The Malfunctions of a Bipolar Mind


SKU paperback Category

175 in stock


By Joss Smith Wesson

ISBN: 978-1-84991-934-0
Published: 2012
Pages: 502
Key Themes: Mental Health, Mental Illness, Bipolar, Suicide, Recovery



The titles “The Secret Road To Sanity”, “Little House Of Sanity” and “How To Live And Die Sane” all seem to be taken. I was vaguely tempted by “Out of Aarghfrica!”, “Mad about Aargh-Stralia”, or “***hg Aargh uhm Insane!” Even “***hg Aargh uhm lost somewhere between Heaven and Hell” crossed my mind.

OK, so “Aargh!” was not the best title for a book and have changed it to this one, reflecting the subject matter [after consulting my editor].

The author (that’s me) attempts to recount some of his bizarre experiences through a journey towards, partially through and hopefully out of insanity, depression and thoughts of suicide (with some irreverent notes by the editor, which, to be honest, is also me). Despite its sombre subject, there are many moments of joy. It begins in adolescence and continues through to the present when I recently spent (Ed. a lot of) time in a mental asylum. One in five of the population suffer from one sort of mental illness or another, so I strongly believe that this work will be of interest to those in that category. Also, to those that believe that they have somehow escaped, it should be of interest to see what constitutes the condition, or rather something like it, as there are so many variations of any illness. Understanding Manic Depression, or Bipolar Affective Disorder as it is now referred to, is hard enough from the outside. This is an attempt to make sense of the condition from inside.

It starts out with a dream that I have repeatedly. Perhaps I am the character in it? Many of my dreams are also of continuously falling, of drowning or of suffocating. If only dreams were like a cinema in which one could choose the films…

I believe that my self-stability, my ability to maintain my own character, depends on my being able to recognise my mental state of health. There are times when my self-esteem fluctuates. In being able to measure my own self worth, I believe it is important not to do so against that of my contemporaries. In the majority of people, the measure of one’s self-esteem is simply a measure of one’s financial success. People may not be as successful as they wish to be, however if they believe that their contemporaries believe that they are successful, then they have high self-esteem. The measure of one’s self-esteem is a reflection of one’s perception in the approval of others. By nature of my being one of the same race that we all share, it is undoubtedly the case that these factors affect my self-evaluation. I may be less concerned with the views of others and am prepared to swim against the flow. I am able to set my own criteria for what is success. I was bound at the time by the constraints of running my own company, being a husband, a parent, a son, and a sibling. By being bound, I mean all these people closely analyzed any perception of my underachievement. These people could equally uplift me, as their reaction to success would have an immediate impact.

I have tried to intersperse various events of my decline from cheerful-chappy to sadly insane, with some of my attempts at poetry. The book is written retrospectively, and, although I honestly feel that no one has been libelled in any way, I have decided to change everyone’s names, to protect the innocent etc. It was certainly not my intention when starting out to offend anyone. But if you do recognise yourself, Mr Head, I was hoping that either you would be happily tucked away for good by now, or that you would have the good humour to realise that it is just part of my long term plot to spring myself, so no insults intended – Richard. As a registered loon, I felt little point in changing someone’s name from Bill to Bob, so if there are some really obscure names out there, just try vocalising them. My reason for inclusion of some apparently isolated events or chapters in my life, is to attempt to illustrate the extremes in mood variation. These swings become more violent later in the book, eventually culminating in my hospitalisation. I also try to portray a journey from reality into fantasy that becomes indistinguishable as the illness progresses.

Before taking the plunge in a bookshop, at about this point I would always love some third party to give me an unbiased, objective and yet critical opinion of the book I am considering buying. There is one juicy bit in which I had just excitedly ‘spotted my 14th zebra.’ I was reinforcing the actions of an outward-bound sane healthy person sitting in the back of a bouncing land rover in the wilds of Africa, against those of an introverted sick-o loon who later could hardly make head or tail of peeling and faded hospital wallpaper. (Ed. Actually that event never happened. You were using it as an example to emphasise the change in your character from one extreme to the other.) My humble estimation of my own work is, well…very funny…very true to life and also very depressing. If I were standing there, with the till beckoning, I would have a bit of a read, burst out chortling, thinking that I could understand the predicament. It begins in South Africa in 1981 when I was apparently without a care in the world. Plotting the course through the causes of deteriorating mental health across two decades, the symptoms becoming more and more manifest, although perhaps not necessarily easier to understand, was not easy. As I sit here now in Christmas 2011, taking my endless tablets, friendless, shunned and even hated by many, I write this in the belief that I can somehow contribute to a growing awareness of the condition. In an increasingly fractious society, the opportunities for otherwise mentally well people to become sick are enormous. As a society, we have the ability to vastly improve the lives of the unfortunate mentally ill people who have been left by the wayside. Perhaps I was never ill as such and, as with many crime authors who study murder scenes to get their authenticity, I have simply let my imagination go. Perhaps I have an over excited imagination, perhaps I enjoy seeing my beloved family suffer; perhaps my abilities do not extend beyond that of road sweeper. Honestly, this is not the case and I have really been there and really am in this desperate plight.

My objectives at the moment are: to fight myself back into mainstream society (so far after a year I think that perhaps, being slightly eccentric, I have got away with being perceived as almost normal); to hold my youngest daughter Sophie’s hand all the way to school every morning and back in the afternoon (the reason why the poor darling has no friends is because all the mums know that Sophie’s dad is likely to be in the news for some horrific crime committed on their beloved child – people can be so fickle and so unforgiving); to be available to take the older two, Tilly and Felicity up to school when they miss the bus, which hopefully is not too often. They frequently need lifts back, as the school bus does not bring them home if they are involved in any extra-curricula school activities. Felicity has made it into the school netball and running teams and Tillie has Business Studies on Wednesday afternoons. Actually I can manage to help Little Sophie with her homework, but as far as Tilly and Felicity are concerned, I don’t remember having to work out how to get to Mars and back when I was fifteen. Long term, I am determined to complete this degree I have started…


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