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Living with Bipolar

Living with Bi Polar

 By Phil Airson

So this is kind of a strange article to write. (Always a good start).

This topic is so personal to myself and my family, it is something that some of my closest friends hate to talk about and tend to avoid the subject, something I can’t discuss with colleagues as if I do, I may as well be throwing a flame on the fireworks that are my career potential. It’s something that I put all of my effort into hiding from you and to be honest I will still try during this article using clever quips and humorous moments to keep you amused and not think about the actual awful topic that is….dun dun dun……living with Bipolar disorder.

*The sound of a crap old trumpet plays and old balloons drop onto some cake, as an old arthritic donkey farts*

That’s right, a topic most would like to avoid as its not super fun to think about. Believe me, it’s less fun to live with. However, I think this is something we should talk about, it’s a huge part of my life, it effects everything in my life and not being able to talk about something so significant to most of the people I know and love is quite frankly…dumb as shit.

When I was diagnosed my doctor told me about all of the brilliant people to have had Bipolar (yes people HAVE Bipolar, they ARE NOT Bipolar, it’s a disorder not what defines them. Same as when you HAVE the flu, you don’t BECOME the flu.)  Anyway, so the doctor was telling me

“Oh a lot of great people have had this disorder, Da Vinchi, Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Stephen fry and Scott Stamp…”

My reply was obviously, “Who the fuck is Scott Stamp?”

He said, “Oh the lead singer of rock band Creed…”

This was literally the worse news I had heard that day. The knowledge that I even had a slight chance of becoming like the lead singer of Creed was too much to handle. I then thought of those other people and thought maybe that’s not so bad, maybe what I will lack in brain control I will gain in creativity, then for some reason he felt the need to drop in this little factoid, “did you know only one in three people with bipolar commit suicide?”


I am not too sure this chump quite understands how odds work! If I had a one in three chance of being kicked in the nuts by a horse I just wouldn’t take part! Those are woeful odds bro! It’s not something I massively want to win to be honest!

Despite weird popular belief, having Bipolar does not mean I have split personality disorder; I’m just one guy! You wouldn’t look at each side of a coin and declare you had two coins! Otherwise when you went to pay for stuff you would constantly get yelled at and more so when you play pitch and toss you would constantly think people are cheating! AND when you went to the seaside and saw those little 2p amusement things, your head would explode because there would be like 4 million quid in there! (I may have used artistic license rather than maths for that sum).

So yeah I am still just one Phil, however, it’s more my opinion on what Phil is that changes pretty dramatically. I will quite delightfully change from thinking that I am literally the second coming of Jesus (or third or fourth or maybe first depending on your beliefs) in these moments I gain the Midus touch! Everything I touch is pure gold; I become an overflowing bucket of positive energy, an unstoppable machine of creativity and awesome ideas.  For you see the lack of control over my own brain means my mind can drift into areas and direction yours simply wouldn’t think too! I’m smart and witty and this sometimes can be the worst, I have so many thoughts and ideas sleep becomes a pipe dream, thinking rationally is a weird concept, I can’t stop to ponder the consequences!  If I ever stop or slow down even slightly I will miss out on one of these millions of great ideas and the next one may be the one that finally validates in someone’s mind that I’m not the way I know I will eventually see myself…

Which brings me on to the other side of the coin, I will go from Christyness to worthless in the blink of an eye, its not brought on by anything, it is pointless asking why I am sad or angry as it could range from “my family has been crashed into by a go kart” to “this ice cream isn’t right” you can’t attach a reason or event to either side of the coin, it just is, why when you flipped the coin did it land on heads? Don’t ask stupid questions, it just did OK! Mr coin-scientist-jerk. Its not sad like depression from what I understand, yes there is the start and end of my low points that are accompanied by a fierce numbness, the same kind that is felt by those that I have talked to with depression and I understand is quite common, but this is then usually followed by that feeling you get when you get truly awful news, my stomach sinks, it feels like all the lights go out and someone attaches giant novelty anchors to my head and my chest and limbs, which in a real life sense may make me super ripped like Popeye however, sadly these are metaphorical anchors and my brain is not ripped Popeye style, but more ripped like some old pants style. During these lows, I become at best a vessel for my overweight organs I barely hear what people say, I have the memory and the charm of mushy peas.

I have felt it at moments I know are truly joyous, I have cried on a rollercoaster and I have wrote guitar riffs in my head during a funeral and felt great about it (it was a song about a bluebird I’d seen earlier having a bath). It’s uncontrollable, and the torture is I know it’s not how I am supposed to feel, my super strong emotions seldom match the situation I am in and if you ever see me slightly off it’s because I’m trying so desperately to internally match myself to the situation, like a shit chameleon who can’t change colour so he just puts on a silly moustache and bowler hat and tries to pretend he’s a stock market investor, and everyone is all like “Oh hey Jerry here for more investments?”

And really they are like, “I don’t know what it is but that guy just isn’t right but I can’t put my finger on it, Ill just avoid him and not invite him and his family over for tea”

And Jerry is all like, “Bollocks man I am just trying to fit in with you people, if i walked around without this disguise there is no chance of me being accepted. I’d be put in a glass thing and be made to turn the colour of a stick or a shoe or something lame.”

