Posted by: hypomanic | December 15, 2013

Stay curious. Stay well.

My guest blog post ‘Stay curious. Stay well.’ for Jill Sadowsky’s http://jillsmentalhealthresources.wordpress.com/

My name is Victor J Kennedy and I was diagnosed bipolar in 1996, the same year I graduated from university. At that time, I made a promise to myself that as much as I create and consume during the remainder of my life, I would always stay curious and keep learning. I decided to ask questions of everyone and everything to learn more about how to master both my condition and more importantly, myself.

I don’t remember any early bipolar symptoms at primary, middle or upper school, nor do I look back now and realize anything unusual about my biology at that time of my life. So, having a normal childhood meant I could not look backwards to find answers. We had no concrete evidence of bipolar being part of the family bloodline. Whilst at university in my final year, I was not sleeping – deliberately not sleeping to try and write a better dissertation so I could gain a better mark, so get a better graduate job and have a more rewarding career. My latent ambition became my downfall. After the initial breakdown, I decided my new story would be about my recovery, my fight back. I would not let what happened to me also define who I was. I put one foot in front of the other in the form of one question in front of the other. I educated and trained myself to beat what in my growing perception was the second most frightening diagnosis after cancer. I had the bone-rattling realization that for people like me there is a new order at work called stigma. It feels much more real. It feels like the whole world is against you. This is when you really need to dig deep and find the courage to keep asking the questions that will help you understand yourself and how you can survive in this new world you’ve discovered. As you learn and grow, the stigma seems more fragile and less entwined with the other more superficial everyday annoyances and frustrations that we all have. As time goes by, you find the power to brush incoming stigma off your shoulder at will, then you’ll really discover a breakthrough. At one profound moment, to your amazement, you will make a little joke to yourself about stigma and you’ll laugh along with it, quietly and confidently to yourself.

The self I am today, is not the self I was in 1996. And there have been other iterations of myself as I’ve gone through the process of learning. Simply put, I’ve grown up by taking the following steps. Firstly I made myself ready to manage my illness. Then I grew ready to treat other people with respect and became more of an open person despite feeling the omnipotent stigma was there, even when it maybe wasn’t. That openness enabled me the confidence to meet my wife, who took everything I am to heart; so I’ve grown to love someone else and been ready to accept her love in return. I worried for too long about my bloodline and passing on my condition to any future children, but alongside my wife’s support, I’ve grown out of that negative, lonely perception. With her behind me, I grew responsible enough to feel I could be a good father, not just to one child but now I am blessed to have two. I can’t imagine what my life was like before they all came into it.

Some might say my life is complete, but I am too focused on the promise I made to myself at the age of 24, and I know there are as many questions to face as there are to ask, but as long as I stay curious, I know I’ll stay well.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | September 5, 2013

I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve learned these insights over the last seventeen years of my diagnosis of bipolar type II which have helped me understand both myself and my recovery. So as a result, I’ve managed to stay well for longer. I feel responsible to share this information. Please take the ones which work best for you and feel free to ignore the ones which are less helpful.

Realisation and acceptance in no particular order… 

- Feeling isolation yet being the one who imposes it, is the easiest way to trick yourself.

- When pejorative labels no longer hurt so much. They’re not an ‘ouch’ anymore. Just a twinge. That’s when you feel progress.

- Demonstrating self-help to yourself. Not to anyone else.

- Understanding and reading symptoms. Listen to your entire body. Really hear it.

- Discovering and realising the triggers. Then cutting them out of your game.

- Understanding your medication and learning to live with side effects. You live in this era of medical advancement, not in the future.

- Trying not to live in the past but looking for answers there is ok. Keep a diary in some form to look back on.

- Deflecting other people’s preconceptions about you or your condition. You don’t have to do this head on. If you have a close relationship with someone else share with them and discuss.

- Discovering ways to help control your thought processes. If you can get a free course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) then take it. You’ll never look back.

- Knowing what fair treatment is and living that way. Treat others the way you want them to treat you.

- Develop coping mechanisms everywhere, certainly for insomnia. Absolutely for the paranoia crisis. This hooks back into recognising triggers.

