Socializing can be a real challenge when you're bipolar. Recently, my meds stopped working and I found myself at the mercy of my moods. Since I'm what is known as a rapid cycler, I can go up and down with scarcely a heartbeat in between. This poses a genuine problem when I'm expected to act like a rational, ordinary human being—for example, a gracious dinner guest. A recent overnight stay at a friend's house got me thinking about all the possible do's and don'ts in this situation. I may exaggerate a little—but only, alas, a little.
Do's and Don'ts:
1) Accept the invitation with delight when you're manic and volunteer to bring your famous chicken cacciatore as the main course for twelve people.
2) When the day of the party arrives, be wretchedly depressed and get greasy Chinese take-out instead.
3) Show up morose and forget everyone's names, even those people you've known forever.
4) Have a glass of wine at dinner even though your doctors forbid it. Have two. Get manic.
5) Deliver a scintillating monologue on politics, religion and sex. Do not pause for breath to allow other people to express their opinions.
6) Regale the table with a graphic account of your experience with electroshock therapy because it is, after all, your mission in life to educate the uninformed.
7) Refuse to listen to any questions about your experience because it is not, after all, your responsibility in life to mollycoddle the ignorant.
8) Contradict yourself frequently and when called on it, quote Walt Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself." Revel in the ensuing silence.
9) When guests start to leave, hug and kiss them inappropriately (especially those you barely know). Slip them your card and suggest you get together soon with a knowing wink.
10) When your host suggests it's time to turn in, ask for a big glass of water and take a whopping handful of pills in front of him. This will undoubtedly reassure him that you're not going to burn down the house while he sleeps.
11) Screw up and take your morning meds instead of your evening ones, so you're wired to the gills.
12) Wander the house at night while everyone else is asleep. Tiptoe into the other bedrooms and sneak a peak at people while they're sleeping and at their most vulnerable.
13) Pretend that you're a little mouse and raid the refrigerator in the dark. Nibble on all the leftovers. Do not replace the lids tightly.
14) Line up all the ice cream cartons and attack them methodically, spooning only from the edges and smoothing it over so no one will ever know you were there. Finish off most of the cartons except the vanilla.
15) Open up the pantry and start to rearrange the food so it's in alphabetical order. Your host will thank you when he finds out.
16) Get bored halfway through and abandon the project at "Jasmine tea."
17) Go into the bathroom and stare at yourself for twenty minutes. Feel intensely lonely because you're the only one up, staring at yourself in bad lighting. Get maudlin and start to cry.
18) Cry until your eyes are swollen and you've used up all the toilet paper.
19) Decide to leave before anyone else can see you looking so hideous. Pack up your things and sneak out the front door.
20) Set off the alarm. Do not, on any account, come back to explain.
21) Five days later, when you're feeling hypomanic again, send your host an exquisite bouquet of dahlias and an extremely witty thank-you note.
22) Do not expect a reply.