Mcmans Bipolar Story
part 5 of 5
To Madness and Back
To Madness and Back
days were not uncommon. In the meantime my
dress had become
slightly eccentric ...'
you have ever had the experience of
up from a drunken stupor in a strange
in a strange country, jobless and
and nearly penniless. You don't
want to be sober, for aside from the
intrusion of reality, you also find
psyche playing host to the type of cold
reaction that demands instant release.
Goddess, sing the Rage - a line from
The shrinks have no adequate
for it - agitated depression, dysphoric mania, a mixed
and depression fused into an explosive kinetic ball of
one that makes the very act of living totally
It was simply a matter of following through.
I lay sprawled on the floor of an apartment that I could
to pay the rent on, it was a beautiful summer day in
Australia. Outside my window the eucalyptus trees that
lined my street
created the impression of an urbanized Eden, while
shrill laughter in the distance sounded forth a
Dreamscape of fairyland gaiety.
But the rumbling
of the tramways around the corner represented my
out this life, out of my private little hell. I only had to
maybe once or twice to put me within walking distance
of the suspension
bridge that spanned the harbor.
Only seven months
before I had been on a plane to Melbourne bound
for a bright
new life. I had sent out my resume to the major Australian
and business magazines, and four editors had made me
an offer. Oddly
enough, I snapped at the one that offered the least
by the idea of making my mark on a paper going through
the kind of
changes I revelled in.
This had been
my modus operandi in New Zealand, taking over stodgy
and giving them the old razzamatazz. I had done this on
a law journal,
an accountant's journal, a finance journal, and the
of a national Sunday newspaper. My average tenure
a year. My longest stay was three years. On my last job,
the Sunday paper into the daily one, and I had been
left out in
the cold. Looking back, my downsizing only served to delay
crash and burn.
Oh, the motor
had been running hard back in New Zealand. The new
there had surprised everyone by becoming more
than the right-wingers had ever been, and a whole new
had been born, dominated by capitalist cowboys
fortunes who had Parliament at their beck and call.
of operating on the fringes of journalism, we
journalists were front stage center, smugly looking
down our noses
at our less-knowing brethern in the Parliamentary
days were par for the course, and twenty-hour days were
In the meantime my dress had become slightly
featuring brightly colored socks and ties and a collection of
Humphrey Bogart fedoras. The thing I am most proud
of during all
that time was that, unlike many of my colleagues, I never
of these capitalist cowboys. It would have been easy to
fill up space
with material put out by their PR flaks, but I resisted
a lot of quarters and put my readers first.
It took me a
little while to find my rhythm in Australia, but by
old habits were returning. Then came the stockmarket
crash of October
1987, and - thanks to all those paper fortunes going
up in smoke
- nowhere in the world did it hit harder than in Australia
and New Zealand.
By then, I had found my niche as the paper's
reporter, and I covered the spectacle of their
the entire continent, plus New Zealand. I treated the
my bus service, up to Sydney and back again the same
Brisbane, over to Perth for a longer stay, not to mention
always on short notice, usually not knowing for sure
when I would
Often I literally
composed the stories in my head, dictating them over
the phone to
someone at the other end in hopes of making it into the
On one occasion, I actually found myself reviewing a
concert, which got major play on the paper's
pages, together with about three or four pieces of mine
on the business pages that same day.
from New Zealand then living in Melbourne called me
up and commented
on my output, for which I had a ready answer:
it was my turn to write the paper that day."
Oh, I had the
one-liners coming. I was floating on air. On a return visit
to New Zealand
I was even nice to my ex-wife and her boyfriend.
I found the time to fit in a brief fling with someone who
had just left
But the high
was beginning to turn on me. Sometimes I found myself
people, which was very uncharacteristic of me. Once, on
the tram, on
my way to work in the early morning, I found myself on
the brink of
physically attacking some wise-assed teenager. I actually
got up out
of my seat and went for his neck before I caught myself.
And then there
was the issue of my six month salary review.
Based on my
performance, I was certainly entitled to a substantial
it was not delusional. The delusional part came in thinking I
replaced. When the editor failed to make me a decent offer
I quit in a
huff, bitterly resentful over his treatment of me. Furious, in
fact, in a
blind rage. I told my colleagues what had happened and they
looked at me
like I was crazy. Didn't anyone understand?
Hell with them,
I thought. I'll just apply for another job. But this time
no takers. No one would touch me with a ten-foot pole. I
encounter one of the paper's big name journalists in a
and he literally turned his back on me, pointedly refusing
I was nothing,
a non-person, a pariah.
would walk for hours - occasionally breaking out into a
run - feeling
the cold fusion inside my psyche pulsing and surging and
seeking a fast way out. Going to sleep was like the
Fourth of July.