- Accepting debilitating insecurities and quietening them down. The voice can be dominating for years without actually noticing how it has been talking you into negative states. Conquor it by turning down it’s volume. It’s a tougher ask to make it go away entirely.

- Pursue authentic communication with other people. Don’t speak in riddles, it can confuse and complicate.

- Working on your perception of reality by grounding yourself. Reality is different for everyone. Reality changes because of history. Reality can be shared for comfort if you need to. There are no rules other than trying to avoid a slide into a place where your imagination is taking over and you feel magic shading in. I fear that state because it’s not reality.

- Aim to make each wellness window stay open longer than the last. Try to stay well for 12 months or 12 weeks if you prefer. Just aim further and you’ll do it.

- Always take your medication and never miss a blood test. This is as important as breathing air.

- Start a quest for answers and don’t stop. Read books, search google, watch bipolar videos in youtube, listen to podcasts. Go!

- Start a subscription to Pendulum magazine if you live in the UK. It helps your entire family.

- Finding happiness through lowering your expectations to balance self esteem.

- Seek out better ways to feed yourself which align with better mental health. Eating is as important as medication. Think about food and drink and make better choices accordingly.

- Seek out a local nutritionist and have a chat.

- Take comfort in rituals. Live life a little less extraordinary and a little more structured.

- Investigate to come to terms with your paranoia and then you’ll begin to master it.

- Go running more than once a week or jogging if you can’t run.

- Remember with Lithium, “Swallow the salt and try not to overdose on beauty.”

- Never forget that the brightest dawns follow the darkest nights.

- Everything feels a lot worse at 3am. It always gets better.

- Try and disregard that feeling of rejection. Keep going it will pass.

- Leave the house every morning with protection and with courage.

- Take heed to the words of wisdom that are written on the walls of life. No, not graffiti. Think deeper. They are all there for you. You’ll notice them.

- A side effect of learning to feel isolated is suffering duplicity and sarcasm. It may not be there. Try to look at the situation in another way. I helps clarify what is actually happening. You’ll be relieved.

- We can’t always blame. Be gracious, patient and grateful.

- Rage against the misunderstandings and misconceptions.

- Have faith in what skills you’ve already got and it will carry you on.

- Telling people you have a mental illness is not a sound byte conversation, it’s a big conversation.

- If you need quick fix to avoid stigma just blend in and be unremarkable.

- Biologically, bipolar is very much like diabetes only not as cool. If you were diabetic should you be ashamed of that?

- It’s not about what’s wrong with you, it’s about what’s happened to you.

- You are not responsible for your illness but you are responsible for your recovery. You’ve got to get on with life.

- Don’t try and find someone to save you. Find someone to stand by your side while you save yourself.

- Mood swings cannot be masked by alcohol in the mid to long term.

- Try to stop drinking alcohol or seriously cut down.

- In the UK, join a local MDF group and spend six months visiting once a month to meet other people who share your condition. Stay longer if you think it helps.

- Always keep your 3 to 6 month psychiatrist appointment. They are worth it.

- 1 in 100 people are bipolar. Think how many you must meet everyday. You can’t tell who they are can you?

- If you can, try to live near your doctor’s surgery so motivationally, it makes it easier to go.

- Having a nervous breakdown when you are young is not entirely a bad thing because you have the rest of your life to recover.

- It’s not helpful to convince yourself that you are not attractive or that you will never find someone to love you. You will.

- Who wants to be in the mass anyway?

- Every month when you collect your repeat prescription, the chemist will be 100 pills short and you’ll have to go back again for the excess the day after. Guaranteed.

- In the eyes of stigmata you’re different. But not good different, unfashionably different. It’s almost a complement.

- Some people will drop you like a hat when they find out. Some partners leave you, some bosses fire you and some of your team mates will ridicule you. But not everyone.

- Doubt sometimes can be healthy. Doubt all the time is really bad for you.

- A nervous breakdown in stigma terms implies you are weak, when intact you are stronger for having gone through it.

- Nobody knows your diagnosis by looking at you apart from the chemist.

- Smile at the chemist as you’ll be seeing each other regularly. They’ll eventually smile back.

- There’s a big difference between seeing a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist wanting to see you.

