Bipolar – becoming me

I wouldn’t change the good times in these past few chapters, naturally, but having thought about it a lot, I actually wouldn’t change the bad times either.

“Be you! Remember you are the Orchid in a field of Chrysanthemums! And always will be! Our journey, our sadness, our lovely crazy exciting souls are our saviour. It makes us extra special. We must try to feel pride in what we’ve overcome.”

orchid imageI can’t take credit for these beautiful words. I wish I could. Credit in fact goes to an incredible and gorgeous friend of mine. She rocks!

We were Whatsapp-ing last night and this was one of her messages to me.

She’s really more like a sister than a friend. We’re very close. We share everything, and I have such enormous respect for her. Respect for the things she has achieved and the life she has carved out for herself in the face dreadful adversity.

So. We were talking about how important it is to be yourself and to be proud of who you are. More specifically, she was telling me to be myself when I’m blogging and not to feel ashamed of my (many) flaws.

She’s spot on.

Being myself in everyday life is a relatively new thing for me though. I definitely used to play a role.

When MK first appeared on the scene I’d play the role of a sensible, responsible mummy who fed her baby nothing but homemade organically sourced purées and went to baby yoga.

I tried my best to fit in and to do all these things, but frankly I’m just not that mummy. He’s 5 now, and I’m not going to lie, he likes a packet of Monster Munch.

But that’s ok. Baby yoga and organic purées are right for some mummies, just not for me.

No-one told me I had to fit into that mould. No-one except my own insecurities.

It was insecurity that made me feel I didn’t measure up as a mummy, and therefore needed to replicate the role models.

I’d like to think I’m a responsible mummy and I take my duties very seriously.

I do my utmost to set a good example to MK, to teach him right from wrong, to teach him to love, to respect and to be kind.

I tell him how much I love him 100 times a day. I try hard to encourage him to be confident, without of course being arrogant.

He’s a bright, clever and sociable little boy with a wonderful heart, and I tell him how proud we are of him every day.

I hope I do the right thing. I know I make mistakes, but I also know that it’s ok to do that.

All I ask of him is that he tries his best, and all I can promise in return is that I will try to do the same in my capacity as his mummy.

Another role I used to play was that of a TV presenter, back when I was, well, a TV presenter!

That may sound ridiculous. How can you play a role in something that you actually are and that you actually do? I mean, I was a TV presenter so why would I need to pretend to be one?

tv cameraFor more than 20 years I had a pretty successful career in front of the camera, presenting anything from sports news to the national news,. But what I mean by this role is that as soon as I walked through the studio door I would turn into someone I barely recognised.

We all have to put on our ‘professional head’ at times, but this was different.

For example, when I was presenting my first ever TV show, which was a teenage magazine/music show, I would act the part of a slightly scatty and chaotic rock chic, thinking that I had to be the English TV and Radio presenter, Zoe Ball. (I’m 43 remember. Zoe is of my era). She was the presenter I aspired to be from her days on the Saturday morning magazine programme she presented.

Why though? Why did I feel I had to morph into this caricature of myself when it’s such a far cry from the real me? Very embarrassing when I look back at it.

No-one told me I had to be that girl. No-one, again, apart from my own insecurities. My insecurities that getting the job was just a fluke, that the producer had made the mistake of her life the day she signed me up, and that although I seemed to be getting away with it at that point, I would soon be found out and marched straight out the studio.

My insecurity was that I wasn’t Zoe Ball.

Well of course I wasn’t Zoe Ball, I was me!

Hats off to Zoe for having had such a successful career, and in fact for continuing to do so in what’s a notoriously cut throat industry and competitive industry. I still listen to her on the radio, but now I can enjoy listening to her rather than endeavour to be her. Zoe is Zoe, and I am me.

To aspire to be someone in itself is fine. In fact I believe it to be a healthy thing.

I have enormous respect for people who strive to bet a better them, but for me it was more than that. It was a charade at which I would never win.

Age (and exhaustion of having to play these roles) has taught me to be me, and only me. I quite like me! Not all the time, obvs. I’ve got my flaws, as do we all.

I make wrong decisions. I can be reckless and irresponsible (except when I’m with MK), and I sometimes think unkind thoughts. I could go on, but I’ll leave it there because it seems pretty stupid to spend too long highlighting my many foibles!

Back to my friend though, and her point was that I must be ‘me’ when I’m blogging.

We talked about how readers need to feel they know the real me. I agree.

In fact I think it would dishonest to create a false illusion that I am something I am not.

It would be disrespectful to mislead in that way. So I don’t and I won’t.

I blog about me, my life and my personal journey exactly as it was and it is. The good, the bad, and at times the very ugly.

This might be a good time to tell you a bit more about my career.

I’m not sure how or where to start, so here goes.

When I left school I spent three years at university studying Business and Marketing. I came out with a degree, but quite why I did the course is anyone’s guess.

By that point I had decided that I wanted to work in TV. More specifically, that I wanted to be a TV presenter. How bold!

The big question was how to get my foot in the door?

tv imageI came up with a plan. I would watch loads of the programmes that I wanted to present, and when the end credits came up, I would scribble down the name of the Executive Producer and the production company.

I then looked up the phone book (yes really, there was no such thing as Google), to get the address of the production company so that I could contact them to tell them how much they needed me.

