Ian, Still Cycling After All these Years

I loved my childhood because my mother would let me go anywhere I liked. My father, on the other hand, was a control freak. On one occasion he threatened me with the dreaded ‘boarding school’ as he pinned me against the living room door! He had a habit of leaving my mother in order to shag anything wearing perfume. Many years later, after my mum’s funeral, I eventually learned from her sister that my dad was seeing a redhead whilst my Mum worked in Troon post office, and he made wooden toys for sale in the local toy shop. That was a milestone. After passing my eleven plus and going to the local all-boys grammar school, my father walked out, to sleep above his newly created shop with his teenage sweetheart, a woman he was later to marry.

I suspect my mum was manic depressive but in those days no GP had read Kay Jamison. My mum would complain of her ‘nerves’, but despite this, I loved her to bits and would do anything for her.

Each vacation I would return home from university and do stuff for her and we would enjoy each other’s company; she seemed happy but hated him. He tried, unsuccessfully, to get my mother out of her house and even to take her furniture!

Anyway, she had tenacity and stuck to her abode which she never left, eventually dying of a massive heart attack at eighty-something, in front of the telly.

Where am I now?

Well, after having had four ‘successful’ children – three boys, one girl – and a career I am now at a point in my life where I face the final curtain, as Frank would say.

I am angry at times.

A left-winger most of my life, I cannot help believing that we have finally succumbed to mediocrity. My daughter carries this forward in her lectures to sociology students in her classes. I am curiously proud that she holds a torch for the poverty and ignorance in our age.

My boys play the drums, are totally literate with computers, etc. and my eldest son is a BT engineer – he knows about wires! My thirty-odd-year relationship with my spouse is always in a state of flux, especially when she realizes that I am getting ‘high’. This happens every year and for the last two years has ended in a period in hospital.

I quite like hospitalization as everybody (almost) treats you with the utmost respect and it’s not a bad place to be. Apart from the last time in which I escaped the psychiatrist and disappeared from the hospital, later to be arrested by the police and escorted back to a locked ward where I had the pleasure of meeting a self-confessed axe murderer and a gentleman who would make me a welcome cup of tea. The next morning I was, of course, transferred to my old ward with a few ‘how ya doings?’

In hospital I could mix with my own kind, have a good laugh and get lots of visits and free meals! I also enjoyed relating to other patients: what an amazing mix! I often wondered, during these times, if I was somehow acting as a multifarious member of the human race, sharing and getting wisdom and insight not only into my own condition but others, all of which are distinctly classified as abnormal or dissident or some other label.

As for fellow MD sufferers, well, you have to find your own path through this condition, it’s not easy. People may eulogize, sympathize or just medicate (i.e. doctors) BUT they will not understand. During my hospitalizations I met only one psychiatrist. He was Spanish, and told me once in a hospital corridor, ‘Do you know, Ian, if you carry on like this (i.e. stop taking your lithium!) you will die!’

I know, now, what he meant by this.

Am I an aerobic exerciser? Yes, I love and loved my bikes. Bring back the bike! Whilst lecturing at the local FE college I often cycled the twenty-five-mile round trip and faced the homeward journey with the wind in my face! I often did marathons and was proud to once be 813th out of 1235 in the Edinburgh marathon, a time of four hours something, what a buzz!!! Great! Endorphins are good things, I know this as, in a previous lifetime, I was a biochemist.

Well, I lost my job as a lecturer and then had to work hard at trying to recoup my life but things turned bad. I fell out with my partner who later sued me. I always fall out with people, especially when I get hyper. My lovely wife is very intelligent and has many interesting friends. I was so glad to be given this opportunity to relay my life. My wife twice put me in hospital during a manic build-up because I was getting so high and was and am intolerable to live with. I spent six weeks the first time and three days the second time, after being arrested by the police when I did a runner from the hospital.

So I’ve had my ups and downs and now take my lithium as a ritual. However, last autumn I succumbed to the video nasties playing inside my head. I didn’t know that even with the lithium I could go so low. In desperation, I went to my GP. He telephoned my psychiatrist immediately and I was put on Citalopram, which is an SSRI, and Sulpiride. Since taking 10mg a day I am a new being! Or to tell you the absolute truth I survive on the minimum dose! My psychiatrist often comments on my understanding in this respect, and once said, ‘Ian, Sulpiride has an extraordinary effect on you; you take a lower effective dose than most patients.’

Thank god for chemistry!

I drink vast volumes of tea and hate alcohol but usually succumb to its charms. I am a self-medicator, often sleepless. I love life but also like being high. I have avoided the downs as a result of the cognitive therapy that I eventually received courtesy of the NHS. I take as much aerobic exercise as I can and love dogs!!!!

Excerpt from ‘The A-Z Guide to Good Mental Health: You Don’t Have to Be Famous to Have Manic Depression’
Jeremy Thomas, 2008