Tag Archives: Bipolar Type 2

Sacrifice

17 Feb

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In Norse mythology, Odin, the father of the Aesir (the Gods), had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He wounded, then hung himself upon the World Tree Yggdrasil in order to learn the secret meaning of Runes. He journeyed to the roots of the World tree to seek out Mimir at the pool of Urd in order to drink from his sacred well and gain the gift of insight.

The price of Odin’s wisdom was an eye. I have often wondered whether sacrifice is the key to wisdom.

A wise young friend of mine, told me he had made a sacrifice just recently, in order to, in his own words, “be able to socialise better”. A great conversationalist, he dislikes direct eye contact (classic autism).

Years ago I made the mistake of offering to play a game of chess with him, when I was working as a Ranger for the Parks and Countryside department of  Sheffield City Council and he was a volunteer. I do enjoy a game of chess, but within half a dozen moves I realised I was playing against a truly prodigious talent. My friend displayed an intellectual plasticity, and strategic flexibility, I had never before encountered. I resigned quickly, not wishing to experience a crushing defeat – it would have been physically painful to me.

Imagine my surprise then, when he told me recently that he had decided to quit playing chess!

In my case Bipolar disorder was the gift that just kept on misgiving.

I was diagnosed in 2001and when I came out of the psychiatric ward 18 years ago I discovered I had left a trail of destruction around me. Relationships damaged, trusts broken and fear left in its place.

Cognitive therapy helped me to understand that I could perhaps repair some of the bridges I had burned in those years, when I had lived without knowledge of or insight into my condition.

I took the first step by first learning how to listen. The second step was learning to let go.

I let go of ambition. Between 1979 and 1998 I had been a successful academic, but I felt I could not return to this because it was too solipsistic, too antisocial in a way.

I have been told I was a good teacher – a very social profession, but I could not return to teaching principally because the practise itself is emotionally stressful. I don’t have an off switch for needy pupils.

I took professional advice at the cross roads in 2002:

Advisor “What do you really like doing?”

Me:”I like being outside, fresh air, making things and I also like people”

Advisor “Have you ever considered environmental conservation?”

That led to 10 years as a countryside Ranger. Nice job!

I ignored the jibes – “You are the only person I know who has had a career in reverse Henk! Academia, Education, Parkie and now Chippie”

So, I gave up worrying about fitting in.

What did I gain after insight?

In the words of my wife who has loved me throughout the journey:

“What I found was that there was no more walking on eggshells, and not being frightened to say something. The laughter and fun returned.”

Losing  the ‘I’ is no sacrifice.

 

Stuff

30 Mar

In the realm of Bonkers, the art of Victorian Taxidermy is King. I had the serene pleasure of stumbling into Warwick Museum this weekend whilst attending my niece’s wedding. As I stepped inside the old museum in the market square I was greeted by a glass case containing two stuffed Choughs, examining a beetle with very beady eye.

Just as the Victorians were fascinated by the natural world and wanted literally to own bits of it, preserved for posterity in their parlours, so we too collect trinkets. Today’s stuff is kept as digital files and posted on Facebook. It’s the same schtick: “Hey look! I found this amazing thing, shot it (with a gun/Victorians, iPhone/us) and ‘stuffed’ it – displayed it in an amusing pose for you to look at and admire.

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Peter Spicer, master taxidermist of Leamington Spa, stuffed this bear and rendered him in the anthropomorphic pose of a Roman Emperor. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen – lend me your bears”. Appropriate for Shakespeare’s county I feel and a moth eaten literal rendering of the County’s badge. Motto ‘Non sanz droict’  – literally – ‘Not without right’. What right had anyone to shoot and stuff this bruin, let alone chain him to a post and set the dogs on him?

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This distinctly anorexic Badger begs the topical question, “TB or not TB?”

And the fox with ear mange chasing the partridge seems a reluctant Rotten Reynard.

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My Bipolar mind is always stuffed with crazy unconnected images, sounds and ideas – such is the nature of manic depression. Natural History Museums are balm to this unquiet mind, because to see the physical expression of cultural obsession displayed with such rigour is somehow deeply soothing to me. One person’s Bonkers, is another person’s serene tranquility. Thank you Peter Spicer for this daft treasury, if only I could skin, stuff and pose the madness in my head. The quietness of curation, bliss.

