Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Bi Polar Bear

BI Polar Bear

20 years ago I was diagnosed as Bi-polar.  During the ups and downs I formulated a series of therapies to help manage my condition and lessen its impact on those around me.  16 years ago I came off the full time meds.  Other than one major episode 4 years ago, and  series of lower level blips, I have been mostly Meds free, and stable enough to live a productive and fun life.  Let me tell you how I did it and within my story there may be methods and tips which might help you too.

The inspiration.

During my first big melt down I was watching a documentary about a guy in Russia who had a car accident and a steel bar came through his windscreen and severed half his brain.  He lost all of his mobility and most of his speech. Over the next couple of years with help, he taught the opposite side of his brain to deal with all the functions lost as a result of the accident.  I figured that if he can do that when such a large amount of brain was damaged, I can overcome the chemical imbalance in my brain which was failing to cope with my emotional extremes and teach another area of my brain to take on the strain.

My version of events.

Here is the story behind my condition an then I will describe the processes I formulated to help keep it under control.  I write it in the knowledge that everyone’s experience and prognosis is individual to them but there are certain commonalities which we can all identify with.  I just hope my story helps you, if only to make you feel less alone in your personal struggle.

Bi Polar or Manic depression is often, but not always inherited. (There are medical journals that can better describe the condition so look them up for more information.)  My Dad was definitely Bi Polar.  In his day it was referred to as having ‘bad nerves.’  He was very intuitive and after years of dealing with it he was pretty good at spotting its onset.  When he knew he was poorly he would book himself into the local psychiatric hospital and for 4-6 weeks they would dose him up and chemically squash him mentally.  He would then come home and be fine, often for a few years a time.

I was 29 (in 1997), I had what appeared to be the perfect life.  I was married with our own home.  We had 3 children and I had a regular interesting job, a good social life and was very clean living and orderly.  I was also a minister in the local church and regularly gave the sermons.

 By the time my first big manic episode had done its worst, less than 2 years later I was living in a bedsit, on the way to divorce and a regular at dance music festivals and night clubs smoking drinking and living very large.

Once I was diagnosed, I immediately accepted the treatment, mainly Lithium and Haloperidol and occasional Beta Blockers.  The medical teams were brilliant but told me that I would have to accept that, for the rest of my life, I would experience regular hospital stays, and would never be able to live without the medication.  Quite early on I began to question my psychiatric doctors and I asked for a medium to long term plan which would see me eventually not needing the medication or the hospitals. (The meds have side effects which can be very unpleasant.)  Right away they dismissed me.  They said my ‘grand’ ideas were simply a symptom of the mania and so were not valid, and as a result refused to discuss or even consider a plan other than the ones they had learned from their textbooks.  I theorised that a combination of psycho therapies and cognitive behavioural therapies could help re programme another area of my brain to take over from the bits which were malfunctioning. 

 The more I calmly reasoned my point, the more I protested, the greater the resistance to my ideas became from those treating me.  One psychiatric team wrote me off and transferred me to another department saying that they could no longer help me.  This was despite the fact that I was fully adhering to their medical schedule and following all their directions and advice.  I turned up to all my counselling and assessment sessions.  I appreciated the need and the power of the meds to at least stabilise my moods in order to buy me time to put a better plan into action.

There was one beacon of hope. One person who would at least listen to my idea.  My local GP.  I explained to him the basis of my theory and he calmly told me that there was early work going on amongst pioneering psychiatric teams which was going along a similar path.  So why not give it a go, he said, but don’t abandon your meds until you’re are absolutely sure.  He emphasised the importance of the medical treatments and support services that went along with them.

(What I found then and now is, in my case, when manic, if presenting to a medical team for the first time (rather than my GP who knows me,) I am often so clear and seemingly so very coherent that I have often been told there is nothing wrong with me in their opinion.  I then point out that I haven’t sought help in many years and seeking help is never my first option and the fact that I am sitting there looking for support should on its own, tell them there is something wrong. 

