Saturday, 2 June 2012

BIPOLAR Part Deux - what is a nervous breakdown and soapy gets a mention

I have always wondered what the phrase 'nervous breakdown' meant.  Its a catch-all phrase that can encompass so much.  Its usually whispered in hushed tones, behind a person's back, to explain odd behaviour, such as a twitch or a sudden inappropriate chorus of 'I've been a Wild Rover' from a mad aunt.  

Mostly it applies to women, but you never get the details from the informer because the voice becomes inaudible, and the only thing you catch is, 'we don't speak about it'. Its a taboo topic right up there with paedophelia and 'has she made a will?'.  

Not knowing the exact meaning of 'nervous breakdown' has left me with a lifelong curiousity.  I'm always on the lookout for old biddies chucking cats in bins or a frustrated feminist grabbing an M&S cashier by the throat and demanding a Dine in for ONE and don't scrimp on the wine! I hasten to add the M&S thing is not something I feel strongly about, the mutt usually enjoys the main course, and I get two puddings.  And to my dear friend soapy, no need to call the RSPCA, the Bubble is now half deaf, so not being persecuted with my dulcit tones. He has the amazing ability to 'cock a deaf 'un'. 

But back to that nervous breakdown.  What happens exactly?  I have witnessed people getting into a temper, where they are beyond reason.  I have rarely experienced that 'point of no control', that need to harm yourself (or others), or to break stuff.  That is until the other day, when I was that frustrated that I threw a glass.  Just threw it at the wall.  I pondered throwing it at the telly, but that would just be stupid.  Had Ricky Gervais been on, the decision may have gone the other way. 

I don't know if that counted as a nervous breakdown as I can see the stupidity of it now.  As much fun as it was, I am now down to only 2 glasses.  Not because I throw them, I'm just clumsy.  

I don't want to google the symptoms, an unfortunate experience telling a doctor I had Himalayan Mountain Fever, and asking him haughtily, 'what did he know?', did not end happily.  

I do however remember, my father experiencing the worse episode of manic depression I have ever seen.  He was a lifelong sufferer. He learned to manage it and we got used to his funny ways.  When he was on form, he was the life and soul of the party, but when he was down, he wanted to be left alone.  He never lost his love of books or films, or political programmes.  Or endless new found hobbies.  God forbid, you phoned him during Prime Minister's Questions on a Wednesday morning.  

We quarrelled shortly before he died.  He was in favour of invading Iraq, and I was quite vociferously, against it.  I was still picking up his seafood on a Sunday morning, but we were growling at each other.  So silly now. And having recently read so much Christopher Hitchen, I have to question.  Maybe Dad was right after all.  He always used to say 'Never underestimate me'.  Cheers Dad, having a beer, and cheering your birthday, Father's Day, your love of the Derby, my book coming out, and not the Queen, hic.

Dad's complete breakdown was quite dramatic.  He literally stayed in his bed and willed every organ in his body to give up.  The paramedics came out, the doctor came out, a psychiatrist was called.  'How old are you' asked the psychiatrist.  '37' replied my 73 year old dad.  Dad opened up, poured his heart out, he wept as he answered the psychiatrist questions.  He had never gotten over the crimes of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the horrors of the war.  Man's inhumanity to man.  Tears poured down his cheeks as he recalled, as a student nurse having to send a woman home, who covered herself in petrol and died.  His head was clouded with nothing but miserable memories and frustration.

He was taken away to a 'funny farm' and he hated it.  He was much too resigned to the situation and too polite to grumble. He went home, never drank again, and died a year later.  I know that he won't mind my revealing such personal details, he always sought enlightenment.  

That acceptance, that 'giving up' I think, is one interpretation of a nervous breakdown.  Is it accepting other peoples' decisions about your fate?  Are you zapped with an electro/hypnotic shock to your noddle.  Returned to the world, chanting 'Play life by the rules or you will be ostracised like a saddo lone female monkey who has pissed off the alpha male, so you are left with no-one to play picking fleas off with. On the plus side, society has not yet returned to 'name that witch' values, although I do understand it is on the next but one, tory agenda.  It should liven up bonfire night, no end.  




  1. I have been down to the depths of a nervous breakdown Bell but I was enjoying it so much, the nervous breakdown rejected me and spewed me back to reality.
    Which is about just as bad as the n.b

  2. Don't worry how bad it is at the depths of a nervous breakdown, as long as you have someone like me to hold your hand when you are down there, it will be like a walk in the park eating an icecream.