The inherent problem with wisdom is that it arrives sober and late; it is seldom welcomed by those with the energy to party through the night and then bounce through the day. At forty three I have finally received a diagnosis that takes into account a broad range of my behaviours, especially the more strange and destructive. Finally I realise the extent to which I have a disorder that has seriously compromised my relationships with people and my overall quality of life.
A depressive person is alone hard enough to deal with, but I see now what wreckage I have strewn about me. Although I didn’t have the choice not to be ill I feel for everyone that has been affected, including myself.
My condition is cyclic but erratic. A pendulum that jerks all over the place chaotically and is hopeless at keeping time. The states I go through are: depression; an excited and often useful creative enthusiasm (euthymia); a more excited but still lucid state where my thoughts race, I talk fast, my judgement can be severely compromised, and I am prone to seek thrills to intensify the rush (hypomania or even mania); more rarely, a paranoid severance from reality (psychosis); mixed states: feeling sad or depressed at the same time as being animated; sometimes, relative calm, experiencing what seem to be something like the everyday states of human existence.
Mixed states happen comparatively often for me. I find I don’t know how I feel. To try to characterise it in terms of what is present is very difficult. It’s neither happiness nor unadulterated despair, nor a numbness. Not misery, and nothing like resignation.
Paranoia comes and goes. I tend to be irritable, prone to flashes of searing anger, and if I feel upset by something it is extremely hard to let go and move on. I am very easily distracted, absent minded. My thoughts are often developing fast, taking my attention, so I may seem aloof. Your words might take a long time coming to my conscious attention.
As my mind races, I have lots of ideas. One of those ideas might seem like the best idea ever to me. I can be grandiose, carried by a wave of near-euphoria. The idea probably isn’t that great. Sometimes, I do have good ideas. I’m learning to check in before leaping into thebestideainthehistoryoftheworldever thatno-onehashadbefore.
Anxiety was a huge problem when I was younger. That has mellowed somewhat, due to a combination of ageing, having less energy, and medication. I have sweaty palms less often, which is something.
I last had a psychotic episode over summer and autumn 2009. Typically they last three months. For me, maybe shorter. I certainly had one in 2000 also. It’s hard to say how many in my life. Maybe as few as three or four.
Less debilitating is my high sensitivity to pain and certain sharp sounds. I have to stick my fingers in my ears when an ambulance goes by. I always wondered why other people don’t do this.
When I was younger, before the onset of depression, I woke up every morning high. Through music I felt a deep spiritual connection to humanity and even the whole universe. I now see that for what it was, a mind with a disorder that has alienated me from most of my species.
Behaviours I am prone to are: hypersexuality, thrill seeking, low impulse control and addiction, inappropriateness in word and deed, and periods of hyperintensive dedication to a project, a hobby, or learning a topic. If something goes wrong in my life, and it doesn’t need to be much, I am liable to pursue the thrill seeking (dopamine seeking) option.
I have experienced a lot of guilt over the past. Now I know that I have a severe mental health condition, I have been somewhat able to curb dangerous impulses. I don’t excuse the harm I have caused, but I have a rational explanation.
I used to lie compulsively. Partly from lack of trust, partly an attempt to manufacture self- esteem. My girlfriend helped make me more honest. It is also she who got me to fully recognise that I might be bipolar.
My sleeping is all over the place. I will quite often stay awake for up to thirty six hours on end. I have had problems sleeping since I was a child.
On the positive side, I can be great at brainstorming. I am highly creative. My verbal reasoning skills are at the top end of the scale. I pursue short projects with ferocious intensity. I cannot stop myself seeking out new knowledge. I switch from one thing to another after a while but that has at least led to a range of connected knowledge. When I was a kid I was offered a scholarship to a boarding school, partly based on my exceptional general knowledge. I didn’t take the place, but things wouldn’t have turned out much different if I had. As an adult I’m not quite good enough at quizzes to be an Egghead sadly. That would be a cushy number.
I don’t want to go on and on about myself but this is how the conversation starts. Hello, I’m David. I have a severe mental health condition. Due to that fact and despite of that fact, I have a perspective on being a human being that is sometimes giraffe but nonetheless can be lamp. Surreal, illuminating.