 The other reaction I get is an almost complete dismissal of everything I say as the listener / medical professional, is convinced from the outset that, as a Bi polar I am delusional or unwell and therefore cannot be trusted or believed.  When I am manic or spiralling towards a mania, I am at my most clear in terms of being able to describe my condition, my feelings and my general condition.  I think if I had gone in barefoot with a Ramones t-shirt on, a spliff between my teeth and spent the whole session stood on the table whilst insisting they call me Jesus… then they might have taken me seriously! )

A point came just prior to diagnosis, when my manic episodes were frequent and severe.  I was drinking regularly and closing myself away from my family.  I was very moody and difficult to deal with.  I was also making clear plans to end my life, making notes as to the cleanest and most efficient way of ending things.  I found a block of concrete I could just about carry.  I found some good rope and I was all set to walk out into the sea to the point of no return where I would drop the concrete and let the waves consume me (hoping I had got the tides right and I wouldn’t be left standing ankle deep in the sea with a lump of concrete tied to my waist!).  I parked the car by the beach all ready to go.  The only thing that stopped me taking the final step was my mum and my sons.  I could not muster the levels of selfishness needed to create the hurt they would carry for the rest of their lives.  I reasoned that I would rather live a whole life of internal torture than pass that pain onto them. (I am not saying all suicide is selfish. I am speaking for my own experience only.)

  When I am high (manic) it was the greatest feeling ever.  Uber confident, very charming and lots of physical and mental energy.  My libido is off the charts.  Physically and intellectually it feels like the universe cannot contain me. During the fist big meltdown, I had decided to study Quantum Mechanics and my fitness regime was based on the program used by people doing Triathlons at Olympic distance. Everything was done on an obsessional scale.  I could party, literally for days at a time without the use of recreational drugs.  I could write poetry and read complicated philosophy with an ease I had never before experienced.  I drove and lived very fast and often endangered myself by my crazy antics and risk taking.  Even though I appeared to be having the time of my life, the exercise and the complicated study subjects were only a means of satiating the pain I felt.  I felt a pain and restlessness in my body and there were huge Katherine wheels of energy spinning inside my head which physically hurt at times and the exercise and study seemed to quiet them a little.  At times, however, they also fed the mania and made it worse. 

To those not close to me I was the life and soul of the party and my energy was the envy of most.  When manic on a high cycle, you feel indestructible and able to achieve anything. The feeling is like a drug, it can be very addictive.  When you are up there, free from the usual responsibilities of how to behave and live you often don’t want to ever come back down. (This is why many with a similar condition don’t take their medication or refuse help.  It’s like being intellectually drunk on the finest drug rush you can ever imagine.)

When the subsequent swing happened and I spiralled into a low I would find myself alone inside a screaming-head and a very dark world full of paranoia, hate, mistrust and demons from past present and future that did the fire dance inside my psyche.  I really wanted to die. I wanted to get off the roundabout for a moment.  All I wanted was a little peace and quiet and death seemed the only route to finding that.  You spend a lot of time crying and feel very alone. The paranoia isolates you from most support and everything seems quite hopeless. 

When high on a mania, it would be usual for me to seek brand new relationships both sexual and social, with people outside my current circles.  I later realised that the reason I did this was probably because of my paranoia and mistrust of those around me when I was  not well. People close to me would question my behaviour, question my decisions and stand up to my wrong doing, (no one likes that at the best of times.)  I also knew that I was causing a strain on them, so by taking my self away from them, the burden, i thought,  would be lessened.  The other great advantage to this strategy was that amongst strangers I could be whoever I wanted to be and show them only the good sides of who I was, only what I wanted them to see.  They didn’t judge me and they didn’t criticise me in the same way that those close to me did.  I could then go home and and hide, venting my suffering, the negative sides of my feelings, in private.

The biggest thing the illness takes from you, other than family friends and livelihood, is your confidence. You lose basic trust in your own faculties, the fundamental ability to know what is right and what is wrong suddenly deserts you.  Most people go their whole life trusting their own brain and their own judgement, getting it wrong sometimes, making mistakes and leaning and adapting to those experiences.  When I am in the middle of a manic episode, my brain tells me all sorts of things which are not true, it deceives me, tricks me and my whole perspective, objectives and outlook are completely skewed (and I have no idea anything is wrong when in the midst of it.)  Everyone around me knows, strangers can sometimes sense there’s an issue, but in my head I am completely in control and on top.  Everyone else is wrong.

 A way of illustrating this is a phenomenon called liquefaction.  During an earthquake the solid trusted ground beneath your feet can literally liquefy.  Roads, fields and whole villages can disappear in an instant.  The very ground you stand upon, the most trusted part of our physical environment behaves in a way which is seemingly impossible and beyond comprehension.  My brain does something similar and the resultant fall out is that you can no longer trust what you once thought was completely solid and completely reliable.  It’s terrifying when you cannot even be completely sure of your own interpretation of the world around you. 

