I was talking with my therapist the other day about starting this blog, and how it has helped me really get honest with myself about the financial damage hypomania has done in my life. Manic self-deception is a bitch. More than anything, this has left me feeling vulnerable because even if I try as hard as I can to reach FI, I’m one episode away from f***ing it all up again. It’s not awesome to feel like I’m not in control of the outcome.
While we were talking, she used an analogy to describe this retroactive helplessness that manic self-deception creates: “It’s like you feel that you are occasionally possessed by an alien force that you have no control over.”
And I made a squinty face and said, “Ehhhhhhh, welllllll, maybe, but it’s more insidious than that.” There was a metaphor that fit much better.
Learning to fly
When I was younger I was interested in the topic of lucid dreaming, which is the ability to recognize when you’re dreaming and control what happens. It just sounded super cool, and I dreamed a lot at the time, so I wanted to give it a shot. All of the advice I’d read said to pick a trigger that often happened in dreams, so that when I saw it happening it would alert me to the fact that I was dreaming. Back then I had frequent dreams I was flying, so that seemed like a natural fit. If I suddenly found myself flying, then I would know I was dreaming.
Only it didn’t quite work out that way.
When I found myself flying, it did alert me of the possibility that I was dreaming. But instead of gaining awareness, I instead convinced myself that no, I wasn’t dreaming, I had somehow learned to fly in real life.
And this is the best analogy I can muster to describe why hypomanic episodes scare me. When I am in the thralls of an episode, I am aware to some extent that I am being reckless, and I have even asked myself, “am I manic right now?” But as in my flying dreams, I convince myself that no, I’m not manic, I know what I’m doing and am in complete control.
And therein lies the lie.
So this was the topic of conversation with my therapist. What can I do to retain some semblance of self-awareness and regulation when the next episode hits? The truth is “maybe nothing,” but we did create a plan that gave me a little peace of mind.
Here it is, to be read the next time I am on the cusp of a big decision:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS (i.e., read this)
- What impact will this have on my life? Is it BIG?
- Will I have to dip into savings? Take loans? Sell investments?
- Will this impact people other than me?
- Am I so excited that I can’t sleep?
- Am I pretending not to know something?
- Is this moving super fast? Has it accelerated?
- Will this derail my retirement plans?
- Is it possible I might be in a manic episode?
- Am I about to blow off this checklist because I am able to rationalize it?
IF YES, CALL (THERAPIST).
IF (THERAPIST) IS NOT AVAILABLE, CALL (FRIEND #1).
IF (FRIEND #1) IS NOT AVAILABLE, CALL (FRIEND #2).
This will increase my ability to be at choice.
This will be useful in confirming when I AM manic, and when I am NOT manic.
As you can see, #9 is my “I am learning to fly in real life” strategy. It’s my “I can’t hide from me” gambit, but duh, this whole thing is about hiding from myself. It all gets really meta and stupid.
So, this isn’t a perfect strategy, but it’s something. Between medication to prolong the onset of the next episode and this decision list, I hope to be able to manage the next one by using my emergency algorithm and not being a complete dumbass.
And while I’m on the subject…
Want to hear my latest idea for a business? (Gotcha! Don’t worry…)
Here it is: A company that allows people with bipolar to lock up their financial accounts so they can’t access the money without getting a certification from their psychiatrist. It just can’t be convenient. A big problem though is that I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to do this, even if it was in their best interest. It’s extreme, and it takes away as much control and self-determination as mania itself.
Whoever cracks this nut is going to make a mint. (I’ll take “Mixed Metaphors” for $500, Alex!)