- It helps to have religious observance or spiritual authenticity. Whichever works for you.

- Remember, in adversity we all move forward quicker.

- Comfort food in moderation. But don’t go without.

- Try green tea. It may not be the tastiest brew but it’s very good at avoiding too much caffeine. Also try camomile tea before bedtime.

- Try and go to bed before midnight.

- Put some lavender oil on your pillow if you’re not sleeping so well.

- Travel insurance and life insurance will always cost more if you declare. That doesn’t feel fair.

- In a black sheep democracy, you’re the odd one out if that’s what you believe is happening. Try to think differently.

- It’s hard to find your way out of taboo but don’t stop moving around in it, even if you can’t come out.

- Stigma is just a way we try and control others. Fear of stigma is how it really works. Be brave.

- Why me? Why on earth did it happen to me? Was it something I said or did? Did I do something wrong? Did I deserve it? No, no and no. It’s not you.

I’ve learned to live with something many cannot bear to be close to. They despise it and they cannot see me directly behind it. That is their target and I am caught in the crossfire. They don’t hate me. They can’t see me. They only see ‘it’.

‘It’ is my bedfellow and it is also in my heart. I cannot remember anymore what it was like before, I only know what it feels like now, after the transformation. No way am I defined by it, not by me – not by anyone, but I ignore my well being at my own peril. Never, ever taking my remission windows for granted, however long they last for.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | July 31, 2013

My discharge notification letter

18 July 2013

 

Mr Victor J Kennedy

Address

 

Dear Victor,

NHS Number: xxx xxx xxxx DOB: 27/06/72

 

I received a message from my secretary saying that after our discussion during your last appointment, you are happy to be discharged from the outpatient clinic and to be monitored instead by your GP. As you know, the reason for suggesting discharge was that the medication has remained unchanged for a number of years, you have been asymptomatic, you have good insight into your illness, you have a supportive family, and you have been doing well at work. I appreciate that when people are discharged they are concerned about what happens should they relapse. Of course you can see your GP who can review your medication in the first instance. You also have the option of contacting our services directly using our Single Point of Access. They will ensure you get the most appropriate service for your needs at that time. I am also happy for your GP to contact me directly for advice about medication should this be necessary.

 

Finally I wish you and your family well.

 

Best wishes

 

Yours sincerely

 

Dr G Herbert

Associate Specialist Psychiatrist 

I’m not the prolific blogger I thought I would be about my mental illness. I guess I’ve been concentrating more on living my life than writing about it. I’ve been too busy, to inclined to focus elsewhere. I’m not really sure what ‘Hypomanic – the blog’ does anymore from a holistic point of view? What I always wanted aged 23 was a channel to let out publicly how furious I felt as a young man to be cut down and bound by a condition that most people deride, including my younger self, before I was diagnosed. It’s always about the stigma, S.T.I.G.M.A.T.A. Cut down and bound before I even got started with life. There was this incredible force to fight it inside me. I was petrified and mute in public and neutered socially but at home, alone in front of the computer it was going to be pay back time. Boy did I vent. My fuel tank emptied as soon as the book was published, the website made, twitter live, the youtube videos uploaded etc. etc. etc.

I hate the word ‘cathartic’ in some contexts so I’ll liken my own personal media exorcism to swallowing a milky, chalk-like enema – or even having a massive poo! Recovering from my initial breakdown in 1995, a psychiatric nurse on the ward said to me, “Keep a diary Victor, it’s really good to write things down. It can help your recovery” I think I sort of took that advice and ran with it, like Forrest Gump – sprinting off into an obsession with understanding what had happened to me, purging it and then sharing it all as beautifully as I could. Classic text book ‘blah blah blah blah blah.’ Stick whatever label into that you like.

The digital footprint of my massive drawn out brain-explosion has been online and searchable since the mid-noughties and slowly over time an enlightening and really special by-product occurred. The more people fed back to me the more I actually started to feel responsible to everyone who would be digesting what I had created (then curated) off the back of an acutely painful life event. I felt that what I write should be oriented to help the people visiting in some way. It must help them make a recovery or get out of whatever negative situation they found themselves in, related to whichever aspect of mental illness they have been experiencing. People search for answers on the internet, they say it’s about asking the right questions but in my case, I have to ask myself; am I giving them the best answers with the most hope and with realistic encouragement.

