I spent the majority of the time from August 2021 to February 2022 laying on my couch, with minimal participation in the world outside of my apartment. That all changed when I started seeing the first signs of spring. Whenever the days get warmer and brighter and longer, I become a different person. There is an abrupt shift in my mind, and I always embrace it without hesitation.
I don’t know if it’s possible to become addicted to your own manic state, but I do know that despite the devastating effects mania has had on my life, I’m always happy when it’s back. Sometimes I get a quick ping of anxiety that tells me to be cautious of mania. “Think about what happened last time,” it tells me. I then run through a long list things like running myself into debt, dropping our of college (twice), getting my license revoked, having unprotected sex with complete strangers, experimenting with drugs with complete strangers, explosive arguments with people I love, going days on end with little to no sleep, and occasionally blacking out and going on rampages. Please no one remind my mother, it all stresses her out enough as is. Anyways, I contemplated this list and decided not to worry.
In early March, I spent a lot of time analyzing if I was just happy or if these were the early signs of mania setting in. I clearly wasn’t depressed anymore and could see the toll my last depressive episode had on my psyche. It was a relief not to be held down by the weight of depression. It also just felt good to FEEL something, anything. The episode I was coming out of was the most I have battled with apathy in my entire life. For someone that normally feels every emotion at an above average intensity, not feeling anything at all was terrifying and uncomfortable.
Since I was feeling energized, I became more conversational and more social overall. In March, I went out with my best friend, Doyle, to celebrate her 29th birthday. We spent the night drinking, getting high, and dominating the dance floor at a bar downtown called the Rec Room — a place I’d stumbled upon with my Lizard Sisters when they visited from Sacramento in September. Shockingly, I didn’t throw up in an alley or try to race anyone around the block. I did make out with a guy that saved his name in my phone as “Baby Daddy Rodell.” I took it as a good sign that I didn’t go home with him or take him up on his offers to go out that he would later text me. I considered this as evidence I wasn’t manic. The hangover I had the next day was painful, but it didn’t deter me from seeking out more opportunities to let go of control and release my pent up energy (and aggression).
This was the way everyone else my age blew off steam, as long as I kept doing mental check-ins to gauge my mood, I’d be okay. I decided I could have fun and get appropriately reckless. Unlike previous years, I had a safety net in place incase I did hit full fledged mania. I was living at home with my parents, which helped me rein in my impulsivity. But also unlike previous years, I wasn’t in therapy and I wasn’t taking medication. My mom started commenting on my rapid speech, telling me she had no idea what I was saying because I was speaking too quickly. Instead of taking that as a warning sign, I thought that was more of her problem than a me problem. I stayed the course of trying to have as much fun as possible before my next depressive episode hit.
Thankfully, my favorite way to have fun had finally come back into my life– live music. I hadn’t been to a concert in years due to COVID. Shows have always been an outlet for me. There are few things that feel as good to me as being on the floor with a bunch of strangers all dancing/moshing to the same artist or group. I’ve always been the kind of person to give it my all at a concert, like the time my Capricorn bestie and I saw Metallica for the first time. We were in the thick of it, only a few people from the stage. I fought a man much larger than me for a pic that was thrown into the audience. I won, obviously. That is when I realized that the energy I spend so much time controlling is not only tolerated in concert settings, but it’s celebrated.
I made my return to the live music scene by going to Smoking Grooves, a one day festival in downtown LA, with my Lizard Sisters. I’m still riding the high of seeing SiR and Phony Ppl. Like all of my festival experiences, something completely chaotic had to occur. This time the chaos found me, unlike most festivals I’ve gone to where my friends and I instigated the chaos. We lagged on finding a place to stay for our trip, but I eventually found a motel that was walking distance to the festival and within our price range. The Royal Pagoda was supposed to be our home base for the weekend.
After a long day of singing and dancing, we made our way back to The Pagoda only to find our belongings in trash bags and someone else in our room. The guy working behind the counter had no answers and was scared of me. I remember snapping at him. When he started shaking, I took a deep breath to control my rage. There was a minor meltdown, but we ended up finding a last minute room at a Motel 6 down in Monterey Park. Not an ideal situation, but I enjoyed the adventure none the less. It isn’t even the craziest thing to happen to me at a festival. Nothing will ever beat bailing someone out of jail after they got busted for coke possession and sneaking them back into Coachella. But it did feel like I was making my comeback. I was single. I was manic. I was free.
Smoking Grooves was just the tip of my live-music-iceberg. A week later, I saw Dua Lipa at the SAP. I followed that with Omar Apollo at the Warfield, Royal Blood at Fox Theater, and Pearl Jam at the Coliseum. I’d forgotten how amazing the Bay Area concert scene is. There’s so many iconic venues and there’s always a show happening somewhere in the Bay, which is ideal for a live music enthusiast.
