The Squash Ball

Gabrielle's cracking head

My dear friend JC rang me after having read my last blog entry. He said something that perfectly describes how it feels to be bi-polar, for me anyway. He said: there are two rackets, one on either side of the court, whacking the ball back and forth, and you are the ball. That is a perfect metaphor. Years of medical intervention and nobody has ever understood my experience in such an accurate way.

These are the diagnostic signs of manic depression (bi-polar)

The Mania part of it:

  • Inflated sense of self-importance: I can honestly say that I have not experienced that. Otherwise, I might have become a politician....
  • Decreased need for sleep: yes.
  • Increased talkativeness: yes.
  • Flight of ideas or racing thoughts: yes.
  • Easily distracted: total lack of concentration would be more accurate for me.
  • Excessive involvement in activities that can bring pleasure but may have disastrous consequences (e.g. sexual affairs and spending excessively): I have always managed to control my actions because I have retained enough insight to recognise consequences so no sexual affairs (honest) and no excessive spending (chance would be a fine thing!)

The Depression part of it:

  • A depressed mood for most of the day, almost every day: yes
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities, almost every day: yes.
  • Changes in weight and appetite: yes, I have a whole wardrobe two sizes too small to testify to that one... 
  • Sleep disturbance: yes.
  • A decrease in physical activity: yes; can't move would be more accurate for me.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy: yes, try totally knackered.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive feelings of guilt: yes, both.
  • Poor concentration levels: yes, that's an understatement.
  • Suicidal thoughts: yes.

As you can see by my answers above (I have been totally honest), I recognise myself in these diagnostic signs BUT they don't tell you how it feels to experience them. They don't tell you how it feels to be like a Squash Ball.

So, this is my description of being that Squash Ball, constantly battered from one racket to the other:

Strong destructive urge turned within: suicidalStrong destructive urge turned without: aggressive
High mind energy: lots of creative ideasNo body energy to act on any of them; no implementation possible
Calm found in highly pointed focus activities: e.g. SudokuTotal inability to concentrate
Great sense of connectivity with self (sense of being rooted, of living in physical body) and with the world (sense of nature, animals, community, etc)Great sense of total isolation: internal and external desert
Feeling of being rooted and solidFeeling of floating and disintegrating
Pleasure in sensorial activities: watching TV, listening to music; moisturising skin; tasting food; smelling flowers. Need for hugs and cuddles.Sensory overload - everything hurts: light too bright, everything too loud, shower hurts like needles on skin, tastes too strong (only very bland food eatable), all smells overpowering and sickening. Can't stand being touched.
Totally exhausted - near 'catatonic'Uncontrollably agitated - pacing back & forth
Need to be with others; need for human contact and interaction. Seek eye contact and smile a lot.Overwhelming need to protect myself, to isolate, to hide. Avoid eye contact and face muscles like concrete - smiling physically very difficult.
Dominant feeling of love.Dominant feeling of fear.

It doesn't make very comfortable reading and it is hard for me to share these feelings (particularly feelings of aggression because that's just not me) but, if nobody ever sticks his/her head over the parapet to talk about this illness in human terms rather than just medical terms, then we must not be surprised if the general population doesn't understand it and everybody is afraid of it.  

It's the 'not knowing' that is always the scariest thing.

Squash Balls aren't scary - they just get battered a lot. They are also very brave :D

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