Normally I would share my posts on social media. And by “social media”, I mean the one that people actually pay attention to, Facebook. And by “pay attention”, I mean the one that people can’t seem to just turn off. This will still get shared on Twitter, firstly because the command to do so is embedded somewhere deep inside WordPress’ electronic brain and I can’t be bothered to switch it off, but secondly because I am almost convinced that the use of Twitter to promote this sort of banal stream of consciousness is, well, ineffective to say the least. My 50 followers might pick up on it, but I have doubts. The post will only be tagged in order that it might help (I hope) people in a similar situation. It won’t be categorised and I will try to come up with the most innocent title I can.
Maybe three people might stumble on it by accident.
And do you know what? That’s ok. I don’t actually want people to read it. I want to sit down, think about things for a while and write it.
So before you go any further, if you normally check in to read about hobby stuff, you should probably just turn around and find something else to read right now. There won’t be any pictures, there probably (although you never know) won’t be any humour.
It’s not something I talk about very often, and only ever with incredibly selective people, normally people in a similar situation, but I am bi-polar. I hope that for anyone I actually know who’s reading this that this won’t come as much of a shock. I hope those people read it and think to themselves “oh, that makes sense”.
Normally the highs are more hypomania than mania and the lows aren’t terribly deep. Normally. I’ve learned how to spot the warning signs. I still don’t know what triggers it, and it manifests itself in strange ways. I get the usual sort of thing where I can just be doing something normal and burst into tears for no reason – this usually happens at home when there’s no one else around thankfully. I pack stuff away (which I don’t think is so normal), DVDs, books, my hobbies in particular – anything that is about me really. The things that make me me. I become incredibly difficult to get out of bed. Because of the kids and the job I know I have to now, so that at least is a bit easier to cope with than it has been in the past. On the flip side I find it very difficult to sleep at night and my brain feels like it won’t turn off – unless I actually need it to be doing something, and then I can’t turn it on… There’s a lot of hiding my personality and concentrating on the basics. Work, housework, eat, sleep, repeat. If you do know me and wonder why sometimes my Facebook profile picture occasionally changes to something that isn’t me, that’s normally another sign that I’m on the slide on the way down rather than the ladder on the way up. I feel worthless, I have no appetite. Whether I’m high or low I tend to say or do silly things. The lows have made me drink (and normally I don’t drink much at all) and I have hurt myself. Quite deliberately and quite badly. Not for a few years now though.
The highs are easier to deal with I suppose. I try and plan things. Big things. I think, if I’m honest that the Battle of Jutland and Cape St Vincent recreations were thought up in a manic phase. So I suppose in some regards the rather innocent comment from another club member that they are my “enablers” is probably a bit too close to the mark for comfort. I also buy things I know I shouldn’t, and then usually feel bad about it afterwards. Again, I hope that the people who know me fairly well, if they’ve read this and think about it, they will recognise the highs and lows in my own behaviour. The days at work where I keep my head down and just get on with things, or equally the days where I’m just a bit louder, more ambitious and enthusiastic than normal. I think I keep quite a good lid on it, but you never know. There might even be people out there reading this thinking “well tell us something we don’t know”.
The wife knows the warning signs to look out for. We’ve spoken about it in the past. She knows if she comes home and the bookcases are empty that I probably need some quiet time and hugs until it passes, normally a few days later. I probably won’t want to talk about it at the time. Again, this hasn’t happened for a while and she’s very good, but I’m getting the feeling that I want to do it right now. Hence this post.
I’ve already tidied up the living room. The area that would normally contain half-made models, pots of paint, brushes, glue, files and drills is completely barren. If I had some decent cardboard boxes I’d probably put some DVDs and books into the basement. I know if I do that it’ll worry the wife, so at the moment I can probably get away with passing off the tidiness of the living room as a natural break in proceedings. I’m even considering taking a break from the club. I could quite happily go to bed now and not get up until ten minutes before I’m due to be at work in the morning.
My first clue that this would be something that would be part of my life was sitting in a lecture room on my nursing course and being asked by the lecturer to fill out a patient survey, something normally given out in hospitals to assess a person’s state of mind. He told us that we wouldn’t have to share the result if we didn’t want to – a few people did, but I just sat off to the right in the front row (it was 16 years ago, but I can still remember where I was sitting, the fact that the door was on the right hand wall in front of me, it was late afternoon, the windows were on the left hand side of the room, there were vertical blinds on them) and kept my mouth shut hoping that the lecturer (Kevin) didn’t look at me and ask if I wanted to share with the other people in the lecture what my score was. I had answered the survey completely honestly and actually felt pretty good at the time, that’s what made the result frankly quite terrifying. “Worse than clinical depression” was the form’s diagnosis. Obviously I went to see a doctor, more to see what the options were than anything. Typically in a university town he didn’t know me, didn’t seem to particularly care and his word for word response was “I’m not surprised you feel a bit miserable, you’ve just had glandular fever” followed up by the even more memorable “Well what do you want, pills?”. At that point I practically walked out. A few days later I really hurt myself. It was stupid, I don’t think I’d ever do it again, it’s not something I’m proud of and yes, I really regret it.
So why the hell am I writing this? Well I guess it’s part of a process. It’s either this or pack everything away. It’s either this or just go to bed. I’m trying something new. I’m not trying to make a big deal out of it – as I hope I’ve made clear. I’m not after sympathy, I don’t need it because to be perfectly honest it makes no difference and just makes me feel like people are paying me more attention than I want them to. If someone else is ever feeling the same way and it in some way helps them to know that other people have similar symptoms, to just feel a little less alone (and despite being married, having 4 kids and a friend living in the same house as me I really do genuinely feel alone when I get like this), If it means that someone who knows or suspects that a loved one is depressed or bi-polar and they understand a bit better, then I suppose it’s worth it.
Ironically I’ve just spoken to the wife on the phone and she asked me if I’m alright because I didn’t sound it… She is good you know. She’s on her way home, so I’m going to wrap this up. If you’ve read it to the end and it’s resonated for any reason, hopefully because it might make you feel better or it helps you help someone you know with similar problems, then thank you.