When I was diagnosed as bi-polar, it was a bit of a shock. Firstly, I didn’t understand what it was. ‘Manic depressive,’ it was explained to me. Which makes you wonder why they insist on calling it bi-polar when everyone needs the explanation of ‘manic depressive’ to understand it.
I’ll tell you why. Because people with bi-polar don’t always experience mania.
Have never experienced happiness.
Even as a kid. Was understandable that I would disagree with the doctor who stated I had a condition which meant I should have experienced happiness — even in mania form — at some point of my life.
Yet was explained to me that mania didn’t always mean happiness. For me it meant aggression and weird compulsive spells of shopping.
Like, I would never wait for anything. If I wanted something, I had to go out and buy it straight away. When I was a teenager and had no real money to speak of, it’d be things like notebooks and nail polish. I remember at one stage I had over a hundred Moleskins. Which I suppose does add up to quite a bit of money. I wouldn’t even use the full notebook. Just the first few pages to write down whatever madness was filling my head before feeling like the notebook was spoiled, and then having to start another one.
I’d paint my nails a different colour every day, removing and starting again on the next. I gave my mum a headache, quite literally, with all the polish remover fumes.
I had over twenty Filofaxes. All different sizes because I could never make up my mind which size best suited my needs. I would never, ever, get through the year on the same organiser. But because of my manic tendencies I would then have to copy everything from my old diary out into the new one. Would quite literally spend half my life re-documenting it.
I, of course, didn’t know that these were manic tendencies at the time, just like I didn’t know my aggressive tendencies were manic, too.
And I mean aggressive. It’s a little embarrassing and shameful to admit to, but it’s probably one of the reasons why my parents split up.
I stabbed a kid in the neck with a pair of scissors. He was being a dick, saying some shit about my dad, and I just totally flipped out. We were at school, the scissors were in my hand, and I just did it.
I can’t even explain it. Wasn’t a conscious decision at all. I just remember being so mad, that it just happened.
My dad was mortified. He was so worried about what people would say about him. He with the psychotic daughter. He was awful to me. Mum, being a mental health nurse, she knew there was something more to the story than her daughter being a naughty psychotic child, and had me see a doctor. Hours and hours of therapy with no result. My diagnosis would come much later.
Maybe if there was a diagnosis my dad would have felt better with everything. He’d have something to blame at least. Something which wouldn’t put his parenting into question.
But my dad, he has pride, and he could never get over the humiliation of what I had done to him. Little did he know there was worse to come. Poor fucker.
Mum couldn’t bear the way my dad was treating me, and it drew a wedge in their marriage. That and his cheating.
So Mum and I went to live in London where I continued to live a confused life of unhappiness, buying shit compulsively.
I started a cigarette habit because we bi-polar folks always need a habit. I got into the occasional fight with chicks on the streets of Camden because, whether I knew it at the time or not, the imbalance in my brain caused blinding rage.
But most of all I was depressed. Cloud-heavy, always-seeing-the-negative, depressed. I felt like I was walking around with a weight around my neck and tar choking my lungs. I felt trapped, unable to see the way out of my unhappiness.
When I did finally go and see someone after all the shit that happened after Mum died, I was certain that would be my diagnosis: depression. I had just spent there months locked in a dark room writing all kinds of shit down on those various Moleskin notebooks, chain-smoking and not bathing. Surely the behaviour of a depressed person? But no. The behaviour of a bi-polar person.
I thought giving a name to what was wrong with me, giving an explanation of sorts, would help in some small way. It didn’t really. By then I’d made my bed. The decisions which would affect the rest of my life had already been made and no amount of lithium could stop it.
Cripes, why am I writing about this? Oh yes, that’s right, now I remember…
Was in the study with Landlord today, helping him again with his work. His mood today was far better than it has been of late, and so chatting has resumed. Comfort resumed. And was sitting there, across from Landlord, having a general chit-chat, and out of nowhere the thought came to me: I’m happy.
And not in a delicious, manic way. In a pleasant, isn’t-this-nice, content way. For the first time in a long, long while, I am at peace. I enjoy the status quo, and am not looking for anything more.
Which is very, very rare for me.
Without sex, without drugs, without some fucked-up church promising me the world — I am content.