In a descriptive and very immersive collection of scenarios Gordon delves into what it’s like living with bipolar, interacting with others and the inspiration that keeps his head above water. 

It feels like being deep underwater

Sinking to the seabed where coloured depths crush against the vulcanised diving suit and dim the porthole glass of the enclosing brass helmet. Clumsy boots disturb the mud and murk the water even more. Screw threads and leather seals keep him dry, yet the breathing hose fills the helmet with the gagging smell of rubber to mix with the stench of greased canvas, sweat and the blood-like taste of iron.

Everything is slow, movements, thoughts, you name it. He hasn’t measured how deep he is, and he hasn’t checked that someone will always be pumping the air down to him. It doesn’t occur to him his life is in the hands of others; that he’ll suffocate if they stop pumping or that he’ll never rise to the surface without them winching the safety line. Does he even have a safety line? Again, he neither knows nor understands. It’s as though he has always been down here. It happens that way.

‘They’ are a world away in every sense. The weighted belt and those leaden-soled boots root him to the spot unless he puts real effort into it. But effort of any kind is well-nigh impossible when the mud sucks at his feet daring him to take a step. One leg before the other is no longer an instinct, just as raising an arm is too much bother. Stay. Motionless. Less to do. It’s best. He doesn’t think to ask what he is down here for, to mend a hull or search for ancient cannon like the documentaries?

There are tools to get out, but how do you use them?

There are some tools in his clumsy gauntlet hand but he doesn’t know how they got there or their purpose, and when he lets them fall to the seabed, that there might be a need to pick them up doesn’t cross his mind. He just stares at the pile for a moment before squinting again into the dark. “Doctor, I'm unwell.” It is not that he is unaware of his circumstances, every thought presses in on him like the weight of the sea above. He would like to be out of the diving suit, even if he drowns, which would make a change.

He sees his living room furniture, sofa, telly in the gloom. No, those are not dropped tools on the seabed but that dirty teaspoon he never picked up from the rug, with all the other things he can’t pick up that litter his unwashed home. And she’s there. Yes. What about her? No diving suit, just her. She’s come to see him, not as often as before. “Can you hear me?” he calls inside his helmet which bangs the words back. She doesn’t respond. On the sofa but not getting wet, on the sofa but not with him, looking at him with despair. Unhappy woman.

There is a way to keep your head above water

She disappears into the gloom, not waving. He says bye. It would be good to sleep. “This is alarming” says the duty doctor with his stethoscope neck, electronic noises and tubes not like the diving suit. Doctor’s thinking “You can’t take your life because we’ve taken an oath.” Is it what the patient really wants? Really really wants? No, now he’s still alive and he hadn’t wanted to hurt her and everyone. So sorry. There comes a time, there always does, and he then remembers it with relief, that he starts to rise. The diving suit dissolves and falls away as he slowly floats to the surface.

It may take a couple of weeks, he’s that deep. Careful not to get the bends in his body he’s got them in his bonce already. For god’s sake what’s he got to be depressed about but people don’t understand it’s chemical. He’s shaving, studying himself through the wiped smear in the misted mirror, wet hair from the shower.

He’s not feeling so bad today. The law says he’s allowed to work without prejudice but try telling that at the interview. Discrimination can be disguised as so many other things, buried like a legal secret. But he has to sign-on because no-one is allowed not to employ him ha-ha. Double negative is what he often feels like but mustn’t feel sorry for himself at this point in the swing. Count his blessings and stock-up in his head before the arc traces too far the other way. Terra firma if only briefly. His condition is invisible: “What’s he got to be depressed about, selfish git?” It’s chemical, for pity’s sake!

Google it. bipolar, lots of famous people have it.. “Doctor, I’m unwell”. Borderline personality disorder. Can’t fix a personality disorder so that’s a big box ticked. Catch-all’s are good, they keep the paperwork down. People are there, they want to help, they really do but inside the suit, whichever it is, he’s on his own, protected and vulnerable, imprisoned and free.