Midnight mania and the green

There is a myth about mania that holds this: the manic spend sleepless nights awake, alive with fresh, creative energy, accomplishing much in a frantic hopped up state of delightful, buzzed chaos.

I have no idea who has such mania. It is not me.

Last night, I took my now-standard dose of 50 mg seroquel to knock out the nighttime racing thoughts that plague my mind just prior to sleep. When not in the turmoil of spring, I typically consume only 25 mg. After a good hour of digestion, I am usually in a doped up haze, unable to form coherent thoughts. Sleep follows shortly thereafter.

Last night, 50mg didn’t even touch me. After an hour and a half, I was still wide awake, energy coursing just beneath my skin in a smooth, fast circuit.

I got up with a heavy sigh, irritated. I went to the living room, and turned on my staple when I cannot sleep: Law and Order. I sat there, pondering what to do: I had never taken 75 mg of seroquel before. What would happen? Would I be able to function this morning if I took another pill? Even worse, what if it didn’t work at all? What if taking another pill pushed me back into a depression? I considered splitting a pill, but I still had never gone above 50, and, quite frankly, I am not ready to admit that I am at that point, that threshold: I enjoy being on the low-end of the medication regime. It somehow means I am not as crazy as I could be. It means there’s room to grow with my meds. I’ve only been officially mentally ill for five years, and I’ve held steady on low doses of meds for a while. To me, that means my liver won’t crap out as quickly, that I am using good coping skills, that my body is tolerating things quite nicely, that my illness isn’t as bad as it could be, that life is OK, that maybe I am not bound to these goddamned pills that I cannot ever run out of, that I cannot ever stop taking, that keep me in check, that make me less of a human being, that control my mind and mood and allow me to have nice things like a home and relationships and a job.


I am so fucking sick of them. I have been swallowing them for years now, in so many combinations. Anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antidepressants. They are all anti-something; My brain, myself: I must convulse, psychose, depress, and therefore I need a pill that is anti-me. I need chemistry to tame me. Bipolar disorder is the ultimate feral state. Women with bipolar disorder are the most ferocious of all. We are wild, uncontrollable, laughing and weeping inappropriately. We scare others, our emotions creating an aura that fills a room. Pills are the chain that keeps our visceral tiger toeing the line.

In all my sleepless states, I have never been appreciative that I have extra time to create, to do, to make. I have been exhausted from the intensity of my mind and soul, from the heat of my emotions, and I have simply wanted the reprieve of sleep. And this is where I become angry at bipolar disorder. It steals so much; why must it also steal my one escape? Why must it steal sleep? Without sleep, I continue to cycle upward and upward, my mind racing faster and more furiously until I believe I am invincible and infallible; a grandiose arrogance takes over; I am Icarus, a pure human hubris itself.

When I first started zoloft, I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This I consider to be a good thing. They do not prescribe SSRI antidepressants to manic depressives, the theory being that antidepressants cause manic episodes. I can vouch for that. I had a dizzying manic episode at the introduction of zoloft, and I spent many nights sleepless. I didn’t know it was mania; the list of side effects include both mania and insomnia. Nothing was helping me sleep except bad beer. So I drank bad beer and slept.

But I like zoloft. It keeps me from wanting to punch people in the head. This I consider to be a good thing.

Last night, faced with the prospect of watching a dreaded sunrise, my own personal nightmare, I considered my options. More pills, a sleepless night, or, well, alcohol or pot. And, I chose pot.

I started smoking weed when I realized, at 30, I was already everything my parents always warned me I’d end up being, and feared I’d become — their garish, worst nightmare: fat, crazy, queer, kicked out of college, liberal, whorish and devil-worshipping. The only thing I hadn’t done was use drugs. Why not smoke a bowl to celebrate?

And so I did. And I slept. And I’ve come down from that manic, frenzied state I was in all day yesterday leading through last night.

I used to be really against the concept of weed. I didn’t care if others used, but none for me, thanks! My uncle, a drug addict, committed suicide. Another uncle, a Vietnam war vet, is an alcoholic and recently had a stroke. He’s only in his 50s. I was really conscientious of what drugs and substance abuse meant to our family, and I was terrified of the prospect of addiction in myself, and what it could mean for my mental health.

