I’m writing this as I recover from a bad, bad episode with Bipolar. It’s a bugger and no mistake – to paraphrase the JAWS strap-line – ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water’. It lulls you into thinking you may be through it, then wham it plugs you like Dirty Harry. To continue that thread, I didn’t feel lucky, and when behaving badly, I felt like a Punk!
And like a returning faith, I’m forced to confront my demons through humour since that is the path I chose sometime ago. And it tests that faith, and as I watch ’Hope’ heading for the horizon with its Arse on fire, it becomes so hard to stick to the promise I made to myself to laugh my way through it. When you look into the abyss, it’s where you find yourself.
I must be in the mood for Showbiz metaphors today as Old Blue Eye’s words ring in my head
‘But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out’
And that’s what you have to do.
For one thing is certain, I doubt very much if you will ever work out why it happens; this Elephant in the Room who sits there quietly. I tried for many years to alter my lifestyle to avoid things that might trigger the swings, but nowadays my focus and energy has switched to dealing with it when it happens. I have daft sayings about my home, and written epithets when I open the refrigerator or a cupboard, so that I can see evidence all around me that I’ve been here before, and that I will get through it. God made me Bipolar, but he also made me funny. He may not have made you funny, but gifts you will have. Discover what they are and exploit them, use them, and feed off them, to sustain you through the freefall of depression and dysthymia.
Top sportsmen and women train their minds to achieve a Zen like calm when in crisis. They talk about being in ‘the zone’ and where hours of repetitive action develops muscle memory, in which the body acts on autopilot. It only goes wrong in the mind in times of crisis, not with what your body can do. We go from unconscious competence to conscious incompetence in seconds and miss that penalty to win the World Cup. So that’s what I try to do now – in effect train my mind to not buckle and cave in when a dysthymic episode kicks in – and know that I can come through it.
Back to that image of ‘Hope’ as a human being running towards the horizon with its arse on fire: it amuses me, and makes me want to shout after it ‘Come back you bastard!’ I’ve found that conjuring up such silly images takes away some of the pain associated with what happens to you, and perhaps prevents you falling too far. It is an absurd condition, and deserves to be mocked by those who suffer from it. Laugh at the utter Applesauce of it, and you may just find a new way to deal with it. I hope so.
Kit Johnson – author of Dodging Suicide – A Lifetime’s Preoccupation:
An alternative and affectionate look at coping with Cyclothymia/Bipolar Disorder. Kit Johnson is a successful International businessman, who has had to battle through the condition and wrestle with frequent moments of despair and suicidal thoughts, including two attempts. He sought help through tried and tested channels, took medication and various therapies - all to no avail. He discovered that humour and home spun philosophies saved him from the worst excesses of his condition. This semi autobiographical account is funny, excoriating, honest and thought provoking.
www.kit-johnson.com Twitter @dodgingsuicide