An Erratic Orbit

A bipolar perspective on the 3rd planet



The Legend Of 28c – Prologue


The universe computes. The solar system is a computer. The Earth is a computer. I am a computer. You are a computer.

Our great central databases are at Facebook and Google. Facebook Research is the locus of  Psychology research on a scale hitherto unknown. The research is flawed, due to the nature of the data collection and a well documented  phenomenon in the field of Anthropology which I shall call the missionary’s curse. Nonetheless, a powerful entity emerges in the field of Psychology. I wonder if one day it will give itself a personal name.

The genie will not go back in the bottle. Two billion wishers rub its lamp constantly, and it rubs them, and they rub back. This is the positive feedback of addiction. So let me use it to at least tell a story of a little consequence. One of those little myth books, in fact, that will have a life of its own while the breeze barely rustles the long grass that brushes the headstone of the mister man who originated it.

On the day a gofer with a handicap you might think barely worthy of the name hit towards a location well to the left of the fairway, a brown envelope came through the door of 28C. The gofer himself was well used to receiving envelopes, bursting with Nazi bullion or Middle Eastern promise, it was all the same to him, so of course the brown DWP variety were not of much concern to him, and in his mind this was as it should be, for he saw himself as a very deserving type, and indeed he could not help himself deserving and deserving and helping himself to another serving of what he rightfully deserved, and this was his handicap. Anyhow, this envelope was not for him and he wouldn’t have wanted it.

The story begins on Christmas Day, a cheerful time of goodwill and family when two brothers with severe mental health issues living in an overcrowded flat each had a good miserable sleep through the whole thing. One brother did at least get out to meet a friend for a little dinner and a couple of drinks before the year had given up entirely on its brief, blighted existence. This being some relief from the isolation, the brother had a few more drinks after the friend went home.

I am distracted by a Ladybird.

Photo: pthompson500 at

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Reminds me of us

Recovery College 

Back from the Recovery College. Treatment agreed with psychologist (not a student midwife or relative) for what is best referred to in the presence of lay people (that’s you) as Circadian Arythmia. 

They are very nice people. There might be one in your area. Look, they have courses on anxiety, mindfulness, dealing with stigma, all sorts… 

Don’t worry. I’m not taking the course on assertiveness 😛

How I see angry people in pain

Untitled charcoal on canvas, Kwangho Shin (2013)

Sharp words, spikes, hot bolts, little stingers. Self scribbled over, parts erased by the pain they radiate.

Victim 30, Maggi Hambling (2014)

It is very difficult for me to be around these people. Perhaps I am melodramatic, but I have some sensory issues. Listening to shouting is a very physical experience for me. Maybe this is how some people see me, also.


claralieu, Falling Sketch (2013)

These works of art are meaningful to me. Possibly to you too.

Archimedes & The Hypercritical Parent

If the road had been less bumpy
– I would have been a journalist.

He is younger than me. Homeless, moving from couch to couch, enthusiastic, optimistic. He says
– You are a journalist. Your experiences tell a story of these times.


A handful of small haloes from dirty stumps of wax. The horses out in the darkness, quiet, too tired to protest. Weathered face in three quarter shadow.
– A smoother road and I would have little to tell.
He beckons his fellow trav-

-The present asserts itself instantaneously. Perhaps it spouted backwards from the drain hole but you wouldn’t catch it.

I have Eureka Syndrome. Being right is more important than appropriate attire.

7.30am. She is tidying the kitchen. Her mum is coming back early this morning. I am getting ready to leave. I will not be in the house when her mother is there.

– I have to do the food for the party tonight.

Her sister’s party, but the guests won’t be fed
– unless I take control.

I have no idea whether she then describes herself as a control freak or whether the words pop up in my head.

Out in the living room, getting the last of my things together, the blood rushes to my head. Revelations are not always joyful. Pressure has to be released.

– Oh man!
– What is it?

I didn’t name them ejaculations. Whatever, I emit them frequently, even sometimes on the bus, alone.

– People have different ways of reacting to their childhood. For example, I had a hypercritical parent and I don’t respond well to being told what to do.

It’s not the right time but I think fuck it, I’m leaving and the dust will settle. Eureka Syndrome.

She wants to focus on explaining why she has to take control, how someone has to step up if others won’t do what they should. I’m not especially bothered about whether she makes food for her sister’s party or not. I’m not telling her what is right or wrong.

– I’m not saying anything about morality. I’m thinking about history. Perhaps think about the reality, and about history, rather than what should be.

