The International Writers Magazine: Lifestyles
The dangers of red objects
I prowled the railway station platform, listening to the same song over and over, my life caught in a stutter. I wore a faux fur coat even though it was a very warm late spring day.
As I walked I folded the collar up and stroked the fur. Sunlight cut through the still, blue, sky and my silver glitter nail varnish caught the light and danced spots of light across my face. I was a teacher at the time and hadn’t slept for eight days straight. I had just stood in front of the class teaching poetry of the First World War, gesticulating madly, whilst my hands shook and the marker pen squeaked wildly over the whiteboard.
A week later I couldn’t understand why I didn’t get the teaching job I’d applied for when I’d wore a silvery skirt, breast skimming top and electric blue tights to the interview. That was the second manic episode.
The first time I bought lots of red objects. I went into a department store and ran up my credit cards on buying heavy red glass tea light holders, red fringed lampshades, red beaded door curtains, red satin table runners, and red luxuriously piled rugs…my living room ended up looking like a tart’s boudoir. A few days later, after thirty-six hours of no sleep I lost the ability to read and write – and that was finally when I saw a psychiatrist who told me to ditch the anti-depressants, and I was prescribed mood stabilisers and three months off of work. I re-learnt words by playing computer scrabble every day. After that first manic episode I stubbornly went back to teaching much against the advice of practically everyone. I ignored my credit card bills and hid them in ever increasingly devious places.
I am now thirty-six. When I was eighteen I was diagnosed with depression; I spent my twenties on and off Prozac; by the time I was twenty-nine that diagnosis had been changed to bipolar. It was the worst time for my career – I had just finished a Master’s Degree and was partway through a teaching qualification. I had sacrificed a safe, stable job for a gamble on becoming a writer and a teacher and now my dreams were in tatters, and I was flailing around on a tightrope with no safety net. I discovered that my needs were too complex for my GP and too trivial for the psychiatrist. I had fallen in the cracks in between because the NHS has no real way to support someone like me. Prevention is not better than cure, and instead people have to crumble first before they are given treatment.
Manic episodes are weird. They feel exceptionally good. If you’ve ever felt high from taking a drug, or just feeling high on life, that is what being manic is like. But being manic is so much more than that – you get a sudden clarity in your head. Even though you kind of know you’re ill in the back of your mind you don’t care because suddenly you have superpowers, you’re invincible and the consequences of your actions do not matter. I’ve bought so many things whilst suffering from a high mood. I’ve used credit cards, taken out loans, bought everything and anything, especially if it is red in colour.
Everything flows fast, but then things are too accelerated. Your brain can’t keep up and then finally, finally, you come down, exhausted. It’s a bit like speeding then suddenly running out of petrol – you crash. Then often the depression starts as guilt consumes you over what you did/how you acted/who you hurt/how much money you spent whilst high.
During a spell of relative wellness, I rang up a well-known Credit Card company to cancel the last of my cards. This was a big thing for me to do. The card had put me into a lot of debt. This is what happened:
GUY: I understand you want to close your account but today I can give you a very special offer. Today I can give you 0% interest on your card. You can keep it and the £5000 limit and know that you have it there in case of emergencies. What do you think?
ME: Thanks, but I would rather close the account.
GUY: Are you quite sure?
And for a split second I considered keeping the card even though I’d never be able to pay it back. I actually had an internal panic at the thought of having no credit. I believed what he was saying was reasonable, and perhaps it was for a person who doesn’t spend a silly amount of money on red objects to decorate their living room. I no longer have a credit card and yet I still find ways to spend money when I’m manic. Damn those red objects.
© Jodie Corney Feb 2015
jodie.corney [at] gmail.com
Jodie Corney has been a teacher of Creative Writing, worked in an aquarium and a call centre. She currently gets paid for hiding amongst books.