JUST SAW A TV PROGRAMME ON BIPOLAR DISORDER presented by Stephen Fry, who is, I should think, just about thee most successful English actor not to be particularly wellknown by Hollywood. Several years ago ... it must be over a decade ago now ... he received some critical reviews re a West End play he was appearing in. Amid tabloid hyperbole and hysteria he vanished, took a ferry across the water and was last seen wandering the desolate North Sea shores somewhere outside Ghent in Belgium ... at least that's my potted history of his story.
What had actually happened was, he had a depressive breakdown. Since that he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (that's manic depression to me and possibly you) and has been riding the highs and lows, lithium-free and medication-free ever since. (Not that his problems started with his absconding from the play, they merely reached a head and when he "turned himself in" at a London hospital the dreaded diagnosis followed. It was quite an informative documentary as TV-hours go.
Usually in these things, if you have any prior knowledge of the subject at all, you learn nothing new bar perhaps a few trifling facts and merely hear old knowledge regurgitated in a novel way. This documentary was different because it scratched the surface of an interesting area: the pros and cons of mood-stabilizing medication. If you go on lithium and disconinue it the moodswings can become more frequent and worse. So what has any of this to do with me? I was just ten or eleven years of age when I first became depressed enough to want to die.
Throughout my teens I had intermittent periods of being so lethargic, so slowed up, I was being compared to a dinosaur. Then, having done my A Levels and got grades I found disappointing, yet which were still good enough to get accepted on the literature course to which I had applied, I eventually left home (after a gap-year in which I did nothing of any note at all ...) went to uni at the other end of the country, rapidly became tired and down, got introduced to drugs via a joint and an LSD trip where I unwittingly swallowed 4 tabs at once (well I didn't know how small they were and this was "white blotters") I spiralled rapidly into a depressive tailspin and stayed down and very low for over two years. Looking back I don't know how I managed to achieve what little I did during the time that I endured university ... for a year and two terms (semesters were just coming into British universities back then).
The psychiatrist to whom I was referred was of little help. He prescribed one medication that put me straight in Accident and Emergency with Parkinsonian symptoms. His colleague took one look at me (I turned up stoned on cannabis) and struck me off his books. I since found out psychiatrists are most apt to do this if you fail to conform to the right profile of ticked boxes. I saw a counsellor who I later surmised despised me because my lifestory was too similar to her's.
For several long and trying months my only source of solace and support was my GP ("family doctor") who made for me a rolling appointment same time every week and in his own subtle way ensured that as I listed and dipped my way through life I didn't completely capsize and sink altogether. It was only at the end of this two year timeframe, walking across a vast expanse of grass into a great pink sunset that a rushing feeling filled me that I had only ever felt on drugs. This was genuine happiness returning at last, and all I could compare it to was the sensation of the drug ecstasy. Because the nights on E were the only happy nights I'd had for as long as I could remember. I cannot tell you how low I was back then.
I subsequently got a job, worked literally every waking hour. Didn't have enough hours in the week to work, eat, sleep, keep clean and get back to work. So when I got laid off, after weeks on end of this, I was so lost I tried to kill myself. My first thought on awakening was a happy one, because for a lovely moment I thought I'd actually done it, crossed over and this was the afterlife. "This" was actually a chilly bath full of weighty debris where I'd lain, knocked out cold on drugs and wearing five layers of clothes. Looking back -- a hopelessly inept attempt, but serious all the same.
Whether I'm "bipolar" I have no idea as I've shrewdly (or stupidly) kept my highs to myself, knowing precisely what doctors think of depressed people who get a bit happy and OTT. So I'm presently diagnosed as simply a junkie. Which suits me fine right now. Because at present that is about all I am ...
PS Does anyone actually click on these purple links I pepper my postings with? They are all highly helpful by the way if you want to go on a tangential journey of newness. So come on ...
VISITING THE ROYAL PALACE IN BRUSSELS - Once a year since 1965 the Palace of Brussels is open to the public after the National Holiday of 21 July until end September. There is no entrance fee, it...
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