Friday Morning Book Club

Friday Morning Book Club

Maybe it bothers you, or maybe it doesn’t, but if you have a physical disability, a physical difference, or anything about you that manifests visually you can recognise it by looking at it. Sometimes you might need a mirror to do so, and this may present you with an understandable level of hesitance, but you can see it whenever you really want to. How you deal with this, or how your mind may have dealt with a physical disability, is difficult for someone like me to fathom. Your strength is probably greater than mine.

When you have a mental illness there are often periods of time where you don’t recognise that there is something wrong with you. This could be considered a period of respite, or it could be looked at as a time when you are at your most vulnerable. Either which way, for that snippet of your life, you are in no way discernable from your average everyday Joe.

Joe on the other hand may be looking at you thinking “You lucky bastard! I wish I felt normal”. There’s a very modern day question for you – what is normal. That is a topic for another day, and one that I think is impossible for anyone to answer.

You can’t see a mental illness, but you can see a mental illness present itself through people’s actions. That’s why it is good sometimes to completely shut down when your brain is fighting through an almighty shit storm. Limiting your actions directly limits the probability that you will land in shit, rather than get through it. If your car dumps out all the engine oil you need to stop the engine immediately before it needs to be carted off to the knackers yard. Same goes for people having a mental episode.

Fortunately for me, the level of interference that mental illness has on my life means that it is far, far away from being a disability. It is always there, but it is only occasionally that it hinders me in any way. Right now, I am very fortunate that this is the case, as I know if this is not the same for many people out there.

But when you have a mental illness (could be one of many, or many of many if you are unlucky), it is often possible to look at the actions of others and recognise yourself in them. A reminder that some of the time you are not ok.

I am reading a book by a lady called Allie Bailey right now and it is rather good. It is a jolly feel-good tale about a lady who suffers from mental breakdowns, depression and is an alcoholic, but also runs a long, long way quite often. 

I bought it because she was funny at The Running Show last year, and I’d subsequently listened to some podcasts where she’d talked about mental health in a very open and honest way. That, and the fact that I sometimes suffer from bipolar depression that takes me on the express lift down to hell, and I now run to help my mind forget about all that sort of stuff. I recognise some traits of me in the book, so I am smiling a lot, but I’m fairly dull and don’t have the rock’n’roll parts to make me interesting.

I have started buying quite a few books by runners, or about runners, and this probably makes me a terrible bore. It is better and much cheaper than buying shit loads of running shoes. With running shoes I have an addiction, but that really is my only one. Fortunately unlike many with bipolar, my relationship with alcohol is fairly limited, so I am blessed in that respect, so a shoe addiction isn’t all that bad (although I did work in marketing in London in the 90’s which was fairly hedonistic).

The other book I am reading right now is Born 2 Run which is a great read even if you are not a running bore like me!

My wifes collection of obstable course racing shoes are on the right. My running shoes are on the left. I think my wife might be right when she says I have a problem!

I’m only half-way through the book, so I have no idea where it is going; the main thing so far being that running is a welcome distraction rather than a cure for anything and I already knew this. She also seems to be of the opinion – or at least was of the opinion, that everyone hates/hated her. I still feel that way about almost everyone I meet, and indeed of a lot of people I have known for a very long time. I do know my wife loves me as she puts up with all my shit 🙂

It would be great if through reading the book I uncovered some means of stopping panicking about everything for every minute of every day, for days on end, but I have run quite a long way a few times and it really is only a temporary respite. When I mean panic, I mean world-ending panic over even the smallest of things. A simple (but not quite world ending) example is what do you do if you think you have left the iron on when you are at work, and work is over an hour and a half from home. You get up from your desk, get a bus and two trains home, check that the iron is in fact unplugged and is on the utility room worktop where you knew you had left it, then get two trains and a bus back to work. In this instance I knew the probability that I had not put the iron away exactly as I knew I had done was about 0.00001, but I had to check just in case my house had burnt down. When we were going on holiday and leaving the kids at home, I made sure I spoke to the house contents and buildings insurance companies so that I was covered for every eventuality. If one of them dropped a cigarette on the patio outside and it happened by some miracle to burn the house down, I was covered. Then there’s the sort of panic when you wake up on a building site in Spain about 50 miles from where you started off the night before. Or waking up on a balcony in Corfu when your mates have already caught the flight home hours before. I’m a boring marketing data guy for God’s sake. Oops. This list could go on, so I’ll stop.

I got distracted there – I know it isn’t a self-help book, so if anyone knows something that will cure constant panic please do let me know.

Getting back to where I was, I do know that whilst running you do forget, and when you finish you feel absolutely elated for a short period of time, but then you feel like shit for a few days and then it is back to the same old routine. I sometimes ask myself if there is any point in putting your body and mind through a whole load of pain, just to feel great for a brief moment in time, but there is. There definitely is. I have no idea what the point is, but I know it exists.

What probably differentiates me from most other people reading this book, is that on page 51, lines 10,11 and 12, I read the content and sort of laughed. It was more a huff accompanied by a raising of the right hand side of my mouth. A mark of humoured recognition if you like. The question she was asking herself, was if thinking about suicidal thoughts was in fact having suicidal thoughts. I’d had this very conversation with my wife once and she said it was, so I’d then raised it with my psychiatrist. My doctor just looked at me with a raised eyebrow (as my wife had done) and told me that of course it was the same. I very matter of factly said “oh – ok, thank you”. That told me then.

Anyway, I have a bug right now, so I’m going to go back to feeling shit again and trying not to throw up.

There – that’s a blog update done. Albeit a not so cheery one 😁


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