Bipolar-speak: Being Neuro-Normal Sucks

I have experienced mood swings for over 25 years, rapid cycling from mild depression to 3-5 episodes of humanly manageable mania/hypomania. Until last year, I have been fairly ‘blessed’ with my manic phases: no drugs, no bankruptcy, no sex à gogo, though, a lot of bridges abruptly dismantled and painstakingly rebuilt.

This past year my hypomanic episodes reached the danger zone. I got to 11 on my 10 cray-cray scale and nearly lost my lovely wife, my amazing step kiddo, my business, my self-worth, and I would, most likely, have lost my life in a moment of absolute shame.

Fortunately, instead of a “Get the fuck out of our lives, you are nothing but pain, trouble, and hurt,” my wife grabbed me by the chest hair with her tiny hand and said, “Get your shit together! Go see your shrink!”

On my way down from the most virulent manic episode I had experienced in my life when she clearly stated these expectations, Grandiosity was no longer at its full strength, I did not dismiss, I did not ignore, and I did not minimize the blatant facts that I had turned into a narcissistic wrecking ball. And by wrecking ball, I don’t mean playful Miley Cyrus singing and swinging and sticking her butt and tongue, I mean Donaldtrumping every family situation into a nightmare of ‘fuck the world, it’s about me, me, me!’

I went to my shrink still hurting from the chest hair pulling.  I started to take a cocktail of pills. I began to feel the strange change. Mild depression vanished quickly. Conditioned by years of mood cycling, I braced myself for the next manic episode.

When the winter of depression is over, the spring mania blossoms.

It never came. It hasn’t come. I am happier for sure, my family is visibly happier, but I am also utterly confused. I don’t know how to live my life without mood swings. And to tell the absolute truth, I fucking miss my ‘healthy’ hypomanic episodes.

I am genuinely uncomfortable being euthymic. This neuro-normalness forces me to plan, organize, strategize, and wait, wait, wait, wait for shit to simmer into fruition. I don’t know how to do that.

As long as I was poorly medicated (mostly antidepressant and anxiolytics), my brain always functioned on two modes, hibernation and hyperfunction. Switch on, switch off. Switch on, switch off. My wrecking ball ways knew me,and I knew them. We were one and the same, happy crazy. I am not happy-crazy anymore. I am happy-confused and deeply worried I may not be able or want to learn doing shit the neuro-normal way. It sounds tedious and laborious.

I have never enjoyed delayed gratification, probably because hypomania got me what I wanted right away. With hypomania in my corner, if I wanted to write, before I was done thinking about it, the article, essay, poem, or short story was done.

I wanted to build a deck or finish my basement or plant an orchard or build furniture for the house by my own cray-cray self, I did it in half the time it took for others to let the thought germinate.

I lost 50lbs one winter.
I applied and was granted three scholarships one spring.
I read 27 books on mutual funds one summer.
I wrote 15 articles last fall.

For goodness sake I came to America on a ‘hypomanic trip,’ no hesitation, no planning, or self-doubt, just me, my dick, and a grandiose brain full of delusional entrepreneur ambitions.

All this is over. Now I have to plan and suffer for it. My writing is the biggest victim. Don’t get mad at me dear readers, but I really don’t think my new brain knows how to fucking plan and sustain a writing project. Because I depended so much on the very frequent hypomanic cycles that sprouted throughout the calendar year, 3-5, I could complete assignments fast and furiously. As I enter the euthymic era of my life I must reinvent my relationship with writing.

I can’t do “quickly” anymore. No immediate outburst coinciding with immediate satisfaction.

Now, I have to pace myself and languorously, laboriously, let the project come to a slow exaltation.

The deeper issue with this nascent writing methodology is that hypomania never ‘taught’ me to finish a long project. It was always a one and done sorta thing, self-contained enough that I could move on to the next best one-and-done the next time I cycled.

How the fuck am I going to feel accomplished without this immediate hypomanic gratification? When the fuck do I start a project when my cray-cray brain no longer switch into the sudden ‘I can do that’ mode? Where do I start to accomplish shit the neuro-normal way?

I don’t know!


Categories: A Few Good MenEmotional HealthFeaturedWomen's Issues + Awareness

Tags: :

Michel Bordeau

My name is Michel Bordeau, aka Area Frenchman. I am a Therapist and an Education Coach in private practice in Atlanta. Born in France, I have spent half my life in the US. I am culturally French and academically American, so you can safely assume that I know a thing or two about love (gender respectful, validating, unconditional, non-threatening) and the pleasures of life (many friends, much cheese, little w(h)ine). When I don't blog about mansplaining, teen assertiveness, guru shaming, toxic work environments and toxic people, motherhood, mindful parenting, immigrant entrepreneurs, bipolar disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, I dedicate my time speaking about the lessons I have learned as a therapist and a coach. I am the host of Le Kindness Couch on Youtube. I created this channel to demonstrate that today's therapeutic modalities are kind, validating, and solution-focused. We don't read mind or blame your mom for everything.

  1. Michel… I agree with Rachel.

    Refreshingly honest and beautifully vulnerable.

    Delayed gratification is amplified gratification and dare I say, sustainable gratification.

    Keep writing what scares you, as our dear friend always says. The reward is so sweet.

  2. Michel,

    Amazing words, my new friend. The struggle is real. Along with time, therapy and a big life change, I had to change meds a couple of times before I felt the numbing fog of severe depression lift; before that hypomanic surge to create something beautiful came back (in a healthy way). Yours will return, only you will control it, rather than the other way around this time. You will find a place of productive grace among your new neuro-normal. And your NEW-normal will fill you with a surge of energetic hope. Fist bump to your wife for grabbing at your chest hairs. She must love you deeply. Your writing touched me. <3

  3. I adore your searing honesty in this piece, Michel. You’re still so talented, despite your doubts to the contrary.

    What’s wonderful about being forced to wait is that the germination creates so much more material than you allowed before — it’s all there, waiting patiently for you to find it. Maybe it’s simply a change in paradigm that you need to sit with (I know — horrors!), letting those thoughts steep and bubble to the surface at their leisure.

    What amazing stories have been hiding inside the mania? Only you can answer those questions…

  4. Dear Bipolar Dude,
    Awesome blog. ….and then there are days when life is sublime. This bipolar thing is such a crazy dance. Wish my dance card was full. You really nailed it!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *