The Lure of Normal


I’ve been away as a contributor to this blog not because of illness, but due to the lack of it. As a survivor of Bipolar I, my moods run the gamut from depressed to supremely manic. Lately, however, I’ve found myself in the sweet spot a lot of people would call normal.

I’m watchful for changes to my affect because for years, the chilling temperatures of autumn signaled another mania was on the horizon. This year, I face the prospect of fall with confidence and resolve to remain stable.

Many of my kindred spirits have written of their experiences with the seductive aspects of mania. I no longer have such lust. My manic episodes have caused me humiliation, anguish and disruption in my life. I have little interest in chasing fantasies only to be left holding cold ashes once my dreams flame out. Trips to the hospital were the result of Icarus-like flights of fancy.

Today, the day after Labor Day, is an anniversary for me. It’s been five years since I walked out of a psychiatric ward, released after I received medical treatment for a manic episode. It wasn’t the first time.

I have worked very hard to regain my emotional sobriety. Due to the nature of mental illness, there are no guarantees that particular hospitalization will be my last, but I have put many barriers between me and unbridled delusional thinking. One of the most helpful is the lure of normal.

Sky high self-esteem, visions of grand schemes manifesting overnight and touching the third rail of connection with The Divine are some of the elements of mania that used to call my name. It seemed so real; I could imagine all of it happening. Now, my wish is more Pinocchioesque: I want to be a regular person.

With over thirty years of experience as a diagnosed bipolar survivor, “average” and “normal” were terms I knew little about. Today, they are my goals. I don’t want to miss any more of this precious life with a runaway mind separated from my family and friends. Getting adequate sleep, taking meds, checking in with my therapist and doctor and monitoring my moods are just a few of the remedies I’ve chosen to use against the beast of mania.

Currently, there is no cure for what I’ve got. I can only do my best with the tools I’ve got on hand. Striving for stability is one of the ways I keep the symptoms at bay. As we head back to work and school in the midst of the pandemic, let’s try our best to keep our mental health foremost on our priority list. Take care of yourself first. It’s not selfish, it’s imperative.