Whenever I bring up the word “manic” in front of people, I get a highly uncomfortable response. Probably because the first thing people think of when you utter the word is “crazy.” Which is understandable, considering how badly mental illnesses are portrayed on TV or how we talk about it in our everyday jargon of stereotypes.

To be honest, being manic was the most fun I’ve ever had. It was like being on a high that lasted for three weeks straight. Or being drunk and never getting hung over. Everything around me was beautiful. Food tasted amazing. Music was mind-blowing. Colors were brighter and more vibrant. In fact, conversations were so interesting I became overly social and wanted to be friends with random people I had never met. My confidence was through the roof, and the best part about it was my concentration was so keen that school became super easy. Life was pretty much everything you could ever expect it to be and more. I was finally happy.

Whenever I tell people about being manic they relate it to some type of drug they’ve taken. My therapist said it reminds her of doing ecstasy because all of your senses are heightened. A kid in one of my global studies classes said it reminds him of doing ‘shrooms. And a good friend of mine says it reminds her of being on coke because of the ridiculous amount of energy you get – especially being able to stay up for nights on end. I personally haven’t done any crazy drugs, so the best thing I can relate it to is being a happy drunk for a long period of time. Either way you look at it, being manic is comparable to doing whatever drug you prefer to be on, and it’s everything you could have expected it to be and more.

Except, like any other drug, the comedown sucks. After the three weeks were up, my mood changed drastically. I started to crash and crash hard. I couldn’t sleep at night. My thoughts moved so rapidly I had to write them down in order to keep up with them. Everything around me was somber, and I started to slump into a deep depression.

Luckily I made it to a doctor before things got worse and he diagnosed me: bipolar disorder. The first thing I did when he told me was cry. What surprised me was his disappointment in my reaction. “Do you know how lucky you are? People take a ridiculous amount of drugs just so they can feel for a few hours what you get to feel and see for your whole life. It’s a beautiful gift. I’ve always been jealous of people who are bipolar.”

This got me to thinking. If being manic is so similar to the effects of taking drugs, then why aren’t we just as open to talking about mental illnesses with each other? As students at UCSB, we experiment in Isla Vista every weekend. We test our limits with alcohol, we try ecstasy to attain euphoria and we occasionally trip out on ‘shrooms in order to escape from reality. And the morning after, almost all of us casually exchange stories about our crazy trips while attempting to sober up with a cup of coffee and three Advil.

If we are so open to talking about our experiences with drugs while waiting in line at Bagel Café, then what holds us back from talking about our experiences with mental illnesses? Is it possible to create a campus where mental illnesses are given just as much respect and interest as psychedelic drugs?