Next "Up": Mania and Hypomania's Dark Side

Patient Expert

It's very clear from your comments to the posts in my series on "Up" that euphoria is an infrequent flyer at best. Way more common, it seems, are our road rage states, an intense feeling of psychic distress. It's as if we want to grab the world by the throat. These are our dysphoric manias and hypomanias, bipolar's dirty dark secret.

In a comment to my first post, Donna added a new dimension. Not dysphoric. More like "dark."   As she describes her hypomanias:

Admittedly, I was far more creative then than at any other time. But it wasn't a beautiful creativity, it was a wild creativity painting huge grotesque masks. It was a creative muse that spurred me on to write poetry that was a little too edgy and "out there." Something that perhaps few people could understand...and I couldn't even understand. I got accolades for the poetry but then felt I had no sure footing when it came to interpretation.

Below is "Saturn Eating His Son," one of the "Black Paintings" from the later years of the great Spanish painter, Francisco Goya.

Can you identify? I thought so. A picture tells a thousand words.

So what is wrong with us? Nothing. The image may be disturbed, but that doesn't necessarily mean we are. Part of the bipolar package is that we think and feel and perceive far deeper and higher and wider than most people. I would submit this isn't exclusive to our illness, but obviously, in Donna's case, a certain manic-depressive engine is clearly at work.

Naturally, we tend to keep our dark side to ourselves. We get judged harshly enough already without calling attention to our inner Goyas. Trust me, this is one loop I have kept my psychiatrists out of. They don't have a clue, and that's the way I will keep it.

But we do have to be honest within ourselves. Yes, we've been to the Mountain, but we are also intimate with the depths. Coping with our dark side may be a challenge, but it can also be hugely enriching and rewarding. The real issue, then, is how do we embrace this aspect of ourselves in a healthy way? In a way that completes us, that makes us whole. Without overwhelming us, without causing us to descend into madness.

Thank you very much, Donna, for introducing this very important topic. Let the discussion begin ...

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