A final absurdity in this little chocolate box of a museum was the magnificent skeleton of an extinct Irish Elk. A cracking display mounted so that it faces out of an obscure museum side window. Visitors to the gallery are greeted by an extinct deer’s arse and not the seven foot span antlers which so fascinated Charles Darwin.

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Darwin was able to come up with a reason for growing these magnificent antlers and shedding them annually – sexual display and mate acquisition. There is no evolutionary reason for manic depression that I can deduce – only the exhaust fumes of an unquiet mind.

Too much stuffing? Give me taxidermy, give me curation, give me peace of mind.

 

Two Towers

9 Sep

Many years ago I was sat in a psychiatric ward pumped full of Haloperidol having spent several weeks becoming more and more psychotic and driving my poor wife, Clare to despair.

She said the hardest thing she had ever had to do in her life was call the doctor and have me sectioned. It turned out to be a life saving decision. In my humble opinion she was forced to enact the judgement of Solomon. Either through an act of love, remove my freedom for my own good, or through an act of Good let be me free but lose my Love.

Most of the following record has been told to me and deduced from secondary sources – my mind was on vacation at the time if you take my meaning.

Late on Sunday the 8th of September 2001 they finally carted me off in an ambulance in handcuffs after I had broken my mind.

At the end of 3 months of craziness, I’d spent the whole of the weekend wandering about the garden, butt naked except for a Borsalino Fedora hat and talking utter bollocks.

I hadn’t slept for 3 months and spent ludicrous amounts of money. I had driven my motorcycle at warp speeds, nearly killing us both and capped it all off with a week of utter lunacy, in a new job.

I was a school teacher:  poor children, poor parents, bastard governors – why did it take so long for them to realise I was cuckoo? Where was their duty of care? They knew about my depression; yet they still burned me.

When I arrived at the hospital, dressed only in a bath robe I fell to my knees and proclaimed “Take me Jesus, I’m yours!”. After I spat out the pills they gave me, with a sly grin to Clare, one of the nurses jabbed me in the backside with a hypodermic laced with liquid straight jacket and I went down like a sack of spuds.

The effect of the haloperidol was to put me in a state of catatonic immobility, and it was in this condition that I sat in the locked ward TV lounge every day, with a pyromaniac, an OCD knitter and a self proclaimed psychopath for company as the horrific events of 9/11 and the terrible tragedy unfolded on the common room TV.

We were witnessing 9/11  the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York.

I had appealed my section and was awaiting a review on the 11/9/2001. I had been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.

I did not comprehend what was going on, staring dumbly at the TV screen, so wrapped up was I in the chemically induced fog and shattered mental state I had reached. Two Towers falling down, the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, if you will.

On that day I talked to a Social Worker about my appeal. What was left of my mind was still clinging to the arrogant certainty of my ‘rightness’. The Social Worker pierced through my sorry state with this argument:

“If you win your appeal then you can leave. If you don’t win, then they can keep you here indefinitely. Do you think it fair to continue to subject your wife, Clare, to your destructive behaviour?”

That was the watershed. Just as the Twin Towers with those oh, so many lives came crashing down, so too my ego unravelled.

The social worker was right of course, what right did I have to subject anyone to my psychosis? Straight away, I spoke to my case worker, a nurse, and asked him if I could withdraw my appeal.

The next day they took me off the ‘section and I was free to chose to stay and get better.

Outside the hospital my wife had to cope with the fall out of my crazy behaviour, all on her own apart from the wonderful support of my dad. I stayed in the psychiatric hospital for 6 weeks and I received a diagnosis of Bipolar type 2 disorder. I prefer the more accurate ‘manic depression’ to be honest. Apparently the years and years of depression I experienced, followed by a spectacular manic episode constituted a classic set of indicators for the diagnosis.

Today I am a self employed carpenter running Henk’s Woodwork. It is the grain that keeps me sane it seems.

It was with these twin towers I began my recovery. So it is to Clare and my Dad, my twin towers, and my new friends that I dedicate my work and my life. My health and my continuing good humour and mindfulness results from the memory of the human tragedy of 9/11.

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