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‘Laughter … is my way of coping’

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This week’s post comes from the UK, by Kit Johnson, author of the memoir “Dodging Suicide.” His website lays it out well: “I’d been fired more times than a cannon, and with 15 houses, three wives, umpteen messed-up relationships, 37 cars and Lord knows what other ‘if only I had this’ purchases, I came to the conclusion my life was bizarre! – and that the best thing for me was to step back, stop worrying and laugh at its absurdity.”

I have endured bipolar for some 45-plus years. Of course, as with almost all mental illnesses, it took some time to get the correct diagnosis, and another long time for me to come to terms with it and accept it.

And over that period, I’ve been to many shrinks and tried a whole host of supposed “silver bullet” potions and the like. Nothing worked. My first visit to a psychiatrist went like this:

“Hello, doctor, could you help me out?”

“Sure,” he replied, “which way did you come in?”

OK, that’s a lie, but it gives you an early indication as to what I’m about and how I deal with this absurd condition.

People often ask me where or when my Damascene conversion took place that enabled me to step back from the brink and share my experiences of living with bipolar. That’s easy, and as usual with me, it is shrouded in comic sentiment.

I tried the method of car exhaust pipe and closed garage door. The first dopey decision was the fact the car was a TVR, which is a loud, grumbling V8 beast of a car, and not exactly silent running! So a female neighbour alerted the police just in time, though it was some time before I felt gratitude towards her. I felt cheated. I later made amends, and she became a great friend.

The doctor told me the carbon monoxide levels in my blood were such that I was minutes from death. So, the funny part? Well, like most of us facing death, or seeking/hoping for it like me, I thought about God, and when I came around the first thing I saw …

No, hang on, a moment’s pause here! People have asked about the light – you know, the light that apparently appears at death and supposedly soothes and seduces you to the “other side.” I, too, did wonder about this, and for a brief few moments I was convinced I’d seen it! – since when I came around, the first thing I saw was a guy in a white turban with a big beard about three feet from my face.

Yes, in those few moments of semi-comatose, bleary-eyed recognition, I imagined I had arrived at the Pearly Gates. The light? It turned out to be his penlight shining into my pupils as I returned to consciousness! His name was not God, but Dr Singh!

Days later, when I recounted the tale to my best friend over a few lachrymose beers, we both collapsed into hysterics at the bloody absurdity of it.

And that was the turning point. The day I came to the conclusion that I was not meant to be dead just yet, and that I should perhaps use the talents of humour I seem to have been blessed with and write about what I’d been through to help others.

I am so glad I did, because through my book “Dodging Suicide,” and through social media, I have been able to engage with so many sufferers. And though it sounds cheesy and clichéd, helping others has really helped me manage myself.

How? By showing me that many others suffer far more than I do; and the love and respect I have been shown for what I’ve written about massages my fragile ego; and it gives me joy and satisfaction.

It’s funny just how little it takes to go from mental illness ingénue, desperate for help and advice, to so-called “guru” simply because I have the cojones to talk openly about the condition.

Shows just how far we still have to go when destigmatising mental health.

Laughter and gallows humour is my way of coping. Just bend your mind to what might work for you. Never subordinate your own feelings and views. No one knows you like you. Never forget that. God bless.

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