Penguins and Manic Depression

Penguins and Manic Depression

I bet you never thought you’d see those two topics in one title, well now you have!  I guess I should explain why.  This is a very difficult subject for me as it concerns my last penguin charity campaign, it also might explain why I took so long to post the final blog….it was because I couldn’t bear to think about it anymore.

Many people seem to think that depression is simply being low, feeling like you’re at the bottom of a pit that you can’t get out of, not wanting to go places, to see anyone.  But manic depression isn’t always like that, it can manifest itself very differently.  You can feel as high as a kite and as if you can conquer the world too believe it or not.  I know this because I’ve been like that.

My depression occurs naturally in that I’m extremely insecure and lack confidence in almost everything I undertake.  The best way I can explain it is that when I’m down it seems like everything is wrong all the time.  Nothing that I do is good enough, I lose my concentration, I get scared of doing everyday simple tasks, I want to sleep all the time and I think everyone dislikes me and that I am unlovable.  Which is frankly rubbish.  I know I’m ok, maybe I’m not amazing, but I’m ok.  I can say that now because at the moment I’m doing alright. That’s one way depression pulls me in pieces at least.

Over the last few years I’ve had to take a lot of medication to get my Ulcerative Colitis under control; the most debilitating and effective drug has been Prednisolone which is a kind of steroid.  Without it, I wonder if I’d even be here today, so it is amazing stuff really – but it does have side effects, one of which is mania.  On high doses it can affect people an awful lot.  This time, my natural predisposition to depression took on another form because of the steroids.

I honestly felt like my computer and I could take on the world! This was fabulous for me, I had so many bright ideas, so many plans, so many things I wanted to do.  I chattered mindlessly to family and friends about my current Penguin Amnesty campaign and how I was going to do it, about how I planned to film the vlog, about contacts and fund raising and how much could be done so easily.  My brain was a whirlwind.  I just couldn’t understand why my mum always changed the subject and looked at me sideways every now and then.

It was only after I came off the steroids that I landed back on planet earth and thought quite literally ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’.  I had a house full of penguins, parcels to send , a vlog to film, a lot of work to do…..and of course a house to run and a family to feed. Make no mistake, I panicked.  In all truth, my sister and my mum started coming around to the house to help me keep everything together as without the steroids and my high anymore, I lost the will to move.  The whole house descended into even more chaos than usual and I felt powerless to do anything about it.  Without my supportive family and my very patient, understanding husband I don’t know what I would have done.

But, I decided that I had started so I would finish, that I was a woman of my word and I was going to finish this penguin malarkey, even if meant staying up nearly half the night parcelling the black and white birdies – which is quite literally what I did one evening/morning.  I was not going to let people down.  You had all been kind enough to listen to my insane penguin ramblings and you’d donated money, time and merchandise.  I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t completed the campaign. So I did, and it all worked out really quite well and I eventually found my feet and a stable none-manic way of thinking again. Phew.

So, if I’m not as enthusiastic about penguins as I was, and if I sound rather embarrassed when someone says something about it being a great project, it’s because it’s simply something I’d rather not remember – because, to be blunt, I was very slightly crackers at the time.   I mean, I’m normally the type to go off at a tangent, it’s the way I work…..but that level of obsession is extreme even for me.

Writing this is basically a bit of therapy for me, hopefully I’ll never go back to either forms of depression, whether it be the manic type or the really fed up type.     My current colitis meds are working really well and I hope I can avoid steroids in the future, but if I start banging on about penguins again, just give me a nudge will you?

Depression is a very strange thing, the human mind is so very complex and can screw up in such weird and wonderful ways.  I say ‘wonderful’ with my tongue in my cheek, as the penguin campaign did actually turn out to be something that made people happy in the end, I hope at least.

