When I was in my teens I had a friend who was manic. I don’t know exactly what mental illness he was diagnosed with or even if he was ever definitively diagnosed.
Most of the time he seemed fine. Intelligent. Sensitive. Not manic, not depressed. Not dysfunctional. But then he’d go into a manic phase where life was unspeakably huge and exciting and multi-coloured and everything was great and everything had to be done and experienced and reacted to right now.
Needless to say, his manic phases caused him and others a few problems. I remember him telling me one day that he’d backed a horse in a race and was going to win a ton of money. He stood to win thousands. As he yattered on, pacing, and waving his arms around, he started going into the detail of what he was going to do with his winnings. He was going to go on holiday to France. He’d buy a van and tour the south of France and sleep in the van and cook in the open air. In his head he’d already committed the money and was half-way to France. When I asked a bit about the race, the racehorse and the betting odds it turned out he’d bet around 40 dollars on a horse at 100-1.
Still, he had a lot of fun imagining his holiday.
On another occasion he’d had a little bit to drink but was mostly high on his manic phase and decided, around midnight, to leap into the sea. A bunch of friends were at his flat facing the esplanade and the beach. Unable to stop him they watched in horror as he went dashing out of the house, tore across the road without looking and leapt over the rails.
The tide was out and he broke a leg.
Over the years I knew him, there were lots of projects and plans fuelled by the wild enthusiasm of mania but disconnected from reality. Usually, despite his unstable mental health, he came to little harm.
But I wondered the other day how he’s coped with the internet, cyberspace, Facebook, spam… I can imagine it all too easily.
Though we lost touch after university, I guess he finds the internet fairly exciting in his manic phases. I can almost hear him saying “Facebook is amazing. I’ve got, like, two thousand friends. Imagine having two thousand friends. It’s incredible! I love it!!”
Or, “I got this incredible offer. They’re going to send me this South American herb and it’s going to make my erection two inches longer. Imagine! Isn’t that fantastic? You just whisk it up in a blender with a pint of carrot juice and – bang – you’re a redhot sack artist. And I’ve only got to pay them 199 dollars!”
I can imagine his response to get rich quick scams too. “There’s this un-believable guy. He’s like a multi, multi, multi-millionaire and he got rich in a year by investing in property. It’s so easy. You buy a bunch of apartments, or buildings even, and you find buyers and you sell them the properties and you make a fortune. This guy practically guarantees you’ll get rich. You just go to this seminar in, like, a great hotel, you pay 2500 dollars and this guy just tells you how to do it!!”
With a bit of luck, he has reliable medication these days to make sure he doesn’t often go (literally) over the top. And because he was good-looking and funny and endearing he may also have a wife or girlfriend to help make sure he takes it. I hope so because otherwise it’s all too easy to imagine the chaos that could be generated by scam online offers and instant methods of payment colliding with the wild enthusiasm of those manic phases.