by Lee Haynes
When I was a toddler, I had a serious head injury. I first had anxiety when I was about six or seven years old. I remember chewing my way through my jumper sleeves like I was frantically gnawing through bark.
My earliest memory of being depressed is when I was twelve years old. The world just seemed distant and dark. I knew I didn’t see things the way a normal twelve-year-old should. By the time I was fifteen, I was taking anti-depressants.
I was a shy teenager who spent most of my time in the music room at school. Music was a way of dealing with my feelings and moods.
“A little touch of chaos and danger makes a city sexy.” –David Byrne
As a nineteen-year-old student, for the first eighteen months of my time in London this was certainly true. The wild parties, heavy drinking and promiscuous lifestyle were a way of escaping the dark underlying depression that would come and go as it pleased. I was mugged twice when walking home, but even that didn’t stop me. I didn’t want the party to stop; there were too many good times to be had and no one could keep up. I wanted to push the limits, go harder and faster.
On top of that, I was riding the creative waves. Sometimes I had so many ideas I couldn’t record them quickly enough, or they just fizzled out. There would be times I couldn’t even physically play a note; my fingers just wouldn’t move, and my mind and hands were refusing to communicate.
Then three months short of my twenty-first birthday, I had a crash. The party was over. I was at home for the end of term break, and I became convinced my house was haunted. I couldn’t even stay in my house. I was referred to a specialist and he advised to take time off university. My place was held, so I could re-start when the new university year began.
It was during this time I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia by an educational psychologist. I had no idea what it was or meant, but I was given a detailed report full of jargon. I went back to university, only this time I commuted every day. I struggled to complete university. I tried desperately to stay on the straight and narrow, but it was the same old story. I had to do whatever I could to bury the despairing depression that plagued my mind. On my reference, it even says I could have got a 1st if I had been able to deal with my mental health, and that my grade didn’t reflect my ability.
Upon graduation, I was offered a job teaching music. I was naughty and didn’t declare my mental health struggles. I also didn’t disclose my Dyspraxia. I assumed my job offer would be revoked if they found out. I did eventually disclose both to a very understanding and supportive boss. Then one day, I decided to quit a perfectly good job without even thinking what I was going to do next. Like a misguided muse, it just seemed like the next part of an adventure.
I was lucky and found another teaching job. By now, I had pretty much tried every anti-depressant there was. None of them worked, and some made me virtually psychotic. The final anti-depressant brand I took succeeded in pushing me into psychosis. Within ten years, I had my second psychotic break and I plunged into a dark depression. Strange to think I actually don’t remember most of it. But one thing was certain: my ten-year career as a teacher was over. I lost my job.
I was referred to a specialist again and I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder. I was put on Depakote, which I take to this day. It has been three years since I was diagnosed and even now I am learning how to manage it and what my triggers are. You are advised by clinicians to try to monitor your moods. However, anyone with Bipolar or any other mental health condition will know the severity comes and goes as it pleases. I can have a good day and then, for no reason at all, have a bad day. It’s like the British weather, forever changing and entirely unpredictable.
In terms of my creativity, I haven’t recorded a new CD in nearly four years and I have about 200 pieces of unfinished music, in varying degrees of pleasantry to the ear. Sometimes a session in the studio will work and a few hours will fly by; other times, five minutes of frustration later, it’s best to call it a day. I guess the Depakote is best described as a flat liner for me. I still get the swings, but not as severe. I miss the highs and the mania that came with them, but I don’t miss the outcome of it. The hardest thing is that it stifles the creativity at times, but I know without it there are consequences.
I have been asked if I am bitter about what happened. I simply answer: I already have a companion, my Bipolar. If you invite bitterness along, and it will just create a perfect storm. These days, I am interested in Special Educational Needs in Schools, I do temporary work, and I am trying to work out what to do next. Who knows what the future holds? I am still finding my feet and learning new things about myself.
To quote my favourite phrase: “Out of order comes accuracy; out of chaos, truth.” –Pierre le R du Toit
A Note from the Editor:
This, again, is an altogether too commonly heard story. As someone who has been diagnosed myself, I have also tried a slew of anti-depressants. Interestingly, even though they’re meant to treat anxiety and depression, the side effects include…anxiety and suicidal ideation. It is also widely reported that they quell creativity / passion, and this happened to me. But I also wanted to comment that I, too, developed psychosis through being on an SSRI for several years. It was later determined that I have bipolar disorder, but this was never screened / diagnosed previously. I have since read that people with these sorts of conditions should not be put on such drugs, because psychotic episodes are a very frequent ‘side effect’ in such cases.
Thank you very much for sharing your story, and I wish you all the best in life. Also, if you ever do put any music out, even if it is simply self-released, do let us know and we would be happy to mention it to our readers.
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