This is a story about corporate culture...
I've spent all year expecting my health to let me down, expecting my past to catch up with me, and expecting my mania to cause me to become intolerable in an open-plan office, curtailing my ambitions to return to a state of wealth, stability and all-round life prosperity.
Mania is a constant threat.
"You might want to keep your voice down and mind the swearwords" a trusted fellow contractor warns me in private. "You could hear me?" I ask - apparently my fog-horn voice was booming out as I was in my stride. I feel like I'm in my element, which translates to the sudden re-appearance of a cocky and self-assured version of myself who's too unguarded and outspoken to fit in well in a big organisation. This is what I've been dreading. This feels like nightmare scenarios of the past playing out all over again. This is what I hoped wouldn't happen.
There are a mountain of reasons why I'd be triggered into mania. After spending months living in a hotel, single and lonely as hell, I'm in a relationship now. After spending a whole year in desperate financial trouble, I've now almost repaid all my crippling debts. After the arduous task of getting through security vetting, credit checks, reference checks, and leaping over numerous other obstacles designed to trip people up - people just like me - I feel pretty well established at my workplace. Colleagues seek my opinion and applaud my work, but it all goes to my head and fans the flames of my ever-inflating ego. Any minor delusions of grandeur I might have been harbouring could quickly become all-consuming.
I have a quiet private conversation with another contractor. I wonder if I'm at all protected, if I reveal my mental illness. I assume that I'm not, because I'm a consultant, not an employee of the client who I'm working for. However, he reassures me that I'm afforded some protection in the law and I could consider disclosing my condition, in order to receive more lenient treatment if I can't manage to keep my big stupid mouth shut.
I take a tablet to sleep and a tablet to be able to get up and go to work - otherwise insomnia and anxiety would destroying my life and make me completely dysfunctional. Why don't I take a mood stabiliser?
I'm trying to tame the beast: I feel really physically unwell - run down - but yet my brain is fully focussed on achieving a spectacular thing at work; something I can crow about and something which will make a name for myself. I'm intent on proving a point to the world. It makes me happy, in a way, that I've dealt with enormous adversity and achieved a helluva lot in the space of 12 months. It makes me happy to travel at great speed. It makes me happy to rush along, even if I get a little burnt out.
The way that I perceive life can change completely overnight. It was less than a month ago that I thought life was pointless, boring, unfulfilling, absurd, and the task of repaying my debts, falling in love, finding a rewarding job and becoming stable and happy in a sustainable situation, was utterly impossible. Today, that dream seems to be tantalisingly within reach.
I have 4 short weeks until my next holiday.
I'm leaving the country.
In the past year I've been to Warsaw, Faro, Prague and Antalya. The more I travel, the happier I am. I'm going travelling during the Christmas and New Year holiday season, and I'm going away with my girlfriend, which is going to be incredibly nice. It would be churlish to complain about how lonely it was to spend a week in Turkey on my own, but it seems pretty obvious that I'm going to have an incredible time with my travelling companion.
It's important that I have a job to come home to in 2019. It's important that I don't fuck everything up.
Perhaps my paranoia is a little unjustified. I made it this far, didn't I? Even when I was sick in the first half of this year, I still managed to impress my clients and deliver their software projects. I've left a lasting good impression at the organisations where I've worked. I've impressed my colleagues. I probably shouldn't worry too much.
However, I must acknowledge that a little success can go to my head, and I can quickly turn into a maniac.
Need to stay sensible for the next 4 weeks. Need to keep quiet.
I could easily have worked 12 or 14 hour days all this week, but I resisted the urge. I could easily have worked today - a Saturday - when instead I should be resting and recharging my batteries. My body is physically sick, but my brain is buzzing. I'm limping along, because I need the money.
I'm paranoid because I see warning signs from years gone by. I'm paranoid because I know myself and I know my patterns of behaviour. I'm paranoid because there's a mountain of evidence that I'm spectacularly good at self-sabotaging.
I find it somewhat reassuring to look back through what I've written and published, and to see that I'm far less tired, strung out and outright bat-shit insane than I was a few years ago. I find it reassuring that I've learned a lot about my patterns of behaviour and how to manage my moods in a corporate environment. I've learned some skills for being part of a fit in or fuck off culture.
I hope I'm gonna be OK. I hope I can muddle through the next 4 weeks and go away on holiday feeling confident that I'm well-liked by my work colleagues, and they're going to welcome me back with open arms in 2019.
Can mania be bludgeoned into submission by sheer force of will? Can I use my mania to achieve what I want at work?
Only time will tell.