David Castillo

Finding Happiness at Halloween: Lifting the Veil off Mental Health

Filed By David Castillo | October 31, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: bipolar disorder, Halloween, mania, mental health, mental illness

Halloween is my partner Jim's favorite holiday. He loves it more than Thanksgiving and more than Christmas. Around this time of year, it's not uncommon for our apartment to smell of baked pumpkin seeds and hot cider infused with mulling spices. Indeed, fall is when Jim seems to be the happiest.

But what if that which normally brings happiness and joy fails to do so? How do we reclaim that feeling? What if the only way to feel happiness seems to be only through unhealthy means?

I have been asking myself these questions because I have been helping Jim reclaim that feeling about Halloween. This holiday season has been a little bittersweet since it has arrived on the heels of a mild manic episode. As he has been coming down, he has become almost nostalgic for the time when he wasn't in treatment and when his mania seemed to run wild.

Halloween is a perfect holiday to feed that mania as revelry and mischief are in the air and all around us. Jim's drug regiment and treatment, however, preclude him from indulging too much in that revelry and this has caused some anxiety for us both.

According to Jim, being manic is like having the best "high" he can ever hope for. He feels invincible, special, sexy, creative, fun...and happy. In short, being manic for Jim is sort of fun, the subsequent crash notwithstanding. He craves happiness and joy the way we all do, but in his case (and, I presume, in the case for many who have experienced mania) joy in its most potent form has only been discovered while manic.

Happiness is a drug that makes us feel great so I can understand why Jim would want to get back to a place that seems to provide ample amounts of it. My struggle has been to help him find other sources of joy that do not involve a manic high. Recently, we talked about which aspects of Halloween make him happiest. The costumes are certainly at the top of his list.

But then there was the drinking, the parties, the sex...the drinking. These are all fun, to be sure, but doing these things whilst manic has in the past resulted in blackouts and questionable behavior. For Jim, drinking was fun, but not when it involved him disappearing for hours or when he couldn't remember where he was. And the forceful downward swings that it often caused were not fun for either of us.

We have slowly realized together that his illness has forced us to redefine what fun is and what makes us both happy. We are still in that process and this Halloween will certainly be a test, but I am confident in him. He is more stable than ever before in his life and his outlook is generally positive.

His laments over his mania are just that, laments, and it is important for me to remember that he is still human and, like all of us, he just wants to have fun and to be happy.


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I once had a Bipolar (manic depressive) patient say to me, "PLEASE, don't take this high away from me!"

What manic patients cannot see when they are high is the destructive consequences of that high. It is not unlike the way someone on crack or meth experiences their high. The people who love them, of course, see it differently.

David, thanks for the courage on behalf of Jim and yourself. Disclosure and discussion on matters that bear stigma today are neither simple decisions nor gentle commentary. Hang in there, and thank you, both. I wish you joy and fun in ways you redefine.

I can completely sympathize with Jim - especially the "I miss the mania" part. Did he have a few problems after the March too? It was very exciting and quite a potential trigger. I'm also very much down with the Halloween costumes and sex that swirl around this time of year - it was the same way with me.

And it damn near killed me to stay home this year.

David Castillo David Castillo | November 1, 2009 2:09 PM

Actually, the march wasn't a trigger, which is a good thing. I hadn't thought about how it could have been, though.

I hope your Halloween at home was just as fun this year, Bil.

You write "He feels invincible, special, sexy, creative, fun...and happy."

I have Bipolar disease and have over the years come to believe mania is false happiness. Yeah it often feels good --really good-- while we are in that state, but personally, it's just not the 'real' me. It's the manic me who cannot make sound judgments or see that there is an end--a crash in fact--when the high comes to a close.

You also state: "...but in his case (and, I presume, in the case for many who have experienced mania) joy in its most potent form has only been discovered while manic."

Again, I experience true joy only when I am NOT manic. I have learned by contrast what is a false high and what real feelings about someone or something are. Again, this is my personal experience, but I think one that many individuals with Bipolar disease (not Bipolar patients, what a horrible term!) realize when they are on, and stay on, appropriate medication combined with psychotherapy and evolve through various levels of understanding of their illness.

Good Morning,
My cycles of mania and depression have had two years of grounding. Where previously specific triggers would load up the UHaul and away I would move in euphoria that a new community would solve everything. Of course, the outcome was financial disaster.

I have returned to my daily outdoor Rituals. Finding ways to soar with Nature and put humans at the end of the line in regard to my cycles of mania and depression. I ground with GrandMother Earth and her families.

Like any pattern that has been taught by living indoors, going outdoors for wellness may be challenging, though the explosion of adventure and lack of loneliness is shimmering.

Much support,

EarthThunder