Monday, April 9, 2012

Courting Spring Fever

Just a quick one to confirm that I'm alive and functioning.

One of the big advances I experienced this last year involves my relationship to the spring and fall phases of my seasonal shift in mood. In prior years, these were the worst times. Winters were hard, but in spring and fall, my volatility made for both the best and the worst times, and it was quite typical for the worst to follow the best inside the same second. Catastrophic emotional collapses were par for the course.

Following my diagnosis for (among other things) mixed-state bipolar disorder, I ran across this essay by Ayelet Waldman (synchronicity -- she once employed the woman who taught me scriptwriting). One of the symptoms of my bipolar stuff is hypomania, a sort of housebroken variation of mania.

Ms. Waldman's description of hypomania as a superpower struck a chord in me. It also linked up with a notion I've had for a long time now, which is that various odd neurological states are analogous with drug-induced states, extreme meditative states, and so on. A person regarded as being a prophet or being on a permanent acid trip might be healthier and easier to assimilate into society than one regarded as crazy or damaged. Not the most original thought, but I came to it through self-observation.

I've never had a taste for stimulants, not even coffee and chocolate. "I've already got plenty, thanks," has been my response. This has left me jealous of those whose tastes in recreational chemicals keep them working hard. From a careful selection of the morning's tea to an overflowing ashtray to Harry Crews' desktop jar of mixed amphetamines, most writers have something along these lines. I don't even have chocolate milk.

I'm too pressed for time to feel like doing a search, but sometime last year I decided to treat my seasonal hypomania as if it were a condition of intoxication -- one I intended to enjoy, even if I hadn't chosen to ingest it. And I regarded the exercise of my creative powers as the most important element of the pleasure I'd pursue.

Worked. Oh, man, did it work.

When I am in that state, if I have my head on right? I am constantly engaged in specific pursuits during my waking hours, of which I have plenty. I am boisterous, outgoing, compulsively witty, and disgustingly full of myself.

This state is contagious. When I'm hypomanic and feeling good, I'm great company. I radiate a sense of power, purpose, and pleasure to such a degree that strangers go out of their way to make contact with me on the street, just to get some of it to rub off.

All of a sudden, the worst passages of my year became the best.

So right now I'm at the point where I'm still dealing with the depression, but it is definitely lifting. My studio is almost clean enough to start photography, I've been editing a manuscript for a friend and my own is next on the block.

But right now, I am very impatient for my yearly dose of endogenous espresso. All of a sudden things like irritability and acne are welcome signs of the spring thaw, and a tendency toward braggadocio is to be cultivated rather than checked.

Basically, six months of hell is now six months of heaven. All I have to do is figure out a way to either reframe or manage winter, and I'll have a whole year of actual real human life. Wouldn't that just be something?

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