In 2007 at the age of 51, I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder. I wasn’t at all surprised at the diagnosis, and it answered many questions.
For years I had suffered from lengthy bouts of depression where I just couldn’t be bothered with life. Everything was too much of a struggle and sleep and isolation were the only answers. Interspersed with the bouts of depression, I had times when I felt well again. They would come on quite suddenly and it was such a relief after the nightmare of blackness. I always likened it to the feeling of relief when painkillers kick in and the pain goes away after a terrible headache or period pain.
In 1991, I suffered what I now know to have been a ‘Hypomanic’ episode. At the time I was working at a well known psychiatric hospital in York. I worked hours and hours of overtime without any difficulty or any adverse effect to my health (so I thought) I was giggly to the point of hysteria, I played stupid practical jokes, and often wandered away from my area of work to chat or play silly, childish games. I’m surprised I didn’t get the sack.
I also decided that I was going to write a best selling thriller. It was in the days when only the very well off could afford computers; so each night I would sit with my notebook and pen, cans of lager always at hand, and write my masterpiece. And….the only music which would go nicely with this convoluted mess was a song which was in the charts at the time and which I had bought….
Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.
One evening, feeling particularly ‘high’ and very creative, I started playing this particular record (it was vinyl in those days) and played it non stop from about seven in the evening until about three am the following morning. At the time, I just liked it a lot and didn’t realise that this was a classic sign of Hypomania.
But I was in Heaven. The words flowed, the images were sharp, the beer tasted good and I was ‘cooking’. This was going to be the new best seller. It would be made into a film or a TV drama at least. And make no mistake, I was convinced it was good writing and a gritty, nail bighting story. ‘Sigh’
It wasn’t, of course, and I very soon crashed into a deep and terrifying depression. The worst one yet, made much worse, I now know because of the length and severity of the Hypomanic episode.
I suffered like this for another sixteen years until my GP decided it was time to see a psychiatrist, who told me what I expected to hear. Bi-Polar. As I said at the beginning of this piece, it answered many questions for me and my nearest and dearest. I wasn’t just an ‘odd bod’ or very eccentric, I had an illness which, with the aid of medication and some life style changes, can be controlled to a certain extent. But sadly, never fully cured.
But, every time I hear Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, I am back in my lonely sitting room all those years ago with my ‘best seller’, my beer and my music.