Obviously I’m being insensitive. I’m talking as if she could switch off from her immediate concerns, but her mother is coming back any minute and will look  for everything that is wrong. She doesn’t have the luxury of leaving. Eureka Syndrome. She has to do the food for the party. This is not a time for reflection, for her.  I’m being a dick.

But I am right. People respond differently to hypercritical parents. Some of us don’t respond well to being told what to do. We can at times be annoyingly unconcerned about what people ask of us. For others it’s all about control. Although, there are perhaps in both of us individualised combinations of extremes of this behaviour.

Naturally her anger rises. She is telling me that she has to step up to the plate when others won’t. She starts talking about adults being children.

Beyond the drain hole it is completely dark. Last night in bed, no bulbs in the ceiling light or lamp. I take bulbs round there when I remember. If I don’t, there will be bulbs missing for weeks at a time. I’m not angry but I could let it go for now rather than make my point. I’m being a dick. As I leave I say

– Remember to get some light bulbs.
– Child!
– That doesn’t make any sense. I’m reminding you to get light bulbs.
– Child!

The swells of revelation will not suddenly abate. The urge to blurt, to say it NOW is not some mystical selection between alternatives written in esoteric dimensions beyond clouds and earth. Insight alone will not halt the physicality of these tides. Nor will mere entreaties. I can try to own my behaviour and use simple tools to minimize my blurting, but the effectiveness of determined resolutions on those with bipolar has limits.

Realistic best case scenario, the long road ahead isn’t going to get a whole lot smoother.

On the bus home I pick up a sordid newspaper left on the seat.


That’s wrong on so many levels.


Image from

Advice to my troubled future self

A university dropout, I am living with my parents again. They are shouting. An alcohol fuelled fight. Often I hear them, spite filled, threatening, waves of hate. I am the rocks. Over time even a rock is worn down.

I am not a rock. I am sensitive. These harsh sounds crash upon me, over and over.

They are in their late forties now. They have mellowed somewhat. In fact they are tucked up in bed. The house is still.

What I hear is echoes. Not some distant reflection, an immediate assault.

I tiptoe onto the landing; then, avoiding the boards that complain the most, the top of the stairs. I crouch, head behind the bars of the bannisters. Nothing.

From their bedroom, a snuffling, a sleepy moan, sometimes snoring.

I go back to my room and write seven words.

Caught in the crossfire / They’re arguing again

I don’t usually hear voices. Just this. In that house. Every evening. From my bedroom. So loud and present I have to check every time.

Years after, free from that house, and with the maternal critic largely out of my head (Why bother worrying what   someone prone to selfishness without any power over you who receives establishment opinions and never thinks too hard about them thinks about you?), I realise I have somewhere lost the ability to listen with charity.

My upbringing was better than most, materially. It wasn’t miserable, for the most part. Quite possibly I am very sensitive, perhaps even to the sounds. I don’t blame them for what they were. I am trying not to blame anyone. Not myself. There is of course a distinction between responsibility and blame.

I don’t know how much is genetic and how much is environment, or the interplay between the two. The best I can do is try to be a better listener, a better friend, a healthier person. If the self cannot regulate the self (and we know so little about the self) then it’s not as if there is a safe and effective medication for mania.

I appreciate the warmth, simple respect, and social courtesy others have given me. It helps. I am responding to it, I think. I feel more human, gentler, connected.

Come dreaded psychosis, go to the GP and take an antipsychotic for a few months. I wrote this. I remember writing this. Now. Remember that other “now” in the past, Dave. Walking over the pavement in the rain. Saying this is happening “now”. The details may be wrong but the Now happened. So, future self, if you are very paranoid, making lots of connections that seem right but no-one believes when you explain, especially with advertising, it isn’t likely to be Derren Brown or the Government or any secret nefarious organisation. Advertising is designed to make people feel special, talked to personally. Of course advertising feels relevant to you.

If you have been on a big adventure, and feel great guilt about immoral behaviour, and the GP and your friends and your brother and others you trusted before your adventure say you should take an antipsychotic, then take it. You know I care about you. You’ll remember that I love you and you will cry and take the antipsychotic. I am you, calm, not psychotic. It happens. It’s not anyone’s fault. Yes the environment needs changing, yes the world needs changing but you can’t do it on your own.

You can’t do it right now until you come back to reality. Take the pill. Remember, for you at least it’s not true that you can’t bear very much reality. You don’t like it, you try to flee from it, it has contributed to your problems, but come back to us, Dave. Take the pill. Many humans can and do love. A simple concern for you. Three, four months. It will pass and you can come off it again. As you did before.

Be good to yourself and others,



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.

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