Before discussing my third manic episode, I have to mention a salient fact: I broke up with my girlfriends in 2006. It was the longest relationship I had with a woman. There was nothing unusual except that I realized later on that the separation was due to a moderate elevation of the mood. This deferred awareness was triggered by the cold analysis of certain attitudes or emotional states. I fully admitted that the end of this relationship was due to my condition and I could not let this take command of my life. Medication was certainly not enough to fight the illness. Indeed the cycles went surreptitiously on and on within the generally accepted social behavior boundaries. The hyperthymic surge was eliminated but I still had whimsical behavior. Even if they caused no more social disasters, my “ups” were still an embarrassment which prevented me from living normally. Detecting the mood swings afterward was not sufficient. I needed to recognize them real time to be able to react. I thus began an in-house psychoeducation.
The generalization of the internet helped me a lot in this task. Without explicit diagnosis at that time, the key-words were my medication. I googled my treatment, Lithium and Tercian. One thing leading to another, I absorbed a large quantity of information about my condition and became, I believe, a good specialist of my disease to such a point that I asked my pdoc to confirm my diagnosis: bipolar disorder of type I. That was not difficult to discover given my first two manic episodes. He agreed and also added ” “delirious and delusional” to the picture. He did not say psychotic because he’s a nice guy. It was in 2010, I had forced my shrink a bit because he does not like labels but I needed to be labeled indeed. Now that I was provided with a diagnosis and a sharp bipolar culture, I began to try observing my cycles.
What I learned from this was, if I dare to say, depressing. I would begin activities in my ups which I abandoned when the mood reverted to a slight down. This is my pattern of mood which sways from very elevated to moderately depressed. All activities that needed motivation were all victimized by the mood swings. I was blossoming and withering so to speak. This mood detection apprenticeship did not solve immediately the initial goal. I needed some time to react to the cycles. But at least I became an expert in the detection of my mood erratic behavior. I am at present capable of telling you if I am up or if I am down. As I write these lines I am in a moderate down. If you are bipolar, the second step is to know yourself after having achieved the first one: Acknowledging your condition.
My new skills were put to the test during my third manic episode in 2008. Officially it should not be considered as such. You need to understand that you are manic only if society decides to lock you up in a psychiatric hospital. If you’re free as a bird and in an elevated mood, it is just hypomania. To me, all the usual and worrying symptoms of elevated mood were combined: my thoughts were racing in my head. I recognized also this terrifying feeling of omnipotence. My sleep was significantly disrupted which made my working days a daylight nightmare. But I was not psychotic and I was perfectly aware of my mood state. I called my pdoc who reassured me and I went also to my general practitioner who told me (I would always remember it!): “No! Don’t panic, you are not manic!”. He was so adamant about his diagnosis that he did not hesitate to suppress the additional mood stabilizer that my pdoc had prescribed against the downs. He felt that I was in a good shape. I’ve never missed the additional mood stabilizer. Don’t pile up molecules in the hope it will solve all your problems! Take what you need to be functional, the rest is yours.
At that time, I provided consulting services at the French headquarters of a big global company. The people I dealt with were senior executives and directors. It really was not the moment to be beyond the ionosphere. Unlucky me, I was just there. The strangest is that I remained fully functional: I went on living normally with the symptoms. It was my first major mood outburst under lithium and with my new bipolar culture. I overcame it successfully. How fascinating it was to experience again my first destructive manic episode and to be able to analyze in real time the symptoms which had led me to chaos 14 years earlier. But this time, I could say NO. This episode lasted at least 6 months. I made statistics on my sleep. During this period I kept a log of all my nights. Only 32 % of my nights were normal. But this was not the most striking.
While being aware of experiencing a massive manic episode, I noticed in the street an incomprehensible shift of behavior from women towards me. They did not look away as usual but they were staring at me in some kind of non-ambiguous way. Something tremendously new was taking place and I could link it to an abnormal elevated state of mood. I remember a charming blond skating on the streets of Paris. She overtook me, stared at me, kept away from me, and, suddenly, went back in my direction, staring again at me with this non-ambiguous look. Usually, beautiful girls do not usually pay attention to me. Was it some kind of hidden camera TV show?
I was a maniac outside the hospital. The possibility of being delusional crossed my mind. But I was in Paris, the weather was very nice, cars stank and the passers-by walked quietly, enjoying the blue sky. Everything was normal except my mood. It was not hallucinations. It was something, let me say, usual for some people, but extraordinary for me. The case was not isolated. Again, the behavior of women in the street had just changed significantly towards me. It was striking, incredible. The next steps after this surprise would be to confirm these new “findings” through a scientific experiment. A disco would be the perfect environment for it. It is extremely foolish to go to a club when you are manic. I don’t recommend that (as a consultant you can believe when I say that). But I had to establish some facts.
In the disco, a population of seductive glance accompanied my usual awkward attempt to dance which is known to be maybe the mating parade of the Homo sapiens. I obtained a 90 % score among a population of available woman and looking for a mate opportunity (I like this wording). I did not however cause any riots. I understood what a very attractive girl can feel when all the dilated pupils converge on her. I also told myself ” Your life is gonna change “. This was stupid because I knew that the female behavior shift towards me was congruent with my elevated mood. I surely did nothing to provoke that. Unfortunately this gift of god wasn’t meant to be eternal. It is very difficult to think that an up will have an end when you’re manic.
But something even more baffling took place during this disco session. At the beginning of the evening, an attractive woman was dancing alone. This is not unusual when the party has not really started. She seemed to enjoy her fifteen minutes of fame. Suddenly, as if she absolutely wanted to confirm the scientific experiment, she stared at me for a long time. Later, as people finally decided to invade the dance floor, I was kicked by a guy who was identified as her boyfriend. The conclusion drawn from the party was: “What is wrong with this bunch of bonobos?”. This internal shout was going to change radically my understanding of the bipolar disorder and move the pillar on which my perception of life was built. A key was given to me. It opens a door to a brand new intellectual world.
Gloria Gaynor/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
You’re just too good to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off you.
You’d be like Heaven to touch.
I wanna hold you so much.
At long last love has arrived
and I thank God I’m alive.
You’re just too good to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off you.
Pardon the way that I stare.
There’s nothing else to compare.
The sight of you leaves me weak.
There are no words left to speak…