Way back in the day when I was a newly-minted 21-year-old, I once threw some clothes in the back of a friend’s pickup truck on the spur of the moment and went to Ensenada, Mexico, over the long Labor Day weekend.
I didn’t say a word to anyone in my family that I was leaving, let alone that I was going out of the country. Didn’t even let my close friends know I’d be gone all weekend. Nope, I just hopped in the truck with two of my co-workers on a late Friday afternoon and drove down to Ensenada, arriving at a cantina in what was definitely the bad side of town around 10 PM.
The last thing I remember before passing out—just as the sun was coming up—was dancing on the bar with a bottle of mescal in one hand and a joint in the other, playing to the crowd and generally whooping it up. I came to about 24 hours later in an alley in back of the bar, with a donkey nosing me and snorting in my face, and the sun boring into the back of my skull like a laser. My ‘friends’ were a little further down the way, and they too were hung over out of their gourds, crawling around on their hands and knees and vomiting tiredly into the dust.
And I had the nerve to be surprised when I finally made it back home Sunday night to find my phone ringing off the hook: “Where the HELL have you been?!” my sister demanded. “Do you know you’ve scared the crap out of all of us? What’d you do, go out of the country or something?”
Uhhh…..yeah. And I’ve done some other crazy things during manic episodes, even long before I knew that’s what they were. One time I got a wild hair and decided to send for a $200 kit that would get me started in direct mail marketing….for what, I never figured out. Another time I stopped at Wally World on the way home from work to pick up a couple gallons of milk, and came home with a thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise.
Then there’s the ever-popular all-nighter, during which I’ve been known to call my friends and family and wax philosophical about love, sex, death, politics, and other matters of consequence. (I used to do this when I was drinking, too, which is not the only parallel between mania and alcohol abuse I’ve run across.) I’m sure they love this as I tend to be so witty and articulate during these conversations, and I always argue my positions with passionate conviction. The fact that perhaps they might not think this is such a hot idea at 1 in the morning never crosses my mind.
There is, however, an upside to manic episodes, and that is this: they intensify one’s personality. Not only that, they enable one to share the very best of her/himself with a world that demands conformity and often punishes uniqueness.
And I can just hear it now: “Yeah, that’s great about intensifying your personality and all…..but what if you’re an asshole?”