Monday, May 07, 2007

Friendly Manic Spiderman

Home alone and bored. I don't know where or when my next internship starts, and although I have a statistics final Wednesday afternoon, I'm not inclined to study for it; I'm meeting with my labmates that morning and we're going to cram.

I could, of course, clean my apartment, take out the tower of accumulated recyclables, get a pedicure, or read the psychopathology textbook I bought for Dr. Jerk's class at The Bad Place. Or I could watch TV shows and movies online.

Today it's Spider-Man 3, and -- spoiler alert -- at one point, he's embraced by a symbiote that makes him much more impulsive, sexual, and aggressive. He takes on and subdues his nasty editor (verbally of course), kicks the living crap out of some criminals, buys trendy new clothes, ogles every woman he passes, leaps onstage at a jazz club and becomes the floor show, and gets into a fight with the bouncer, knocking Mary Jane to the floor.

In short, he appears to be in the throes of a manic episode.

I've been noticing the need to shop in myself lately. When I'm depressed I can't shop; it's too hard to make decisions, even over something as minor as which brand of toothpaste to buy. When I'm hypomanic, in contrast, I want to buy EVERYTHING.

I used to say that I knew I wasn't doing too badly because I never bought a horse, something Kay Redfield Jamison did during one of her manic episodes. But right now, I really really really want to buy things. Suddenly I "need" new hairbands, skirts, flip-flops (well, okay, mine broke, so that's somewhat legit). My everyday watch broke, so even though I have a nice one for Shabbos, I want a new everyday watch, and I spend hours on Amazon, Yahoo Shopping, MSN Shopping,, and the Fossil watch website. Just comparison shopping, not buying; if I were really manic, I'd have 4 new watches by now.

I'm trying not to buy new clothing or shoes -- I'm in grad school, so I shouldn't waste money on anything I don't absolutely need -- so I find myself revisiting again and again; I know I'll eventually need more toothpaste, shower gel, moisturizer, etc. I bought a $17 jumbo-sized canister of BeneFiber, because since January I've been needing a little help in that department. That is, until the increased lithium kicked in. If I use a fiber supplement now, I'm afraid I'd feel like I've contracted dysentery.

Hope that's not too much information! In this cheery mood, I could so easily go on -- and I have been. It's no coincidence that my posting rate has increased dramatically over the past few weeks. In January, I had 11 posts; in February and March, 10 (each); in April, 17; and although it's only May 7, I'm already up to 7. When I'm hypomanic, I'm incredibly productive.

That's not always bad. I can study and retain information, write quickly and easily, and dazzle people with my wit. I see connections between things easily and synthesize good ideas, some brilliant. But I have to be careful. I have to watch myself and make sure I don't do anything inappropriate or idiotic.

Joan has been very helpful in that regard, watching me carefully for signs that I'm veering out of control. Alona and Bina are also good at keeping tabs on me, although Bina moved to Ohio, so she has to monitor me by phone.

Sometimes I feel I deserve to feel happy and optimistic, especially after the depressions I've weathered lately. And sometimes I feel I don't know who I am. I can't even make sense of my own rhythms now, how I sleep, how I digest. Am I depressed by nature, pessimistic, defeated? Am I naturally exuberant, hopeful, enthusiastic? Or am I just moody? What are my regular moods, or will I only have pathological moods from now on?

Who am I?
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. From all that I've read on this site, you've never actually been manic. Hypomanic, but not manic.

    There is a world of difference...and you are belittling everyone who actually has experienced the hellish nightmare of genuine mania.

  2. You're right, Anonymous -- I've only ever been hypomanic. The last thing I want to do is trivialize anyone's suffering. I'm well aware that as far as mental illness goes, I got off relatively lightly.