18 Dec

Tapas – Calamares, bocquerrones and Croquettas with a side order of ice cold beer: shared, bite sized and tasty – that’s how life should be.

I would never have eaten these had it not been for one, very particular human being who intervened just in time.

A few years ago I was asked to attend a series of therapeutic workshops for people who had just been diagnosed with BiPolar Disorder. The idea was to introduce these poor beknighted sods to a fellow sufferer who had lived with the diagnosis for a long time. That would be me.

The Community Practitioner Nurse (CPN) who organised the programme invited me to a NHS Mental Health facility in Sheffield to meet a group of new BP clients. He was not there on the day.

I felt like Ernest Borgnine on The Poseidon Adventure. A survivor with limited knowledge asked to lead a group of fellow passengers into the light.

We had nothing in common, except for a similar diagnosis. A young mental health worker introduced me (and the fact I was self employed), and said I would answer the questions I felt able to.

People in the group asked me about how I coped with Lithium (my meds), how I held down a job and then gone on to run a small business, whether I had ‘episodes’ and so on. I answered these as openly and honestly as I could and was feeling ok at that point. The group seemed interested.

The mental health worker then asked “How do you cope with suicidal thoughts?”

“You can’t” I responded “By the time you are that depressed you are no longer functional. Someone else must intervene, or you’re going to be dead.”

I wrote to this individual’s line manager. I was so pissed off at her clumsy intervention. It had plunged me into a depressive state almost immediately and poured cold water over the session.

Fortunately for me I have a strategy in these situations.

When entering a dark, depressive tunnel against my will I imagine a small figure up ahead saying “Hurry up for fuck’s sake I’m scared!”

I find this emboldens me to push forward, not go back. The ‘hurrying up’ is the key, for physical activity leads me to a lighter state – The Light – so to speak.

And there at the end, instead of the grey and black of fear, it is the colour, taste and smell of choice. Tapas and a beer with my pal. Clare, the woman who intervened.

So if you are feeling blue, come into the hole with me and push on through to the light. I’ll be waiting with a beer and a plate of tapas with bits of shell in my beard.

Believe me, dear reader, life is so worth living.

Merry Christmas



3 Responses to “Tapas”

  1. Amanda J. Wells December 18, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    Henk, you are so timely. August through to Christmas is more difficult for me than the rest of the year. Although not in the vortex at present, I am still caring for myself (and being cared for by my loved one). Enjoy the light. Love Amanda xxx

  2. David Whitton December 19, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    Bless you, dear Henk, for your honesty and courage to share so trustingly (or maybe not trustingly… perhaps bravely, not knowing what the effect might be… which is far more heroic again).

    I think there’s no advantage straining to draw parallels between different people’s mental health places: even sharing the same “diagnostic badge” (and you and I don’t even have that in common), we’re all wired so differently that parallels very soon break down depending on… personality type/ stage of illness/ degree of illness/ belief system/ metabolism/ behavioural patterns/ historical experience… plus a myriad other variables. (How refreshingly predictable it must be, to work within the relatively mechanical sphere of e.g. orthopaedics c.f. psychiatry/ psychology!!).

    So in what profound awe I therefore stand of so very many such-extraordinary fellow humans who have dedicated their lives to helping the likes of you and me (plus 5 of 6 of our immediate family in totally disconnected, utterly unexpected, but equally cruel, mental health problems). Quite extraordinary people they are: nearly every one of them!

    But I also wanted to thank you Henk, for openly sharing your experience which validates, encourages and inspires so many others walking similar, if not precisely parallel paths! THANK YOU… especially at this time of year, which we as a family always find to be the hardest… by way of more contrasts than I should take your time to describe here!


  1. Listening | Woodenhenk - July 12, 2017

    […] BiPolar disorder is fabled for its manifestation in the ‘hyper’ phase of behavioural symptoms such as arrogance, vaulting hubris and generally – ‘not listening’. As one shrink said to my wife “Why would Henk listen? When he knows better than everyone else.” […]

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