Right, so that’s confession time over for me, I shall waddle off and make tea now. If anyone else has any experience of this sort of thing I’d love to hear from you, it’s not the sort of thing people talk about and it’s a shame.  The more awareness the better.  Thanks for letting me bend your ear and if the ups and downs of life drive you a bit mad sometimes, you’re not on your own.


8 responses to “Penguins and Manic Depression

  1. My depression, when it comes, is usually only the low type. I get impatient about getting stuff done when I’m having “good” days but not to your penguin mania level!

    So pleased your medicine is working and you’re feeling better 🙂

  2. I can recognise and empathise with virtually every word you’ve written, with the exception of penguins! Coming up with all these wonderful ideas then spiralling them into bigger things in your head, then watching the spiral wind back in again when you realise you’ve set yourself an impossible task and are doomed to fail, and all the bouncing up and down springy bits that come with those spirals. I also have the joy(?!) of knowing that it all may have to be put on hold at any time, which makes me Ping-Pong between wanting to get it all done NOW, and not wanting to do anything because it might all have to stop at the sound of a ringing phone.
    I’m so glad that you’ve held it together and done what you set out to do, no matter what, because the difference you have made will come back to you in so many (probably unexpected) ways, over who knows how long, and hopefully there’ll come a time when you can sit back, polish your halo, feel proud and think ‘I did that’.
    And thanks for the therapy session – how much do I owe you?

  3. This post struck such a chord with me. I suffer with depression and this can sometimes turn to paranoia and I have done some thoroughly bonkers things thinking I’m thinking clearly. I can remember hammering out endless letters several years ago because I was certain my psychiatrist was trying to kill me. I also thought the change of logo for my local health authority was a ‘sign’ I was being experimented on! Fuck only knows what was going on in my head and I have had some real periods of shame caused by my paranoid ranting/behaviour. I think the best thing I can say in this situation is that you live and learn. We all do bonkers things from time to time and you have to try and hold onto the fact that you weren’t well and not let the shame and embarrassment lead you into depression. I’m gradually learning this and it has helped as lot.

  4. glad you are starting to feel better, and nice to know the penguins will be departing to a new home soon. I have had depression and a nervous breakdown, and felt suicidal but eventually I climbed back out and became human again, took me a few years but like you I did it. Mine may also have been caused by steroids and other drugs but I think it was caused bt a child on disability, a disintegrating marriage and mounting debts.

  5. The penguins have all gone Elaine, thank goodness, lol! The darned things were fighting in lumps all over the place. Honestly though, depression is just awful, it’s hidden and no-one knows what you’re going through unless you actually ask for help. As for my mania episode, well, it’s kinda funny, but I can see how some people end up in a load of trouble with it – you just sort of think anything is possible. Bonkers. Then again, with everyone’s help it all ended up happily ever after, thank goodness!

  6. Kat, Jo and Lisa, thanks so much for your comments and for being so understanding. This one was a tough one to write, but I thought I really should. It was kind of a purging thing, that phase is over and I’m back to normal now (well as normal as I ever am). The bad thing about depression or mania, from what I can tell, is that you really can’t distinguish what is the illness and what is ‘you.’ Everything seems so logical at the time, and you have reasons for the mad way you’re thinking and behaving, and you can’t understand why people don’t see the world the same way you do. It feels real, even if in everyone else’s eyes it’s illogical or obsessive. Ah well, the blog tagline ‘balancing precariously on the edge’ seems even more appropriate than ever now. Hey ho! Wishing us all happy days and decent anti-depressants eh! xxxxx

  7. You can be so, so proud that however crazy your idea was and whatever dark place your mind was taking you to, you still saw it through right to the end. You might be balancing on that edge sometimes, but you didn’t fall off it! And both the penguins and the fact that you have shared your experiences will have helped a lot of people in various ways.

  8. You should be proud of yourself. You completed something after setting off on the journey without realising how long a journey and steep a slope it would be. You inspired lots of people and you helped lots of kids. Those penguins will be so happy in their new homes

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