Dear Diary – close your eyes!

In between the bi-polar swings, I would sometimes find short periods of peace, or at the least, stable thinking patterns.  During one of these times I realised that I needed to see inside the world of my manic behaviour.  I needed to create a window through which I could observe my behaviour (once I was well enough again to do so,) in order to attempt to find a way of understanding, addressing and countering it.  I knew that the observational and reporting power of those around me was flawed because there was often an emotional connection to me which could cloud their view.  My paranoia also often prevented me from trusting their accounts and whilst I was manic I could be very manipulative and crafty in hiding my behaviour, motivations and actions to those close to me.  The only true account could be my own.  This process however, depends on me being honest enough both in the recording and interpretation of whatever I found.

I soon realised I had to write a diary.  Not just any diary though.  It had to be detailed and honest to the degree where even the innermost secret motivations had to be recorded.  It also needed to be very detailed because, at this point, I had no idea where the solution or the weakness lay.  I could not set off on this journey with my eyes closed to any possible cause or solution.  The diary also proved to be a good outlet for my thoughts and emotions where few such non-judgemental alternatives existed.  So I disciplined myself that however I was feeling, high, low, or somewhere in between, I would record my day.  I noted what I ate and when. How much sleep I had and the hours of that sleep. My activities, my emotions, my feelings and my motivations including my demons, the things that no one ever wanted to admit at the very least record and make permanent on paper. e.g.  If I perhaps desired someone sexually or conversely wanted someone to die, I would record it all in detail.

By writing a diary, I could, over time analyse my behaviour both in and out of manic cycle and I hope that patterns, reasons and insights would appear.  Because of the records I was creating, it meant that during my well periods, I could look through the eyes of my manic me, and in some part experience what others around me saw and had to deal with.

Within less than 6 months, thanks to the diary, I realised that there were certain clues appearing.  Just prior to spiralling out of control each time, there were signs that my mood was changing.  Signals that something was on the way.

You see what happens is this, at least in my case, the mania increases from tiny periods of high energy or high emotion into large destructive whirlwinds.  It’s almost like a flywheel or a tornado gathering speed and gathering energy from within its environment or its power source.  At lower speeds it’s quite easy to bring it to a halt again, but once it goes past a certain point the stored energy is too great to be stopped.  It then has to burn itself out or be destroyed by other means. Those other means could be medical intervention or self-destruction.  Every case is different, but for me the build-up usually takes several weeks and sometimes many months.  In the case of my first big meltdown, I later realised that the flywheel had been gaining pace for many years.

I began to realise that if I could halt the progress of the manias before they went too far, I could bring them back down and avoid the mess they created.  Over the next year or so, by means of the diary, I would regularly analyse my behaviour prior to becoming manic, and slowly I became better at spotting its onset.
For example, if I was desperate to go clubbing, then the last thing I should do is go clubbing as the resultant stimulus would feed the mania.  I am not just talking a general desire to go clubbing, I am talking about a deep down desperation to immerse myself within that type of environment.  I also spotted that when listening to music at home, if the music made me particularly emotional either weepy or ebullient, it was an indicator that I was beginning to spiral.  In both and similar examples, the correct course of action to take is to step away from stimulus make sure I got extra sleep, take time away from work, watch shit daytime TV and keep my meds nearby in case I felt I wasn’t able to slow down the momentum without them.

Over a period of many years,, I literally read my behaviour and reactions. I found the things which would initially trigger episodes and through my early warning flags was able, bit by bit, to counter them earlier and earlier to the point that I could stop them gathering enough pace to get out of control.  It’s something I still do every day now, 20 years later, as a means of keeping myself stable.


I don’t want to go too deep into my personal triggers but, self-esteem issues, romantic complications, relationship problems and financial strains were more often than not, at the core of me eventually finding myself unable to cope and my mania taking hold.  Read this though within the context of the other things I am outlining in this article. It’s a combination of factors that lead to becoming unwell.  The triggers are often the straw that breaks the camel’s back in emotional terms, rather than a cause or to blame in isolation.

