Tricksy Brainses

“No shit, there I was…”

…That’s how some tales start, and that’s kinda how this one begins. I finally had a day off from work to finish my latest draft, a whole day with few interruptions and near-total focus. When I cranked out almost 20% of a novel in just over twenty-four hours, I just assumed it was the lack of Day Job Stress that attributed to my productivity. I figured hey, I get a day off and my Muse can breathe!

Guess what?

It wasn’t necessarily the Muse.

Nope. That tricksy brain of mine was on overdrive, deep in a bout of mania that’s probably been ongoing for months, if I take the time to step back and assess my symptoms.

Yeah, my brain tricked me again. Made me think I was doing well, that I was hanging on okay, that I was getting by. But alas, my brain lied, and, after a visit this morning with my psychiatrist, I have to up one of my meds and see if that helps.

I should’ve known. The endless nights with five hours of broken sleep (or fewer), the almost-daily panic attacks, the way I churned out three novels in less time than it usually takes me to muddle through half of one–all the signs were there. My brain just played a little game of keep-away with the symptoms, distracting me with that mania-fueled euphoria to convince me I was really okay and not in the full throes of an episode.

Not that I was euphoric the whole time. No, you see, with bipolar disorder, you can sometimes get “mixed” episodes. That means you get all the revving up of the mania combined with the crushing depression, simultaneously! Isn’t that grand?

It’s too bad I cleared out the final graph of my word counts for my latest project before I wrote this, because it was basically a literal graphic depiction of my mental health over the course of the past couple of months. The picture was fascinating. I’ll show you a partial picture, a screenshot taken before I finished the draft, but sadly, I don’t have a picture of the FINAL graph, the one where I typed over 11,000 words in a little more than a day. Take a look at my assessment of my mental state over time:

It’s kind of fascinating, from a psychological and academic standpoint. Looking at the graph through analytical eyes, I can actually visually see the points where I was either too depressed to write or too exhausted from my day job’s stress–or both at once. I can also see the points where I was hyperproductive, where I’d power through whole chapters in a single bound and then some. It’s cool, in a creepy way. It’s like, my writing productivity can be almost a barometer for my mental health.

Might be worth making a note of this for later. Y’know, snap a screenshot of my graph every so often to see if I’m mentally stable or all over the place. If I was a more scientific or intellectual person, I might conduct a self-study.

A few days ago, October 10, was World Mental Health Day. You’d think with all the memes and posts about it coming across my various social media feeds, I would’ve figured things out sooner. Maybe with my new “mental health meter,” I can “see” episodes coming sooner and mitigate the damage.

The brain can be a tricky thing. It plays games with you, makes you think you’re doing okay when maybe you’re really not.

Pay attention to your mental health, folks. Don’t let something this massive sneak by when you can do something about it.