Journal of a Troubled Mind

A couple of years ago I flippantly Tweeted that my job in a busy magazine subscriptions department ended in therapy as I had a lot of issues that needed addressing. It transpires that, although said employment was a fable, the latter was indeed true. 

Recently, it was suggested that I may suffer from cyclothymia, a type of chronic mood disorder and a milder form of bipolar disorder - or as I like to name-drop and say “that thing that Stephen Fry has”. It makes me feel I’m in the company of great men, ever-so intelligent and rambunctiously camp. Doctors have suggested that if I wanted to be “labelled”, I could undergo a long term of psychiatric evaluation which would “probably err on the side of bipolar” according to initial discussions and embarrassingly frank admissions with them. Thereafter, depending where I fell on the spectrum, I could be offered medication to control my ever changing moods (© The Style Council, 1984).

For most of my adulthood, I have suffered the highs and lows of what I considered normal life. Some months highlighted by running down the street naked squealing like a pig, followed by massive “investment” in gifts and gadgets I could ill-afford but subsequently paid the price for. Claiming to be a record producer awaiting “an internationally famous pop star” to join me in a hotel bar and regaling wedding guest therein tales of how “no one had any idea he was gay until that toilet episode”. The tales of stupidity go on far more than this little self-therapy session will allow. I’m sure some of my friends will read this and remember their own experiences of what they kindly refer to as the “larger-than-life” side of my personality.

Then there were the crushing lows. When I gave up on relationship and family life and self-imploded with depression and hopelessness. Time where I self-medicated on enough booze to drop a rhino and sometimes sexual experimentation that would make the Marquis de Sade blush. As the trail of destruction fell in my wake, I developed another coping mechanism. A switch in my mind that could be instantly turned on that would allow me to completely shut out everyone in my life while I went through whatever it is that goes on up there. Thus, selfishly trying to deal with my own pains, ignoring the feelings of those around me. Effective enough to cope, potent enough to destroy.

What has triggered this (probably uncomfortable for some) confessional has been a recent episode in my life which has left me quite shaken and has made me reconsider wether the way I handle my demons are the best way to do it. My usual façade of clowing around and joking about anything and everything started to break down. Nothing I could think of was funny and the flippancy about all things sexual, priest-like (obviously usually one in the same) and all my usual innuendo self-protection japing melted away. The roller-coaster was heading deeply down at an ever-increasing speed.

Around a month ago, I started to dive deeply into the lowest low I’ve experienced. Following the self-imposed destruction of an important relationship at the beginning of the year, I started to evaluate that and previous relationship abandonments and how I had managed to throw away many important things in my life because of the constantly swinging emotional pendulum. Without warning a few weeks ago, the ostrich briefly lifted his head from the sand and was hit by a runaway train of a full life of the pain that it had been hiding from. The collision made a very big mess indeed. Blood, guts and feathers everywhere. The ostrich had been killed and I stood there facing nearly 25 years of regret. One hell of a melodramatic meltdown ensued and this is where my reawakening began.

As thoughts of self-destruction started to flood my mind, I panicked and made a terribly distressed call to a very close friend who, through the powers of calm sanity and understanding of my troubled mind, was able to talk me down to a point of being able to breathe again. An act that I shall ever be grateful for and one that I hope he never has to be called up to perform again. Luckily, due to the fact that I have three of the best children currently available on the market, any thoughts I made of checking out were based on a long term commitment to making sure they far away from me and had lived several years without me being around. This and a romantic ideal of walking out to sea and swimming away with the dolphins to Valhalla ensured that clouds would clear way in advance of having to combat my fear of flying to head out to warmer waters. Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a drama-queen with a penchant for Luc Besson’s 1988 chick flick, The Big Blue.

A couple of days after, another meltdown occurred and, after calling for help from the driver of aforementioned runaway train, I took myself off the the doctor to ask for help and start the long road to redemption. I walked away from the medical centre with a few anti-anxiety poppers, some happy pills, a commitment to evaluation and probably most painful of all, a referral to the gym. That particular remedy will be kick started this week at some point when my sleep patterns amount to more than 2 hours a night and my appetite allows my calorie intake to also beat the threshold of 2.

I believe I’m on the other side of a big turning point in my life, the way I handle myself, other people and my interpersonal relationships. The dead ostrich has opened my eyes to many facets of my life that I hitherto had ignored or swept under the carpet and has allowed some kind of Buddhist enlightenment to enter my mind. I have made an effort to apologise to people I believe I have hurt (which in itself caused a great deal of concern for people). I have also decided now is the time to thank all the people in my life who have constantly been there for me despite the circus freak show I sometime make them watch and more painfully take part in. It’s time for me to ride the roller-coaster up to the exit and get the help to swap rides for something more stable, like the Tea Cups.

Thank you to all my friends and family who have been there supporting me over the past month. Some friends ran, some others came out of the wood work - others simply ignored me because they thought it would help. It didn’t. This in itself has helped me understand how I should deal with people if an when they ever go through what I have had to. It has shown who really cares for my well being, who I have pushed too far for reconciliation and who have actually been dragged through my ups and downs and stayed with me despite of everything. It has also allowed me to see those who were coasting along on a more superficial basis for the entertainment of the show. I have to say, it must have been fun to watch, but your tickets have now been re-assigned to the back row.

It has helped me to understand how selfish this kind of condition can make one. In the grand scheme of things, if there is help available, why should I be too proud to take that help and continue the demolition? I have close friends and family who are far less lucky than I am, some have terrible illnesses and are undergoing treatment that I can only pray (to no God etc) that I never have to go through and have hitherto been too awkward to offer any kind of emotional support to. All change, as they say.  It’s time for paying it forward.

As it stands today, the clouds are still gathering above my stupidly complex brain, but I get the impression the sunshine isn’t too far away and you may well be subject to my pathetic innuendo quips once again. Just not today.

About the Author

Benedict Francis

Benedict Francis

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