Black Dog and Radio 4 – Part 2


THIS BLOGPOST FOLLOWS FROM Part 1. WHICH I HAD WRITTEN SOME MONTHS BACK. Here I tell the story of a depressive illness I experienced after finishing a novel called One Inch Punch. It’s been a while since I have written anything in my blog, mostly because I’ve been working on a new book. This post deals with my last book, One Inch Punch, and the end of my marriage, and the tragedies that came with that very tragic time. I have broken it into several parts, for the sake of brevity.

I loved working on One Inch Punch. I finished the novel around November 2009. It would be a couple of years before it wound up in print, after countless revisions, but I was done with the heavy lifting. I remember the days after finishing it. I remember I very quickly wrote a long poem called The Revised Standard Edition Prudence Antipode, then after that everything pretty much crashed. The first feeling I got after finishing the book, aside from relief and tiredness, was a deep loneliness. This caught me by surprise. Now I had stopped writing, I felt so alone. I was alone I guess because my characters were all gone, my friends had left. Round this time I began to look bad, physically. People were asking me if I was okay. I had lost a lot of weight. My face looked thinner. I was getting ghostly and coughing a lot. I also had no energy. It was getting harder to go anywhere or do anything, and I had a full schedule of readings to do, events to curate and MC, and people to meet, not to mention publishing deadlines and the odd talk I would do here and there. Each day I got tireder. Then I woke up one day with a sore throat and a headache. This turned into a flu. Then a headache got worse, and spread down my body. Even my bones ached. This feeling didn’t leave me for a month. Even my skin was sensitive to the touch. I had crashed, but I didn’t realize it then. I had a nasty flu, or so I thought.

It’s Christmas 2009. Friends are staying over. I am too ill to talk to them, being in week three of the worst continuous headache I have ever had. When you are feeling that poorly you don’t remember a whole lot, so what I’m writing is based mostly on fragments of memories I have from back then. I remember I got up on Christmas Day, ate dinner, then I threw up, crawled back into bed coughing and holding my aching head. Weeks passed. Friends left. New Year came. I couldn’t get up. All day long I listened to BBC Radio 4. The World at One. Woman’s Hour. Afternoon Play. A book at Bedtime. The Weather Report. It kept me going. It was all I could listen to. I kept the volume low enough so it wouldn’t hurt my head, but loud enough to be audible. Eventually Sarah came into my bedroom. She said I had to do something about my condition. She said things couldn’t go on like this. I said I was too unwell to move and I didn’t want doctors in the house, nor did I want to take a trip in an ambulance. Eventually friends insisted and took me to the emergency room. they put me on a saline and a paracetamol drip. I felt immediately better. then they released me. I went home, the paracetamol wore off and I felt as bad as ever. A month later I was well enough to go to my GP.

My GP said I was depressed. Very depressed. He referred me to a psychiatrist, who misdiagnosed me as bipolar. The interview time took four hours. The psychiatrist, along with her care team, sat me down and interviewed me for hours, and, mistaking the high of the creative outburst and the low afterwards as the cycle of the manic depressive, told me I was surely bipolar. I’m not, and several therapists afterwards have disputed the diagnosis, but at the time I accepted their opinion. I want to make it clear the impact a group of qualified psychiatrists with years of experience and that air of detached clinical certainty can have on the depressed mind of a very burnt out writer, especially when they are completely wrong. The impact is considerable. I believed them, and told others what they told me. I thought that was it. I had found out what was wrong. I had learned the truth about myself. What’s more I had to take the meds. I went for therapy, gained a lot of weight, acquired a high cholesterol count and slowly I pulled out of the slump. I was getting better, getting the help I needed. I was in therapy. I was supported. I cut down on drinking. I slept through the night. I even did a few open mics and literary evenings. My therapist was good, very good. I was taking meds but really what was working was the therapy I was getting. I was learning new things about myself. I had been living in my books for a long time for a very good reason. I was about to find out why, and why I was escaping from life would shake my life to the very core. Right there though, the meds and the therapy enabled me to return to being productive. I went back to editing the novel and preparing it for publication.

More soon…