By the time you wonder if you’re manic, you already are.

I check off symptoms on the Goldberg Mania Questionnaire, hoping I don’t meet the highest score, florid mania. Ivan Goldberg was pretty clever.

Loss of interest in eating and sleeping? Definitely.

Hypersexuality? Nope.

But before the plane takes off on my way home from my sister’s house in Charlotte, I text my husband to tell him I’m bringing him a surprise that I think he’ll like. Ta da!

Well, there is that nice young man in the seat next to me.

He is very helpful with my carry-on; I hurt my back body boarding and couldn’t reach down. After some texting, he relaxes and sinks back in his seat with his eyes closed. I practice picking up my bag with my feet. When I do it very, very slowly it works. I am pleased with my new independence. There is only one armrest between us. His arm is on it, but it seems only fair that we share. I rest my elbow in a spot he isn’t using. At some point, my hand accidentally grazes his knee. I quickly move my hand away, but . . . . The knee feels warm. It feels like the right thing to do is to cradle it tenderly, but I restrain myself. These thoughts are not at all typical for me, but now they seem natural.

In the seat in front of me, across the aisle, there is a man who looks to be around my age. He is . . . presentable. Our eyes keep meeting. I crane my neck to see what he is doing on his laptop. I see pie charts and graphs. Business, or something more creative?

When it’s time to deplane, I jump up and maneuver myself right behind him. I inhale his scent. I try to keep my place in the aisle, but I really can’t. It would be rude to jump out ahead of the others in his row, especially the little old lady in the seat in front of me. By the time we deplane, there are four people between us, but by power walking through the terminal, I am able to catch up with him. The word stalking never enters my mind. I have to go to down the escalator to baggage claim, and I’m disappointed when he turns left. If he’s catching a connecting flight, where could he be going? We’ve flown from the East Coast, and are now as far west as you can go without hitting the ocean.

Hmm, hypersexuality. Two days before I flew home, I met those two lovely young men out in the ocean at Tybee Beach? Does that count? I certainly haven’t had sex with anyone.

Once submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, I need to get near some other people; there are rip tides. I look around for likely friends. A flabby-looking teenager stands to my left. She won’t be able to rescue me, and I might have to rescue her.
To my right are some men who are not unattractive (every man or woman I see is beginning to look pretty attractive now). These young guys are dark-skinned, and since I hear them speaking another language, so I think they might be Hispanic. I swim up to them and ask “Hablan Español?” Actually, they speak French, Arabic, English, and Spanish. “Do you speak French”? I took three years of French in high school, but I can’t say much beyond “Ou est la bibliotèque”? “Un peu,” I manage to say.

These Moroccan men are extremely polite. “Are you afraid of the ocean?” one of them asks. Hah! Nothing could scare me right now—mania has given me supreme confidence. I feel almost superhuman. One night, without thought, I drop to the floor and do ten pushups. Sleeping every other night feels like enough.

The better looking of the two takes my hand and holds it, but politely, as if a wave might sweep me away. It doesn’t occur to me that this could actually happen. In his charming French accent, he addresses me: “Mem!” At least it sounds like that. Madame, maybe? “I will count, and when I say ‘Dive!’ we will dive under the wave.” We do, and I come up to the surface laughing, exhilarated.

The waves are fierce—they toss me around violently. I scrape my knees on the ocean floor. When was the last time I scraped my knees having fun? Not since I was a kid. With my new buddies, I’m having a peak experience. For me, this is just one pleasure notch below skydiving.

The guys tell me about a place near their hometown in Morocco, called Blue City, where the sea is so clear you can drop a quarter into the ocean and still read it. For some reason, all of the houses there are painted blue, my favorite color. I know I must go there as soon as possible.

In the baggage pickup area, I see a man who looks French or . . . something. I turn on the music on my phone and play one of the Spotify playlists I’ve made. I walk toward him stealthily; maybe we like the same music. I keep the music discreetly low. My suitcase arrives, but I stay there perusing the circling luggage as if I have another bag to pick up.

Then I remember my husband is outside circling the airport. But then—I can’t believe this—I wait some more. What do I think could possibly happen? I feel no control over my feelings and, to a certain extent, my actions. This inflated sexuality is a primal force; it happens during all of my manic episodes. By the skin of my teeth, I’ve managed to honor my marriage vows. Don’t I deserve a medal—perhaps a purple heart? The name seems appropriate.

My score on the Goldberg Mania Questionnaire, unsurprisingly, is “Moderately to severely manic.” I’d guessed right.

Laurel Roth Patton fights stigma by telling her story to community groups, college and medical students, mental health practitioners, and police doing CIT. She is with SOLVE, the speakers’ board of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. Her work is published in print and online, in anthologies as well as academic journals, and she has been interviewed on multiple podcasts and an upcoming documentary, River of Fire.
Laurel’s memoir, My Bipolar Summer Playlist: A Story of Mania and Recovery, is soon to published. It’s the tragicomic tale of a descent into madness, marked by symptoms that seem like the best part of “normal.” Is it possible to feel too good? To think too much? Can the manic creation of a playlist about bipolar disorder help her understand her own mind? Can she come down without coming down too far? Of utmost importance, can Joey Ramone save her?