I know exactly how Jack Nicholson felt in The Shining. As he descends into madness, his primitive, base impulses become unleashed. Whether he wishes this to occur or not is irrelevant. His unraveling happens without his consent. As we watch, we know that insanity is his destiny, no matter what. There is no off switch for this.
Bipolar mania and hypomania kidnap the brain. I never knew it was coming but when I was in the middle of it, no amount of will or wishing or prayer could stop the inevitable from happening. I was on fire, taken over by a flood of neurotransmitters that transported me to places I hadn’t asked to go. When my brain was hijacked in this way, I had thoughts I’d never have in my right mind and was propelled into actions that my sane self would never do. I became a super surfer, careening along the surface of a tidal wave moving at terrible speed. My sleep was disrupted but I didn’t care because I had boundless energy. I was overly chatty with strangers and mistakenly believed that I could write novels and plays. I spent money recklessly and I was the smartest guy in the room.
It was like being taken against my will to a place I no longer knew. Jack didn’t ask for his downward spiral and I never asked for my upward ones. His course was a one way ticket downward but bipolar disorder has cyclical escalations with repeated episodes of insanity interspersed with periods of normalcy.
This might sound like it’s a lot of fun but it wasn’t. During these times, I was irritable, agitated, anxious and argumentative. Each time one of my elevated periods burned out, my awareness of how I had behaved and the degree to which I had lost my mind were laid bare and lead to crushing guilt. Eventually, hypomania brought me to my knees.
My turning point
After years of worsening mood cycles, I was finally standing in front of the bathroom door, like Jack, with an axe, unable to hold back my primal urges. My visceral id was intent on propelling me through that door no matter what. Unfortunately for me, what lay on the other side was a lot worse than a frightened Shelly Duvall. In my elevated state, I was catapulted forward and suddenly my life was at risk. It was this traumatic event that finally forced me into psychiatric care. I realized that I was either going to put down that axe and get treatment or I was going to destroy all that I held dear. There could be no more fractured doors in my future. There could be no more Mania and The Shining.
I am at my best
When Jack does begin to break through the bathroom door, he maniacally peers through the hole he just created. At that moment, he was at his worst and now years later and well treated, I am at my best. We all have primitive beasts inside but mine have been tucked away for years. The only shining I now see ahead of me are the bright lights of all the healthy days yet to come.
Do you have a story of mania? I’d like to hear from you