The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: The Down Swing


My friend Kim posted this last night and it really struck home. I’ve had a horrendous fortnight and Monday just sealed it. Uni ate something as we were walking to the bus and, by the time we got into the city, it had started giving her bellyache.

Now Uni is normally a quiet dog but when she starts whining and pawing at me then it’s obvious there’s a problem. The last time this happened she was sick for three days with colitis. This was much more minor but I ended up having to take her out without a bag because I thought she needed to pee.

Cue my first of two encounters with self-righteous members of the public.

See here’s the thing. All non-disabled people get blind mixed up with deaf and so decide to scream rather than take a more gentle stance.

So I got “EXCUSE ME!!!!” and wild gesticulation. I was trying to get Uni back into Starbucks at the time and go retrieve a bag. You’d think the sheer fact I’m obviously taking a four legged friend into a place of business that we weren’t just people on a street.

Also, legally, I don’t even have to pick up after my dog. I do when I came but there will always be times when something gets in the way or I simply can’t find said shit. Or I need to get a bag because my dog has made herself ill.

So I turned and snapped back at the older woman who was trying so hard to get my attention, telling her my dog was sick and I was about go to and get a bag. Yes, I’m very aware she’s taken a shit and do not need you to tell me. Thank you.

Then I walked inside. By the time I got out again thirty seconds later she was gone.

My stress level goes through the roof when Uni is ill, especially as she spent the whole morning needing to go out repeatedly. And it wasn\t even the first time I had to deal with people. I got two old dears who came over as I was getting her to pee for the fourth time who uttered the immortal words.

“We shouldn’t disturb her …”

This is after they’d walked right over, begun asking me questions about how long I’d had her, tried to pet her and Uni suddenly didn’t want to pee anymore.


The whole thing just put the icing on my cake of unhappiness, leaving me weepy and desperately needing Bramble hugs/the reassurance of another guide dog owner who is not afraid to, politely, tell people to piss off.

Apparently I’m not allowed to use the F-word, or indeed any expletives, when dealing with the public. Sigh.

I’m trying to be more assertive in my dealings with the public but this makes the fourth time in as many months that I’ve had random strangers decide to scream at me because of my dog’s need to engage in a perfectly natural bodily function. And it’s always scream or an ‘excuse me’ loaded with blame.

FYI: Bus drivers do not like you bringing bags of shit onto their buses because some random person and her husband in a car decided I just had to pick up shit in the one place where there was no bin. I had no idea she’d even gone.

People make my mood even worse sometimes.

Anyways, thanks to all that, I’ve not been in a good place. The rest of it is related to the guide dogs kerfuffle and the stress of Mother’s Day (a massive trigger for my mental illness/PTSD). I’ve been left in a place where I just can’t cope and have been so glad of my small handful of beloved friends who’ve been actively looking after me, making sure I take it easy.

I’m trying to focus on the little things, like the sun coming out or the smell of my vase full of blooming daffodils. Not the nightmares, the self-harm or the quandary of ‘do I?/don’t I?’

I spent the last few days fixating on whether my time is done. Mhairi keeps reminding me I’m stressed and Uni is similarly playing off my emotions. I know this, we do it regularly, except I turn that into self-loathing and the feeling that I somehow shouldn’t have her and don’t deserve her companionship.

Even if I rang my GDMI today, he wouldn’t retire her. She’s healthy, loves her job (her job being getting fuss; I’m the sideline) and he’s aware of my somewhat self-destructive, paranoid depressive bouts. Plus even if Uni was, she wouldn’t work again, she’d simply be rehomed and I’d have to wait a minimum of six months before getting a new dog.

And I’d have to go through class again. Right now that’s not even a thing I can do, some messed up am I from my first time doing it.

Then she hugs me and smiles (it’s a creepy dog teeth thing most people find disconcerting but is actually Dog Love) and everything feels a little better. Bramble hugs are even better but I know, when I curl up with Uni, that she loves me more than anyone else. Uni reserves her true feelings for me, she thumps her tail and we play catch and I know no one else has this kind of relationship with my naked dog.

I know, realistically, that I need to eat well, not drink alcohol (erm …) and wait it out. The downswing will pass, it always does but when it’s triggered by things I can’t control, that makes it seem so much worse than just normal bipolar-triggered misery. This is stuff I can’t control and I’ve never been good at handling that.

Today I’m making a point of chilling out, I’m doing things I enjoy, I’m going to Yo Sushi! for lunch, then to Waitrose to pick up a couple of nice things (ham, cheese, good bread). I’m going to write short stories and celebrate another rejection and the promise of being able to submit another piece to one of my favourite markets.

I’m going to look after myself and get through this.

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