May 10, 2012

Painting of a man's face'Look at his wild eyes; he’s mad'.

I distinctly remember my brother and my mother looking at me and saying those words. I must have been around thirteen or fourteen. They were both sitting on the sofa and I was in the middle of the room

I didn’t understand what they meant, I hade a point to make and I was making it but they seemed to be more interested in my behaviour than my message.

I don’t even remember what the point was now but their comment stuck with me.

I was problematic at school, I did wild things. I was reasonably popular and the eccentricity was generally accepted by my peers. The teachers found me wearying and they probably dreaded the lessons with me.

 when diagnosed bipolar that I started looking back through the years

It was only years later when diagnosed bipolar that I started looking back through the years and feeling a sense of loss. After exploring my past in counselling sessions I remembered months of incredibly down periods and recurring thoughts of death (not uncommon in teenagers).

These were coupled with episodes of wild, dangerous behaviour, rapid speech and unpredictable, spontaneous impulses. For instance once I took the microphone from a busker in the middle of the high street and sang, I joined a morris dancing troupe in a dance. All good fun. But then I found myself hanging upside down from a dangerously high roof of the sports gym to masking-tape a message to the rest of the school, got involved in drugs and heavy drinking.

My strange activities went by as funny behaviour. I think because I was able to make people laugh, they liked me and let me get away with a lot. None of this seems too untypical for a lot of teenagers.

I eventually told no one in case they thought I was mad!

It all sounds like fun and high jinks but I experienced terrible darkness. I thought that I was under surveillance for a time and was certain that there was a shadowy figure watching the house on the corner of the street- I would phone friends and voice my concerns. I think they thought I was joking. I eventually told no one in case they thought I was mad!

I also thought when my parents offered to take me out for the day they were planning to murder me. I remember being terrified in the back of the car as we drove through the countryside that they were heading to a pre-dug shallow grave in a field somewhere. I did not voice my concerns in case others were in on the plan.

 I shunned my friends thinking they were letting me hang around with them

For a time I shunned my friends thinking they were letting me hang around with them so that they would secretly mock me. At times I was convinced something was wrong with me – I phoned a helpline once to tell them I thought I had schizophrenia because my mind raced so much.

These things came back to me during counselling sessions and I was hit with conflicting emotions. There was relief that there was a reason for my strange thoughts and behaviour and that I wasn’t just weird but I also felt robbed of a childhood. That little eccentric kid with the crazy personality was nothing more than a collection of symptoms. I also felt sorry for that poor lonely boy because I hadn’t realised at the time that he was so lonely and struggling by himself. I’m crying now as I write this.

I didn’t feel I could tell my friends, I guess

I didn’t feel I could tell my friends, I guess. They used to laugh at the weird characters that were famous in our town for their eccentric activities- who clearly now had mental illnesses. It’s tough being a kid and a teenager anyway without adding mental illness as fuel for torment. I was ever one to follow a crowd and yearned for individuality but I couldn’t have carried a psychiatric condition off with a one-liner.

Here’s a note to you little fella, I’ve had a strange relationship with you over the last few years but I’ve never hated you. I’ve been proud of you, embarrassed and ashamed of you, I’ve wished at times that I could erase you and start you again. There have been moments when I haven’t recognised you. But, I think you were a good kid really- you never wanted to hurt anyone even when you were at your most frightened and alone. You didn’t understand - perhaps you do now a little.

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