I was such a funny mix. I was full of insecurities, but at the same time had a boldness about me. I had no fear of rejection.

The next challenge was that in order to apply for a job in front of the camera, producers need to see you presenting something. As you may well know, a television CV is a video showreel, not a piece of paper.

Hmm. Tricky. But not impossible.

A friend of mine knew someone who was studying Film and Media, and she persuaded him to film me presenting a pretend news report. Which we did.

I then set about sending oodles of these showreels (which at that time were VHS tapes!) off to all the producers I had identified.

Incredibly, I got a call from one of these producers a few weeks later to ask me in for a screen test. I couldn’t believe it!

“Me? You want to see me?”

So, I did the screen test, went home, and waited. Impatiently.

That afternoon the producer called to say I had got the job!

I’ll never forget that moment.

I was sitting at home, which at that point was with mum and dad, and when the phone rang I sprinted to the hall table and picked it up. It was her.

2 minute’s later I was a gainfully employed professional TV presenter. Me! Who knew?

My foot was now firmly wedged in that seemingly impenetrable door!

Thank you producer. And thank you Film and Media student for filming my showreel. Little did you know what a life changing 2 hours that day would turn out to be.

It dawns on me now, as I write, that I ought to thank to Zoe Ball too. Her influence definitely helped me in those early days. Thank you Zoe, you inspired me.

I spent 3 and a half years co-presenting the show. It was an absolute blast!

ronanOne week I’d be interviewing Boyzone (I really fancied Ronan Keating), and the next I’d be presenting a report from a zoo with a 6ft long python draped around my neck (not so fanciable).

And so it began. I was to embark on an adventure, or perhaps more of a rollercoaster ride, that was to last 23 years.

I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do a job that I really loved doing.

I accept now, with the benefit of many years of self-reflection (and many hours, days, weeks and months of intense therapy), that perhaps I actually was an able, and accomplished TV presenter.

I became relied upon as ‘a safe pair of hands’ in a live TV environment where anything and everything can (and often does), go wrong.

To say that out loud still doesn’t sit well, but to write it makes me cringe a bit less.

Luck. Luck and good timing played an enormous part in my career. For whatever reason, I was at the right place at the right time. Thank you luck.

My showreel just happened to land on the producer’s desk at the time she was looking for a presenter, and my face just happened to fit the type of presenter she was looking for. Thank you face!

Back in 1994 when I signed that first TV contract, I could never have known where this journey was going to take me. Where I would end up, and indeed whether there was ever a destination.

No-one knows their path until they’ve travelled it though, do they? It’s probably just as well.

Along the way I enjoyed enormous highs and some devastating lows.

There was hard graft but there was reward. There was a little bit of fame and fortune, a taste of the high life, a taste of the lowlife, and some truly memorable rock ‘n roll experiences.

At times I felt like I was invincible. That this wonderful, fast paced and hedonistic lifestyle was never going to end.

At times I felt battered, bruised, vulnerable and alone.

Alone, despite the fact that I would often be stopped in the street for an autograph.

Strangers would talk to me.

I felt admired and respected.

newspaper imageThere were countless features about me in the newspapers, mainly focused on my work, but sometimes on my private life. I hated that, but I don’t believe anyone in the public eye can complain too much about mild intrusion. Without publicity you wouldn’t be in demand. But yes, they do very often overstep the bounds of decency and respect.

To the outside world I had it all. I knew that I was lucky. I knew that I was blessed in so many ways, but despite the way things appeared on the outside, the inside story was at times very different.

Unbeknownst to me of course, I was living with bipolar. I was undiagnosed, un-medicated, and untreated.

That’s ok though. At least I know now. And these down times made me stronger. They gave me courage.

Thank you down times, you were ghastly and mean to me at the time, but in the end you turned out to be a great teacher.

9 months ago I handed in my notice to become a full time homemaker and mummy.

It felt like the right time to start a new chapter.

I wouldn’t change the good times in these past few chapters, naturally, but having thought about it a lot, I actually wouldn’t change the bad times either.

Everything I have experienced and gone through has made me the person I am today. The person sitting on her big outsize love seat tapping away on her boyfriend’s laptop. I actually don’t own one which is pretty ridiculous given what I do.

Speaking of my big fat chair, it’s telling me to snuggle up and switch off.

I’ll enjoy doing that tonight, knowing that another day has passed where I’ve felt well.

Over the course of this evening though, I have a feeling that I’ll find myself reflecting back on these early years, and recounting the events that were to unfold as I travelled the very windy and at times undulating path that was to lead me through my professional journey. I’d better fasten my seatbelt I think.

Keep well. x

Author: talkandcheese

I'm 44 and have just retired from having been a TV presenter for over 20 years to become a full time mummy and housewife. I live with my boyfriend and 5 year old son. Together we all live with my bipolar 2. I was only diagnosed 9 years ago and it had been an utterly chaotic ride prior to treatment and meds. Every day could be like chalk and cheese. Life is so much less frightening now, but I still get hypomanic episodes and depressive lows. The time feels right for me to share some of my story now, in which there were some devastating lows and some equally as frightening and exhausting highs. The process is helping me to heal, and I hope with all my heart may offer someone somewhere some level of comfort and support that they are not alone.

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