What I’m trying to say is that today, after 17 years under observation, I’ve been discharged from psychiatric care. My psychiatrist said, “It is because you have done so well and your moods have been stable for so long.” I’m no fool, I’m aware this could also be David Cameron and a Tory NHS initiative. That said, I guess I’m a bit emotional, hence this post was written in this open way. Just record my initial reaction to this news. Quite a lot of things, good things, are going around in my head. I wanted to share the news out of responsibility and if I’m sharing it then it would be helpful to tell you how I’ve managed it. I think in linguistic terms ‘managing it’ is the best way to describe how to live with a diagnosis of bipolar type II. Even though I may be discharged it will never leave my side. I’m still petrified in public of being ‘exposed’ and I do smile and laugh a lot but socially but I am still an outsider to everyone but my wife and kids, not forgetting my heroic parents. I think a hard truth to accept is you won’t find many new close friendships after diagnosis, partly down to your own personal stigma, particularly if you are like me and you want to keep bipolar and/or mental illness off the table in your relationships at work. I like ‘bothering’ people in the form of accessible text over the world wide web but I really don’t like vocally burdening people with my stigma-related news. If you ask me, the world’s not quite ready yet. In life, I think I just want people to know me as me. Everything else, all the chaos and the heartbreak, plus the strength and determination is hidden secretly away behind my mask, my smile. I’m defined by what I can do, not by how much lithium I take every evening before I go to bed. That’s another thing – always take your medication on time and as regularly as directed. For me, that is the one key foundation to recovery. The rest is much simpler than you thought. One step in front of the other. Oh, and try writing down how you are feeling as often as you feel necessary!

With hope and huge gratitude, Victor

There is a widespread belief among us that losing your mind is a one way, irreversible process to be avoided at all costs. Without education it’s always going to be treated that way because of the idea that death exists as a final destination. A destination which once arrived at and transformed into, cannot be fully understood or documented for the clarity and benefit of the others you leave behind. This is why death is the first great taboo and mental illness comes a close second. In terms of real human benefit, what we all need to have faith in, as we develop and grow as people is that although you may unfortunately lose your mind at some point in your life, you may also fully recover your sense of self.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | April 16, 2011

Catherine Zeta-Jones and all those who outed before her

There has been widespread coverage of bipolar this week due to the announcement that actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has recently been diagnosed and spent time in a mental health facility in the US.

I was diagnosed bipolar in 1996 and since then I’ve witnessed a lot of occasions like the one this week when someone who is famous and becomes bipolar gets made an example of in news feed and editorials. Sometimes the media are kind, as they have been this week to Catherine but often in the past they were not. For example during 2004 in the UK when boxer Frank Bruno experienced the same transformation as Catherine has this week, he was derided by some of the British press for more reasons than just his mental predicament, particularly The Sun’s front page headline “BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones does not propose a perceived threat to the safety of the wider general public because her physical presence evokes something entirely different, something much less threatening in the fear hierarchies of the perpetrators of stigma. The archetype story I use to demonstrate my point is Beauty and the Beast. Its an ancient fairy tale I often read to my 3 year old before she goes to bed so I guess I’m perpetuating too. Its difficult. Stigma has been around for a very long time, it is very well established and it is ingrained globally throughout the human psyche. Turning that around is no small task.

However, if the positive bipolar coverage of Catherine Zeta Jones represents progress along the lines of self advocacy and openness as a human race (with regard to mental illness) then I take encouragement and strength from that in my own struggles with coming out as a non-famous bipolar individual to the people I meet throughout my life. It is a different playing field altogether and that is why I’m remaining reluctantly defensive and somewhat closed.

The thing is, something in the deeper recesses of my mind is telling me to remain skeptic and therefore closed day-to-day even when revelations in the news about film star’s lives become company, even a bit close to home. Catherine Zeta-Jones has taken a decision to come out and tell the world she has the incurable condition bipolar that sits in second place only to Schizophrenia as the worst, most disruptive mental disorder known to man. She has clearly accepted that fact. The illness has been imposed upon her by her biological makeup and it’s susceptibility to depression and mania when exposed to the extreme stress of her husband’s recent fight against cancer. The biological aspect of this is important when I refer back to Frank Bruno’s case in 2004.

