Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Manic Depression

There are many things that prompt me to sit in front of the computer and write, despite the fact that I can not smoke at my desk. Most of them are written quite quickly, so that I can nip outside and enjoy my carcinogens in the knowledge of having accomplished something or the other. Nonetheless, by and large, they've usually been rattling around in my cranium for a while, sparked off by a dozen seemingly unconnected threads weaving themselves together into a narrative scarf of which Tom Baker would be proud.

First off, you will note I have chosen to title my piece "On Manic Depression" and not "On Bipolar Disorder". I am fully aware that the latter is currently more acceptable, but as it sounds far too much like an accident suffered by Michael Palin, I'm kicking it old school for the moment. Also, I suffer from it, so I can call it what I damn well please. I could call it "Winona Ryder", if I wished, but a blog entitled "On Winona Ryder" would likely distract both of us too thoroughly for the piece to be completed or read.

At any rate, I was asked recently to delineate the character motivations for the lead in a short film script I had written. It's a personal piece, emotionally if not specifically, and I had pretty much - as writers often do - drawn heavily from myself when writing the lead. Why? was the question I was being asked. Why would this seemingly normal person suddenly adopt such extreme behaviour, even under tragic circumstances?

My response was telling, "Cause I would." Now I have, it would seem, been bipolar for most of my life. I'm USED to the way I am. I've developed coping skills to allow myself to remain unmedicated, as meds remove my ability to write or compose.

I'm not even one of those people who say, "But I'm not crazy!" I am crazy. By any current, sociological standards, I am a nutjob. I am not DANGEROUS, except to perhaps myself and the nerves of those closest to me, nor am I currently delusional, psychotic or prone to vote Conservative. But I am certainly crazy.

Actually, in all honesty, it's YOU lot that I don't understand. Now, I'm aware I'm ill, that my brain isn't meant to be wired this way, and you're not actually SUPPOSED to bounce from elation to despair and back again over the duration of the fish course. Nonetheless, it always seems to me that those who have healthy, functional minds - well, I'm not being rude, but your emotions seem a bit flat to me. Whither the valleys? Whither the peaks? Whither the nonsensical use of the word "whither"?

Now I don't mean to suggest that Hollywood's "Hey, Look At the Inspirational Mentally Ill Person! See How They Wackily Subvert Society's Norms!" brigade are to be encouraged. They're not. They don't know a goddamn thing about it. They don't understand what it is to exist like this. On the other hand, I don't understand what it's like be underworked and overpaid, so I suppose we're even.

Stephen Fry has described it as being "just them but with something extra." I happen to agree. It is painful. Sometimes unbearably so. It's also inordinately frustrating, which for some reason always makes me resent it more. For instance, I believe that the way that I am - who I am - is what drove me to become a writer and musician. However, it makes me almost exactly the wrong person to thrive in an industry where you have to fight tooth and nail even to be listened to, let alone break through. And never mind taking criticism personally - that's part of the job - you don't want to know what happens when I have to deal with apathy or ignorance. You would not be surprised to learn that it takes up a large portion of my day.

And yet... and yet... somehow I wouldn't be without it. I'm not sure I'd take a cure if it were offered. It's such an intrinsic part of my nature, I fear that I'd - and this is the same I that I spend so much time loathing and wishing to cease its ridiculous existence - disappear in a puff of medical self-congratulation.

There are days where I wish I could be less unpredictable. There are days where I wish I could plan my activities around something more concrete than how I'm feeling at this moment. I've had to learn to hide it, to work around it, to survive it, simply because there are things I need to accomplish, people I don't want to disappoint, and people for whom I am responsible.

However, I have a terrible feeling that if I ever became completely well, I would be crushingly dull.

Crazy, isn't it?

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