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II: Welcome to the Club!

30/08/2013

In my last post, Ignorance + Bipolar = Calatrava?, I outlined my first manic episode which took me years of retrospection to be able to pinpoint. A timeline is actually one of the first things a competent psychiatrist / therapist will ask you to make. It allows them to see how long your phases take and what you do during them. This not only helps them accurately decide what disorder you have but also what sub-division they shall place you in. It also makes it easier for you to recognise your stressors (if any). Remember: a suicidal thought because of, say, an argument with a significant other is easier to treat than one that comes at random.

The reason why it took just over 4 years to finally diagnose me was because I was, a) An immature teen, b) Never took my medication on time, c) Didn’t follow my therapist’s advice or even attend CBT sessions and, d) Left for Kamakura for three years when I was 18. Anyway, in short, I was an awful patient. Nonetheless, one of the first things my therapist taught me was a 3-step method to combat suicidal thoughts that came over me during moments of anxiety, hate and low self-esteem:-

Meditation – Compartmentalisation – Discussion

When I was attending my CBT sessions, these steps worked wonders for me. I’d meditate every morning for, say, 30 min and order all my thoughts (good and bad). Each thought would then be put away in it’s own compartment and I’d make a note of it in my moleskine. Then, during subsequent sessions, I’d discuss these thoughts with my therapist. But being an unruly teen I didn’t attend all my therapy sessions and only performed the first two steps. I was a teenage boy and the last thing I wanted to do was talk about my feelings.

The result: multiple breakdowns over the years like I’d done in that restroom in Paris (see last post).

My therapist became frustrated with my laissez-faire approach to my mental health and stopped seeing me. I begun seeing this young, straight-out-of-uni, psych who seemed more interested in flirting and encouraging my whimsical moods than helping me. Obviously, back then, I didn’t care one bit. I only went to sessions to please my parents and avoid meds. I didn’t want medicine and I believed that my symptoms made me ‘cool’. As Ellen Forney puts it,

Even as the weight of this news sank in, the sense of heaviness was alleviated by a back-handed sense of cred[ibility].

From that point onwards I saw myself as a member of that exclusive club; Plath, O’Keefe, Byron, Styron, Gauguin, Woolf, Hemmingway, Munch, Lowell, Williams, Shelley, Guston, van Gogh, Sexton, Twain, Tolstoy, Dickinson, Fitzgerald, Ibsen, Faulkner, etc.  I was officially a ‘CRAZY ARTIST’. Along with my Romantic preconceptions about what being an crazy artist meant were my terrified preconceptions about what being a medicated artist meant. I believed that those men and women before me would have suffered – producing poor work – had they been medicated and I was not going to get treatment either.

Art was my blood, life and heart. I wanted a convergence of the manic and depressive me. Just like the Calatrava in Menton, I had a plan: When I was depressed I’d begin the process of planning any stories or compositions I had in mind, then the obsessiveness of my mania (when it came) would mean that I’d get all those plans finished, stories written and pieces composed. What I didn’t see was my mania evolving into something more dangerous: the Doppelgänger.

Next time: Family, friends, a schizophrenic scare and does bipolar = creativity?

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