Much has been written about depression. For me, it is the ending of life as I know it. I am devoid of all the things that make me a person with a soul, with hopes and dreams and with any kind of existence. It is vastly increased sounds and a sensitivity to everything – as though I was wearing my nerve endings on the outside. Sometimes it is a terrible silence – it is certainly absence. Nothing, but nothing, gives me any kind of pleasure. I avoid answering the phone and to think of calling someone myself is out of the question. What would I say? Who on earth would want to listen to a miserable nothing, an empty vessel, a walking shroud? I am terrified of everything and nothingness, and the desire to stop the pain is overwhelming. I have to hide tablets from myself and kid myself that it’s all going to get better when I absolutely know it won’t. Depression and the leaving of it is a series of false dawns – every day, the promise of a better one, followed by the immediate realisation that it’s just the same. The voices tell me I’m shit and I believe them. Hospital is a sanctuary, however rough it is.
Mania, now, is on a completely different level. When one is depressed, time stops. When manic, there just isn’t enough time to get everything done – life rushes past and I have no idea why other people can’t keep up or can’t follow my train of thought. It starts seductively, and the colours heighten – particularly natural colours, like those of trees and grass. There are portents everywhere – in the blue sky, in the sounds of birds; things begin to speed up. My mania starts with not sleeping – but is that the first symptom, or is it the cause? No one seems to be able to tell me, and I suppose it doesn’t matter. I stay up later and later, pottering about with tasks of great importance, such as getting a pair of driving gloves in exactly the right shade of green. eBay calls me, with its wonderful website and the chance of nabbing a bargain. Eventually, I’m up all night, with no need for sleep – why waste a moment? Life is SUCH FUN. And as, for me, mania comes after a bad depression, it’s worth waiting for. My friends tell me to take more drugs and I ignore them until it’s too late and the high has its hold on me.
I buy and buy – even the postman knows when I’m not well, as parcel after parcel arrives. I don’t open a lot of them, as the fun is in the chase, not the winning. I make excellent puns and I have flight of ideas. After about a week, I’m trapped in a no-sleep cycle – I start to become irritable and anxious if I don’t do something about it. I constantly hear voices telling me I’m shit and I go from ignoring them to believing them. I’m tired and angry, but I can’t sleep despite masses of tablets. Then comes hospitalisation and three weeks of coming down.
I spent 16 years in the RAF defending the Free World , then got bunged out unceremoniously for being bipolar. I and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Funny old world, isn't it?