At sixteen years  old, Nicky was away at boarding school, was weighed down by the black clouds that were enveloping him. His secret sapped his positivity, confidence and esteem which he unpacks in this blog.

No energy, no sleep,  no fun, no positivity. I knew something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what. I had been through some difficult times, but I had never felt anything like this before, not even close. I would later discover they were symptoms of manic depression, as it was called then, now known more appropriately as bipolar disorder.  But whatever it was I had decided I was going to keep it to myself. No one else would know. I was not going to let my feelings show, I was not going to  be laughed at and ridiculed. It would be a secret.

I was doing an exemplary job of running away from myself, my feelings and everyone around me. It’s called denial! That is always the problem with this kind of secret. Driven by shame, controlled by deception, it was ruling my life. Pretending 24/7 isn’t  easy. It was exhausting but somehow, at great physical and  emotional cost to myself, I managed. But the pressure of hiding my innermost feelings was unbearable and unsustainable.

It was only a matter of time before I would have to open up. I couldn’t possibly go on like this. It would be a reluctant end of the road for my secret, but it was a price worth paying.

I had to share these feelings. There was no other way. I would do it with the people closest to me. In my state of denial and naivety it hadn't occurred to me they might have noticed something was wrong. Of course they had and were ready to be there for me. My secret hadn't worked at all. In the long run they never do.

The entire subterfuge had driven me underground and isolated me. In bipolar, as in any mental illness, isolation is very damaging and potentially dangerous. It had been a totally pointless and fundamentally ineffective exercise. Never again! It was my first lesson in the futility of keeping this illness concealed. I was completely drained.  I had spent so much time avoiding the truth when I could have been putting the same effort into getting well. What a bloody waste of time!

To share I would need my inner circle. My absolute closest. So much of living with bipolar is about trust. With such a complex disorder, it has to  be. Once I learned that I could share and do it safely,  it became my main go -to strategy, a huge part of my survival kit. But in 1961 we were still stuck in the equivalent of medieval times for bipolar and trust wasn’t straightforward.

Attitudes have changed dramatically since then. Any form of mental illness is much more readily accepted. This has been helped by many things, especially by responsible and informative media coverage that desensitises negative public perception and writes about it as a part of everyday life, which it is.

Bipolar is no longer seen as a one-way ticket to  insanity. I do a lot of work with the charity Bipolar UK and I speak openly about the condition all the time. I've done newspaper interviews about it and laid myself bare in the process. People tell me I'm courageous. I'm not. I'm just being honest about myself. Honesty has been cathartic for me and has helped me immeasurably.

It’s liberating to feel I have nothing to hide. It enables me to get bipolar out there into the public consciousness, with no fear of repercussions. To talk about it and continue to help reduce the stigma surrounding it. Something Bipolar UK and others are doing very successfully. I've lived with bipolar since I was sixteen, survived it, been open about it and made a success of my life as a songwriter. That is something I'm very proud of. I have no intention of keeping it a secret. My bipolar is a huge part of me, my creativity and who I am. I wouldn’t change a thing!

There is an important message to convey to bipolar sufferers and to people in general. There is nothing to be ashamed of! There is no need to retreat into the shadows. Now fewer and fewer people are living with a secret. For one reason and one reason only. They don’t have to. The problem for some is they think they still do.

Nicky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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