I was so intrigued to read about John going home in the midst of a completely delusional state and carrying on as if nothing was happening. Some thoughts on this soon. But this was exactly what I did after my walk out over the bridge to meet the Devil. Took the bus home and carried on as ‘normal’. By the time I saw my psychiatrist next my mood had crashed and I could barely lift my head off my chest; could barely speak. I never told him til the next again session a month later. I remember his response – part indignant (as if a great party had happened and he hadn’t been invited), part shocked – ‘Well I didn’t know about this!’
I was diagnosed relatively late – I believe – because for a few years I managed to keep a lid on the hypomanic spells, and suffer through / tolerate / deny the depressed spells. For reasons I understand now and will explain later I’ve always kept a lid on things. Always tolerated what happened to me without raising much of a peep. Looking back I’d have to say that shame, fear and confusion kept me dumb, and left me trying to cope with my mind on my own. Asking for psychiatric help was a brave step.
My good friend advises me now that if you’re in trouble the best thing you can do is communicate, communicate, communicate. But this wasn’t in my make-up back in those early days. Reaching out made me hugely fearful. So I kept the lid on tight.
I don’t for a minute advocate keeping lids on things. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that free flowing communication and expression is the best, most whole, and most human way of living.
I may not be explaining well what I mean by keeping a lid on things. Communication is only a small part of what I mean. I’m really talking about the struggle to deal with a damaged mind. I know from my experience and that of friends that it is to an extent possible to keep a lid on psychiatric illness, to batten things down tight and try to carry on in spite of what’s happening in your mind. Anyone with mental illness who has ‘held themselves together’ for an event when they’re falling to pieces inside their mind knows what I’m talking about. But the energy involved in this is great. It’s a struggle to hold yourself together, or hold yourself in focus, that feels almost physical, and is physically exhausting.
It’s important to note that I’m not at all saying that we can fix ourselves. We need help with the struggle because it’s so overwhelming and so relentless and exhausting. I’m saying that we can – and do – wrestle with our minds every day, struggling to act and be in the world in spite of our state of mind. We’re trying to control a difficult mind with a mind that doesn’t work very well, and this is a tall order. So if I seem distant when I speak with you I may just be dealing with the struggle and working hard to keep a lid on some difficult stuff.