One of the primary triggers for me, which cannot be over emphasised, and is both a symptom and a cause, is lack of good quality sleep.  When my sleep patterns are disturbed (by a head too busy with mania to switch off,) it will make my mania worse.  Or if work and socialising means I am not getting the amount and quality of sleep I need, then it can lead to a manic episode.  Whenever I get the early warning signs that I am becoming unwell, the first thing I address is my sleeping patterns, but they are often the hardest to bring under control.  When manic, even at a low level, the last thing you want to do is sleep.  Sleep seems to be an intrusion into good party and creative time. 

Environmental factors

Alongside the diary I read other accounts and books of people with a similar condition. I read psychology books about mental illness and the myriad of factors, reasons that it comes to the fore and ways of dealing with it.

 I learned that along with the genetic predisposition, there is a massive weight of evidence that environmental factors play a big part in bringing it to the fore. By environmental factors I mean, the situation you find yourself in at that time as a collection of the many steps it took you to get there. Your history, your family and peer dynamic all play a part in your ability to cope, your ability to manage your personal stresses, and your ability to control any chemical imbalances that will ultimately make your head poorly.

 We all have differing levels of what we can deal with. We all have different brain chemistry.  Therefore what induces stress, mental illness and severe anxiety in one person, is a seeming walk in the park to another.  One type of person is no better than another in this respect. Just because you know someone who seems to be able to deal with all that life throws at them and at the same time you fail to get out of bed some days because your anxiety is overwhelming.  This does not make them better than you.  You are not weak by comparison.  You are different people with different brain chemistry and different environments.

In my personal case I found myself in a world where I no longer belonged and the pressure of conforming to that world eventually boiled over and broke me. 
I joined a church at the age of 16 seeking answers to the great questions of the universe and life.  By 20 I was married.  Throughout my twenties I was a minister and to many, my wife and I were considered to be shining examples in the congregation.  We were often cited as examples that others should follow. I was also living in quite a poor working class community in the South Wales valleys amongst wonderful family centric, community focused people.  All of this was wonderful, and a period of my life I am very glad happened.  However, by the time I was in my late twenties, the pressures to conform to the world I had placed myself within, became almost unbearable.  I was no longer that young spiritual man, happy with the simple things in life and content to ignore the wider world around me.  I realised there was a whole world of the arts, theatre, creativity and self-expression, which were not compatible with the brand of spiritual life which was now my whole world.  I was a large thinker and a creative free spirit contained within very high walls of strict conformity.
  Whilst, from within my confines,  I could see the clouds passing overhead, I knew that those clouds were travelling on without me, and it was inevitable that I would one day hop onto one and drift away to find out about the big world outside.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that, rather than a gradual drift away, the onset of my Bi-polar would have me bursting through those walls in a great cloud of mess, dust and destruction.  When it happened I ran at full speed leaving much rubble in my wake and never looking back.  By the time the Bi-polar had done its thing, I had no god, no belief and horizons seemingly without borders.

Another factor during this period of my life which applied much of the pressure that lead to my explosion, was the community in which I lived and worked.  I grew up in quite a middle class home, my Dad had been a research scientist and our whole world was one of a certain set of values and behaviours indicative of that world.  When I married and moved to the Welsh valleys to be with my new Welsh wife, I found myself within a culture I did not understand and it certainly did not understand me.  For one I was English, which was always going to be a stumbling block for the locals.  When I first moved to Wales the pits were still open and my father in Law was a Miner.   A world so different to what I knew. 

Now I am not suggesting for one second that I was better than the people I found myself among, they are good hard working people with good values and a good way of life.  The problem was, it was so different in its values and belief structures to mine, that fitting in there was really hard.  I was constantly having to change who I was, accept things that I saw as unacceptable and conform to a pattern of behaviour which was alien to me.  I was from a different world, a different culture and I was in a foreign land trying to make it work.

   A small example of this was that I wanted my sons to go to a Grammar school, or if there was a way of facilitating it, a private school.  I wanted the very best for them to give them a good start in life.  My wife and her family berated me for this notion asking me ‘why should our boys be any different to anyone else around them.’  The state schools locally had been good enough for multiple generations of their family and we should be no different.  They said I had ideas above my station and that I was an elitist. Maybe I was in this respect but I truly believed it was the best way for them (at the time).  I was overruled.

