This is the response I most often receive once people find out that I cook and clean and write when manic. What I hear when you say this to me is, “Your mania isn’t serious.” “Your mania isn’t dangerous.” “Your mania is useful.” And, perhaps most hurtful of all, “Stop complaining, it could be worse.” Here’s the thing, though: My mania *is* dangerous. It puts my health and safety at risk, because I don’t make wise decisions. I will cross the street with little regard for traffic. I become severely sleep deprived. And thinking that my mania is useful sets me up for problems, because it makes me less likely to stay on my meds when I have them.
As for the claim that I’m productive, I’m not really. I’m too busy doing all the things, because all the things must be done, to focus on doing any one task well and completely. My thoughts are racing, so my body is racing, and I’m jumping from task to task, rather than seeing one project through to the end before starting the next one. Things do eventually get finished, but not to the same standard as when I’m not manic. My anxiety kicks into overdrive when I’m manic, which makes it even harder to focus on anything. And I end up needing those around me to help look out for me and take care of me, because otherwise it becomes a never ending cycle until I crash into depression. The anxiety feeds the mania, which feeds the anxiety, and around and around the mulberry bush until pop goes the depression.
The reason I cook and clean and write when I’m manic is because I started experiencing mania as a teenager, and I had severely limited options on how to deal with it. My options now are still fairly limited, though not as much as they were back then. I have no money, and no transportation, so shopping is out of the question. (Though I am more than capable of serious spending sprees when I do have money and transportation.) My mania is usually worst at night, but growing up I knew there would be consequences for waking the rest of my family, so I could not go for a walk, or put on music and dance. About the only things available to me were cooking, cleaning, and writing. So, that’s what I learned to do in order to deal with my manic spells.
If you love me; if you care about me; if you in any way consider me a friend; don’t tell me my mania is useful. That does not help me, and in fact can make things worse. It makes me want to be friends with my mania, and that just isn’t possible. I am well aware that things could be worse, regardless of what situation I’m discussing. I don’t need to be reminded of that. What I need is to be reminded that I’m not in this alone, and that there are people in my life who are willing to step in and tell me to “Stop, take a breath, and see. Actually *see* what you’re looking at.” And then help me address the source my mania (if applicable). Sometimes (too many times) there is no source. In those moments, I need to still hear that I’m not alone, that I am ok, and that I can and will get through this moment. Remind me that my mania is temporary. Remind me that I have survived it before. Remind me that I still need sleep. And, above all, don’t let me cross the street by myself, lol!