My name is Barry Hyde; I am a musician and teacher. I also have a history. A history of all sorts of things but one of those chapters has been colossally important for me. I have been to War and the evidence suggests that I have survived the end of the world. I had an apocalypse. In fact, I was an apocalypse. This piece of writing is about 'Bipolar Disorder'. I feel there is far more written about depression so I thought I'd talk about mania. The upswing, the joyous, wild up thrust of the see-saw. Mania. The war took place entirely in my own mind and I was not prepared for the fight. It was like fighting bullets with sticks and stones. I was slaughtered.
For me the underlying characteristic of mania is that it feels incredible. And I mean incredible. It is pleasure upon pleasure. It is an escapade of self-obsession and life changing creative breakthroughs married with oblivion. It is you as the life and soul of the party. You, the silver tongued beguiler of the world. A visionary. A sage. A hypocrite. Limitless but mindless. Fearless but careless. Because of this paradox it is a danger that rivals and sometimes exceeds the perils of its polar sibling; suicidal depression. If depression is the shrinking of someone's life, then mania is the outward moving explosion of energy and behaviour that can send existence in to the whirlwind of chaos.
I had my first true experience of mania after I had a 'spiritual awakening' in spring 2011 whilst on an esoteric retreat in the Arizona desert. I had become a student of a mystery school in 2010 to try and deal with depression that had been worsening over the previous three years. I was studying the 'Fourth Way' which is the teaching that comes from a late 19th century spiritual teacher called G.I.Gurdjieff. Its main concern is 'waking up' and to escape the mechanistic habits that form most of our actions and behaviour. It is the concept that our civilisation is asleep, wandering unconsciously around this world barely scratching the surface of our potential and purpose and it resonated with me. It promises these things but is notoriously difficult. I went to the retreat after being invited by my teacher and I had one intention in mind and that was to tear apart my problems. I was utterly desperate to escape my depression. I wanted enlightenment and nothing less than that. I wanted to smash my illusions, I was willing to do whatever necessary to escape duality and move into the light. I wanted to become a super human. It worked. Of course it did. That's why I went there.
I came back to Sunderland with a special purpose and that was to heal the world by enlightening others. I was completely charged with spiritual and physical energy. My family found that I was a different person. I was. I had become so self-indulgent that I had lost all empathy. Which is another paradox about spiritual egotism; our initial pure intentions can quickly become utterly toxic. One might expect that someone who is concerned with self-observation as a way of growing would have a good handle of their treatment of other people; I found the opposite to be true. I became brutally honest with everyone else but a compulsive liar to myself. A wise fool. A force of unholy 'good'. I was unbeatable in arguments; I could eat psychiatrists for breakfast. They didn't stand a chance in trying to explain the MIND to me as I was a superior being to them. I could see their own mechanical habits, everyone was asleep after all and I had the answers. I was awake. I was a God. Obviously I was also, whilst on this journey of spiritual purity, completely abusing my body and making bad decisions most of the time. I had 'gone mad'.
One night I was sitting looking out of the window staring at a street light, it was pure coincidence that as I was looking at it and suddenly it turned off. My warped existence at the time made me think I had turned it off with psychic energy. But psychosis had never been such bliss. I was writing music, I was playing gypsy jazz every night with friends, so much piano, I was turning the soil of the allotment; I was inventing words, yoga postures, and culinary dishes. Parties. The weather that summer was extraordinarily good. Paradise. I even invented a sport called 'Onmiball', a bizarre ball game based on a combination of, football, volleyball, boxing and mathematics played with a badminton net in a circular court using an indoor football. Outdoors. It was to become a new international sport. It was going to revolutionise the world of fitness. My mania had flown me too high. Things started to get out of control, I had spread myself as thinly as tracing paper and everything started to rip. All of my ambitions and promises started to devour me. I broke down. Restart factory settings.
Mania is a joyous destructor and it knows us all. But those that it has known the most are very rarely still here to tell the tale. Three years since our last meeting and I'm doing OK. Good things happening. I'm in love. I have a job. I listen to music. I have an album coming out, it's called 'Malody' and it's my attempt to distill, preserve and put to bed a period of my life that saw me almost get away with flying too close to the sun whilst forgetting I had no way of getting back down.
I hope you enjoy it.
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