Bi-Polar Expedition


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102 in stock


By Neil Walton


ISBN: 978-1-904697-80-0
Published: 2006
Pages: 111
Key Themes: bi-polar disorder, manic depression, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism, advice, recovery


With this book about severe bi-polar disorder, Neil Walton gives the reader a real insight into what it is like to live with this common, yet misunderstood and often seriously debilitating illness. Neil’s life has been something of a journey of self-realisation and enlightenment, a bi-polar expedition indeed! Neil’s story reflects his many experiences; from struggling with drink to numerous nervous breakdowns and problems with family and relationships. This is a book which will appeal to many but in particular to those who have had similar experiences to Neil’s. A book that will help people come to terms with their illness, as Neil has. A book that could save lives!

About the Author

After my second breakdown, a friend of mine said casually one afternoon, “Why don’t you write a book about your experiences, it might help people in the same situation as yourself.” I dismissed the idea as ludicrous saying “who would be interested in a book by me?” I didn’t read books, much less write them, and besides my spelling and punctuation were crap! Three years later, after my fourth nervous breakdown, my friend’s suggestion came to the fore. I began jotting down notes. Three months later, after reading over my notes, I saw the possibilities of a short book.

I took the idea to my Occupational Therapist (OT) and waited for fits of raucous laughter. Amazingly she approved. I couldn’t believe anybody would actually take me seriously. I joined an editorial team called ‘Equilibrium,’ which produces a quarterly newsletter covering mental health issues in the Haringey, London area. On my first day there I tentatively mentioned my book about being diagnosed with bi-polar to the facilitator, Julia Bard. I sat back in my chair and waited for a pat on the head, followed by a bout of uncontrollable apoplexy. Julia’s concise reply was “That’s a great idea, strong subject too.” She asked me to bring in my work so that the team could edit it and use it in our next edition. Well slap me with a four-pound trout!! That was the first time my scribblings had been described as work. That was May 1999.

In the summer of 2001, I passed my GCSE English Language exams with C and B grades. Not bad for a forty-three year old manic depressive!!

My book, ‘Bi-polar Expedition’ turned out to be much bigger than I had imagined it would be, I sincerely hope you find it useful.

Book Extract

I had been on the missing list for sometime; ignoring the phone, the door and the outside world. My mind and body had taken such a battering over the past three years, (1986-89) and I just couldn’t take it any more. I didn’t have the energy for conversation. My brain was on overload and my body was paralysed and lethargic. I had turned into an introvert, the direct opposite of my usual character. My arms and legs were like lead and I felt bone cold, as if my core temperature was lower than any body else’s. Add to that a poor diet and a feeling of utter worthlessness; I was a sorry example of a human being.

I had a loop-tape of losses and problems to come relentlessly playing in my head. The only thing that stopped this tape was sleep – the next step was obvious. I was at breaking point. If I could have laid my hands on a gun… I might not be here now. Only a fellow sufferer or a specialist would understand the mental pain I was experiencing. I found a scalpel blade in my toolbox and went into my bedroom closing the door behind me. I gazed at the sterilised Swan & Morton for hours on end, the loop-tape still playing. I slept most of the time. But there were those awful four to six hours spent awake, going over and over the reasons for ending my life. Why was this happening to me? What had I done to deserve this treatment from life? The answer of course was nothing.

I began nicking at the skin on my left arm just to test the pain factor. With a brand new blade it was quite painless. Then I cut deeper into my arm making seven to eight cuts between my forearm and biceps. I watched as my blood pumped from the wounds. I laid there in a cold sweat as it trickled down my arm and soaked into the duvet cover. Sometime later, I reached for my lighter and cigarettes which were on the bedside cabinet. I was momentarily prevented as the duvet cover was firmly stuck to my forearm with congealed blood. As I pulled it away from my arm, it opened four of the cuts I had inflicted on myself. I remember thinking that this wasn’t going to be easy. The pain was so severe that I had to stop and think of an alternative way to end it all. The options seemed endless at the time. What about an overdose of paracetamol? How many would I have to take? If I could have been sure that I would have just gone to sleep and not woken up to being resuscitated, I might have chosen that option. As it was, I continued questioning each form of suicide but had no answers – looking back it probably saved me. My lethargy was so painfully strong that I couldn’t find the energy to drag myself to the chemist, only a hundred feet from my front door. I drank a glass of water, lit another cigarette and laid there wondering what to do next.

I thought long and hard about my sons, Jack and Daniel, who I think played a key factor of my survival. How could I even think of leaving them fatherless? I felt so selfish and yet in so much pain. Suicide or death in general seems so unfair. You die and everybody who knows you suffers in one way or another. What a dilemma, what a guilt trip, as if I didn’t feel bad enough already. I went back to sleep with thoughts of my parents, children and close friends on my mind.

I came to in the early hours of the morning, with tears streaming down my face I said out loud, “Oh Christ no, not another day, why can’t I just die in my sleep?” You see the tape kicks in the second you’re conscious. Shit, shit, shit, why was I taking this out on myself? Hours later I began to pick at the tendons on my left wrist with the blade. I wondered how long it would take to die. More importantly, how painful would it be? Would my heart simply stop? Maybe my lungs would cease functioning? How was I going to breathe? As you can see my sense of logic and reasoning was out to lunch.

