keep up but my body strained against organized movement and threatened to turn the bike over. One day I almost did crash. I was out alone and I came upon a dog walker. They’re everywhere for some reason. I tried to go around but my arms jerked and nearly sent the front wheel horizontal and me flying forward. Instead I wobbled. The rush of adrenaline was glorious and I wanted to do it again but couldn’t bring myself to risk my life or gamble my head against a concussion or lose my bike. I had just enough sense to hold it back. Just enough.

I thought of skydiving and one time waited to see if I could find Cliff to talk to him about it. Rachel asked what I was doing and I gladly informed her that I wanted to jump out of an airplane. To most people this is ridiculous, but to me there is a small catch. I might forget to pull the rip cord. Falling freely and absorbed in the majesty of plummeting through clouds toward earth might be too much and I would keep doing it and training and going solo and then I might forget. Or I might not forget through absence but on purpose. It would be aesthetically pleasing to die that way, a swift death and a glorious fall. When manic, aesthetics play an important role in my life, depressed to, life and death are held together by aesthetics, not in the sense of prettiness but goodness-of-fit. As though one avenue of action fits the curve of my mania or depression better than another act. Rachel talked me down and we went for a bike ride together where I had to slow myself down to keep her with me. It slowed me down. She brought me back a bit.

And then the final week came.

I had been building Rachel up for this. Grace knew it and she told Harold. The last week in July or the first week in August, every year, I peak. Sometimes it’s a week that it lasts other times it’s the whole month, but each year it’s the same time. The year before I was involved in a music festival. I also did recording and mastering. Over four days I worked 80 hours without hesitation. I would run sound, record, transfer, master, upload, sleep four hours, wake up without coffee, continue mastering, upload, work. Four days obsessed with a single task and then on the sixth day I collapsed from exhaustion and two bouts of heat stroke and it was over and I slept. Grace knew that she just had to keep an eye on me and I would burn out.

It came and I took some time off. As much as I could.

I had 7 days off plus a weekend.

I felt it hit. It tingled and burned in my veins and I laughed at the raw power I felt. It was like the euphoric rush of Fentanyl warming the blood and rushing the head into a spiral of joy but this time with the energy to move mountains and all the world collapses into blurs and moments and a diseased happiness that is not even happiness but euphoria unmatched by drugs. Drugs, all the ones I have tried, don’t match the majesty of this moment. Maybe fentanyl or morphine and cocaine combined would be like it. It would probably have to be cut with a benzo too, something to kill the nervous tension of cocaine and purify its cognitive energy to just being raw power and majesty.

I died out in 5 days.

I wrote a book.

With mania it can go one of two ways, either scattered to hell and nothing gets done right, or hyper focus on a single task that doesn’t go right. I had the latter for those days. I wrote and wrote and wrote up to 40k words in a single day. It poured out like water flowing from a tap that I couldn’t turn off and didn’t want to and the words and the world I was creating came together in a knitted whole that made sense only to me and I would believe is the greatest thing ever written. My fingers and wrists hurt from typing but I continued. I stayed up all night though the knock out of my meds and flew higher while Rachel slept in the dim light of my laptop sitting on my thighs while she buried her face in my hip and stretched an arm over my lap and I grew a little annoyed, as I often do, at the physical presence of another even though I still loved her and adored her but she was interfering with the greatness of my great creation.

I didn’t just think that it was great. I believed it was going to win the Pulitzer. Not fantasy, belief. I thought it was revolutionary. It wasn’t. I believed I would make millions. I wasn’t. Later I would pull it from copy editing because it’s so terrible. It was okay, but it was terrible, it was pulp at its best. I’ll never publish it. While writing it I forgot to eat, I forgot to drink, I managed to take my pills but they barely slowed me down. I pushed and pushed while Rachel spent her time with Grace and they complained about me and how I was more fun depressed and wasn’t irritable or ignoring them but I didn’t care because I had the greatest work known to man to do. They were letting me burn myself out and awaiting the day that I would come down and what to do then because every time is radically different.

