Bipolar – the hand of support

I was part of two worlds in that moment. I was that lost and desperately sad me from 10 years ago, but at the same time was my 43 year old self living a life. A real and meaningful life, where the coat of armour has been replaced with a useless rain mac, but one which allows the real world to seep into my soul.

Today in London the heaven’s opened and all the rain that’s been stored up over the past couple of months literally emptied out of the sky. Mainly on top of me, or so it seemed.

The bargain rain mac I bought for the festival we went to a couple of weeks ago, was… it seems… a bargain for a very good reason. It isn’t waterproof. It looked great, but had more water seeping through it than MK’s paddling pool did when our new puppy chewed through it.

Thankfully at ‘Wilderness Festival’ it was a scorcher, so the rain mac made from sponge remained in the tent, in favour of cut-off shorts and strappy tops.

The new pup incidentally is a cross between a Maltese and a miniature poodle, and is known as a ‘Maltipoo’. None of us are 100% sold on that name, as you may well imagine, so we’ve renamed the breed the ‘Moodle’.IMG_0782

Mabel the Moodle is adorable. She’s teeny tiny, but is causing more chaos than a herd of elephants would in an antique shop. Pip the Chihuahua took a bit of convincing about young Mabel, but is tolerating the little scamp a bit more now. Poor Pip.

Weather notwithstanding, Handsome Doc, MK and I ventured into central London this afternoon to the theatre.

Over the school summer holidays, MK went to an acting workshop. At the end of the week they put on a little show with songs from ‘Matilda’. MK played the part of Nigel, and played it with great gusto. He had the audience in stitches actually! Very cute.

So, given that the musical is playing in the West End, we decided to treat him with a trip to theatre-land.

When we arrived in London something happened that took me completely by surprise.

To set the scene, I moved from my hometown of Glasgow to London 10 years ago for work.

It was a hugely exciting time. My new job was to present the breakfast show on a sports news channel.

I embraced London life immediately. The social life with my new job was ‘lively’, and I thrived on the general buzz of this wonderful city.

Unbeknownst to me though, I was seriously ill. I had been living with bipolar for as long as I can remember, but at that point, was still undiagnosed.

Life was chaotic, and my mind even more-so.

I would swing from being busier than the Prime Minister to being more of a recluse than the late, great Greta Garbo.

I would be high as a kite for a few days, then slump into a deep depression where there was a veil masking me from the rest of the world. Actually, it was more of an iron curtain. It was impenetrable.

These wild mood swings meant there were huge chunks of my first few years in London when I experienced loneliness like I’d never felt before.

I’d always gone through phases of loneliness during these depressive lows, even in Glasgow. Locking myself away from society was not a new thing. It seemed different in London though. I felt more isolated than ever before.

I’m sure this was because back home, even although the thought of seeing or speaking to anyone was beyond my capabilities, I knew I had close friends and family nearby. Reaching out to them, or communicating on any level was never going to happen, but subconsciously I must have taken some level of comfort from knowing that they were nearby.

In London I didn’t have that.

I had new friends and colleagues. We partied together. We worked together. We attended work functions together. But we didn’t know each other. Not really. Not in the way I knew my friends in Glasgow.

I can remember one day when I had just come off air, and was in the midst of a really severe low. I decided I’d make an almighty effort to challenge the gremlin.

Ordinarily, I’d have transported myself back to the safety of my little house in Battersea where I’d sit and stare (and cry) for the remainder of the day and much of the night until it was time to haul myself back into work the following morning. Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it to work, and out would roll all manner of outlandish excuses from having a tummy bug, to having lost my voice. I ‘called in sick’ via email for the voice excuse.

On this particular day though, I forced myself to catch the tube to Covent Garden, thinking that if I wandered around there for long enough, the vibrancy and the energy of the market would somehow seep into my soul and lift me out of my depression.

IMG_1141It didn’t. I sat at a café staring blankly ahead of me, forgetting to drink my coffee, and unaware that the tears were rolling down my cheeks and into my untouched coffee. My heart was so heavy it hurt.

My entire body had developed a coat of armour so thick that no joy whatsoever seeped in, in the way that I had hoped.

During that time, I turned to drink and drugs in an attempt to escape the agonising loneliness when it descended.

Life was not good on any level. Even the periods of, what I now know to be ‘hypomania’, were dreadful to endure.

I’d be overly excitable and believe I could conquer the world, but throughout these highs, there was always the dread of the inevitable crash which would follow.

Two years into my new life in London, I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar II. Life has changed enormously since then, albeit that never a day goes by when I am allowed to forget that I live with the illness.

But, with the help of my meds and the hours upon hours of therapy I’ve had over the years, I can manage it far better.

Today though, when Handsome Doc, MK and I were in London, the memories of that time in my life came back to me more vividly than little MK’s colourful imagination.

As we sat on the busy tube, I was transported back to the days when I would be travelling back from work, racked with sadness and bewilderment at just what to do with myself so that I could rejoin society.

On this occasion, Handsome Doc was standing next to me, and MK was bouncing up and down on a seat asking whether the train was faster than his little black car.

I was part of two worlds in that moment. I was that lost and desperately sad me from 10 years ago, but at the same time was my 43 year old self living a life. A real and meaningful life, where the coat of armour has been replaced with a useless rain mac, but one which allows the real world to seep into my soul.

Part of me felt such enormous joy and gratitude. But part of me felt woefully sad.

As I looked around me, I took in all the faces of our fellow commuters.

