Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Catherine wheels to Tornados

I used to liken my Cyclothymia to a catherine wheel.
I was once invited to a Guy Fawkes party in a lovely garden that led down to a river. The chap who was hosting it, nailed the catherine wheel to a tree then watched in horror as it jumped off its perch, whizzing and fizzing and firing its violent colours like a six shooter backing out of a saloon . Mien host chased after it, along the riverbank, in safety goggles and a V-neck sweater - attempting to bring it to justice with the aid of a long stick. I have rarely laughed so loudly and so long and when the suggestion that I might be bipolar arose, in my intial relief at an explanation of my life, I saw myself romantically as a catherine wheel. I was a gentle maverick, a children's entertainer, a rogue firework-sometimes getting out of hand and briefly dangerous but always entertaining and wonderful to look at.
In the months that followed though, as I hit my ups and downs with a new awareness that I found frankly quite terrifying, it struck me that unchecked, a catherine wheel could cause much damage and that I could cause more. I seemed to be housing a recurring tornado.

I have always loved extreme weather; growing up on a very severe coast line, fun for me was walking along the seafront when the waves were so vast as to overpower the sea wall by several feet and crash over the recently abandoned car park on the other side. I adored the drama of it-the power of nature; the feeling that it could snuff me out any minute, but that it wouldn't bloody dare.

As a result, I love the sea although, at the same time, I am more terrified of its vast power than of anything else. Thundestorms are another favourite; always torn between common sense and exhilaration when thunderbolts are thrown through the air and that delicious grumble of the gods invites you to party. How I long to go outdoors.... and so often, I do.
In retrospect then, it doesn't seem such a surprise that I ricochet constantly between the horror of fear and the freedom to be out of control. When did it all begin I wonder?
Now of course I realise that I am a tornado, not a catherine wheel at all. I sometimes -but not always- get a bit of a weather warning and ooooohhhh the excitement. I soar on that excitement, I see the tornado start to build and I feed it with glee, whipping and whipping it round like a spinning top until it has such a momentum that there's no stopping it. I am an awesome sight-mighty,powerful, intelligent and I do not suffer fools gladly-all are ripped from their place of safety and tossed aside. I am bright and witty and everyone is drawn into my atmosphere. I do not rest, nor sleep but go along my clever, clever way, taking all that I want and showing the world how it's done. I draw admirers from everywhere, everyone wants a piece of this phenomena. I can spin forever!

 Yet in the back of my mind I know that this isn't how it ends, that the spinning will stop even when I don't want it to. I panic and struggle but sure enough, the cows and double decker buses get harder to lift and the debris starts to slow me down. I look for a man with a stick to help, but he has got bored now and wandered home for his dinner and after all, people have jobs to go to. I try only choosing light things to fling about me, but all the time the energy is being discharged ; something has popped the Tornado like a balloon but it is me who deflates slowly until finally there is nothing by quiet and calm immobility and a sense of disorientation.
But the worst is yet to come, once the tornado of my soul has been snuffed out altogether and I look around, the horror of the decimation is revealed; the carcasses of friendships and reputations and time with children are strewn everywhere and I am completely spent and exhausted with a need to sleep and an inability to think. But even this is manageable, because I realise that when I do start to think, it won't be pretty. I am my own newscaster reporting on untold damage. I do not pull any punches. Apocalyptic is my style -I am a sensationalist after all.
But I have been thinking...thinking that if I were constantly a gentle breeze-neither a hurricane nor stagnant water- I think I'd find that less tiring.
So, welcome to 'The Tornado Files; One woman's observations on how it feels to accept herself and the strategies she's experimenting with to pace herself.'... it's a working title :)

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