The last time I was really, truly experiencing a full-fledged manic episode was about this time last year.
Since my diagnosis I’ve been able to look back and understand what was going on. Back then I had no idea.
There are “yard sale” pages on Facebook. It’s kind of like Craigslist, but some are only for certain towns, other for certain items, and it’s just all much easier and more legit and less murdery than Craigslist. I adore yard sales and good deals and secondhand items, so of course I started doing all of my holiday shopping on these Facebook Yard Sale pages.
I got really into it. Really, really into it. I spent every waking moment scouring through the postings trying to be the first one to comment “INTERESTED!” so I could get my son everything he never even dreamed. I got a scooter for three dollar. Three dollars. He still rides it.
Things were going splendidly. I mean, Jack and my dad weren’t exactly happy that I was spending all my time online and all my money on shit my son didn’t really need, but I found such good deals they were also somewhat proud of my mad bargaining skills.
Then I became increasingly aware of families in need. You may not recall, but there were a lot of fires in South Jersey last winter. So many unfortunate families lost everything right before the holidays. There were posts begging people to give anything they could, even just a pair of socks. I gave what I could, when I could.
Then the posts got more specific. Eight-year-old girl, four-year-old boy, nine-month-old baby; girl likes this and that and boy likes that and this and baby needs whatever. So I started searching not only for me, but for them. I found a great deal on a shitload of The Littlest Pet Shop pets and homes and case for ten dollars. I bought it for one of the little girls. I went to Five Below and bought one of the boys a toy train for five dollars. I gave away all of Holden’s baby stuff I had held onto for no apparent reason.
In the midst of all this, a friend of mine reached out. She had been having a very hard time financially and was afraid she wouldn’t be able to provide a proper Christmas for her children. I went into full gear at this point. I made post after post about how I knew families in need; I started collecting donations; I would drive up to an hour away to pick up a bag of clothes or a box of toys. Now I was spending every waking minute online, driving, and sorting through the mountains of crap collecting in my basement.
I was obsessed. I would stay up until 4am searching for the perfect postings on the Facebook pages, afraid to miss anything good. I would then wake up at 9am and immediately rush out the door to meet someone. One time I had the car so packed I was literally sitting on top of a bag to make enough room for me.
Holden never saw me. Whenever I was home I was in the basement, sorting through all the donations I had received, separating clothes by size and toys by family. I was supposed to be attending college at the time, but my self-made / self-run charity quickly overtook any responsibility I had to anything else.
My best friend’s mom also experienced a fire, and I drove several towns away in the middle of the night during a snowstorm to pick up a couch for her. I then kept the couch in the bed of my truck, covered with tarps, for weeks until she was able to move it into her apartment.
I cared about everyone else far more than I cared about my own well-being.
After Christmas, once most of the families had everything they needed, I crashed. And I crashed hard. I didn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I didn’t check my computer or play with my son or do my homework or even make food. There was no point to my existence.
Once I went back online, I had several livid messages from people who I had told I might be able to help. When I first felt the crash coming on, I had told mostly everyone that I was dealing with personal stuff and would do the best I could, but would be dialing it back for a while. They didn’t care. One of them attacked me for trying to sell some of my own stuff, instead of giving everything I own to needy families. Another cyber-yelled at me for hours because I wasn’t able to help a family she knew. More and more people were coming out of their hiding places blaming me for all of their problems.
That’s when I decided to stop. By this point I could barely handle my own thoughts, let alone others unloading all of their crap onto me.
Now I still have a basement full of stuff and, a year later, haven’t managed to sort through any of it. When I said my crash was hard, I meant it. I suffered the longest depression I have ever known, and am just now beginning to pull out of it.
And now I know. I know that the holidays are a trigger that can send me into mania. I know I can go overboard and I know I’ll put others before myself and I know I’ll crash again, and I can’t afford to do that anymore.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters is coming to pick up some of the bags in my basement next Saturday. I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of mess, at my own pace. I’m still offering to people in need, so long as they do things on my terms. I want to help, but I sometimes have to put my own health first.
Sometimes I have to be the one in need.