I would love to be able to write how joyous I am that Christmas is around the corner but I’d be lying. I feel like I’m falling down the rabbit hole. I had this depression exactly at this time of year last year (after a gap of seven years). I think my mind is recalling what happened a year ago which triggered me into a mental whirlwind of despair. I must be having some macabre anniversary.
The good news is, I’m not experiencing that deadening black gloom I have when I’m depressed, my brain is actually going dangerously over the speed limit; not sad but unbelievably alert and busy. A psychiatrist once told me that after multiple episodes of depression over the years, you might start to experience added mania. I assumed that having a bi-polar thing meant extremes like setting your hair on fire or buying real estate in Bulgaria with money you don’t have. I’m not in Stephen Fry country, which he describes as out-of-control but I’m certainly doing chores obsessively and going through lists at the speed of knots.
I realise I’ve been like this in the past but never associated it with manic behavior; I just thought I was being incredibly efficient. I know my mother was hyper when she did things like put all my underwear in plastic bags so the dust wouldn’t get at them but it was never diagnosed as a pathology.
Maybe it’s because of practicing mindfulness that I notice my strange activities more than before. I can witness them from a distance so I’m aware of what’s going on. A few days ago, on my daughter’s birthday, I made her order me furniture from Ikea to take to South Africa. (Don’t ask why, even I don’t know) but part of me was slightly amused. I also lost my suitcase and computer many times during the week. (They were luckily returned), I got in touch with my doctor to ask if I had early dementia.
He said depression is often called ‘pseudo dementia’ because one of its symptoms is forgetfulness. I should know this because I do a show every night where I talk about what happens to your memory when you’re hyper. Not only the memory but the whole body is affected causing the immune system to eventually break down making you like Velcro to multiple diseases; diabetes type two, heart disease, obesity, premature ageing and many others. I forgot that I actually say it in my show and in my book.
A few days ago I was obsessed by the idea of buying a basket from Zara Home. I’m not trying to be funny but it obsessed me all day even while performing my show. I finally jumped out a car when I should have been on a train to the theatre when I noticed Zara Home, went in and bought one in a frantic state. That night someone in the audience asked me how could they tell when they were anxious about something real or anxious about something imagined. , I wanted to tell her about my craving for the Zara basket. I think maybe because I’m more aware of my internal state, I’m doing things to take care of myself. I’ve stopped using my phone or computer (until now because I thought it would be useful for me to write about my feelings so I remember what they were).
With this knowledge that I’m ill, I make sure I do mindful breathing before doing the show to lower my adrenaline. I’m not reading newspapers or meeting people in the day. In the old days I would punish myself for being lazy and useless, forcing myself to do hundreds of activates. I’m coming to the conclusion that this is a sign of self-compassion not self-indulgence. This disease is sneaky, it comes in many guises; sometimes it shows itself by the need to buy a Zara basket other times it just turns you into a lump of cement with no feelings so you don’t care if you live or die.
This leads me to remind you to sign the petition for equality4mentalhealth (you can get to it on Chrome). If this proposal for the government to fund mental illness isn’t agreed to by this Budget (on 25 Nov) it won’t be brought up again in the next five years.