Frank Bruno had a divorce and his successful boxing career had recently ended. But that particular story, from our point of view as the audience, has less of an emotional hook than that which touches our empathy from what Catherine Zeta-Jones, in early reports, appears to have gone through. Also, in terms of dignity, Frank’s behaviour had gone awry not only with his family but it was being recognised by a wider group of people, who eventually got quoted by ‘sensational’ journalists (a lesser extreme version of what is happening to Charlie Sheen at the moment). Catherine has been relatively private. However, both cases involved a stressful life event and a medically understood vacancy of a certain brain chemistry essential for the ability to control mood peaks and troughs brought about by the events of the external environment. Fight or flight or medical intervention.

I also fear bipolar is becoming sort of a fashionable illness because so many people who make vast amounts of money from the culture of celebrity are by necessity outed as having a diagnosis of bipolar by the newspapers and magazines that help the celebrity economy to remain front and center in the early 21st century. I’m convinced that the ‘fame’ model is almost identically the same DNA that perpetuates stigma. I’m talking all kinds of stigma and associated bullying, not just about mental illness.

Out of 6 billion human beings, none are identical and everyone of them is unique. Fame has nothing to do with this. Bipolar has little to do with this either. We’re all special. There are 6 billion minorities walking this planet.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
Or you can follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

First of all, the answer isn’t entirely in the containment of your diagnosis because sooner or later you will unfortunately suffer your next episode and in whichever way it returns and then subsides again, you may find you have no options left other than to disclose to your line manager in an attempt to hold on to your job. Your career progression will suffer if you keep moving from job to job. A sad fact is that as soon as you disclose, your boss dictates whether your career in that organisation will progress or not. Unfortunately in their eyes, your ability to cope professionally has been tarnished.
Of course in the corporate scenario, the awareness of your diagnosis is best kept to yourself as much as possible because as soon as your boss, or worse, your colleagues discover you have a mental illness, the odds of any senior responsibility coming your way will be be almost zero. To some people stigma is a massive, accusatory word so let me explain how it is appropriate to describe what is actually happening in terms of an imposed career glass ceiling for an outed bipolar individual.

A lot of bipolar individuals like me do not enjoy the same livelihood capacity as Stephen Fry possessed when he leveraged his career in television as a platform to publicly disclose his diagnosis in the brilliant documentary, Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Don’t get me wrong, he was brave and courageous to attempt it and I can only imagine how tough the british television industry would have become for him, had the documentary not been well received by the british media.
He took a risk and exerted pressure on all barriers, his efforts may not have been welcomed and that hypothetical scenario could have ended with a career downward spiral. That’s his professional risk but that was not all. He took the bravest risk of all. For himself to change things – to transform into something that meant he didn’t have to live a life of bipolar secrecy anymore and I know exactly why he manufactured the step change. I dream of being able to do the same thing.
He was also doing it for his fellow bipolar sufferers – and don’t get me wrong, when I say suffer I’m not just referring to symptoms, I’m trying to explain what stigma is.

Stigma in my world IS an imposed career glass ceiling. Do I feel stigmatised? I personally don’t. I don’t because I understand why my boss cannot trust me professionally enough to promote me. I confessed my diagnosis over a year ago after my latest episode, which in fact was a breakdown. I returned gratefully to my job after seven weeks and have not had a day off sick since then – August 2009.

Unfortunately my boss can never understand what I go through when I’m trying to keep a big part of my life secret and separate from my professional appearance. It’s a day to day secret. A need to know basis only. Other people reading this blog post might think I keep a secret because I’m ashamed of my bipolar but I’m not at all. I’m proud of myself and my biology but I prefer not to be defined by my illness when I’m at work because I can avoid stigma that way. In actual fact I’m so proud of people like Stephen Fry because they are fighting a battle for all of us. I’m trying to step up and raise the same awareness by standing on Stephen’s broad shoulders. I’m trying to assert more pressure by sharing the experience of my life, with you, in relation to the stigma I have to face sometimes.