All I had to do was close my eyes to experience the
onto my retinal screen. I would open my eyes only
to find shadows
and objects merging in the dark into an ominous new
I was on the brink of breaking out into full-scale
and I knew that fairly soon I would be going mad
I wanted to shout. I've always been normal. This was
just - stress
- that was it. New location, crazy working hours. I just
needed to slow
down, that was all.
But no, that
wasn't it, I decided in a Damascus Road flash of insight. I
needed a religious
experience, a spiritual transformation, a zen
moment, a cosmic
turbocharge. Then everything would be fine, better
in fact. Perfect - I could walk the earth as an enlightened
ready! I let God know. Plug me in.
I found myself
prowling the bookshops, spending my dwindling supply
of funds on
books about Tibet and eastern religions and white magic. I
tried to float
out of my body and talk to spirits and will my hair to grow
in and move
objects by thought, knowing the only thing holding me
back was my
lack of ability to change my vibrations and concentrate
But it was only
a matter of time.
But now there
was the small matter of me on the floor emerging from
a drunken stupor
in a strange new country with no job, no friends,
almost no money,
and no hope of finding work. But just when the idea
off a bridge seemed my only alternative, another option
I'll write a
book, I thought. On the stock market crash. The idea had
my mind much earlier, while still at work, but now
there was a
certain desperate quality to the proposition. That day I
of a typewriter and began pounding on the keys:
"A stock market
crash has no setting," I wrote. "It occurs in people's
minds, a collective
will that determines what is valuable and what is
from day to day, minute to minute. To understand finance
to do with economics or accounting. Instead, it is a
discipline, of the mind determining reality, the natural
Kant and Plato and the rest."
In nothing flat
I filled up a page, then another and another, all rushing
out in a frothy
stream requiring very little rewriting. Paradoxically, this
new state of
productive mania pulled me away from my more
old state. As the days went on, I began to enjoy my new
from my apartment. I would pour a glass of wine or make
myself a cup
of tea, and put on Duke Ellington or Beethoven or any
number of composers
in between, and settle in for a pleasant round at
Later I would go out for a walk in my urbanized Eden.
afterburners were running white hot by the time I put
two hundred in my typewriter: "One would never know
a crash," I banged out. "It was a different sort of disaster
in a new world
of intangibles - far more subtle than a nuclear bomb -
one that could
practically be willed away in a Berkelian-Kantian
subjective idealism - or was it the other way around?"
I finished my
book in five weeks, and very soon after I found an agent
and a publisher.
Lest I be seen to be giving my manic phase all the
me make it clear that I did not write that book so much as
The book was actually the product of six years of
the world of business and finance, and several years
in law and many more years working at my craft as a
a whole lifetime of reading and learning. By the time I
came to sit
down at the keyboard, my brain knew exactly what to do.
Mania may have
been a part of the process, but only as an accessory
to the deed.
Once I had a
publisher lined up, the inevitable letdown occurred. I
get out of my bed for weeks. Meanwhile, my depression
by the kind of rages that could very easily be
mania. In fact, mania may have intruded into my
These "mixed" states, by the way, continue to perplex
profession, who can't seem to agree amongst
Over time my
depression eased and I took on another major writing
As for my Damascus Road experiences, there was no
I now began to explore my innate spirituality in a far less
fashion, and experienced several immediate benefits. The
and yoga I began practicing brought me back from the
edge, and gave
me a sense of hope. I also found that after years in
world of business and finance, my thinking became
far more three-dimensional.
But my miraculous
"recovery" prevented me from seeking real help.
My minor successes
only served to fuel grandiose ideas, and my
back into the real world gave way to the intoxication of
In time I would be felled by a cascading series of killer
It was only when I had an irresistible vision of myself
the balcony of my bedroom that I finally called out.
I was back in the States with my family able to help.
It has taken
me six months to claw my way back to a state where I
an experience of feeling happy without being in a state of
mania or hypomania.
All my life I have always wanted to be normal
and fit in,
even though I knew from day one almost that I was different.
But now normal
has taken on a new meaning. Normal is what is
thanks to medications and talking therapy and a strict
diet and exercise
and sleeping regime, I have declared an uneasy
my disorder. I have learned to live with this beast inside me,
even with the
knowledge that it could very well bring me down at a
and show me no mercy. It has taken me into faraway
endowed me with near-mystical qualities and insights plus
wisdom and skills. It has brought me closer to God and
my fellow human beings. But it has also reduced me to
taken away everything I had. It has left me for dead,
fight, feeling abandoned by both God and man.
And so I must
accept what I am, the bad as well as the good, the
as well as the sublime. Maybe then, in my own way that is
unique to me,
I can feel as though I fit in. Maybe then, after nearly a
feeling different, I can say for the first time - and say it like I
it - that I am truly normal.
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