My indecision was getting as bad as the loop-tape. I wanted the death part but without the pain, I should be so lucky! If I slashed my wrist I would have to cut through my tendons, something I hadn’t contemplated until now. I followed a vein from my forearm to the base of my biceps with the scalpel blade. In the crease of my left arm I had a bigger target and no visible tendons. All I had to do now was push the blade in. I stabbed either side of the vein. Forty-eight hours later I was still deliberating about my attempted suicide.

I heard the third dawn chorus – you wouldn’t believe the row those bloody birds made first thing in the morning. My next stop was going to be my garage, quiet and dark all the time – perfect. I guess I had it in mind to starve my self to death. If that were the case why was I contemplating taking bottles of water with me? Probably to keep my mouth and throat lubricated as I am a heavy smoker. So, with a supply of H20 and as many fags as I could carry, this being my only source of nutrition in the last seventy-two hours, the next task would have been to haul the mattress off of my bed and dump it in the garage. But I was so weak I couldn’t shift it off the bed. Let alone pull it down two flights of stairs and drag it across the car park. It has been said that to take your life is the coward’s way out. Yeah, bollocks it is!

What caused my suicide attempt was a catalogue of disasters one after another over a three-year period. They plunged me slowly and painfully into clinical depression. I was powerless to stop it and the last person to know I was ill.

After three days I eventually answered the door. It was Bill, a close friend and school mate of mine. “We’ve been concerned about you mate, so has your Mum, nobody has heard from you in a while, we just wondered if you were all right?” “Yeah, sorry mate,” I replied. “I’m okay, I just feel a bit tired that’s all apart from that I’m fine.” I tried to make small talk to mask my real feelings but Bill saw through this like a glass book.

I couldn’t keep up the pretence any longer. The smile disappeared from my face and my head fell forward into my hands. I showed him my arm. “Why am I doing this to myself Bill?” He was very calm about the situation. “You’ve had a lot of stress in the last three years, things that were out of your control. Basically it’s affected your health.”

Bill’s mother-in-law had been in the nursing profession for over twenty years and saw my break-down coming. It was she who advised Bill on how to help me I later found out. The advice was simple. Without too much fuss, get Neil to his doctor, he is suffering from clinical depression. Bill’s words to me were, “I think we should make a trip to the quacks, what do you reckon?” “I know I’m not a hundred percent,” I said, “but is it really that serious?” He just shut his eyes and nodded a couple of times. Pre-empting my answer Bill had already phoned my GP – they were just waiting for us to arrive. “Could you take me?” I asked. “The car’s outside mate,” he said. “What, today? … What, now?” “When you’re ready,” he replied.

Bill was the sort of friend you could trust with your life. For him to be worried about me I knew I had to put my faith, what was left of it, in his judgement. I made another pot of tea, the British thing to do in a situation like this. I sat down to let the information sink in, not realising just how life-altering this visit to the doctor’s was going to be.

When we arrived at the surgery the receptionist showed us straight into my doctor’s room. She asked me some questions relating to diet, sleep pattern and motivation. My reply to all three was just one word, “Poor.” The final question from my doctor, knowing in my heart it was rhetorical, was the hardest, shortest and the most painful I have ever had to answer. There was a terrible, sickening silence after she said the words “Have you tried to harm yourself in anyway?” “Yes,” I said quietly. After that I don’t remember speaking any more. I was mentally exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion. I had to let Bill take over the proceedings. He asked my GP what the next step was. Doctor Gibbon replied, “I think it would be best for Neil to see Dr. Gadhvi, the head psychiatrist at Claybury Hospital. I have made an appointment for Neil to see him this afternoon. I need a second opinion. Based on his report Neil may have to go into hospital for a short time.”

Things were moving too quickly for me, with talk of head shrinks and hospitals, but I was in no fit state to argue. I was swept along with the tide after that. This was starting to feel like a sad episode of “Casualty” come to life. Karen Gibbon was a kind, caring and considerate person. She made sure I understood what was going on, without belittling me, emphasising that a stay in hospital would be probable, after my consultation with the other doctor. Family and friends had carefully planned my path towards hospital; the trip to the trick-cyclist was a mere formality.

After visiting Dr Gadhvi my fate was secured. I fell silent again. This was too much to cope with. Bill took over as my ears, eyes and brain. At the end of the consultation it was decided that I would go in hospital as a voluntary patient for a minimum of two weeks. Technically I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, but I was informed I could leave the hospital any time I liked. Bill asked the doctor when this would happen and was told, “There will be a bed ready for him tonight. Perhaps this afternoon you could help Neil pack a bag,” Bill nodded in agreement. Christ, what do I pack? I’ve never been in hospital before, let alone a nut house. What the fuck is it going to be like in there? Of course I had a vivid picture in my mind, who wouldn’t? At this point I was petrified and powerless.

This was another situation that was totally out of my control. My life was now in other people’s hands. I didn’t like it one little bit. Bill was still on hand for support, and later that evening he ferried me to the hospital. It was only a short ride, but I remained quiet for hours as I remember. Communication was down to hearing and nodding only. I didn’t have the strength for anything else.

1 review for Bi-Polar Expedition

  1. Trevor Willoughby (verified owner)

    This book moved me in different ways, while I felt pain for the author’s illness he still managed to keep his sense of humour in tact and forces the reader to laugh through the suffering with some excellent comic timing.

    We are left with a man who triumphs through adversity and manages to reclaim his life, a true example of mental strength, if you did not understand mental illness and want to know what it feels like from the inside buy this.

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