MANIC PANIC SUMMER — PART ONE
A Descent into Madness with the Electric Woman
“Dexamethasone, 4 mg to start. Do ten days on 4 mg, then cut the dose in half to 2 mg for another ten days. It will make you gain weight. And, steroids tend to make people a little crazy.”
My endocrinologist prescribed an oral steroid for me at the beginning of June. I have Grave’s Disease, which is hyperthyroidism. My eyes started to bulge out of my head, which is a lovely progression of the disease process of hyperthyroidism. I freaked out. My looks are one of the only things I have left going for me. Okay, that is very far from the truth, but that is what my summer-seasonal-affective manic brain tells me. I beg the doctor for the steroid because I will not accept my best features (eyes) becoming a freak show. An oral steroid will help to reduce the swelling and inflammation in my eyes, and I will not take no for an answer. He hesitantly puts me on it because he is fully aware of my melting pot of mental illness diagnoses —putting me on a steroid comes with an added risk factor because I am a psych patient. I could care less about the risk factor.
I have lithium to blame for the fact that I developed Grave’s Disease in the first place. I was on lithium for five years, and it kept my thyroid under active because that is what lithium does. I became lithium toxic in May of 2016 because I decided to stop eating (eating disorder), which caused my lithium levels to skyrocket. My psychiatrist therefore took away my lithium and my sneaky, dormant hyperthyroidism gene came out to play. It’s called a thyroid storm when the thyroid becomes severely overactive. A normal thyroid is active between 8–14%. Mine tested at 490%. Grave’s is genetic so I already had the predisposition for it. Going off the lithium most likely triggered the gene into an active state because lithium had suppressed my thyroid for so long. Once lithium was removed my thyroid hormones went nuts. And subsequently, so did I.
Of importance to note: My mental illnesses have screwed me again. It is because I have bipolar that I took lithium. When my beloved lithium was discontinued, I developed Grave’s Disease.
My endocrinologist reminds me of Dr. Farnsworth from Futurama. He is an exact replica, in fact. Farnsworth has no computers in his office. He is truly old school with a million papers from several of my charts spread out on his desk as though a massive windstorm has swept through his office. Hurricane Kari Category 5 has arrived. He has degrees from the Mayo Clinic and John’s Hopkins on his office walls. I trust him with my very life. He has brilliantly traced the history of how and why I developed this awful disease not digitally, like 99.9% of our population operates in this day and age, but simply through papers. He draws the chemical reaction of what is happening in my thyroid on a legal pad. I feel proud that I understand it because I studied biochemistry in college. That was an eon ago though, and it takes me a minute to put all the molecular reactions together in my brain. For you see, there are already biochemical molecular reactions occurring in my brain. A billion neurotransmitters are firing in nanosecond intervals, fire crackle buzz racing thoughts where am I, oh yeah, with Farnsworth using my manic charm to get what I want. I want that steroid because I will absolutely not accept my face becoming distorted with inflammation. It’s summer, so I’m already manic. Of course I am. This happens every year. And I beg for a steroid that will make me “a little crazy.”
Soon after taking the steroid I experienced a weeks-long manic episode in which I became borderline psychotic. It may possibly have been one of the worst/best episodes I have ever had. I loved it because I felt so impossibly high, higher than I’ve ever been. I hated it because of the suffering that inevitably impositions itself upon my loved ones and myself when I descend into madness. Here we go.
Have you ever seen the movie Lucy? It’s a mediocre film in which Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy, a woman who is unwittingly part of an experiment to unlock the full potential of her brain. It is theorized that we do not use the entire 100% of our encephalitic power. Lucy’s brain is used to see what would happen if that 100% were to be unleashed. As she progresses through the process of unlocking her brain power, she begins to gain unimaginable sensory and psychosomatic powers. She eventually becomes a state of pure particles, chemically and electrically bending the universe to her will. That is exactly what my manic episode felt like.