However, the paradox of a career imposed glass ceiling has not even moved a millimetre for diagnosed bipolar individuals on the ground. The ones who will really pay if they come out at work and cannot afford to take the same risk that Stephen Fry took because there’s no going back. You cannot unring a bell.
If someone has been forced to disclose, for whatever reason, they might feel like they ‘got away with it’ when their working life appears to carry on as it was before. Believe me it hasn’t. Slowly it becomes apparent that their line manager is somehow protecting them by not exposing them to a perceived level of stress they assume a bipolar individual cannot cope with in a professional capacity. This poorly informed stance is based on a line manager’s limited knowledge of a bipolar individual’s determination, ambition or what it means to have and manage a diagnosis of bipolar – which is the biggest personal responsibility of all!

In this situation I have found it helpful to look at it from my line manager’s point of view. They are not a doctor or a psychiatrist. They are in a difficult position so they manage the risk – that’s what they’ve been taught to do as a manager. An outed bipolar individual working in commerce represents a subjective risk and that’s at the discretion of the line manager. They may think they are acting in the bipolar individual’s best interests and that they are somehow protecting them from their own destruction should they promote that bipolar individual and they somehow ‘prove’ they cannot cope with the promotion. It’s emotional for the line manager and they can get it fundamentally wrong so they try to do what is right and when push comes to shove, they certainly won’t risk their own position without warranty.

This situation is stigma but I’m referring to it as a ‘ceiling’ because the stigma is a limitation blocking upward advancement, and ‘glass’ because the stigma is not immediately apparent and is normally an unwritten and unofficial policy. This invisible barrier continues to exist, even though there are no explicit obstacles keeping bipolar individuals from acquiring advanced job positions.

So can a person diagnosed bipolar ever traverse an imposed career glass ceiling?

1) For the record, I think people who believe in limits end up being limited people. So keep asserting pressure.
2) Go stealth. You are not betraying anyone – especially yourself by keeping it secret, you are protecting your progress.
3) Learn to manage your illness as best you possibly can. This is the hardest part, I know. Self-management allows you to stay stealth for longer.
4) Become contextually good at your job, because if you’re not then all the other hard work establishing a foundation for progress, was for nothing.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | June 30, 2010

My last nervous breakdown – one year later

Tonight it is one year to the day since my last nervous breakdown. Before that it was nine years dating back to March 26th 2000. I really wanted to make the ten year window but fate had other ideas. I spent the summer of 2009 recovering in a mental health facility in Hertfordshire on a six month section after being taken there voluntary albeit by Ambulance and displaying ‘intimidating behaviour’ towards some of the nurses.

When I’m really ill my imagination takes on it’s own volition, like it is separate from my psyche – sort of like when you have a dream and you experience being in the audience whilst concurrently being in the action of a movie presentation played out in the mind’s eye. When my imagination separates from me, it often presents fantasies which are quite frankly petrifying – scenarios which intimidate with the threat of death or the depths of human depravity.
Because of mass media I know the terrible things we are capable of as a race and all those horrors are there in my head, there for my imagination to use against me. Basically, when I’m psychotic I torture myself and during the episode anyone around me will witness disturbing behaviour so as a consequence will feel threatened.
It is such a painful paradox when you try to live a clean, careful life and yet your brain chemistry shifts during stress and before medical intervention is made aware of it, the episode has traversed your lithium preventative measures and you’re fighting to hold on to your sanity. And thats if you’re even conscious you’re in a fight. Especially for someone with a fertile imagination.

After seven weeks my section was lifted, I was discharged and rehabilitated, back home with my patient, loving wife and daughter. My kind and generous employer kept my job open (on full-pay) during those difficult seven weeks. Another humbling experience and I am indebted to my boss, the friends and family who visited me inside and the whole medical team for getting me back on my feet again.

“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.” Jules de Gaultier

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | October 16, 2009

The fall and rise of Victor J Kennedy

The fall and rise of Victor J Kennedy
by Michael_Scale

Barnes & Noble Reader Rating: 5 stars

A hypomanic episode? Awesome. Where do I sign up? Say it in the right voice and it almost sounds cool, like something you’d feel as a result of a bungee jump or an afternoon white-water rafting with Australians high on energy drinks. It turns out it’s not like that at all.