None of them looked particularly sad or lonely. But then who does?

And that’s what struck me.

Depression has no face. It’s indiscriminate in who it chooses to torture, and forces us to hide our aching souls.

How many people on that tube were aching? How many were travelling across London desperately hoping to emerge from their dark sorrow and rejoin society?

I wanted some kind of magical power so that I could scoop up anyone locked in battle with the gremlin, and carry them safely to the other side of their darkness.

When I first came out of my bipolar closet, which was not so very long ago, so many people commented on the fact that I always seemed so happy, and that they couldn’t imagine me being depressed. Or in an uncontrollable high.

Isn’t that just the thing about mental illness though? So often we hide it. We can be in the depth of despair, yet when someone asks how we are, we invariably say we’re fine.

Today was a reminder to me that we can never presume to know what people are going through.

But is it right to speak out and be honest about what we’re really going through? Do people really want to know? Do they really just want us to say that we’re fine?

“How are you?” is almost a rhetorical question. At times.

The truth is that yes, it is right to speak out. There’s no shame in living with mental illness. But the harsh reality is that the gremlin tries to cut us off from the very lifelines we so often crave.

To me, it comes down to being selective about those to whom we open up. But how do we do that? How do we weed out the “I’m fine thanks” people?

I guess it’s a process.

I’ve built up a small circle of friends and family with whom I know I can bare my soul. For that I am grateful. So very grateful.

That inner circle is precious.

Not only do I know they’ll be there for me when I need them, but they also know that when the gremlin strikes, I’m very unlikely to open up at that time. The veil still comes down, and the loneliness still prevails.

For me, I find opening up once the darkness has lifted far easier to do.

Why can’t I reach out at the time?

I don’t know. The answer is, I still don’t know. I’m aware I still have a long way to go in truly healing myself of the fear of being alienated.

However, since joining the ‘Twitter-sphere’ a few months ago, I’ve found that I can bare my soul more openly there. There’s a comfort in knowing that there are so many people who really can relate to the way I am feeling.

I’ve surrounded myself with inspirational warriors whose strength can carry me through the darkness.

I know I’m lucky to have my close circle of support, but I am also so lucky to have discovered the world of Twitter.

And it’s something we can all turn to. It still took me a while to lay myself bare on social media, but I’m so glad that I overcame that hurdle.

This is only my story. It works for me. But everyone is different.

My hope though, is that every brave soul living with the daily battle that is mental illness, will find their own story. Their own means of seeking support. Of finding that hand to hold. Of having that support, even it’s a virtual support on Twitter, where we’re not walking alone… just until we are able to stride out ourselves once again.

We are strong. Mental illness means we build up an incredible inner strength. We’ve come through every battle so far, with a pretty impressive 100% record.

We can do it again. And again. And again.

And we do.

Be 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.

2 thoughts on “Bipolar – the hand of support”

  1. Dy, never cut back on your comment length, your words are a joy to read.

    So honest and compassionate ~ it means so much to know that my blogs resonate; writing can be a weirdly insecure experience at times, don’t you think?

    Gems like you make me want to keep tapping away on my laptop and, (hopefully), reach out and connect with kindred spirits, in the way that you and I have done.

    Please start blogging again! I know you’ll be a source of wonderful support and inspiration to so many!

    Sending love across the pond. 💜

  2. I know my comments have all been too long, but it’s all your fault, my friend, 😜 because your posts are so damn amazing! (Sorry to be a potty mouth!!!!)

    You know by now I like to pick out your most brilliant lines? Here are a few gems I must point out:

    “….there was a veil masking me from the rest of the world. Actually, it was more of an iron curtain. It was impenetrable.”

    Iron curtain??? THAT’S SO GOOD!

    “A real and meaningful life, where the coat of armour has been replaced with a useless rain mac, but one which allows the real world to seep into my soul.”


    I was going to try to make this comment short, but I hope you’ll forgive me because I fear it’s shaping into a ramble. I loved this post for so many reasons. I could write a 10-page essay why that is, but I’ll spare you.

    I also have revisited areas where, years ago, I was deeply lonely and depressed. When I go to those places now and I’m feeling way better (not perfect, mind you, but one could compare my former and present states of mind to….chalk and cheese!!) it just hits me, you know? I think “Thank GOD I no longer feel that way.”

    But I can’t get too comfy. I dread bad things happening in fear they’ll trigger a major depressive episode. 😱

    What can we do? Open up to our wonderful & supportive, understanding Tweeps (silly word, I know), do all our self-care things, keep up with the meds, you know the drill.

    I think one of the reasons I find you a kindred spirit is that you stated exactly how I feel in this post.

    Despite having beautiful children, a stunning Scottish collie (!), a loving partner, a beautiful home, a car, access to health care, affordable meds, good food, and decent physical health, even with all those blessings I also have “a long way to go in truly healing myself of the fear of being alienated.”

    I understand. I really do.

    And all we can do is try our best and keep plugging along.
    I really think it helps us more than we consciously realize to know we are not alone with our shaky feelings.

    You can gather by now I miss blogging and I’m using your blog as a substitute, ha ha ha!!! I promise I’ll cut back on the comment length when I backtrack to your post #11. Well, maybe. Probably not. 👀

    The best years for you are yet to come.
    My double-Pisces self is predicting that for you.
    (Yes, I’m a hippie at heart, but I believe in that stuff!)

    Sending you heaps and heaps of love & strength.

    p.s. Your Moodle? Miss Mabel the Moodle?

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