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Manic Depression

Imagine the best day you ever had then times it by ten. This might bring you close, but it wouldn’t gain you entry into the ballpark known as mania. Those of us who’ve scaled such heights know what it means to live among the gods and be gifted with superhuman powers – albeit temporarily.

Mania is a place of mystical wonder, where the imagination soars and fear dissolves in an instant. Self-doubt and inhibition cease to exist. The once shy and socially awkward emerge from the shadows, astounding friends with their irresistible charm and scathing wit.

If there is such a thing as high-octane fuel for human beings this is surely it. Held firmly in the grip of mania, the intrepid voyager soars into the unknown, leaving a trail of devastation and unpaid bills. But at some point it all goes wrong and he’s forced to confront that sobering universal truth:

What goes up must come down.

There’s a tree outside my window that flowers once a year into the most stunning white blossom. Then, no sooner has it appeared, it’s gone. The tree stands but is no longer the same. Winter strips the last leaves from its branches until what’s left bears no resemblance to its previous splendour at all.

The tree is a metaphor for the cycle of manic depression. The brief glimpse of something magical and alluring, followed by its inevitable withdrawal. What follows is its polar opposite. The absence of life and vitality, a kind of lingering death in itself.

Much has been said in defence of this condition, that its extremes endow the sufferer with high levels of energy and creativity, a kind of genetic compensation for the dreaded lows. Given the cost to health, personal relationships and long-term stability, this would seem an inadequate recompense for the pain endured.

Suicide is always an option. But this of course leaves untold misery for family and friends, and the legacy of unfulfilled potential; the list of writers and artists who’ve succumbed to this illness is a long one.

Mania is seductive, a dangerous lover who promises you the world. Sometimes, in the bleak terrain of no-man’s-land where the mood sits for weeks, sometimes months on end, you feel a twinge of nostalgia. The heights you scaled are recalled with great yearning. But mania takes everything, leaving nothing but a burned-out shell.

But you can survive this most debilitating condition and live a life that’s rich and rewarding. There are many good people and organisations out there, who have a comprehensive knowledge of the condition and are willing to help where they can. A combination of lifestyle changes, counselling and medication can help lessen the symptoms and promote a feeling of wellbeing you can build upon for the weeks and months ahead.

By getting to know yourself and the way you think, you can challenge long held beliefs that threaten your mental health and start the whole cycle off again. Look to life-affirming pursuits, rather than ones that that are costly and self-destructive.

Remember, that whatever it is you’re going through, it will pass. You’ll come out the other side to blue skies and sunshine again. And you might find that you’re that little bit stronger and more resilient, in a position to help someone else. Because you’ve been where they are now, and you know what it’s like.

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