In Victor’s case his episode was brought about by a fanatical desire to be the best student on his university course, combined with him fully embracing London’s nightlife and the pharmaceutical excess that this can bring. Work hard, play hard, it’s cliche; that’s often held up as a positive thing. This book details its very real dangers.

The book charts Victor’s blissfully unaware descent towards his mental nadir – a fully blown hypomanic episode – and shows how he deals with the frightening diagnosis, and being sectioned under the mental health act and perhaps most importantly how he begins to get his life and his mind back together.

This is an incredibly brave book. I think it’s a rare thing for anybody to be able to bare their lowest point for all to read. As with anything so personal I think this book raises important questions as to how we, the readers, would handle the same situation.

I think the book also alludes to the importance that your environment and the people you surround yourself with can have on your mental health and for that alone, it’s definitely worth a read.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

Posted by: hypomanic | June 15, 2009

The realization you’re going mad

I’ve had plenty of advice in my life, in fact I’ve had plenty of psychiatrists and psychotherapists extracting, under examination, a deeper understanding about myself which I never realised nor ever wanted anyone else to discover. When I say I don’t want people to discover sensitive information about myself what I mean is that if I hadn’t lifted the veil to that self awareness then it wasn’t fair that everybody else got to know my secrets too. The thing is, everybody already knew anyway. Like a baboon cannot see it’s bright red posterior, human beings are not aware of their shortcomings.

However, it seems that not many of these people around you; your friends, your family, your coworkers, your contemporaries – in fact hardly any of them make the same amount of effort and applied incisive judgement to exercise your behaviour (to correct your infantile, yet innocent, way of approaching life and the world around you) in the same way as a trained and well paid psychotherapist seems able to do. Albeit after six months of one hour sessions each week.

I’ve sat in my conscious mind for years and thought and thought and thought. I’ve spent so much time thinking about how to work out my problems, why the world isn’t working the way I want it to but never managed to make the crucial connections to awaken myself to myself. They, whoever ‘they’ are, say we only use a fraction of our brains but how do they know? I can only speak for my mind and like the vast universe, I’ve never been able to find the edges of it but I suspect, since I’ve had cognitive behavioural therapy, I seem to have been splashing around in the same thought puddle since I was three years old, going round and round like a goldfish in a bowl but being human my thought patterns and distortions follow a pattern of thinking about food, stimulation, warmth, security and sleep on repeat/shuffle. My puddle it seems, was never connected to the ocean.

Now I’m older and more responsible I follow a familiar set of programs in my head because it is natural to keep splashing around in that puddle. “Oh no my daughter is awake again and it is 3.30am. Get milk. Microwave. Hand bottle to baby. Kiss wife. Sleep. Oh no, the alarm has gone off – not 6am already. The water is cold in this shower. No clean towels. No breakfast cereal left. Or milk. No seat on the train. How can I prepare for work when I am stood up on a wobbly train. I really should buy an iPhone. The ink has come off the newspaper and onto my fingers. And it’s on my clothes. Will I look professional in my presentation? I really need to make a will. I love my daughter. I love my wife. The back door needs painting. It’s Mother’s Day next week. Got chicken in my teeth still from last night. I need to book the dentist, mustn’t forget. I wonder if I’ve got time to get something to eat before I get to work. A crepe would be easy to eat on the go. I’m so tired. I wish I had a seat. Do people really like me? Yeah stop worrying, I’ve got loads of friends. I must work on those relationships. Send some emails today. No, make some calls instead – more personal. Starting this weekend.”

