Mania Makes Me A Better Poet
By Daniel Crocker
I paced up and down the front porch on a rare, cool Missouri night.
“The government wants me to take pills,” I told my wife. She asked why, but I didn’t have an answer. Part of me knew it wasn’t true. Part of me wasn’t convinced. My thoughts shifted rapidly.
“Do you ever wonder about that guy from the Oak Ridge Boys? You know, the one with the big beard?” I had also suddenly become obsessed by William Lee Golden. I was worried about him.
“Do you think he feels trapped? Like, he wishes he could shave off that scraggly damned beard and be free of if.”
I wondered if he’d ever regretted growing that beard, probably sometime in his early twenties, and regretted it.
“He has to think his fans just won’t get the real Oak Ridge Boys experience without it? And what about John Berryman? Did he have the same problem? Is that why he jumped off that bridge?”
This was just a few days before I broke down, went to a clinic, and got help for bipolar 1 disorder. The symptoms had been ramping up for months—compulsive intrusive thoughts and rituals—I’m going to kill myself tomorrow was a favorite of mine, running on a loop in my mind. I was trucking along on little to no sleep or food. My speech was pressured. The mania had started out fun. I was creative. I felt unstoppable. I had the energy to do some work. In the end it always gets scary. It devolves into anxiety, paranoia and the occasional mild delusion. In the end, however, I got a hell of a poem about William Lee Golden out of it.
The truth is, mania makes me a better poet, although it’s taboo to say so. Not among other bipolar people. We’ll readily admit to each other that we love parts of our mania. We usually just don’t tell the sane people in our lives. They look at us shocked, or sad, or worse. Sometimes they look at us with anger. Our loved ones have seen the wake of destruction left behind by mania. I’ve hurt plenty of people myself while manic, including my significant other. I swear by my medications now. They keep me stable, if not fully content. Sometimes something is missing.
Unless you’ve been through it, you just can’t understand how mania feels. It’s like being on speed and booze at the same time—except better. Your mind, at least for a while, is laser-focused. You actually have the desire and energy to want to create—or do whatever it is that you do. Depression, on the other hand, is a creativity killer. It can be hard to get out of bed, much less write a poem. Mania, when it hits just right, calls for hours of steady work. Continue reading ““Mania Makes Me A Better Poet” By Daniel Crocker”