I am on my fourth margarita. I am chain smoking. Somehow I ended up in Estes Park, Colorado with one of my best friends. We are morning drinking to cure the hangover from the night before. The bar we are at is filled with middle-aged men trying to sneak in a good time while their wives are back at their hotel rooms getting ready for a hike through Rocky Mountain National Park. I am not here to hike. If anything I hike up my dress a little higher as I make my rounds. My friend Jon is eyeing me suspiciously. He knows the drill. The alcohol and nicotine fuel my raging manic brain. The substances I am using are akin to pouring gasoline on a fire, and I love it. I desperately need attention from men, because when I am manic I can become hypersexualized. I am on a mission. It is a common symptom in manic women (and men too) to seek out sex when they are in the midst of an episode. I wrote extensively about this in my very first blog post.
I get the attention I want in this shit-hole bar. I pair myself with a father-son diplo in order to get the best of both worlds — young and old. I spend the next hour at their table flirtatiously discussing politics, waxing philosophical. Bipolar is correlated with (but not causal of ) brilliant genius. It’s a shame that I am only using this genius to impress unhappily married men right now.
Welcome to madness.
I eventually get kicked out of the bar because apparently I have disturbed too many of the patrons. What the fuck are you talking about? I am the social butterfly-Queen Bee-celebrity status-A-list woman whom everyone loves!! I find my way back to the hotel room where my friend had clandestinely slipped away to three hours ago. We prepare to go out for the evening.
Hours later we are back at the hotel room. Jon has brought a third. Tony, the DJ from the night club we were at earlier is present in the room. Tony has cocaine. He is Cuban and Italian, and I am in hypersexual overdrive. Clearly, in this very moment, Tony is the most delicious ethnic combination to ever exist on the planet.
Jon has set me up.
He knows the state I am in. He has been through countless manic episodes with me. But this time is different. It is dark. Sinister. Abusive. Manipulative. He wants to watch me have sex with Tony. Given the mental state I am in coupled with a frenzied libido soaked with booze, I do the unthinkable, the unconscionable. This is not something I would ever do if I was in my right mind. Not EVER would I do something like this when I am stable.
It ended up destroying my friendship with Jon. It got way too weird and out-of-control and beyond what I could mentally process when I sobered up the next morning.
Another symptom of a manic episode: incendiary destruction of relationships with the people in your life. All the organic molecules that were holding your relationship together explode in an exothermic reaction. All of the products that constituted the relationship that were actually meaningful to you are used up in one massive exothermic moment in time and space, and they change their state of matter to something completely different with the heat of a thousand fires. It becomes something you don’t recognize and scares you, because you have been friends with this person for six years. The entropy of madness controls your every decision, thought, behavior, choice, and you will be left with nothing. Again. I absolutely cannot believe I allowed myself to do what I did… I numb it with more drinks and cigarettes the following day.
A few days later I am at home recovering from the incident, focusing on not getting myself into weird, out-of-control, unhealthy situations. But my mind is racing a million miles a second. The dexamethasone is like speed. I Googled it, and it’s a very common side effect.
I fucking love this. I keep hearing “A little crazy…” and I laugh maniacally.
The steroid is making me wired and jittery. My brain is buzzing. I am working on seven projects all at once before nine in the morning. I am not sleeping. I’ve been waking up at 3 am. If I’m lucky, I will sleep until 5 am. One morning I completely redecorated both my bathroom and my bedroom before noon. I am firing off emails, returning those neglected phone calls, talking with pressured speech that I think makes me sound like an academic. Logically, with whatever shred of logic I may still possess, I know I just sound like a maniac. But I don’t care because I am the electric woman and no one can stop me! I am going to take over the world, one electron at a time. I am not willing to let this mania stop because I am so high high high, and I go so far as to get the pharmacy to refill the dexamethasone for another 20 days. Yes. I win. Hurricane Kari always gets what she wants, leaving a path of destruction behind that will take weeks to clean up.
PART TWO COMING SOON. HANG ON PEOPLE, THE RIDE ONLY GETS WILDER AND CRAZIER. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THE MESS HURRICANE KARI GETS INTO NEXT.
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