The Ten Best Things About Being Bipolar

Inspiration sucks. It’s like that five dollar macchiato you drink every morning to get yourself going. Then one day the cat barfs on your shirt and makes you late, and you don’t have time for Mr. Macchiato. You can’t get yourself going without it, and at work you just stare at an imaginary point hoping no human comes near you before noon. The professional writers say that inspiration is for suckers. Just start working and let the work take care of itself.

So I felt really bad today when I sat down at the keyboard uninspired, depressed and communing with that imaginary point rather than attacking the keyboard like I was John Henry. I squirmed in my chair and felt shame that I was attempting to use the same alphabet used by Mark Twain. I’m a man of my time, so when I have a problem I do what the people of my time do. I go to Google. I searched Google for inspiration. By the way, the word “inspiration” produced 107,000,000 hits, and I don’t think any of them are at all inspiring.

After a while, like a lazy, willful mule, I started looking for anything I could use as an excuse for not writing at all. I landed on bipolar disorder. That was promising. I figured I could whine about it for at least a couple of paragraphs and be done. But then I found a page listing the best things about bipolar disorder, which isn’t your normal kind of post about a mental illness.

I think the “best things bipolar” list contained some fine and illuminating stuff, but it didn’t quite capture my experience with my friend bipolar. That’s what led me to create this alternate list of The Ten Best Things About Being Bipolar.

  1. Since you’re manic sometimes and depressed at other times, bipolar can be claimed as the reason for almost anything you’ve screwed up or don’t want to do.
  2. After being manic for a while, you can tell people what it’s like to write the sequel to Lord of the Rings, invent the perpetual motion machine, and fly without an airplane.
  3. You have a wide selection of pills in decorator colors, so there’s no need to remodel the bathroom.
  4. You can finish a day’s work when other people are still asleep, and you can think faster than reality occurs.
  5. When depressed, you get plenty of health-enhancing rest for long periods of time, in rooms darkened by curtains that block out harmful UV rays.
  6. You can openly pay someone to put up with your shit and react in a patient, thoughtful way, because it’s more acceptable to do this with a psychiatrist than with a prostitute.
  7. There’s no substitute for being the smartest, most charming, most articulate, sexiest and most creative person on Earth for a while. It’s worth the embarrassment of later looking back at what you did and wondering what the hell you were thinking.
  8. If you make bizarre money decisions, buy ten thousand pairs of bowling shoes, lose your home and possessions, and cause all your family members to abandon you, that’s just an unambiguous sign that God wants you to become a monk.
  9. You give your spouse lots of opportunities to develop patience, tolerance, and the discipline to not hit you in the face with a frying pan.
  10. You get to identify with scads of famous people who might have been bipolar too, like Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, and Tigger. That’s got to be good for your self-esteem.

So there’s a poke in the eye for you, inspiration.

It sometimes surprises me how many people like their bipolar experience just the way it is. Yet plenty of people don’t like bipolar, and they can get pretty angry that anyone might say positive things about it. So, I’m happy to see your comments, but please try to keep them civil, or at least more civil than a religious war.

The suspected-of-being-bipolar President Theodore Roosevelt. Is he manic here? Depressed? You decide.

12 Responses to The Ten Best Things About Being Bipolar

  1. I love number four. snicker “faster than reality occurs” LOL

    Once worked with a manic-depressive and being around him was interesting. At his lowest, he was one of the kindest, understanding and personable man I have ever known. When he was up, well, sometimes funny, sometimes scary. He didn’t like the pretty little pills the doctor gave him so occasionally he would climb on the roof to cover it with aluminum foil and stop the mind control rays, or collect all of the red pushpins in the workplace to create a large arrow on his bulletin board in order to direct the “negative energy” out into space or lie speadeagle on the floor like he was making a concrete angel in order to ground his brain and bleed off excess power. Just some ideas you may use as needed.

  2. I can’t imagine being anything other than bipolar. Life without manic episodes seems so dull and lifeless. How would I ever get anything done if I slept eight hours a night, EVERY night? I think that the depression is something that I need as well, I can’t imagine a life without periods of laying on the floor and staring blankly under furniture for hours at a time.

