Willpower. It is a necessity with this illness. When I am in my hypomanic phase, I am beset by compulsions. I find the insistence of their tugs overwhelming. I often panic and give them what they want hoping they will leave me alone. They can be particularly dangerous in these days of social media.
During hypomania, all emotions are exaggerated. When you feel like poking the bear, you really want to poke him. With a big stick. A very pointy one. If I am upset about something, I want the whole world to hear my grievance in technicolor detail.
If someone pushes back, I want to push harder, but there are consequences. Not only are there a lot of angry bears circling around with me, but by allowing myself to react, my body feels like it is being flooded. It’s a torrent that sweeps my will away. I struggle to regain control and it is exhausting. Afterward, I might become depressed.
Recently, I have started to take preventative actions. I remove all social media apps from my phone. On my laptop, I close tabs that are open to social media. I distract myself. I watch old episodes of Beat Club on YouTube. I admire Hendrix and get thrilled by The Who.
Then I get an idea. Wouldn’t it be cool if I went on website A and posted B. It can feel like a moment of brilliance or at other times, it seems like an idea that is so self-evident that no one could find fault with it.
Or just maybe it would be a lot of fun to go to the anonymous site and troll the racists. Talk about poking bears. It’s easy too. They are easy to outsmart and oh so easy to insult. Because they are racists, it is easy to think that somehow I am fighting the good fight, doing God’s work and making a lasting contribution.
In actuality, it is a cowardly way of being an asshole. It’s anonymous. No one knows who I am. I can get away with anything, but does it help the racist to change? I doubt it. It probably widens the gulf between them and the rest of the world. Instead of throwing them a lifeline, I poke them with a stick when they could be drowning.
Yesterday, I realized that I was being consumed with bitterness about recent events. It wasn’t doing anyone any good, so I searched for and found a Buddhist practice for forgiveness.
I decided to start with a body scan. Next, I imagined my muscles relaxing to the point they were like syrup dripping off of my body. Then I took a breath and said the first line of the practice. I took another breath and said the next line and so on. I let go and away it went like liquid pouring out of my fingertips and out of the bottom of my feet. I had found a practice that worked at least for the time being.
An hour later, bitterness arose again and I did the practice. I did this several times throughout the day.
Finally, around evening, the bitter waves stopped. I was left with contentment. Everything was perfect just as it was. There was nothing to do. There was nowhere to go. I just laid there with my cat, basking in contentment from my head to my toes. I was literally happy in my body. A rare occurrence for me.
Later on, I returned to the anonymous site, only this time I had more humor and less vitriol while sparring with the racists. I also found some people in need of a kind word or support and I felt lucky to have been the person to show them that kindness.
That’s the other thing about hypomania when your heart is touched, you are flooded once again, but this time it is with the bittersweet nectar of love and concern for others.
Here is my wording of the forgiveness cultivation practice:
May all those I may have harmed, through thoughts, words, or actions, please forgive me.
I forgive others for any harm they have caused me through their thoughts, words, and actions.
I offer forgiveness to myself for any harm I have done to myself, through thoughts, words, or actions.
Today is a new day and it’s another hypomanic day. The bitterness is back and I have started the practice again. However, this time instead of poking the bear, I wrote this post.
©2017 Stephen L. Martin
Painting: Giuseppe Arcimboldo–The Vegetable Gardener