It’s a no win situation for Jerry, he can’t change what he is and can’t disguise himself as a normal human so what is he to do?

Over my many years of being so much fun I have tried many coping mechanisms to try and fix myself. I have tried a lot of drugs (good ones and bad ones) and drinking myself unconscious every night for a long time, I did this to try and quiet the speed and velocity of great ideas and awful thoughts, both constantly in my head like an overflowing dam. The goal was always to hide myself, from the ones I love, the ones I barely know and most importantly from myself. If I can’t stand to be around me that’s fine, I don’t like myself that much anyway and the punishment of being forced to spend time with myself seemed fitting. But what about those I love, I make myself numb so that I can ignore the worse thoughts and keep myself here so that I can spend time with these people. What did they do that was so bad that they have to try and understand someone that doesn’t understand themselves?

There are short periods every now and then when this cursed coin lands miraculously on its side and delicately balances and it is in these moments I get to connect with these people and they get the side of me I feel is my most lucid, the side that knows it is ok to love these bastards more than they could know, the side that appreciates everything they do, the side that is rational calm and measured. However I am always aware during these moments that the coin is eventually going to be knocked over by a passing wind or a curious penguin that somehow wondered into an unrelated metaphor and looks at Jerry the chameleon wondering just how this all happened.

It is because of this inevitable fall that I have to spend my time using cruel humour to keep people back, like a bloke holding back an idiot from a building that about to collapse but the idiot wants to go and explore its corridors and shine a light and get to second base in its cupboards. It’s my job as that bloke to keep the public safe, I love them I don’t want them buried with me, also I don’t want those kids fooling around in my metaphorical cupboard! NO SHENANIGANS! (See, humour hides the awful path that metaphor was hinging on).

I am aware of how tough it is on these people, they know I am in here and I hope that those days I can surface are worth the days I can’t. No matter how much therapy tells me to not feel guilt for it I still don’t know how to do that. By loving people and getting close I drag people into a situation that I know is incredibly difficult and impossible to understand. I know it seems like I just do things with no knowledge of how I make people feel but nothing could be further form the truth, I know painfully well I just can’t stop it.

I know I am a nightmare to be mates with. Loud and weird or morose and absent, constantly cruel and a dick. It takes a lot of energy to be a mate of someone with Bipolar. Most of my friends don’t talk about it with me all that much, if ever, and I can’t blame them it’s impossible to understand so it gets ignored and I tell them I’m fine and we all move along. I love them though and I when I call them brothers in a Hulk Hogan-esque manner it’s not because I’m mimicking the leg dropping racist himself, but rather that’s how I really see them. In a life when people try to stand on the other side of the room instead of talking to me, these guys have stood by me through everything.

My wife is the most spectacular human I know (I don’t need to say this for brownie points as I have already put a ring on it) she doesn’t just stand by me, but she stands tall on rooftops and beams with pride telling people I am hers. She has read so many books and done so much research trying to understand more and help its really humbling to have someone like this in life and I know all to well where I would be without her and it would be some place I don’t want to be. She wakes up everyday and loves me and this gives me hope that one day I can wake up and feel the same way about myself, she gives me hope in life and in myself. I will never know how she does it; she must have skin like a rhino (a very beautiful soft skinned rhino but you get what I mean).

My family have probably found this the most difficult. It was my mother and my aunty who would come over my flat everyday and find my unconscious body in a pile of empty whiskey bottles at 2 in the afternoon. It was my parents who had to make sure I would at least stand upright on my worst days and that I wasn’t drilling my self into debt with drink and drugs and just letting any woman use my useless body (I was), but I imagine for them it has been like pulling a fridge out of quicksand. I remember sitting in the Costa in the Metro Centre just being so exhausted with it all, I had obviously come on a day out with my Mum but I sat there literally with no memory of waking up or getting there and I was terrified and telling her “Mum I am so exhausted, please, I just want to be dead, I am sorry”.

Luckily the coffee must have been pretty sweet as I totally didn’t get dead! (Love and support of family and friends and finding my wife may have also played a minor part) and so I get to totally be alive and write this article! This is not meant to be a one way trip to bummer town, but rather an explanation of what I and others go through everyday. It doesn’t go away and I think I speak for all people with bi-polar when I say thank-you and please don’t stop trying and never give up on us.

I will never be cured, that was a big lesson to learn and a big concept to accept, but instead I have learned to cope, I know when the  wave is going crash and its about staying in the boat and riding it out. Each stumble teaches me something new about myself, no its not always good but its knowledge to use the next time a storm hits and waves crash, and hopefully eventually I can use the things I learn to finally sail my boat to calmer waters.

If you have read this then firstly thank you, secondly you have too much free time, thirdly don’t be afraid to talk to someone about mental illness, you don’t have to talk to them about it but if you love them, then talk to them about anything. The shore is a lot easier to sail to when you have a good lighthouse guiding you home.


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