I originally wrote what follows as the penultimate chapter of a book about my 49 year love affair with Turkey, called Twelve Camels For Your Wife. But after discussion with my editor we decided it was not right for the memoir and should be used elsewhere. Bipolar UK agreed to publish it in a series of blogs. 

Part One  

My whole world turned upside down shortly before 10am on November 25th 2019 when my wife Carolyn had a sudden cardiac arrest and died. She was 58. She fell in the bathroom of our house in Turkey and I couldn’t revive her. Soon the house was full of paramedics and Jandarma officers. It’s hard to describe my feelings at the time. I’m rather ashamed to say wasn’t tearful. I blame that on my boarding school upbringing that taught me to shield my emotions. I suppose I was also in shock. I just stood there watching as the medical people, police and forensic team did what they had to do.

Fighting depression and alcoholism

My long time Turkish friend Levent was with me most of the time, explaining the various procedures. Who knows how any of us will behave in extreme circumstances? In writing this memoir I have until now left out one crucial detail, which now needs to be addressed. Since the early 1990s Carolyn had lived with manic depression and after many consultations had eventually been diagnosed with bipolar. As a consequence she often lapsed in periods of severe depression and to ease the pain would seek solace in alcohol. Pretty soon she became an alcoholic and bravely fought both illnesses - depression and alcoholism - for the rest of her life.

I agonised for some time about whether or not to document this in my memoir about my 49 year love affair with Turkey. I argued that if it helped just one person beat his or her demons it would have been justified. In the end, however, my editor advised me to leave it out of the book and use it in another forum. Depression is currently the leading cause of disability in the world and mental health issues impact one in five Britons, Americans, Canadians and Australians. However, research shows that these figures may actual understate the issue by more than 30%, Recorded rates of suicide in the United States have risen by more than 25% since the turn of the century. Furthermore, 75% of the world’s countries are considered under served in terms of mental healthcare.

Whether Carolyn’s mental illness developed from a childhood trauma, post natal depression or something else was never verified. Many very famous and successful people wrestle with bipolar disorder, among them Stephen Fry, Anna Carteret  Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mel Gibson and Mariah Carey. Victims of the illness often display a hugely creative streak and at times a maniacal work ethic.

Creativity and bipolar

Carolyn was incredible at things like interior design, flower arranging and planning out a garden. She once earned a tidy side income buying women’s dresses on eBay, photographing them on a proper mannequin and re-selling them at a substantial profit. Wherever she worked, usually in a sales environment, she was invariably top of the leader board. Once, she was tasked by a major insurance company to tell customers that their premiums had been wrongly calibrated for several years and that they would henceforth rise by more than 200%. Her retention rate was a staggering 78%, when most colleagues were struggling to reach double figures. She was also brilliant at team building, spending hours making stuff to decorate offices for events like Halloween or the World Cup Finals. One of her bosses famously said: “Every office needs a Carolyn.”