The signs are very familiar.
The need to have my blue Sennheiser headphones clamped to my ears every time I go somewhere – even if it’s just to nip out to fetch bread from the baker’s – so that my life is set to a soundtrack of my choosing. My brain craves the stimulation, and the volume is cranked up to full. Sometimes the combination of music and street stimuli gives me such a pure physical rush that I walk, head upturned to the clouds, remembering with every fibre in my body what MDMA used to feel like.
If the sensory overload gets too much, I stop in a bar for a beer, to take me down, just a notch. If I start to slow down, I drink an espresso. Careful buzz maintenance.
My mojo has returned. A different walk. A bounce in my step. I swing my hips and arms a little. I caress the handrail as I dance down the steps to the metro. I hang from the pole in the carriage, eyes closed.
I’ve lost weight; it’s just melted away. My fun clothes have come out to play, my crazy shoes. I apply a little more make-up, get my roots done. I start seriously considering that ladybird tattoo.
In the street, I meet the eyes of the men who stare at me. And they are looking. They even say “Bonjour”. The elderly guy from the Tunisian grocery store on the boulevard made some borderline-filthy joke about his “belles dattes“. Some alchemy has occurred: I’m no longer invisible. Something about my altered state is perceptible: to men, in particular.
Re-reading something I wrote here about not letting myself create a Tinder profile while “up” makes me smile. I’m not on Tinder, but a good friend persuaded me to try out some similar apps just before this altered state took over, to break with my three years of celibacy, and it has been serendipitous. Because this edge, this high is making me very good at seduction.
Side effects of hypomania include making “sufferers” charismatic, witty, gregarious, confident and impulsive. I concur. I am a charm offensive personified right now. My libido is ten stories high. Any boy in the path of hurricane me is likely to have difficulty resisting.
This is the me I like best. The creative me who has been making things on the internet, taking photos, and chatting up a witty storm with multiple boys, putting the restlessness and the racing thoughts and flights of ideas to use. But it’s me undiluted, when really you are supposed to add 90% water to taste. If you drink me like this, I may be too sweet, and I can’t rule out a bitter aftertaste down the line.
This version of me might stick around a few weeks, or a few months. I have no way of knowing. What happens next is an unknown quantity, too. I might come down slowly, like a hot air balloon, or I might crash land in spectacularly messy fashion. I’ll withdraw into my shell, to some degree. I’m never sure how much of the change is in my perception of myself, or how other people perceive me. I suspect it is a combination of both.
In the interim, I’m taking my meds, and being as honest as I dare when I see my psychiatrist, but I’ve resisted his attempts to increase or tweak my lithium dose, for now. Not taking it is never an option. A simple blood test would expose the truth, which is precisely why it was prescribed after I was admitted to the hospital: to police me.
But I’ve resisted any dosage-tweaking because I’ve spent too much of the past two years feeling hollowed out inside, numb, barely setting foot outdoors aside from work or necessary commitments for the kids, with my libido at ground zero. This is not my definition of living.
Every time I complained, I was told this was an acceptable trade-off for staying well (read: alive). I disagreed, but wasn’t in the best frame of mind to argue.
So while I know that I need to play safe, and absolutely acknowledge that I will have to pay some price for this period of euphoria one day soon, I’m also secretly hoping that I’ve reached the point where my brain has got acclimated to the lithium and will now regularly enable me to feel things again.
And if not, I intend to revel in this while I can. I need it.
I choose life, of course I do, but if it’s an option, I choose this version of my life.