I went to a Psychiatrist and said ‘ can you help me out?’
He replied sure ‘ which way did you come in’
I’ve suffered from Bi Polar for 45 years now and yield to no man in my decision to deal with it
through humour – no matter how dark. My poor old dad had Parkinson’s disease and almost had a
convulsion from laughing at a joke about his condition. Gawd bless him!
I respect it may not work for everyone – indeed it probably won’t, but each of us has to find a way,
and mine’s as good as any. Like most with the condition, it crept up on me in my teens. So as my
pals were engaging happily in new night time pursuits, I was torn to pieces by guilt, and the sure
conviction that I would go blind and find my hands head webbed over! For many, early diagnosis is
lost in typical teenage hormonal angst. When I was finally diagnosed with Bi Polar in my thirties it
was akin to discovering you’d developed haemorrhoids before life’s rodeo. I felt condemned to a life
fraught with forward failure, yet relieved in one way to realise I was not simply a bad person. With
one failed marriage behind me and being on my fourth job, it at least gave some meaning to the
cock-ups I’d made!
Then a new journey began: I learned that SSRI’s were not a sporty hatchback, and that Lithium is not
a planet in Alpha Centauri. Of the former, I have to say they didn’t work for me. I digress – I always
do after a dose of SSRI’s!! – I could have belched for England had it been an Olympic sport, and –
oh yes – I think the elegant term is erectile dysfunction. But let us say it’s not as one might imagine;
a better description might be a faulty grenade that fails to go off. But it may have a silver lining! I
presented my wife with Olympic condoms. I said she could choose from gold, silver or bronze. She
said let’s try silver and see if you can come second for a change! Knew those pesky pills would come
Now is an appropriate time to raise note of caution here amongst all the frivolity, I am not
irresponsible with respect to Meds, and for some it is the only way to get through the problem, but
for me they didn’t work. Nor did any of the therapies such as CBT, which I know has its advocates,
and seems to offer hope to many, but again it didn’t work. I think you need a mindset to go with it,
in the way some people are susceptible to hypnosis, where it would never work with me as my mind
is closed to the possibilities. That’s the point here – many therapists and doctors forget that the
simple overlay of your own built in scepticism can limit your options. And these values, good or bad,
sit outside your condition.
So it seemed to me that I needed to find my own way of coping. The joy of humour, especially the
self-deprecating kind, is that it strips away the indignity and the sense of shame and fear that can
dominate your approach to the world. If I can laugh at my idiosyncrasies then the barbed remarks of
others are far less wounding.
Being Bi Polar also seems to blur into other mental conditions too, like OCD. Even minor things
irritate and get under the skin. Take the 9 items or fewer queues in a typical supermarket. I am
compelled to count how many items customers have in their basket, especially those ahead of me
in the queue. And if someone has 10 or more I cannot hold my tongue. On the one hand I am right
and these people are taking the mick, but in the overall scheme of things and life in general, it’s not
worth getting worked up about at all!! But all I can say is that in the cold light of day, such common
sense deserts me when it happens.
And with almost impossible cruelty, and not a little amusing irony, everyone’s coming out now; it’s
as though Spartacus has melded with One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as one by one, people stand
up and say “I’m Bipolar”. It’s almost become a fashion accessory! Especially with Z list celebs!
“You Bipolar?? – yeah me too – isn’t it great!”
Well actually, no it isn’t. But in this PC world we now inhabit, where a positive spin has to be
attributed to everything, many have accorded themselves the Bi Polar sobriquet because of
the ‘creativity’ it supposedly bestows.
Where I’m from the default position to mental health is to treat you like curtains – that is pull
yourself together! It’s a taboo – still.
A friend of mine went to his doctor and said ‘I wake up every morning and start singing Delilah’
The doctor says he had Tom Jones’ disease. ‘Is it common?’ asked my friend. ‘Well it’s not unusual’
Bipolar is unusual. But it need not cripple you. Like its close stable-mate, depression, it is debilitating,
but that’s no reason to feel shame or pretend you don’t have it and suffer in silence. I now count
my blessings. After all, if I did not have the condition I wouldn’t be here writing this and hopefully
bringing a bit of joy to people. I hope you feel a bit better already. Take care
Learn more about Kit Johnson, author of Dodging Suicide – A Lifetime’s Preoccupation through
Amazon.com, or http://www.dodgingsuicide.com/ , or Tweet to @dodgingsuicide