Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
#manicdepression #mentalhealth #mentalillness #alcohol #alcoholism #bipolarbum #cartoon
Conforming to the English stereotype as I have in the past means that my relationship with alcohol has been intense to say the least. My first experience of it was at thirteen being dropped off at a friend’s for a “sleepover” (English kids don’t even have these, oblivious parent much?). Before the car was even out of sight my older friend had begun jabbing my back with a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka.
“Get some of that down you before we get there”. I was compliant. I arrived at the first party I’d ever attended absolutely blasted after a third of a bottle of vodka. I felt great and my hyperactive, amusing behaviour meant that I was the toast of the town among my compatriots. Rarely was there a dull moment when I was around alcohol. I discovered I hated the taste of beer, wine and cider and until that changed some five or six years later, my weapon of choice was always a neat spirit. Red Aftershock and I often embarked on an evening hand in hand. My body rejected the volume of spirit I was giving it, obviously. The consequence of this was that I was happy to throw up three or four times a night, minimum and keep filling ‘er back up.
My relationship with alcohol definitely didn’t become more moderate over time until I was made by my now-ex partner to swear off of spirits altogether, because I was ‘too much’ whilst on them. I agreed and for years held to it. Eventually I got back onboard the liquor train and regular service resumed. The one man riot had re-surfaced. Friends with bands loved to take me along to gigs because even if there were only a handful of people making up the audience (a regular occurrence) they would feel as though they were playing to a decent sized crowd on account of how absolutely over the top my behaviour was and how I would do anything to whip anyone around into a frenzy.
After the age of about seventeen I began to feel INCREDIBLE amounts of guilt when hung-over. This was well before my diagnosis and I just assumed that I had been in the routine of needing to apologise so much after a night on the ale that I had somehow trained my body to feel guilt whether I had done anything wrong or not. This was plausible enough that I never challenged the theory until a decade further on, last Christmas, when my diagnosis was forth-coming.
I have written this story out in such detail not as an ego-trip (Quite frankly I’m ashamed of how heavily alcohol has featured in my formative years), but to decisively state how padestrian my approach to SERIOUS alcohol abuse was. It is a similar story to most English kids and I was quite unaware of how we differed to the majority of other places in the world until relatively recently.
I haven’t touched alcohol since Christmas, as I very quickly linked the guilt I was feeling with the fact that alcohol is a depressant and I didn’t need anything causing FURTHER malfunctions with my brain chemistry.
I have thusfar found no distraction or alternative strategy to deal with having what I would call an itchy brain. There are days when every thought seems to be barbed; When I am beset by a sense of impending calamity, and every thought takes on a prickly, irritating quality as though the inside of my skull is being given a rash. This isn’t the sinking, numbing onset of depression. It may even be hypomanic irritability for all I know, I’ve only recently become fully aware of it.
What I do know is that when I enter this state -I am defenceless. I currently have to grit my teeth and hold on until I take my meds, then pray that they send me off to sleep. Before I would have had a big glass of whiskey and it would have almost immediately mellowed me out.
Alcohol used to allow me to travel through time. I could calm myself down and, if required, use it to fastforward to the next day. It slowed my thinking down to a crawl if I needed it to and meant that I was far easier to distract with T.V, company or music. In a sober state I find my thoughts become quite sneaky and find ways around my defences. I may be distracted, but only enough that I don’t become consciously aware of negative trains of thought until it is too late. Sobriety enables my mind to turbocharge negativity if it decides that’s the way it is going.
Truthfully, a lot of the time I just miss being able to drink good brandy and whiskey.
What is your relationship with alcohol? Have you found a good alternative or do you still imbibe whilst being medicated? Do you find that you feel particularly guilty or low in the mornings? I want to hear from you.
All the best,