Not only is the Bay one of the best places to live if you’re an avid concert goer, but it’s also ideal for sports fans. Besides my Raiders abandoning me for Vegas, all my other teams are right here. I have season tickets to the Quakes with my dad and brother, but my brother and I also go to Giants games frequently. The Sharks have definitely seen better days, but I went to more than a couple of games this season. I even went to my first Warriors game this year. For my brother’s birthday weekend in May, we went to a different game Friday through Sunday. We started off the weekend by going to a Western Conference Finals game. Not my first NBA game, but my first Warriors game and it was the playoffs! I couldn’t believe it. We went to the Giants game on Saturday and the Quakes on Sunday.
In late March, I had already started to feel overwhelmed by how busy I was. I told myself it would settle down and I’d be fine. But then April came and I stayed just as busy. Then May came and went and I didn’t take a second to relax. If I wasn’t going to a concert or a game, I was finding someone to do something with. I started dating again. The last time I attempted that nonsense was a brief window in mid October to early November. The trouble with dating is that I lose interest really quickly. Anyone I did date in spring, didn’t make it past a second or third date. Sometimes for no particular reason at all, just an unexplained loss of interest. Sorry, fellas.
It was in the middle of May that I realized that those mental check-ins I promised to do with myself to ensure I didn’t get consumed by mania, weren’t happening. For about a week, I was stuck in a wound up and agitated state. There was nothing I could do to relax. I felt like one small poke and I would explode. Everyone and everything was annoying me. The normal things that help me relax when I am wound up like this weren’t working — reading, walking, working out, sex, smoking weed, or dancing. After the first few days of this, my whole body started to hurt. Chronic pain is not a new thing for me. I’ve been in pain since I was 16. Most of the time it is manageable, but when I get in this wound up, it intensifies. My neck and back are normally around a four on a pain scale of 1-10 at any give time. When I get stuck in a state I can’t relax, it becomes an eight or nine. The pain also spreads until my entire body hurts. The constant pains fuels the agitated state, which winds me up tighter, which makes everything hurt more, which makes me more agitated, and on and on and on.
I thought I was going to catch myself before getting stuck in this hyper-agitated and ready-to-bite-someone’s-head-off state, but I dropped the ball. I also wasn’t sleeping well anymore. It has been over a year since I struggled with insomnia. My overly detailed bedtime routine and strict 10pm bedtime have helped me manage my sleep and allowed me to be more functional at work, but my usual eight hour slumber started getting closer to my danger zone, which is anything under six hours. I slowly started staying up later and then started waking up several times a night, each time for at least an hour.
There was also some external evidence of mania. The consistent flow of packages from Etsy and Amazon were a clear indication of stupid and uncontrolled spending. I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck and I was paying off debts and saving, but I was buying dumb shit I don’t need or want. My binge eating was also back with a vengeance. Thanks to DoorDash, the second I got a craving (the kind that doesn’t go away until you satisfy it), I could get it delivered without having to leave my evil lair. With binging and intense cravings, it is never just one bite or one serving. It is as much as possible until I am sick of it and am left hating myself and feeling disgusting. This happened more and more frequently. I also had an impressive stack of FasTrak tickets (downside to living in the Bay) and my first speeding ticket in years piled on my desk.
I decided that the only way to wind down from this uptight state was to detach, withdraw, and reduce any kind of stimulation. I deleted my Instagram for the month of June. It felt nice to not aimlessly scroll for hours. It was also refreshing not to hear or see things about celebrities. I just don’t give a fuck about Kardashians, which A-lister is getting married or divorced, or really anything about any of them. I do like staying updated on what’s happening in the lives of my friends and family, but the virtue signaling, the drama, and the never ending cycle of bad news are all things I can happily live without. I also got rid of my dating apps (again) because I could careless about making small talk with strangers online.
I knew if I wanted to get relief from the ever growing agitation, I needed to be disciplined with my routines. I spent more time reading and writing than I have in months. I worked on getting back to my sleep schedule that keeps me sane. I worked on controlling my unnecessary spending. I cut back on how much weed I was smoking so I could get a better sense of how I was feeling. I started saying no to plans if I knew I needed rest. I did a daily gratitude exercise to help shift my mindset. Slowly it started to pay off and I started to unwind.
While I am far from perfecting how to handle my moods, I didn’t ruin my life this time around. I maintained healthy relationships with my inner circle. My job performance didn’t take a hit. I didn’t put myself in imminent danger, besides the few times I was really speeding. In all fairness, I’ve been really into Turnstile lately and that is not speed limit music. The point is, I’ve made some improvements and am willing to put in the work to get even better. That’s a good place to be.