    • I hear you. It took me 25 years to figure out I was bipolar rather than some cross between a banana slug and a fireworks show. They say you can’t appreciate the highs without having the lows. I guarantee that I can appreciate the shit out of the highs.

  3. This made me smile. Which was a nice break from laying in my blanket fort of sadness as I call it. I enjoyed this. I am convinced a side effect of bipolar disorder must be a passion for writing. How else would we escape the overlapping big-city highway of thoughts and images racing through our minds. I feel as if writing them down stores them somewhere else, leaving more room in my mind to think about how I could marry Ryan Gosling if I wanted to and more time to daydream about my alleged Bipolar superpowers and/or party like I think I’m Ted Nugent or something. Anyways, I’m glad to know there are similar people out there somewhere outside this tiny town. Inspiration is my curse as well, and hopefully you do not torture yourself with coffee as bad as I have been lately. Thanks for the smile. Confusing but blunt and wildly inappropriate. We are a rare breed.

    • I’m glad for the smile. I of course don’t think all creative people are bipolar, but I think bipolar people have a propensity for creativity. That’s just based on my observations.

      Managing bipolar has been a perplexing balance for me, if using the word “balance” in this context can be forgiven. Depression always sucks, but when I was young and hypomanic I could get a huge amount of great work done in a silly amount of time, even though I annoyed everyone while I did it. When I got older I was just as annoying, but my work became trash–even though I thought it was magnificent until I looked at it a month later. I had to do something.

      After a few years of wretched adjustments to drugs and side effects, I got to a cocktail that made me amazingly stable. After a few more years of that I had to switch from it for non-medical reasons, and I realized how sterile and uncreative that stability had been. My current treatment is less predictable but far better to live with, at least for me. My wife puts up with some more difficult times from me. In exchange, I never just stop treatment because I think I’m cured.

      Here’s an example of her perception. One night I got a call from a close bipolar friend. She spent a while telling me about the house in another city she saw today and was buying tomorrow, and how moving her whole life unplanned would make every aspect of her existence better. She was zooming and manic. After I hung up, my wife, who had been listening to my end of the conversation said, “Do you envy her?” Oh boy, did I. Points to my sweetie for understanding her crazy husband.

      I guess I’m optimistic enough to think there’s a livable place that each of us can get to, if we can push through the pain, craziness, and hard times.

      No torture by coffee for me, even though we have a coffee maker that’s smarter than Apollo 13. Diet Coke all the way.

  4. Hi Bill, Thank you!

    I’ve recently (finally!!!) been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I’m now managing my depressive episodes with the help of medication which helps enormously, but I wanted my doctor to know that I enjoy my highs.

    Yes, I suppose I’m creative and when I’m on a downer, I can’t bear to even step into my studio and TRY to write anything… my attitude is generally “what’s the point”.

    My highs, however, enable me to do all kinds of daft, creative and quite frankly, wierd things – who in their right mind builds an exact replica of a 1970’s synthesizer? When I’m up, I seem to have an ability to focus 100% on a goal, and I generally achieve it (once I’ve sifted out the rubbish that fills my head). It’s great to have an idea, run with it and achieve something you can be proud of.

    Being Bipolar definitely isn’t all that bad.

    • Hi Andy, thanks for commenting!

      I fully understand your point. When I was younger my depressions were relatively brief, and my hypomanic highs lasted a long time. Also, the highs weren’t debilitating. During them I was creative, quick, and able to accomplish a great deal in not much time. However, as I aged the depressions became longer and more frequent, and ultimately my highs became unstable manias. I’m not saying that’s what happens for everyone, since every case is unique. But it just wasn’t possible for me to function effectively without some kind of management.

      Fortunately my current doctor understands how much I value a little hypomania. For a few years I was on medication that kept me almost precisely level, but I felt uncreative and uninspired. I’m now on a regimen that doesn’t keep me quite as level, but I have more of a creative edge. I truly don’t believe I’m as creative as I was in my hypomanic days, but I have to recognize that those days are gone. Even if I went off medication I wouldn’t get them back.

      Even so, being bipolar isn’t all bad. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, including how to make the most of what I have.

      Best of luck slapping your bipolar self into shape!

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