On another occasion a member of my wife’s family who was about 14, and beginning to go off the rails a bit, came back home with what was clearly stolen goods.  We were looking after the family home while my In-laws were away on holiday  with no way to contact them.  I took the decision to call the police as I knew this was one of a series of crimes he had committed and felt that police intervention was necessary to both hopefully, get him back into line, but also to reunite the victims with their stolen goods.  When the In-laws returned from holiday I was vilified and ostracised, the dynamic between us was never the same again.  I was told that it was ‘family business’ and should be kept within the family and that the police should never have been called under any circumstances.  It was just another nail in the coffin of my disenfranchisement with the world I was living in.
       These are just some examples of how my environment was creating issues with my mental health and were in part factors in my eventual breakdown.

Clearing out the attic.

I started a process, of what I call, clearing out the attic.  Getting rid of as many of the things inside my head which troubled or bothered me.  There were hundreds of them.  Some of these broken bits of furniture and boxes of bric-a-brac inside my head went right back to my childhood.  Somethings were impossible to address and had to be dealt with in other ways.  Here are two very differing examples:
     When I was 14, I was on a school trip to Germany and became very friendly with a girl from my school.  We snogged most of the way back to the UK and she was simply lovely to be with.  About half way home she told me that she loved me and wanted to introduce me to her family.  She wanted me to go around to their house for dinner and she wanted all her friends to meet me.  I had no idea how to deal with this level of personal affection and attention from a relative stranger. (I had come from a loving and supportive home but had never learned to deal with, or acknowledge affection outside of that circle partly due to my low self-esteem.)  My reaction as to completely close down.  I folded my arms tightly, and went completely silent, spending the rest of the journey home staring out of the window, refusing to talk as she sat beside me and cried!  At 30+ years old, I still felt terrible for doing that to her, I never forgot how much it must have hurt her, but I was helpless to put it right.  I carried it with me all those years and realised I had to deal with it.  I had no idea how to contact her and also reasoned it was probably pointless, as she would not even know what I was talking about.  In the end I stood in a field alone and had a conversation with her, out load, and apologised.  In some way I was hoping the breeze would carry it far enough for her to hear and understand.  I then opened my hand palm upwards, visualised the hurt as a big ball sat in the palm of my hand and literally blew it away.

Another and more complex example was one of past learned behaviour which was affecting my ability to deal with my world on an emotional level.

 Before I describe this one I need to add some context.  I always felt that never really fitted in anywhere.  I never understood how others around me behaved or reacted especially towards me.  I seemed unable to read their signals and clues and as a result often reacted strangely which compounded the problem.  I was also bullied alot at school from quite early on, so this also fed into my sense of isolation.  So at about the age of 11, I started reading psychology books from my Dad’s bookshelves.  One in particular was about the psychology of the behaviour between people on both a personal level and within groups.  The language and terminology in these books was very complicated for an 11 year old, but I persevered and slowly taught myself how to better read those around me.  I also read books about how the negative behaviour displayed in people was often a consequence of earlier trauma or family issues.  Using this information, over many years, I began to better understand my peers and better understand myself. Some of the things learned would take many years to make sense of.  As I grew older and experienced more of life it all became clearer.

The many years of studying pschology lead me to a new understanding.  It wasn’t until I was in my early Thirties that, after being ill, and carefully examining my emotional reactions, especially on a personal level, I realised that I was displaying classic textbook accurate behaviour of someone who had been abused at some point in their life.  I, however had never experienced any form of abuse.  I was absolutely sure of this.  I had no doubt at all.  So where did this behaviour come from.  One day it dawned on me.  You see as you get older you learn more about those around you and small pieces of a complex jigsaw start to fall into place.  I worked out that almost without exception, both within my family and amongst 80% of my peer group they had all suffered from either sexual, psychological or physical abuse from people close to them, at some point in their lives.  The list of those around me who had suffered in this way was extensive.  It was then that I realised that the very people responsible for forming the person I had become were all victims in one way or another and I had also learned to display the traits of a victim despite never having been one.  This wasn’t a conclusion I came to lightly or quickly but once I spotted and acknowledged it, I was then in a position to counter it and begin to counter its negative effects in my personal relationships.

So bit by bit, piece by piece, I began to repair myself from within.  It was a long, slow, and often frustrating process, but one I knew was vital to restoring my mental health to something more predictable. 

The recognition that there was a problem that could eventually be overcome.  The incremental increase in my knowledge of mental health issues and an increased understanding of personal and group psychology.   The diaries.  The early warning process.  The understanding of the triggers and causes of my poor mental health.  The resolving of past hurts which were eating me from the inside.  The break from a life and lifestyle which was killing me slowly from within.  Understanding the vital importance of sleep and rest as a part of the healing process.  All of these and more were steps in the process towards getting better.

