My name is David and I am Bipolar and has issues for oh such a long time.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK. Can anyone really imagine saying that 20 years ago? Why am I writing this? Last week a company I am involved with lost a member of staff. I feel like we failed and I feel that no parent should lose a child. To say I took it very personally would be an understatement as the moment has gone but it should never have happened and the effects will live on sadly. The only other similar time this has happened to me was when I was 25 and I was the last person to speak to a chap called Pete who was a client of ours and due to meet us for a Chinese meal and called me up 30mins before he ended things. Sadly at 25 whilst I was gutted I was also an arse.
So, where to start.
My name is David and two years ago I was diagnosed as bipolar which I was as relieved about as I was surprised. Yes, relieved because it answered quite a few things and situations over the past 20 years.
It answered when ‘you just think you’re bonkers’ or cannot understand why the “dull/cloudy cannot see anything” become more regular. It answered why one day, in a split second I thought it would be really smart to wrap a Ferrari around a tree or the week before flip my friend’s car but feel no fear, not scared of death or indeed any other consequences. That 0.0000001% moment you do what is completely against what you would normally do.
It answered why trying years of shrinks it seemed I could play them into my side of the court. They almost felt sorry for me, either that or they were just terrible shrinks.
It answered why I could be 90% on a high and yet the other 10% was the worst feeling in the world. The one day, if anyone has gone through similar, is the day you just don’t want to get up. Or speak to anyone.
It answered why most people can deal with idiots yet, I will just tell them to F*** off. It's not because I even consider it to be the smart thing to do. It’s because it’s the way I am, or have become, wired. That’s a key point by the way. Because some might see it helpful in some situations and a pretty big negative in others.
So what do I do about it? In all honesty, nothing. It feels better being aware I can tell you that much, however that doesn't fix it. I won't take drugs for it as I have never believed that works “for me”. I actually try for the best part to take some positives from it and 99% of the time that works. And guess what, the 1% it doesn't feel positive, you end up beating yourself up even more in private for days because of the disorder you just don't tell anyone.
I have even not bothered talking to people about it? Why, well a few people went “I did wonder if you were slightly bipolar”. As if they had read all the journals out there about it (which by the way all contradict each other in some many ways that I gave up reading them). And what does slightly bipolar mean anyway?
The thing is I like the way I am. I am pretty sure this process, wiring whatever you want to call it, has been happening since September 5th 1990 when I was 16. I am pretty sure all the lucky times I have had, unbelievable moments in life that most people don't see even in one lifetime, have had a negative impact or have wired that little bit of my brain to deal with things differently.
Pretty sure I shouldn't have more than a few beers but I do. Beer = the defences and management have gone.
Pretty sure I should not drive cars fast either. In fact pretty sure I shouldn't do a ton of things but then life would be dull. I would be dull and I wouldn’t be me.
The thing is. Everyone has mental health challenges they just vary over short or long periods of time. Some of the smartest (and I mean really smart) people I have met have some pretty serious mental health issues but guess what, that’s probably why they are as smart as they are.
I think it's getting better. I remember at 26, when I wrote my Ferrari off, I think that was the first time I was that deep down in the dark hole and had been for months before. To everyone who knew me I probably looked liked I was having a great time, life and soul of the party, etc but it was quite the opposite.
The coping mechanism then was for me to just not care. I had created myself my own island. Population: 1. That also included shutting family out and just keeping my head down. If I did things that way then it was only me who was affected. That's not the smart way.
Then a few years later when things were getting bad on the balance of highs and lows, I saw shrinks and when I say saw shrinks I mean years of weekly sessions. I looked forward to it. Yep, I looked forward to it and going into the complex crap detail of my life just so I could feel better about myself for a few more days until the next session.
At least today, I hope and I have seen that people can be more open about it. Not feel weak, or like they have done something wrong. I actually don't care what people think because if I did I would probably spend half of each day worrying about it, then worrying a bit more and never get any work done.
We are even getting better in the workplace. Ten years ago I think people would have worried about raising how they feel with their company, about the long term impact on their career and prospects. It’s got a lot better and that's a good thing. Anyone who works with me will know I take people's wellbeing very, very seriously. In fact, for me, that’s often more important than my own wellbeing. Why? Because I know where the small stuff ends up and I have been one of the lucky ones.
So this week, just make sure you are good and those around you a good. One of the last things my late grandmother-in-law said to my wife and I was “look after each other”. That was said with love but also understanding of what life throws at you and you probably don’t understand until its the last minutes of your life.
So business leaders, senior management, staff and friends take some time. Take some time for yourself. Take a moment to see if the speed of life left your well being or other people's well being behind. Take a moment to know there is no shame in needing help and you can waste years (and I means years) of your life trying to be brave, trying to cover over the fact you just might have this small issue that can become a big on.
For me. I am where I am. I stopped stressing a long time ago and giving it to much head space unless I think I have had one of those DMH moments.
So to those who know me (mostly my wife, sister and close friends that I treat like family) I am sorry. To those in the past and the future who have witnessed the DMH moment, I apologise, but it's probably also the reason you like me in the first place but I am sorry. You know I am a decent chap.
Hug your wife. Check on that friend who has been a bit more silent than normal. Check on the friend that always seems on top of the world. Cuddle your Children as they have the toughest gig. Be kind to each other. Look out for each other because you never know when the bad stuff will show its hand to you in your life and catch you off guard.
Do things your way.