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Life

Secrets and Lies

Last year, I spent a month in hospital, which was fine by me, or as fine as any severe illness can be, but it was a psychiatric unit and the moment you utter those two words, a hush falls across the room and then, like the faintest breeze, the whispers begin.

I have been in four psychiatric units, so I know those whispers well, although they bewilder me, because I am very open about my illness, which is bipolar disorder. If I have already spoken the words, what is there to talk about, what is left to say?

The Inner Critic

I was standing in a changing room the other day, struggling to get into a dress. It was one of those changing rooms in which high street stores seems to delight – the fat mirror imported from the funfair; the harsh, overhead light that picks out every lump and bump and dimple of cellulite. You know the ones? I guess every woman does.

Kindness Makes The World Go Round

Here is one of my favourite quotes from the always irrepressible, Mark Twain. “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”. I love it because it’s so simple and so true. Or perhaps that should be the other way around. No matter, whichever way you put it, it works.

I am a great believer in kindness. It is the virtue I hold dear above all others. Besides being central to Mark Twain’s cheering-up philosophy, which has to be the ethos of a happy society, it is also one of the best ways to individual happiness. Win, win.

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The Aunties

You know the way Gill gets over excited when she loves something and immediately turns into a happy lunatic? Of course you do. Well, this month I’m going to join her. Not about the cutting-edge health and beauty products that she constantly discovers for us, (as divine as they are) but about cutting-edge art.

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We Are Good Enough

I’ve decided I’m going to be A Whole New Me. Just kidding. It’s taken me years to get used to the old me. I admit there’s room for improvement (which I always think sounds rather like redecorating the spare room) but, here’s an old-fashioned notion, I really quite like myself.

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Suicide

Suicide. It scares people – both those who are not suicidal, and those who are. It’s almost impossible to talk about unless you are with somebody who understands, because they have been there themselves. When I am suicidal (or have suicidal ideation, as it is more benignly phrased by psychiatrists although it all comes down to the same thing; you want to die) I call a friend, who I met in the loony bin, ten years ago. We have been close ever since, not bound through mental illness, but simply because we love each other. Anyway, I call him, sobbing that I want to die.

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BiPolar and Me

Diagnosing somebody under the blanket term of depression and handing them a pill is like shooting in the dark and hoping the bullet will find its target. Which is why, every time I read about depression in the media or hear that somebody has just been diagnosed by their GP as having depression, I think, well, what form of depression? Oh, you know; depression. Yes, but what … oh, never mind.

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Lists

Anybody else out there a lister? Not an A or a B lister (unless it’s buy milk) but every damn letter in the alphabet right down to “take trousers to dry cleaners to get Zipper mended.” I found a list the other day headed spk Phillip. Who the hell is Phillip? Then of course there are the lists of lists. The kitchen table is strewn with them, which simply adds another item to the list. Must tidy the kitchen table. I even add items to the list at the end of the day of things that weren’t on the list in the first place – just so I can immediately cross them off again.

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Emotions

When it comes to emotion, I’ve always felt the concept of “letting go” is an existential question – and one I’ve struggled with for years. You know the advice, “Let go and move on.” Easy enough to say, fearsomely difficult to do. It’s all very well to clear out the clutter in our closets or consign those old love letters to the bin, but there is no easy way of clearing up the mess in our heads. Only the other day my brother said to me that he wished he could take his brain out of his head and give it a good wash. It’s rather a marvellous thought, isn’t it? A lovely, freshly laundered mind.

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Honesty

When I write about my experience of depression or give a talk about my book – a memoir of depression – people quite often thank me for my bravery in being so honest. As grateful as I am, I always think how odd it is that the word honest has come to mean being brave rather than truthful and sincere.

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