Do I like thinking within this puddle? Well, way before I had psychotherapy I knew I could ‘expand my mind’ and that other people before me had already followed that path but isn’t that just learning things and that by living longer you possess more wisdom by default? More wisdom equals an expanded mind surely? What do ‘they’ mean by an expanded mind? Is it about altering the capacity of the mind and not about how much an actual mind is filled up with more stuff than can fit in one puddle? For example, puddles such as spirituality and the soul, even my belief systems about science, the subconscious and psychology itself. Everything leads to an ocean? I have a healthy imagination, I always have been able to make stuff up to amuse myself. ‘Stupid thoughts’ are what I’d refer to them as. For instance, try to imagine ‘see-through’. Go on, try it. Try to picture in your mind’s eye neither black nor white but transparency itself. You cannot do it. I’ve thought about this for years and all I’ve been able to do is imagine thousands of transparent plastic bags on top of each other and the effect is like a fog. Yeah, a fog. It is delicious in it’s irony that the mind is fogged when it pushes it’s ability to move it’s own perception of reality to another dimension. I call it the paradox of transparency. But then I have to question what a dimension is and then try to understand that concept. Science Fiction exists as a genre because of these kinds of imaginations inventing these new worlds where amazing things take place. Science Fiction becomes the stage for human beings to make real their strange, for want of a better word, imaginary concepts without fear of being stigmatized by the rest of us for having such a bizarre, left-field point of view to the rest of humanity, who might as well be splashing happily around in their own puddles. I mean, it’s a shock. How dare they make me aware of the paradox of transparency because it has made my head hurt and my eyes have crossed.

All joking aside, on a day-to-day level each of us knows how much we can ‘take’, i.e. how far our mental rubber band can stretch without snapping. Or do we? I do. Mine snapped back in 1995 and I ended up sectioned under the mental health act. That is the catch-22 with rubber bands. Only now can I gage how over stretched I am because I have the hindsight. I witnessed mine snap so I can remember how it felt and the kinds of thoughts going through my head at the time so if I recognize the signs when I am approaching that ‘state’ then I can make adjustments to avoid another snap. If you have never had a nervous breakdown then I could suggest that I have an advantage over you. You will never know when, where or if you are going to snap. However, if you already possess the wisdom to realize you are close to the edge and can move away before you become mentally ill then I have no advantage over you whatsoever. Think of this; I can get right to the edge and stare over into the abyss with the knowledge I won’t fall in because I know the last crucially remaining synapse hasn’t fired in my brain yet. Ok, a slight over statement but you know what I mean. There is a deadzone, a badlands or maybe it should be referred to as a blurring between where your mind is prepared to go to and where I know my mind can extend further. This blurring should not be referred to as psychosis but it is certainly fueled by hypomania. If we all have the same equipment in our brains, the same chemistries and the same functions then we are all capable of experiencing similar states of awareness but the fact remains that we are not all the same. We are individuals. So does that mean we cannot all think the same? Does it all go back to the ability to see ‘transparency’ with the mind’s eye? Because I’ve spent a lifetime thinking ‘Stupid thoughts’ of ‘see-through’ and they have never once sent me over the edge. I know now I am older that this ‘mind expansion’ is my creativity, my imagination and it has more familiarity to me than my oldest friends and my dearest family members. These are not the types of thoughts that lead to psychosis, nervous breakdowns and mental illness. Being quirky is not necessarily a path to personal destruction. Paranoia, built on a bed of confusion, insecurity, heartbreak and pain after a terrible experience in a horrendous environment, amongst awful company is what stretched my rubber band to it’s last sinew and that last tendon is arguably your choice to finally break it. To let go. To give in. To fall into the abyss in complete submission and at the hands of mercy.

When this happens to you, you hope or suspect it is some kind of test or exposure to something that will bring you an advantage – a quickening of the mind. An insight unlocking your potential. A potential you don’t even know about yet. A.K.A. a risk, a gamble. Then it might be worth it (the madness) or at least it means something or might mean something in the future. Only time will tell? If this ‘gift’ will somehow payoff and bring you *riches that everyone else is unfortunate not to be exposed to or see then if you could foresee what was going to happen you’d take the other restrictions (hospitalization, diagnosis, stigma) if it means you have a **special power. The thing is, time and altered dimensions have told me the risk of enduring large amounts of stress while overloading your own consciousness doesn’t pay off, it is more a trade off and the older I get the more I fear my decision (under duress) to let go and break my rubber band back in 1995 was just me injuring myself.

*An adolescent mind may refer to riches exclusively as money brought about by success but to be rewarded is to be rich in happiness, friendships, health and ideas.
**It is healthier to explore your consciousness slowly over a lifetime but this level of exposure cannot always be controlled.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy

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