As a fully certified depressive, I can be quite melancholy at times. On the bad days, when I agonise about dragging myself out of bed, my view of the world can be somewhat coloured towards the negative. But then, during a bad storm at sea for example, I can stand before the mast of my sailboat hanging on for dear life whilst totally mesmerised by the beauty of the violent sea. On these occasions I think, well, things aren’t so bad after all.
You may think I’m unusually brave but I’m not. It doesn’t take that much to turn me into a quivering wreck. I make no excuses for the state of my mind, my wife Marie, an incredibly positive person, often tells me I’m a living nightmare operating at both extremes. Every day I see how someone who’s glass is always half full copes with an unstable character like me. I try and learn but I’m not good at that either. But this blog isn’t about me.
Let’s discuss bravery, who are the bravest people in the world and what drives them. To those of you who are by your very nature extremely positive and don’t wish to be concerned with such things, please leave this blog here. I’m going to ask some problematical questions about your opinions of those mentally unwell…
If you are reading this far or have clicked the ‘Read More’ link then you’ve decided to stay with me. Thank you, I really do appreciate your curiosity and interest, which, I hope, is genuine.
The bravest people, I think, are those who tell you they’re crazy. You know who I mean, the ones you suspect aren’t quite right. I reckon, like most people, you avoid them, because you’re uncomfortable with their presence and you don’t want a depressive or unstable person around you. Don’t worry, as someone who feels the same, that’s normal and it’s very common. Depressingly common in fact… but then, remember, my glass is half empty!
Firstly, let me warn you, the story links I’ll ask you to follow in this blog aren’t for the faint hearted. Secondly, it’s important you know at this point that I myself have considered taking my life but I’ve long since realised I don’t have the courage to carry out what is ultimately an absurd and stupid act. After all, what if there really is nothing on the other side and I can’t look back with an accusing thought to everyone “Well, I tried to warn you…”
I already know I’m foolhardy and sometimes reckless to the point of being irresponsible. Did you know that foolish bravery and taking inordinate risk is recognised by most experts as one of the trigger signals for mental instability? BiPolar Disorder for example. Extreme and reckless behaviour usually occurs during periods of manic high, but that’s not to say your best friend who crawls into no man’s land and rescues you from the barbed wire is suffering from depression. That’s another subject entirely… loyalty. Or, you stick a leg out to trip the armed robber when he’s making a getaway… that’s doing what you’ve been taught by society is the right thing to do. In both these instances you get another of life’s useless recognitions… your name published and a glorious medal. Then, if you walk around proudly wearing your new medal those same folk, the ones who avoid mentally suspect people, think, well, hmmmm… Being judged by your peers is never easy.
What I’m talking about is real bravery. The people who tell you they’re crazy. Some are well known celebrities who have a voice and seriously risk their celebrity status. Ruby Wax for example, who writes about her mental illness in the Huffington Post, a wonderful person taking a humorous slant on the way she is. Or Stephen Fry and his incredible award winning TV documentary, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. It’s out there, but most people, unless they’re already suffering from mental illness, choose to ignore it. Until, that is, like the child’s running game Dicky Dob, you get dobbed and you’re it. Which one are you? Are you it?
I got dobbed a few years ago and I’m still not too sure why. Before, I was a tremendously positive person living with a sometimes fickle first wife who, I have to say, would risk little and viewed adventure as a sure route to doom. She still has my respect. Nowadays I have an idyllic lifestyle which I’ve carved out for myself by taking incredible risks… but I’m on borrowed time. Others are not nearly so fortunate. If you follow this link to Mind, for example, you will read fascinating stories from ordinary people who, being so enormously brave, talk about themselves and their mental illness in an open way that will make your spine tingle. For a truly disturbing story about pure survival you can follow this link here but, I warn you, you will need courage.
Talk to most who suffer from any form of mental illness, and it’s one in four of you out there, the acute problem related over and over again is the shock of disappearing friends and family. It seems those closest to you do not cope with the stigma well. It’s a common occurrence and, sadly, is perhaps driven by a hidden self preservation gene or a need to hide embarrassment. After all, which child wants to see their father breaking down after he’s been the supporting provider since birth?
To me, nowadays, incredible bravery is something demonstrated by someone coming clean and opening up. Confessing something society thinks cruel takes courage, whether it’s the fact you’re gay, somehow mentally deficient or indeed something else, makes little difference. Stigma is a strange six letter word that describes society’s embarrassment. Read about Alexandra, for example. Life as a diagnosed schizoid with bipolar disorder takes real bravery in my sort of negative opinion.
During my own illness a few years ago, and acute depression is a common medical condition, my eldest daughter introduced me to a group called MindSet. Of course, she tricked me, I was there in my belief because they needed someone with my marketing experience to help raise funds, not because I was ill. I was asked to join group discussions to gain an insight into how the organisation functioned but it didn’t take long for me to realise I desperately needed the group’s acceptance. To be one of them so I could be cured too. I was shocked and dismayed by what I saw, but realised, compared to others in the group, I had a route out. Painfully, I interacted with exceptionally genuine people who had real problems and my attitude to mental illness changed. I myself recovered to a great degree, but maybe not quite. Now I have deep respect for anyone with a cruel disease of the mind.
You can read about the incredibly good work of MindSet here.
There are two types of you reading this blog. Those of you who know you’re not well and those who know or have suspicions about someone who isn’t right in the head. Hopefully, earlier in this blog we got rid of those readers not interested and who see someone with a mental illness, or just a negative character, as someone to be avoided. If you’re reading this far then you have a conscience or you have indeed suffered yourself.
The purpose of this blog is to both gather information and make you take a harder look at those around you. With the support of professional experts I’m investigating ways of opening up my type of living to those of you suffering from any form of mental illness. Believe you me, I’ve met some extremely interesting individuals whilst sailing my boat and I truly believe an alternative lifestyle offers a positive experience to help with the recovery of minds.
I’d be grateful if you could answer the following question. Anonymously of course, unless you’d like to reveal yourself for your own reasons.
But first, using an old marketing trick, please read Jonny’s story. Don’t worry, I’m not looking to raise funds from you or anything like that, that’s for other professionals who work tirelessly for under funded charities that are often the only help out there. Neither is this a religious crusade. I’d like to stimulate you enough just to think about these things a little, to see if there’s a way we can both do more.
There is hope, not that fickle thing called love, just real hope.
Please answer below if you’d like to. There is a purpose to the probably strange question and you can comment as you wish.
Dave & Marie Ungless are currently sailing their boat Sänna around the world from west to east. Their nine year voyage so far has taken them into the North Pacific and to Alaska where they are now located. Dave is a freelance writer and journalist writing about their travels and the social aspects of their journey.
You can also Like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sv.sanna.