I’m running speedy today. I’m hesitating to call myself manic, because there has been so much exciting stimulation in my life over the last couple of days that someone without bipolar disorder would probably be overstimulated and ungrounded. But I’m calling myself a 4 – significantly expanded – on my Mania-Depression Scale, and there is the genuine risk of me getting manic. The scales have tipped from the depressive end of the things and I need to let go of the tools I use to manage depression (seeking out extra stimulation, etc.) and bring in all my strategies for grounding (including somewhat reducing my stimulation, making sure to get enough sleep, etc). A little bit ago, I laid out on the grass in the sun, one of the most powerful techniques I know for getting grounded. Now, feel my butt in the chair, my feet on the floor, and breathe. Let me take a moment to do these things.
After a couple of weeks of being mostly down, I’m ramping up again – time to shift from my energizing tools to my grounding tools.
(A minute later) OK, I’m back. It wouldn’t have hurt to do that longer, but this post is just wanting to write itself and I feel a need to capture it while it’s hot. Getting it out will also be grounding.
My life has had several sources of exciting stimulation over the last 48 hours. Wednesday afternoon, I previewed my 17-minute speech on bipolar disorder (my story – parallel to, but not quite the same as the”My bipolar journey” page at the top of this blog) for my performer/writing coach friend Nina Hart. It was my first time since writing this piece two months ago to perform it for another person and was very exciting. I had been manic when I wrote it and – even though it seemed to hold up while I was down – I never totally trust a creative piece I have produced when I’m up.
But Nina adored it – and had some excellent suggestions for how to improve it. (Her most significant suggestion was, “You are so grippingly honest through the whole piece, then right at the end – when you bring the story into the present, how you are now – your integrity slips a little. You paint your current situation more rosy than I think it is. Your story will be less powerful if you don’t stay equally honest right through to the end.” Great feedback. I knew she was right – and will make the changes tomorrow.
Honesty can be hard, but sometimes it’s very freeing.
I had a job interview yesterday about a job I’m enthused about. This writing – and the public speaking, teaching and consulting about bipolar disorder that I see coming out of this – is my real work, but I also right now need an artist’s day job. I think this job may be it, and I’m excited about it.
But more exciting than either of these was a gig I played last night. Another piece of writing I produced when I was manic was a 6-minute piece of stand-up comedy I wrote four months ago. When I crashed a couple of weeks later, I didn’t think it was any good. Oh, I wrote this all up on a post that went up here on September 15 – so I’ll save the rest of that story. You can go back and read it if you like.
Anyway, I performed this piece at church on September 15. The title of the sermon was “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” My piece, which i originally intended to be a sweet poem about the innocence of childhood – inspired by new grandbaby – under the influence of mania came out as this kind of wild comedic ride that I titled, “It’s never too late to have a screwed-up childhood.” I thought it was strictly all for laughs, but I came to realize after I performed it that getting people laughing about the whole happy childhood/unhappy childhood dichotomy can be a therapeutic act. Those of us who actually did have a screwed-up childhood may especially profit from the chance to laugh about all that.
So I was asked to reprise this piece at a benefit in a music club last night. I hired a video guy to capture it on videotape: I have a vision of it going up on a website that will help me promote my public speaking/teaching/consulting around bipolar disorder. This would show my lighter side.
So I had a lot riding on this last night. And it was a little intimidating playing a club, when most of my other performances have been in the cozy confines of my church. Big crowds in my church – 200-300 people per service – but they know me and love my poetry. These would be mostly strangers.
I’m playing a club! Wow!
When I first got up there, I was shocked by the stage lights: I couldn’t see the audience! I had forgotten that this would be the case. I usually rely on a lot of eye contact – I work the room. And at first it wasn’t clear how well the crowd would respond. They were there for music and here we were inserting spoken word near the end of the evening, right before the headliner band. When I look at the video, I look a little physically frozen – my right arm mostly never moves. But the crowd did warm up, I did find my rhythm and I finally had a lot of fun.
And the video came out really good. You can view it on You Tube at
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