It’s Time to Talk about Manic Depression

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It is rather easy to book an appointment with your GP. You just ring them up, and ask the receptionist to book you in between the old lady with her ‘ailment of the day’ and the kid addicted to Calpol. It is rather easy to attend this appointment with the doctor. You simply hail a cab, drive, walk or catch the bus. Entering the consulting room requires little energy and physical complications.

But sitting down and admitting to this relative stranger that you are “feeling a bit sad”. Well, that proves to be a bit difficult.

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder. In layman’s terms, it is Diet Manic Depression. A sugar free version of the ups and downs, if you will. But what did this mean? Have I finally been classed as insane? Are they going to give me one of those jackets that make me hug myself?

Naturally, I did my research. This involved watching the delightful Stephen Fry front a documentary called The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive and spending most of my days on some sort of Wikipedia treasure hunt. I found out that I was certainly not alone on my journey.

Bipolar (lock screen)

There were other ‘sufferers’ out there. Although, I hasten to add that I dislike using the term ‘sufferer’. I believe that without cyclothymia, I simply would not be Dan McLaughlin; I would not have my creativity, my passion, and my imagination. To deem this as suffering is inaccurate. Yes, I experience the crippling lows resulting in my human hating moods. During these times, I think I am an utter cunt (I never use that horrible word unless I am having a down day) but I understand that I am intelligent, and without cyclothymia, I would be the shell of Dan.

I could use this blog to chronicle the ups and down and in-betweens of bipolar, but not today. Today, I am coming out as a manic-depressive: I am a certified nutter, and bloody proud of it! Since it is a day to recognise the condition, I ought to tell you how I was diagnosed.

After four years of not quite knowing what was wrong of me, I was pushed by an ex-girlfriend to whom I am eternally indebted for giving me a kick up the arse. She had noticed the extravagant moods where I was at 200mph whilst the world was at 30mph. She cottoned on to the deepest depression, where I would hide away from anyone human. After an episode where I punched my best friend in the face, to which he responded with a hug (seriously, the best antidote to violence), I had to face it: I was not well.

To diagnose the common cold, one looks for the symptoms, which could include a fever and earache. Or for bronchitis, the lack of voice pretty much gives it away. But the bipolar symptoms are pretty crafty buggers. Sitting opposite the doctor, it is somewhat embarrassing to admit you feel a bit sad or you have ups and downs to an extreme.

Tragedy and Comedy

To tackle bipolar, you have to understand it. It is almost an intellectual battle with your psyche. The first step to this understanding is diagnosis; this raises awareness.

Admittedly, this is not my most sophisticated piece of writing but I hope it is reassuring. To my fellow brave bipolarites, you are not alone. It is bloody difficult, I ain’t gonna lie. But we are clever buggers, and we can persevere and give the Vs to the low moods. If you feel you are in immediate danger or providing danger, get help as soon as possible. There is nothing cowardly admitting to one’s illnesses. Yes, there is a stigma but there always will be. People don’t read enough, and they never will.

Just remember: when it rains, it pours. But the rain will go away. The rain never stays, and you know there is sunshine at the end of this. You can hinder the rain by umbrellas, and it will cease. You just have to wait.

With love,

DJM.

Bipolar Dyptych 1 365

Photo Credits:

‘Bipolar’ courtesy of Brett Jordan via Flickr.

‘Tragedy and Comedy’ courtesy of Tim Green via Flickr.

‘Photo of man looking sad and happy’ courtesy of Capra Royale via Wikimedia Commons.

Appreciation in Iambic Pentameter

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As National Poetry Day is met with scepticism, Dan McLaughlin examines why the art form is under appreciated.

When the average person thinks of poetry, they are transported back to the socially awkward situation of being a 14-year-old in a classroom being told to recite Shakespearean sonnet. This uncomfortable scenario brings back red-faced memories of stuttering through ‘Tyger, tyger burning bright’ whilst your teacher orders you to appreciate the poem. How does one appreciate a poem, when forced? It conjures up images of the bad cop/good cop routine, in iambic pentameter.

National Poetry Day may very well bring scepticism from those tortured with Keats and DH Lawrence during their schooldays. However, poetry is not evil. It can be a rather pleasant thing when one begins to understand and enjoy it. Stephen Fry wrote in his wonderful guide to poetry, An Ode Less Travelled:

“Among the pleasures of poetry is the sheer physical, sensual, textural, tactile pleasure of feeling the words on your lips, tongue, teeth and vocal chords.”

Stephen_Fry

 

(‘Stephen Fry’  courtesy of GNU via WikimediaCommons)

How come they don’t teach you this in school? Mainly, because education is a sausage machine where the students are processed to get grades, not appreciation. You are never taught of the silly joy of reading Tennyson’s Kraken in a Glaswegian accent (Below the thunders of the upper deep/Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea/
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep/
The Kraken sleepeth) or attempting to read the first line of Simon Armitage’s The Christening aloud with a straight face (I am a sperm whale).

Poetry comes across as a bit archaic. Soon its windows will fail, and it will not be able to see to see. Our etymology is evolving, and once romantic language, which stemmed from our stanzas will be replaced with acronyms and LOL. This is evident via Twitter, where @Lawrah86 attempted poetry in 140 characters with:

When poetry tries to be at its most cool, it still looks pretentious with its tweed jacket and leather elbow pads. Beat poetry is a popular form of verse, but it so easily ridiculed. In the Mike Myers’ film So I Married An Axe Murderer the protagonist attempts beat poetry (or slam poetry, in the US) with these killer lines:

“Woman.

Woe, man!

Whoa, man!

She was a thief.

You got to belief.

She stole my heart, and my cat.”

 Although Tim Minchin’s 9 ½ minutes beat poem, called Storm, is well worth a read and a watch.

iambic_pentameter

 

(‘Iambic Pentameter’ courtesy of Remy van Elst via Picasa)

Plato once said, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history”. Poetry is an uncensored form of communication flowing directly from the poet’s mind; almost like a diary that happens to rhyme. It is a personal and visceral thing, so when our teachers forced upon us ‘appreciation’, this was completely the wrong approach. I have remained unmoved by some poetry, such as Lawrence and Keats because I am hardly lovey-dovey; but I find Edgar Allan Poe enthralling, because I have been terrified of his poem Raven since my Nan bought me his anthology from a charity shop as a child.

Some of you may have attempted to write poetry, for which I congratulate you. It is a hugely daunting task, and there are only a select few who can achieve it. Primary school teachers up and down the country seek solitude in whiskey after hearing “the cat in the hat sat on the mat” fifty times over. I once tried to write some form of comprehensible poetry, when my best friend became a father for the first time. Here is my feeble attempt:

“I have no wise words for you today, my friend:                                                                                           This is where the jurisdiction of my wit ends.
                                                                                                  I’m afraid I don’t have any philosophy to cite,
                                                                                                No great thinkers to quote, try as I might.

So this is it! When art starts to make sense!
                                                                                                     No more jokes at the poet’s expense.
                                                                                                         Suddenly you start to listen to Keats and Tennyson:
                                                                                        All because of the birth of wee Lennon.”

Poetry is archaic, uncool and perhaps on life support machine awaiting a power failure, but it is also brutally honest. Do not quiver in fear of National Poetry Day, but celebrate the institution of true emotions.