I have Type 1 Bipolar. I ‘outed’ myself last October on World Mental Health Day. Since then, I have spoken candidly about various aspects of having bipolar and a panic disorder, but these have usually been fleeting bursts on Twitter. Until now I have not committed anything to the permanence of this site, partly because being open in a post that can be called and recalled by anyone, at any time, is scary and worrying. I am on the market for a permanent academic job, and I am obviously concerned that this will negatively affect that endeavour.
I am worried about the stigma of having a chronic mental illness. Will I be able to be ‘open’ about my diagnosis until the stigma is gone? No. Will the stigma be lifted unless people, like me, are ‘open’ about their diagnoses? No. It’s a vicious cycle. To break it, I have to step forward and be open. This is the small thing I can do to help.
Living with bipolar isn’t easy. Twice a day I take my medications, I will take these for the rest of my life. Perhaps not these exact ones, because that’s the thing about medication for chronic illnesses (of all kinds, not just mental illness) – sometimes they stop working the way you want them to work. Everything I do is a balancing act. If I do x, I will feel like a. That means that I might not be able to do y later on. It’s Spoon Theory. Do I need to go to the supermarket with my 5-year-old? That will take four spoons. If I can go on my own, it will be two. Do I have to take the 6:55am train to Leicester to make a meeting with a student? That will be one additional spoon than taking the 8:56. If Kiddo doesn’t sleep well tonight I will need an extra five spoons, so do I want to keep three in reserve – that means it will only cost two of tomorrow’s spoons. You get the point.
Even though I take meds, I still experience the fluctuations of my mood disorder. They obviously aren’t as pronounced as if I wasn’t taking medication. I have learned to match my work to these – when I am ‘up’ I produce new research and do as much teaching preparation as I can. When I am ‘down’ I edit – I am brutal and mean, and the comments I leave on my own work are sometimes heartbreaking. When I am ‘even’, I submit work. If I can help it I never push ‘submit’ while I am up or down, because even though these are very mild versions of mania and depression I am still not as measured as I would like to be when I do the final checks of a manuscript or abstract.
This is not a glorification of bipolar. Yes, I did write tens of thousands of words in a manic frenzy during my PhD, but I also completely neglected my own health and let my marriage crumble around me. I have – like anyone who faces a chronic illness – learned how to work with myself, rather than fighting against myself.
It doesn’t always work, and I am particularly bad at preventative ‘self-care’. My ability to recognise when I need to break out of my bubble is dulled and broken. Fighting this is something I will be doing forever.
I am not bipolar. I have bipolar. That’s an important distinction. And over the last six months, I have forced myself to come to terms with having a lifelong invisible illness, a disability. It has made it easier to be open. But it will always be an uphill battle, and I will always be fighting a war against myself – I just hope for more, longer, periods of peace.
Late last year I ran an Academic Kindness Gift Circle (you can read about it here). It was, by and large, successful, but the timing was slightly problematic. I thought I would - for the more permanent (and possibly annual) AKGC have it earlier in the year, with a sending window, so that gifts will arrive all around the same time (and for us in the UK, will come around exam-marking time!)
The other concern was that a limit of £15- did exclude a number of people who just couldn't justify the expense. The purpose of this is to spread community and support throughout the academy, so I am conscious to this. Therefore...
1. Gifts should cost no more than £5/€6/$6USD/$8AUD/$8CAD/the closest whole value that comes up when you compare with £5 on xe.com. This is excluding postage.
2. Gifts can be whatever you like within this range including handmade or purchased. They should be accompanied by a personal letter addressed to your giftee. The entire value may be spent on paper or card to carry this message (that is to say, the entire gift may be the letter itself).
3. Gifts must be anonymous.
4. Gifts must be posted in the week beginning Monday May 22nd, 2017. Gifters must email me to confirm that gifts have been posted.
Sign up will be open from 19/3/17 to 20/4/17.
To keep postage costs down, there will be regional pools. Last time this was UK and EU, North America, Rest of the World. The regional breakdown will depend on signups.
To maintain anonymity there will be a designated return address for each region. If you are happy to act as the regional return person, please indicate this on the sign up form. This involves having your address marked as the return address on all gifts in your region. If any gifts go astray they will then be 'returned' to you and we can try and get them to their intended recipient. I will be the designated return for UK (and perhaps Europe).
If you cannot afford to participate the please get in touch with me by email and I will arrange for funds to be sent you to. If you can afford to sponsor another gift, please donate via PayPal (this does not need to be in increments of £5- you are free to donate however much you wish). All unused funds at the end of the gifting period will be donated to Arts Emergency. The only money coming in to this PayPal account at this point are related to AKGC. If you do not want to donate via PayPay please email me.
Exciting news when I got into the office this morning! My offering to Routledge's God and Heroes of the Ancient World series is being contracted! It will surprise no one to hear that my contribution is on Hades, the shadowy god of the Underworld.
In line with the rest of the series, this book will cover the mythology and cult representation of Hades in the ancient world and look at what happens to the god after antiquity.
Update: Below you can see the original proposal that I sent - there are a few changes that were made (reflected in the table of contents above) after review, but no major changes were made to the content.
If you like what I do here, and on YouTube and Twitter, you can buy me a pinch of fairy dust.