If this were an episode of “QI”, today’s letter would be “B”. For blogging. And for bipolar.
First, though, one of those diversions which aren’t really. At least, I hope not. Sometimes, I get lost in my own blog. Goodness knows how anyone else manages to find their way round.
One of the many reasons I hated being on a ward was that I was cooped up like a house cat (1) with a bunch of other people with who I shared being mentally unwell, and a postcode.
Often, little else.
Among other things, this led to some other inmates (2) disliking, or at least misunderstanding, me because my way of dealing with being there was to glue my nose to a book. Not that I could concentrate well enough to actually read, but no one knew that but me. (3)
This was interpreted by some as me being aloof. Which it was, but not in a “I am better than you” sense. I was trying to escape into books – about as literally as I could, short of honestly thinking I lived in “Salem Falls” (4), or Merlin’s “Crystal Cave”.
My mixed-up thinking was that if I just immersed myself enough in fiction, I would forget I was someplace where I had little freedom of choice. Where I had my meds around 23:00, regardless of whether or not I wanted to stay up late. Where breakfast was at 07:30, like it or not. Where the food was dreadful. (5) Where privacy was limited, and laughable.
Someplace I always began as an “involuntary” patient, and invariably ended up sectioned.
I did make some friends. We didn’t stay in touch. Their choice, as much as mine.
Back to the world of blogging.
When I began this blog, it was with a cynical eye on my writing. To the friend who, quite rightly, said that wanting to make your writing known was not, by itself, a particularly promising reason to set up a blog, I gave assurances that I could find plenty of other things to write about.
To rant about.
What became evident, however, from my very first post was that this blog was going to be, and is, as much about my mental health as anything else.
So I kept blogging: often, about my mother, whose death touches me still. Sometimes, distress over one thing would result in my writing about another. Often, what went online was an abbreviated version of what I originally scribbled out, sometimes at stupid o’clock in the morning, in pencil, and paper.
Even when the original piece was heavily edited, the final product was always emotionally honest. Even when I slightly altered the facts. Emphasis on “slightly”.
Phrases and words like “mental health”, “Time to Change” and “bipolar” started creeping in. Then, in October, I wrote a blog which chock-a-block with self-loathing. One which, for the first time, I didn’t link to my FB account. Because I really didn’t believe anyone would want to read that one. But I wrote anyways, in an attempt to at least try and exorcise those blasted, feckin’ feelings.
And I woke to the world of bipolar bloggers. Or, as I termed it in a reply to a blisteringly, wonderfully down-to-earth post by Tearlines, “the community of the honestly uncomfortable”.
This wake up call was, in retrospect, odd. Because years ago, I had already come across Seaneen Malloy, aka “The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive“. And, through Seaneen’s blogroll (6), the wonderful world of bipolar bloggers.
So here I am. And here we are. United by illness, and writing. By our honest approach to feelings and thoughts which – if you are like me – we spent years running away from. Or denying. Or sweeping under the emotional carpet. Or being suffocated by.
Or maybe all of the above, or none. I don’t know. I don’t truly comprehend anyone else’s flavour of bipolar. I don’t even understand my own.
But blogging helps. So does reading other people’s blogs, about their own flavours.
Welcome, to the community of the honestly uncomfortable. Make yourself comfy, by the fireplace of thought.
(1) A house cat in the sense that I was given shelter, warmth, food, etc., but was unable to roam about and indulge my catlike curiosity, let alone desire to roam about.
(2) It felt like a prison. And no, I haven’t been to prison.
(3) Plus friends, family, the more aware amongst the other patients, some staff, etc.
(4) A brilliant, compact book by Jodi Picoult, which a friend gave me along with a load of other books, during one of my stays on the ward. Thanks again, R’ski.
(5) You think all hospital food is bad? Try vegetarian hospital food.
(6) Any Word Press bloggers out there, who can help me make sense of my own blogroll? It is a woefully limited reflection of the blogs I follow, and enjoy.