I decided the best course of action was to list things. It helped keep my mind focused. I began with my flaws; the irrefutable ones, the physical ones, the ones I couldn’t ignore that everyone could see. Self-flagellation is the only true precursor to change but there was also the causality I was seeking. Something like
Thin hair
Uneven saggy breasts
Poofy stomach
Brittle nails
Stains on teeth
Nasal drip that causes me to snot when I give head and a build up of mucus on tongue
Poor spatial reasoning
Unable to reorient myself quickly sometimes
Unable to accurately give directions at times
But I added after that one:
Did navigate my entire trip to Southern California for my boyfriend and I using a paper map so I can READ and DICTATE directions accurately
Then back to list:
Poor parents
Rape victim
Dyslexia and minor unspecified learning disability
I might be autistic
Moody/raging mood disorder
The past

Then I decided to list the things I could change and some things were listed again.
Using intimidation as a tactic to seize opportunity
Using seduction as a way to control
Hearing loss (stop listening to music so loudly)
Memory loss? (change diet but accept brain injuries)
Appearance as far as sloppiness
Iron absorption (more greens, less iced tea)/anemia
Can I change my arthritis if i stop walking and playing with straws?
Romantic drama
OCD/anxiety (is a mood disorder curable?) I think so.
Preoccupation with lists
Preoccupation with organization
Preoccupation with things being
“right” so can’t finish anything
Preoccupation with injustice
Unable to hold tongue
Trauma, fixated on men because of trauma/rage at men/unable to silence my self
Getting up earlier
No longer watch news or know the state of current affairs

I don’t hate myself so I also made a list of my strengths.
Deadpan; unable to be read (this can turn on you)
Able to synthesize rapidly
Good skin
Pretty smile
Nice legs and dainty feet
Relatively thin and attractive
Able to mask weakness
Able to sniff out motive (but can get confused via daydream)
Able to articulate
Writing ability
Large vocabulary
Can talk to dead?
Connection with nature and animals
Able to manipulate every situation
Good guessing ability
Able to put people at ease right away
Soft skin
Able to get jobs easily (but cannot keep them)

The lists unravel, sort of tangle together first and then unravel. See, I am not just picking myself apart. I am looking for causality, connection, pattern. I made a lot of lists in mania. I have one index card that stayed on my altar for a while. It started–things I like:
Being right.

“Ms. Lancaster,” I began.
She looked up from her newspaper knowingly, withholding a sigh. It was worksheet time in English.
“I noticed you gave me a 96 on my most recent paper.”
“A 96 is a good score, dear.”
I nodded, also withholding, “Yes, but I re read it a few times and I am confused as to why you took four points off. I mean, I answered all of the questions correctly, typed my paper in the correct format, and I checked the answers against the key and…”
“You want a one hundred?” she interrupted.
“Well yes…”
She didn’t snatch the paper but gently took it from my hand and put a line through the 96 and changed it to 100 with a green pen, instead of her red pen.
“Are you happy now?”
“Well, yes.”
“You are very smart, Catarina. There is more to life than hundreds on papers.”
Nonsense. I walked back to talk to my friend Mariam, pleased with myself. Smarmy, my teacher would say.

Mania is fun but only I can say that because I lived through it. You can say, that sounds hard and that will suffice. I made more lists but they were less identifiable. I began to write down the names of everyone I trusted. I began to list the things I enjoyed doing. I began to list the traits of people I liked. Made a detailed outline for several career paths all involving quitting social work forever. Mania is a ball of fun but only I can say that having lived through it. Must be right. I walked daily for miles, about two to four hours with no end in sight stopping only for coffee and to make notes in my phone. Laughter poured out of me. I no longer took care of my appearance, smoked weed all day during the six weeks of my unemployment, would bask in the bits of sunshine I found in the park and plot a book that had about thirteen different endings and consisted of seven different novels some moving right in front of my eyes.  I would list them: blue book, red book, black book, white book, black book, red book, blue book. Some days I needed to recharge and rest so I spent all day counting hours and making playlists, one after the other. It was important the playlists were correct, in the correct order and executed or published at the correct time. If the order wasn’t correct, if the numbers didn’t match or if no one had witnessed the correct execution, we had to delete and start over. Mania is when I began my superfluous use of the collective we.

“I have an idea! I know what we can do,” I said to the little girl.
I sat back in the bath to let my thoughts gather and smiled. Mirthless.
“Let’s scare him.”
I splashed the tub to provoke the action.
“Just a little.”
I could tell she was nodding even though I could only feel her. Mania is a fuck ton of fun. At least I enjoyed it. Only I can say that because I lived through it. You can’t talk about mania until you do it. You can simply say that sounds so hard and confusing and then you can fall deep into a tangle of incomplete sentences like shopping lists, like silk strands, like the way lines can form a circle of circles, and then a bed.

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