And then it was done. I can barely remember it. State dependent memory. It’s why I can’t remember my hallucinations. My brain is transformed and I can’t remember what it feels like in the same way that we can transport through time using our limbic system and remember what kiss feels like or seeing someone come home after they were away for a long time. My brain does it to me with neurotransmitters every year. It’s not terrifying, it’s not scary, I just don’t remember much. I’m so much a different person that my normal person can’t even access it except through reading through the scattered remnants of a book that bring me back to where I was by jogging what it was like to be actually crazy. But I can still taste it. When I approach it or die away from it I can still sit in the glow of its halo. It is that limbic time travel that I can remember. And for a week or two every year I finally get more than a taste. But that taste that lingers, it’s all I really need to know about it. It’s a different person though. It’s a different me doing those things and my memory testifies to the fact that it really isn’t fully me.

It’s sad but true, being bipolar is not so much having mood swings but being three different people that have hard time relating to one another but eventually make peace with the help of meds.

It was over. I was still energetic but I was burnt out. Rachel saw the shift in the morning when I stayed in bed and cuddled with her rather than lunging for my laptop and a cup of stale coffee sitting in the pot upstairs. She said welcome back as I laid on my back looking at her sleep. Then she swung a leg around me and asked me if I was completely back. She had missed the three session days while I was oblivious to the loss. I missed it and I missed her screams of joy. I missed watching her arch her back as she dug her nails into my chest and locked eyes with me wearing a smile that betrayed both joy and determination.

I was still up. I was still flying higher than high though I was functioning. On the last day of July I pulled myself away from her sleeping grasp my my torso. She was half awake but I couldn’t stand to stay in bed and hold her, I had to do something, anything, that involved being physical, I had to walk and talk to myself and breath the fresh air so I went out. I felt my blood pounding in my veins crying out to act, to do something, to move, to exert themselves, I wasn’t completely burnt out, I wasn’t as high but I was high but not quite high. I just needed to move. I was still quite manic though my external demeanor might have seemed otherwise. I was in my pajamas though I didn’t care what others thought, I didn’t care about what anyone thought. I was out for a stroll and no one would interfere with that. At first I walked north east along the Isthmus passing the Capitol in my flannel pajama pants and sat and smoked. Opening the pack smelled divine, the rustic smell of tobacco and calm odors waiting to be inhaled. The small cylinder that was easily damaged if put in a pocket or back pack where it would break almost with certainty at the filter and then be relatively unsmokeable unless you take the entire filter off and smoke it with out but that’s harsh, way too harsh. I tamped the tobacco against the filter to pack the tobacco in tighter to produce a harsher pull than American Spirits are already legendary for. I slid one out and flicked a flame and the rush was magnificent. I had been without cigarettes for five days, which is not long but the distance between cigarettes means that the nicotine rush of the latest smoke is stronger and better. I inhaled with anticipation. With the first drag I felt the rush coming on. Half of it was gone in a second and I was weak at the knees and kept going. Once it hit the filter and I flicked it away because the Capitol doesn’t have ashtrays, my head was spinning and I stood up and started walking to the Monona Terrace, I was feeling fearless and god-like and powerful.

