It’s a physical pushing sensation inside your brain. From the very back of your head—the urgency to do something, FAST. Blow through thirty crossword puzzles in an hour. Read the same three books over and over, almost able to read it by memory aloud, you’ve memorized the words by now. Read every single thing on the internet that’s shiny and caught your eye while you’re procrastinating at work. The object of the focus doesn’t really matter. You’re in hyper-focused mode, trained, like a runaway train, your brain is pushing that hard, on the thing at the end of your focus.

That push is so hard, and so narrow, trained on whatever the current, manic obsession is, that everything outside that focus is meaningless noise. Things you like to do, like blog, or write, or take photos, or cook, or go for walks, or laugh with your husband over whatever silly thing you’ve bantered between you—no longer important. Social interactions with friends, family, and spouse are irritating, infuriating interruptions. Don’t they know that you HAVE to finish whatever it is that you’re doing? Or keep doing whatever you’re doing, in perpetual emotion, because if you stop? Well, you’re not sure what will happen if you stop (except that you’ll have to face life again, but you push that thought aside quickly each time it arises, stomp it like a cockroach, in fact), but you know it will be bad.

It’s not just in your head—it’s an overall physical feeling. Your eyes are strained hard on whatever you’re doing. Staring things into submission, until they lull you into a calm state, as long as you can keep up with your latest obsession. There’s a hollow place under your sternum—it’s not like hunger, but it’s close. It’s a need to fill yourself with your obsession—to keep the other, less comfortable thoughts at bay. It’s a push– keep going forward. Not in the right direction, you’ll realize later, but at least you need to keep moving.

Sometimes it’s euphoric, and your perceptions of the pesky interruptions of life are of amused tolerance. “If only they knew how important it is, what I’m doing,” you think. Other times (like this last time) it’s more mixed. If people don’t stop interrupting you, you’ll scream in rage. “Don’t they know that you’ll die/ cry/ never get to sleep/ fall apart if they keep interrupting you?” is the thought that occurs when you’re trying so hard to put them off, so they leave you alone with your focus.

Of course, at the time, it all makes perfect sense. It’s only later that you shake your head at yourself, disgusted all over again that you missed the warning signs. You feel sorry for yourself, maybe even lonely, or abandoned, that someone didn’t see through your lying protestations that you were fine, to grab you roughly by the shoulders and shake you, frog march you to your psychiatrist. Later, you know that they were trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, to let you take care of yourself, since most of the time you’re fine, independent, perceptive, funny and lucid. Everyone is entitled to low periods, even the crazies. It’s just a steeper slope down for you from “low” to “seriously messed up and getting worse every day.” It only takes a little push to go falling, head over heels, ass over teakettle. You end up dented at the bottom, wondering if you can push out the damaged areas and work the same way again. If you can push through it again, back to normal. Where push is evened out by the pull of your usual interests, outside of your head. And where you can ask for help, ask someone outside your head to give you a push—in the right direction.

I should note that while this is written in the present tense, the description of the sensation is several weeks past, now.


7 thoughts on “Push

  1. Jen in CT

    That is so interesting. I can kind of see much of my husband’s most recent manic episode in your description. Also, ADHD often feels hyperfocused like that, but without the sensation of being on a runaway train. When I am hyperfocused on something (my knitting, the computer, the TV or what have you) it seems like time stretches out, so that before I know it, hours and hours have passed, even though it only feels like moments. Does that make sense?

  2. phil

    Is this how you can sometimes pump out numerous stories in a day? To be honest, I’ve seen this dozens of times from my soon to be ex but she was never as focus driven. She seemed to bottom out and flounder in despair rather than keep plowing on and it was a much more gradual slope. So much so that it was hard to see it happening day to day but easier in hindsight month to month.

  3. g

    You are amazingly talented. I can’t share this experience with you, but I am so amazed at how brilliantly you give a voice and a real image to your experience.

    I know that it is also a burden for you. I wish that there were ways that distant friends like me could help.

    gs last blog post..Three Things – not today

  4. Irene

    I’ve just come out of a period like that. I am still getting over it. It had some nasty consequences and I hope this doesn’t happen again for a while. You get damaged, you know? Well yes, you know that. Good luck. I hope you’ve found your way back up and that you’re doing well now. I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you the best.

    Irenes last blog post..Post-crisis.


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