By Christopher Banks
Daniel G. Taylor can remember his first manic episode very well – it involved limousines. Lots of limousines.
“I was 20, I’d just broken up with my first boyfriend, and I wasn’t dealing with it too well,” he says.
“I remember deciding that the best way to get him back would be to become a successful writer. Then that escalated to becoming a successful businessman. Then that escalated to owning every business in the world, within two days.”
The frightening thing about mania is that such thought patterns make complete logical sense. So too did Daniel’s next move. Successful businessmen drive around in limousines, so he rung up a limousine company and ordered one.
The company he phoned was surprisingly trusting, and let him open an account on credit with no money up front.
Daniel began travelling everywhere by limousine, and remembers things coming to head during a shopping trip to Myer in central Melbourne.
“I was standing on the skybridge looking down and saw ten limousines driving down Little Bourke St,” he says. “I was convinced I’d need that many to fit in all of my shopping.”
Eventually diagnosed with bipolar type I, Daniel spent the next five years trying to get on top of his mania. This included four stays in hospital over a five-year period.
Now 36, he seem to the outside world completely recovered. People often assume that he’s cured, or that he “couldn’t have been that ill in the first place”.
What they don’t know is the intense management that’s required to keep Daniel stable. As well as a medication regime, Daniel sees a therapist and also makes a creative use of GoogleDocs.
“I use GoogleDocs to give my team of carers instructions about how to respond when I’m in a manic or a depressed phase,” he says. ”During those times, questions from well-intentioned friends such as ‘How can I help?’ are too hard for me to answer. For social psychotherapy I use Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy. I also use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy a lot to manage my overpowering urges around sex, food and money. I also use some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a little Neuro-Linguistic Programming thrown in for good measure. My criteria is that if the tool works, I’ll use it.”
Daniel has had no major manic or depressive relapses for 11 years, so his techniques for staying well are working.
“The big difference now from ten years ago is that I can recognise when my mood is starting to shift and take action.”
When I’m asked by people to explain what bipolar disorder is, I’m often at pains to explain that mania is not the fun train ride that it sounds.
I discuss this with Daniel over coffee at Hares & Hyenas, a bookstore in Fitzroy where he has recently started a monthly GLBT book club.
“It’s like being drunk,” I suggest, “it feels really good and then you pass a certain point and everything turns to shit.”
“At first it feels great,” he says. “All your thoughts come together, but the faster you go the more you start getting really angry with people because they can’t keep up with your ‘brilliance’.”
These days, Daniel is genuinely showing his brilliance by being an out and proud advocate for bipolar disorder. He’s an award-winning writer, with several published essays including “The Way To Wellness In The Workplace” and “The Getting Of Wisdom – Managing The Highs of Bipolar Disorder”.
As a person with experience of mental illness, he’s come from the maelstrom of chaos to the self-aware zenith of control over his moods, both highs and lows. As a gay man, he’s exorcised the demons of a rigid Christian upbringing to accept his sexuality and integrate it as part of his life and identity. And in his career, he’s turned his desire for helping others through his passion for writing into a business –Targeted Resumes
– where he assists people to put their best foot forward in getting their ideal job.
True recovery is living well in the presence or absence of mental illness, and Daniel has mastered the art. You can too.For more from Christopher Banks, visit bipolarbear.co.nz
For more information on mental health and wellbeing, visit the Mental Health Foundation website: www.mentalhealth.org.nz.