With a roller coaster, there are many different parts and speeds to it. You gradually inch up, you speed down, possibly do a few loops or go up and down a few small hills, then the track catches you to regulate your speed and your direction. Off you go again down a hill, there are a few twists and turns, up another hill and the track catches you again and slows you down. You inch your way to the end of the ride where they take your seat belts off. That is very much like being bipolar because while going up and down between mania, hypomania, and depression, you do level out (like the tracks catching you on the roller coaster). Those tracks catching you and sending you in the right direction, or slowing you down, can be things such as your medications, different behaviors you have learned over time to help manage the highs and lows, or just biology in general. When you have bipolar, and have been on the roller coaster enough, there are often times you can start to feel where you are headed and put the brakes on with the various behaviors or medications. Sometimes though, you just don’t know, and have to let it take its course while using as many coping mechanisms as you can to make the ride a little less bumpy.
As far as getting the audience involved to feel what it is like, you can try using a see-saw. Have one person sit on one end and have a second person, who is blindfolded, sit on the opposite end. The non-blindfolded person will be the one determining the highs and lows and in-betweens. The blindfolded person is going to be the person who will be feeling the sensation of what it is like to go up and down unpredictably, as someone who has bipolar would. It is very difficult to try to simulate the actual “feeling” of the highs and the lows, so this will give the blindfolded person an opportunity to feel what the ride is like and to not have any control. The non-blindfolded person should make the see-saw go up and down and different heights and speeds, sometimes stop when its completely horizontal, and stay at each level for different lengths of time.
You could add to that simulation by using flash cards. On each card, put an adjective that describes what it would feel like in each position. For example, if the blindfolded person is all the way up, that would be considered mania. A few words to describe mania would be euphoric or aggitated. If the blindfolded person is all the way down, that would be depressed and an example would be hopeless. Have the blindfolded person try to really feel that adjective while they are in the position on the see-saw. That might help make the up and down simulation feel a little bit closer to how bipolar feels.
I hope these examples give you something to work with for your project. I know I would love to hear what you finally decide to do for this project, as would the other authors here at Ask A Bipolar! Please keep us posted and if you have any further questions or want to discuss anything in more detail, feel free to email me at email@example.com