I was effectively re training other areas my brain to deal with the things that made poorly.  This meant that the section neurons which miss fire in my head, under extreme emotional duress was carrying less load and therefore less likely to fail when I needed them the most.

I would not change a single thing about who I am or the cards I have been dealt.  I embrace my condition and diagnosis, in as much as knowledge is king, and anything can be overcome and sustainably managed, given enough time and support.
Being Bi-polar brings with it many problems, but it also brings many benefits which I appreciate and embrace. My experience and journey have made me stronger and given me a zest and energy for life that many get nowhere near to.  When you have peered over the edge into the abyss of nothingness, the sun shines twice as brightly once you find a place from where you can enjoy it. My creativity and my bravery, to take on the world with schemes and ideas many would shy away from, all come in great part from having this special, slightly faulty brain, upbringing, genetics and the experiences which have formed me.

I am a productive member of society with many precious friends and a good lifestyle. This has happened thanks to a long fight to get better and the unending and often underserved support and patience of those around me.  In 20 years I have had 2 majorly destructive episodes and countless smaller ones which have caused their own problems and many set-backs.

Every day for the rest of my life I will need to keep monitoring and examining my behaviour, my reactions and the counsel of those around me.  I do this in order to maintain a stability which is conducive to being part of a family and a wider society.  I can never let my guard down or take my current good health for granted.  I will never stop sharing and helping others in any way I can.  I will never stop fighting to stay alive.  I will never stop living each day with a zeal that makes the best of every moment and every situation.  I will never stop trying to improve myself and exceed my own goals.

 I am one of the lucky ones, I am still alive to tell the tale.

Dedicated to my Mum for keeping me alive thus far. x

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Edinburgh Fringe report 2012

Wow! glad to be home.

After 8 months of planning I arrived in Ed keen to show off the new version of 2 Facedbook... Last year over 2500 people came to see the show live and 800 watched live online. This years version was all about audience interaction, using their mobile phone to heckle me on my Facebook wall which was projected behind me. There was also a live internet feed so that people around the world could watch and heckle.

4 Days in I could not understand why large chunks of my audience were walking out and why no-one seemed interested in interacting. I was completely on the back foot, filling for time, pulling every old story out of the back of my head just to keep the show going until people started getting involved. There was little online input and although some photos etc were hitting the wall, the sheer lack of volume meant there was very little to work with and the energy in the room was not any where near what I was used to from previous years.

I then received a very rude email from one of my returning audience members stating that not only was the show totally rubbish but also that no-one in the audience could get online and interact and thus were leaving disappointed. The internet  (the venue had provided) was not keeping up with demand and as soon as a certain level of load was put on it, it went into meltdown. It was no-ones fault, we just did not anticipate this as a potential issue.

During one of these disaster shows a reviewer came in, and not realising anything was wrong, decided that the problem was clearly me and thus wrote a tirade of personal comments the highlights of which include; lecherous hack who belongs in 1962 Butlins (BTW 1962 was the hey day of Butlins!) and that I don't deliver on any level. He then goes on to misquote a story completely leaving out the punchline, in order to support his theory that I am hack and past it. I don't mind that he didn't like the show, I don't care that he disliked me, but I hate that I was so misrepresented because of his inability to listen carefully to the whole story and then get so very personal with his vitriol as a result. He also says that I fail to establish a positive relationship with my audience... every day 30% of this years audience had seen me before and returned for more, I guess they were there simply for the chance to have a relaxing sit down in a large damp cave beneath an Edinburgh bridge and nothing to do with my ability to charm my room.

before the end of the first week, I had to pull the show as we couldn't get the technology to keep up with our demands. I guess the show was soooo cutting edge that it hadn't even been invented yet!  :) next year we will attempt time travel and have a working version of the Stargate on stage. Then all the critics can pass through and have a second chance to quote things in context instead of trying to boost their own ratings by ranting about the made up weaknesses of others (although it hasn't done Simon Cowell to badly!)

Matt Price (my friend and my hero) stepped in and suggested I put on a 3 header comedy stand-up show in place of 2FB3. Matt became my anchor man and became completely invaluable and a real source of strength at a time when I was ready to pack up and go home. No matter how tough the audience, and some days were really bad, Matt always managed to turn them around and read their mood perfectly, delivering his outstanding set in a completely different way every day according to how he read the room. It was a real pleasure watching such a pro at work.

