I used to travel from New York to Paris to Tokyo as if I were traveling within a 10-block radius of my apartment in Manhattan, and I made these trips (sometimes 3-4 times a month) when the "spirit moved me." I felt bored when I wasn't on a plane, traveling from continent to continent - and I have multiple stamps in my passport to prove this manic behavior.
Weekly $25,000 shopping binges at Barney's and "high end" boutiques for clothes I barely wore were the norm. So were lavish meals with friends where I picked up $1000 tabs. These high-priced activities were within my limits because I was extremely successful financially, another testament to my manic behavior, not to mention my involvement in illegal activities. I could stay up three nights in a row and crank out screenplays and novels that would take other people years to write.
I lived dangerously, too. I picked up strangers in bars and after hours clubs, did drugs and drank excessively. I was involved in an art counterfeiting scheme that received tremendous attention in the New York media. This scheme finally came crashing down on me and landed me in prison and under house arrest for almost a year.
Since the drama of my manic frenzy, 19 electroshock treatments, all kinds of experimentation with medications and talk therapy is over, the dust has finally settled. I have been living even-keeled with only one major episode of manic depression in the last five years, and I have made tremendous changes in my lifestyle: I don't drink alcohol or take illegal drugs, I go to sleep on a relatively normal schedule, and I keep regular work hours.
Most people don't notice any type of manic behavior at all when they meet me (God, if they had only met me at the height of what I call the "crazies"), and I seem like an average guy to them.
But for quite some time, I was left with a huge "gap" in my life because there was no manic behavior left. What's a manic depressive to do? There's a tremendous amount of loss associated with "saying goodbye" to mania, as it was my friend for so many years. I needed to fill this gap because my life felt so dull and I felt lonely at the same time, too.
So I mapped out a strategy for myself to cope with this incredible loss. I decided I needed to spend more time with friends and to immerse myself in my work. I became passionate about "filling the gap."
I started scheduling activities (lunches, dinners, movies and parties) with friends and became rather obsessed with all aspects of my work, which happened to be writing. And it started working. I starting feeling better pretty soon, and the dullness from living without mania didn't seem to hurt as much. And I found I wasn't bored at all.
There were always temptations that came with living alone with the "gap," and sometimes I thought about the old "manic me" and what I might have been doing years ago. Should I just go out to a bar? Should I just hail and cab and go to the airport and catch a flight to London? But my medications, my strategy and my commitment kept my behavior in line for the most part.
My new issue became a horrible fear of being an average guy (read: dull). The one thing I certainly never had been in my life was dull. I was always the life of the party - the guy with the lampshade on his head drinking a margarita. So it's reasonable that I had a fear of being dull.
I became a little nervous about meeting people in social situations, and I started overcompensating for this by being a bit dramatic, loud and sometimes even hostile. Keep in mind, too, that for the first time in my life I wasn't drinking alcohol or doing drugs, and this complicated matters.
But before you knew it, I became pretty adept in social situations. I slipped back into being a pretty good conversationalist and found myself comfortable with people. I didn't feel dull, and I was sure that people didn't think I was dull.
Soon I started dating again. I hadn't done this is years - many years - because I hadn't had the ability to concentrate or to have a relationship. I stunned myself with my ability to date a woman I met from out of town and found myself involved in a relationship which I didn't allow to overwhelm me.
Within several months, I found myself packing up my apartment, getting on the next plane to Los Angeles and living in a hotel there, questioning if in fact this wasn't some type of episode. But it wasn't. I was in love and had moved cross country to be with this woman - who had swept me off my feet.
Now I am in a town that I find to be easier to live in because, in curious comparison to New York, it is mania-free.You can't even find a diner open after 9:00 p.m.
Andy Behrman is the author of Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, published by Random House. It is now available in paperback.