Now, with that, I’ve been around more drugs than most people I know. My ex husband is a DJ, and we’d been to a lot of clubs; a lot of late nights with a lot of club kids, a lot of wannabe hipsters means a lot of drugs. And not the green kind, either. I watched more people snort,  smoke and swallow than I can count. And the whole time, I was thinking: Boy. Sucks to have to escape all that shit.

But in the end, I guess that’s what I’m doing, too, with all my blue and peach pills I take every night. We all escape in one form or another. Mine just happens to be a prescription escape, because I have a nice label that some official people conjured up and put into a book; my brand of escape has been officially recognized and pathologized.

I’m starting to see things a lot differently. As opposed to seeing weed as an escape, I’m seeing it as a medical aid. It kills a lot of chronic pain I experience. And it helps me sleep, gets my brain to fucking shut up the way no other man-made chemical that a big old pharmaceutical company puts out can. It’s not something I want to do, nor do I do, every day, but it is something that helps keep me sane, in a certain way. I’m not sure how that’s any different than going and buying pills at my local Walgreens, really.



  1. DawnD said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I just want to say “thanks” for putting all of this out there. I have been enjoying your posts more and more, and have bookmarked several of them. I resonate, and appreciate your transparency immensely. Thanks.

  2. Risha said,

    April 4, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    I consider myself lucky that I only really ever got hypomania – and I do miss those states, as they never lasted very long and I got tons done. I know what it’s like to be left awake with racing thoughts all night though, as I also have an anxiety disorder. People always look a little puzzled when I tell them that the anxiety is WAY worse than the bipolar, and that’s one of the reasons.

    It’s not something that I use myself (the Lamictal’s working great), but my Dad was more traditional bipolar, and weed was his primary medication of choice for it. It never seemed to bring anything under control but it did help him sleep, and since he rarely slept more than 3 hours a night when I was a kid, 6 hours of sleep was a good thing.

  3. Cindy said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    They tells us:
    Exercise is important.
    Diet is virtue.

    But rest? That’s for the unambitious. The lazy. Rest is the chief enemy of capitalist triumph.

    Maybe that’s why mania has positive association. Fuel from the gods to produce, create, do more, be more.

    I had no idea people went through this. I don’t know how people can survive it.

  4. thoughtracer said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Cindy.
    We do. Thanks for reading. It’s important to me that people see people like me — the crazies, I guess — as people who try to make rational decisions about that which is irrational. And it’s therapeutic to write it down, validate my experience, I guess.

  5. RuinRat said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    “sleepless nights awake, alive with fresh, creative energy, accomplishing much in a frantic hopped up state of delightful, buzzed chaos.”

    God, don’t I WISH. Mania for me means paranoia and delusions and, without medical intervention, hallucinations. It wasn’t always this way. Mania used to be fun. Now, not so much.

  6. Bri said,

    April 5, 2008 at 3:55 am

    I think we are all “crazy”,it is just a continuum… sometimes we are more “crazy” than other times but it is all relative. I have had depression and anxiety for a long time but am also well under “control” thanks to medication. Medication that has also made me gain even more weight despite no changes in activity or diet. That said, I would rather be semi-sane, happy to be alive and fat than be insane, suicidal and thin!

  7. Joy Nash said,

    April 5, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Your writing is really beautiful.. Like DawnD said: Thank you for being so transparent.

  8. Karen said,

    April 7, 2008 at 7:32 am

    It seems “thoughtracer” pretty much said it all.

    I have a friend who deals with bipolar. And I deal with depressive episodes and sleepless nights where my brain just won’t quit, but I’ve not really been diagnosed with anything but “regular” depression. It took me awhile to figure out that I wasn’t “normal,” now I wonder if it would really be so bad if people didn’t keep telling me that it was WRONG for me to get weepy and laugh loudly whenever I felt like it. It seems to me that the whole shebang is much easier to deal with as a SAHM simply because people don’t look at me funny when I just need to cry at nothing or I laugh at what really wasn’t all that funny.

    I find that your writing helps clarify my own thoughts, and for that, I thank you.

  9. thoughtracer said,

    April 7, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks Joy, 😀

  10. Autonym said,

    April 14, 2008 at 7:14 am

    I couldn’t find an email addy for you on your site, but you can see mine from the comments, yeah? I was hoping to have a conversation with you about meds. I’m struggling to advocate for myself with my meds nurses, and aside from going into the clinic and hollering, I don’t know what to do!

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