2 weeks in and the going was tough but the morale boost came in a very special way. Whilst waiting for my show to start, a coach pulled up outside the venue and a chap jumped off, explained that a whole bunch of them had seen my show the previous year and they had brought their friends and come back for more. I explained that 2FB3 had been cancelled and in its place we were doing straight stand-up... they said they still wanted to see me, whatever the show, and they then filed into, and filled my venue. I felt honored and humbled by the experience but at the same time my Cahonies definitely grew and I was strutting like a prize peacock by the end of the evening.

On my other show We Love Comedy which was a showcase show for other comics to promote their slots elsewhere or for new comics to learn their trade. I made sure that up to 3 of the 5 comics everyday were newer and less experienced acts and gave them an opportunity to play a big stage in an environment that allowed them the room to be not quite as good as some of the bigger names that I booked. It was great fun seeing some of these people growing as comedians over the course of the month and thus leaving Ed far better than when they arrived.

The nightlife, the parties and the Loft Bar is as much a reason to go to the Ed Fest for a month as the performing and networking. It was often chilling out with my friends and talking absolute bollocks until the sun came up which kept me sane... although my measure of sanity cannot be relied upon in the real world. :) My good friend Rory (who worked for me on my shows) however could always be relied upon just to be himself and that was often funnier than the guys we saw on stage, but for all the wrong reasons.

After 85 performances; I had some great gigs and I had some awful ones. I met some great people and consistently ate over priced and poor quality food. However, the one treasure I will take with me from this years Fringe is the knowledge that I have some wonderful friends who can be totally relied upon when you need them and I consider it a privilege to be counted among such talented and loyal individuals. There were times that i was so fed up I wanted to cry, but they always lifted me up and urged me onward.

 If comedy never brings me fame or fortune it will always be the thing that gives me something money can't buy; the company of some really great people who seem to like my company too. What more could I ever ask for? I am indeed infamous and fortunate!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A tribute to the Brave

Grab life today, embrace it, shake and force it to do things your way! In the process never forget to show a little love to those around you, especially those with mental illness.

This year two of my friends have lost the fight with depression. When you hear such sad news as the loss of a loved one, if the loss is due to old age, or accident, whilst still tough, it has a reason, there is a hook to hang your emotion onto. However when you hear that your friend took their own life the situation for those left behind is far different.

Anger, resentment, tears, frustration, sadness and regret all intertwine into a big noisy mess inside your head.

'maybe I should have called him' 'why wasn't i there for him' 'if only I hadn't dismissed his troubles as melodrama or attention seeking' 'I should have noticed he was that bad, I should have known, I was his friend!'

These thoughts and a million others race through your head as you try and resolve the hurt that is biting at your heart.

Here's the thing though, there is no way of bringing back a loved one once gone, there is no cure. There is however a vaccine that might help those suffering from the same disease hold back its symptoms.

If you have a friend or a colleague who is suffering from depression or manic depression or any one of the many terrible mind maladies which display similar warnings, then there is one thing you can do for them right now and its really quite simple.

Just show them some love. Don't judge them. Don't scorn them or hate their moments of melodramatic self indulgence. Don't try and assign reasons for their behaviour using your best judgement from your sound mind that has no idea of the complexities and complications, the demons and the torture some have to deal with. Do not pretend you understand their pain if you yourself have never known such pain. Do not figuratively patronise or pat their head in wayward lip service. Just give them a little more love.

Many people with the many forms of depression are often the most creative and colourful members of our world. They are impetuous and bouncy one day and morose and negative the next. They build great walls of personality and bravado and lull the world into thinking that they are ok, they love the fight. They make it seem as if the fight is a tough one but one which is exhilarating in its pursuit. We often see those who suffer as somehow the strogest amongst us and thus the least likely to fall. This is a fragile illusion and the many dear friends I have said goodbye to are sad proof of that.

You may not be able to save a friend, you may not be able to extend their life one day beyond the day they decide their time has come, but you can wave them off with a heart that is clear in the knowledge that you did everything you could. You spent that extra moment to share a smile, you hesitated before judging them and you never forgot to tell them that you valued them and loved them.

Good bye my dear friends. Sleep well and peacefully.