Madison, the Isthmus, it bounded by two lakes, Mendota and Monona. I rarely keep them straight for which one is which other than Mendota is the largest of the three lakes we have surrounding Madison, I always have to remind myself that it is off of James Madison Park. Wingra, that’s the third, it’s in the south. I walked to the Terrace in the morning hours and there was no one around, peace, it centered my mind. I still felt the energy surging, pulling me, driving me to something that wasn’t formed in words but propelled me, the lack of humanity was easing it and focusing it. I climbed over the gate that really didn’t keep anyone out if they really wanted to get past it and went up the ramps feeling the roughness of the tiles through my flip flops and the rasping sound that overwhelmed even the soft noise of John Nolen Dr.. On top, there is a garden of sorts designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the whole structure is designed be him. It was a classic piece of architecture with flowing cantilevers and rolling soft ledges. There was no one around to take in the beauty of it and its outstretch of the lake. I felt powerful, still, I felt invincible. I ran my hand over the coarse grain of the outer edge of the platform and looked down on the bikers commuting from the east to the west as they entered the city through the trail that stretched from beyond Williamson street deep down into Fitchburg. I needed to connect with the structure, to feel its stability to calm myself and focus my mind, my flip flops were getting in the way and I kicked them off to feel the cold rigid harshness of the floor. The lake stretched out for miles and I wanted to go for a swim. I climbed on top of the ledge and walked to the edge of it so that my toes could grip the edge and kneed the soft pads between joints into the concrete while feeling no fear or anxiety or apprehension not even a thrill of adrenaline either and I just felt the breeze and saw the lake beneath me and knew if I jumped that I would have a soft landing to greet me, so I thought, that was true power, so I thought, the power to stand against death and not blink but hold to remain and stand in defiance of it, I was deluded. I stood there for minutes maybe longer. No one saw. The moment of death is the greatest rush, the greatest powerful act and the greatest defiance of power to withhold. It surges and drive the mind with a euphoria not of adrenaline but of strength as the last vestige of the mind is conquered and subdued and standing there locking the brain into brilliant catatonia between the two options that presented themselves as equal contenders for a show of force against mother nature combatting itself in my skull. There was no push, no drive, just the feeling of falling and being weightless whether it was forward into the lake or backwards to the coarse concrete. There was no fear.

I stepped back down.

I don’t know why.

It was luck.

It was luck that brought a new condition to me.

It was luck that it only happened once.

It was luck that I found the meds that I needed.

It was luck that all the others failed.

It was luck that I didn’t die of an overdose.

It was luck that I swam back.

It was luck that I stepped down.

Luck that Seroquel didn’t cause brain damage.

Luck that I tolerate lithium.

Luck that Lamictal didn’t cause my skin to fall off.

Luck that I had to exhaust almost all options for antipsychotics before finding the right one.

Luck that I found Grace.

Luck that Grace found the bottle.

Luck that I had insurance.

Luck that I had a brilliant psychiatrist and psychologist — on the first try.

Luck that Rachel was in the house.

Luck that she was as fucked up as I was and wound up with Harold to come to the house.

Luck that I was there for her and she for me.

Luck that she fell in love with me.

Luck that I saved her life.

Luck that she loved me.

———

That was the first time that had happened to me in a mania. It was the first time I approached death in such a well defined way where I teetered on the brink if it. Mania can do that though. I felt no fear. No cognitive guard against doing something that will likely be the end. Nothing to stand in the way of aesthetic reasoning for me. If I lived it would be great, if I died it would be beautiful. The reasoning of a mad brain that thrived on the probabilities of aligning with the arc that defined how powerful I was. I survived and only did it once. Once is all it takes. I was not burnt out, I was just on the trail edge of it. I let my guard down.

I stepped lightly down to where my flip flops were and picked them up to walk barefoot back to the apartment. My brain shuddered with enjoyment at the rough feeling beneath my feet. Past the Capitol again I sat down and had another cigarette, something to bring my brain around. The warm crackle did bring me around, back to Grace and Rachel. I wasn’t sure if I should tell them or if I should tell one and not the other where Grace was my sister and I told her everything but I didn’t want to tell anyone, but Rachel loved me and I her and she deserved to know but what would happen if the Grace learned from her or the other way around or if I told nobody but that could be risking my life.

The cigarette was burned out.

I lit another and kept thinking while others stared at me.

I walked home and decided to tell the both at the same time.

I gathered them in the bedroom where Rachel was still half sleeping and Grace was up the the kitchen eating cereal that would go soggy by the time I was finished. And I told them. I told them both and wanted to see what would happen. Rachel hugged me and cried and then got her phone and typed in my psychiatrist’s phone number. Grace sat me down on the bed and just held me and whispered that she didn’t want to lose me again. I called my psychiatrist and we waited two hours for her to call back and discuss options. It was a painful two hours as neither allowed me to leave the room for whatever reason. They sat, they talked about what to do next, and then the phone rang. I discussed options. The drug that makes swiss cheese of my memory would be increased for a while. I took an early dose. Two hours later I was calmer, safer, an a bit out of it, a little buzzed on dopamine too. Which is what I really needed. Rachel stayed with me through it while Grace went to bring food. They were nervous but I felt nothing. It felt like nothing.

That’s the danger of it.

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