These periods span for months, and this intense, unrelenting feeling of self-hatred and pure sadness was the driving force behind me going and sitting in my car, putting a few of my favourite albums on and swallowing 40 painkillers washed down with a bottle of straight whiskey whilst crying to the point where I couldn’t see. I genuinely couldn’t see a way forward, and I truly believed that the world would be a better place without me. Thankfully I managed to crawl back into my apartment and get help. I was too useless to even kill myself successfully because I was so scared. That, coupled with the hurt I had inflicted on those around me – my entire family knowing that the only solution I could see was death. My housemate and bandmate having to deal with me walking back in completely out of my face and just wanting to sleep – a sleep we both knew I wouldn’t wake up from – made the following days of hospitalisation without even being allowed to leave under pain of arrest and sectioning, and the following month or so, one of the most hopeless periods in my existence.
I have had maybe 4 periods of depression as severe as that one, but I constantly feel slightly lower than neutral. However, what is slightly less ‘believable’ is the high point. The mania. Whilst manic I am energetic, full of hope and wisdom. I genuinely believe that I have the answers to everything and can solve the worlds problems. I mean, seriously? Third World Poverty? I know how to stop that! World Politics? I could do a better job because I HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS! Of course, I don’t, but just like everyone with Bipolar, I genuinely believe that I am greater than I am. It sounds like a cartoon, doesn’t it? Like a movie? Well, this is real life for my. It’s psychotic.
Whilst manic I am extremely creative, and I have written a lot of my music whilst in this phase, so you could say that it’s a good thing, however, whilst manic I have also spree-spent; £7,000 within 3 months to be precise. What on? Not a clue. Partying mostly; drink and drugs. Yes, here’s another cliché - a musician with a substance abuse problem. For years now I have struggled to control my misuse of substances. I predominantly use alcohol and cocaine within my manic periods, partly because I just want to party all the time, but mainly because I know that pretty soon I’m going to have a huge comedown, and the drugs help to push it off.
Honestly, thinking back now on my past periods of mania, they’re quite a blur, which makes it even harder to explain. All I can say is, I just have to go. I have to do things that no normal human being would ever dream of doing. I don’t make sense to anyone and nothing around me in the real world makes sense to me. I talk so fast and jump from topic to topic that it’s impossible for anyone to keep up, and all the while I just don’t understand why nobody else can grasp these life-changing epiphanies that I’m having.
These periods are truly crazy, but I can assure you that whilst it sounds great- Partying 24/7, spending loads, being really creative, drinking and shoving obscene amount of powder up your nose, there is also the aggression and anger that comes with it. Whilst manic I hate everyone because no one can keep up. I am ready to go all the time. Who needs sleep? Not me. Why do you? You’re weak and I don’t need you. So I look down on everyone and go off by myself. This has cost me many friendships, destroyed relationships that I’ve had with friends for years and put my family through absolute hell. I’ve also not mentioned the voices. Oh, they’re fun, trust me- ‘Go on, you can definitely down that bottle of Whiskey/do those pills/take that huge guy on in a fight’. And of course, by the end of it, I’m left even more of a shell than I was before.
The hardest part to explain is the delusions. The thoughts of grandeur. The complete belief that I can quit my job because I don’t need money to survive. Seriously, there was no plan in place. No fall back. I actually believed that I could somehow live on fresh air whilst spending obscene amounts of money on random things. Mania is extremely impulsive and delusional, and a few, shall we say, old friends, having known the issues I’ve coped with for years and years have used my illness against me and used it to hurt me, but they won’t be named.
They know who they are. You image trying to cope with delusional, impulsive, psychotic thoughts, whilst trying to refrain from going on a, what I like to call, ‘mad one’, resisting the urge to go and get completely fucked up whilst all along having a certain few people use it all against you. Well, it’s hard and quite simply, it didn’t work, and this is what caused my last manic phase, which then lead to a huge depressive period in which I tried to kill myself. A period that I am only just coming out of right now. This little trip spanned the last 9 months of my life.
Thankfully I’ve had my family, my friends, and met the most incredible partner that has seemed to make it all just about bearable. But possibly the worst part of a manic phase is the fact that whilst in it, I don’t know it’s a phase. I truly believe the delusions, the voices, the thoughts of grandeur. People sometimes say ‘slow down, you’re mental!’, or ‘Dan, you don’t seem yourself, are you ok?’ and I’m always like ‘Yes! Of course! I feel amazing! There’s nothing wrong with me!’. But of course, when I come out of the phase, I realise that it was all me living in a different world, slowing but surely sinking further and further away from reality.
As I sit here writing this now, I am truly petrified that one day I will slip so far that I won’t be able to come back. Be that a manic or depressive episode. They are fucking scary. Terrifying. I am petrified of the next episode because I don’t know when it’s coming, and any number of things could set one off (or, to be honest, they can just happen at any time. Kind of a losing battle, isn’t it?), so I try to relish the short periods of semi-normality in between each one. And no one understands that other than someone who suffers from the same affliction.
I’ve not explained everything to it’s full extent, only about 10% because if I did then I’d have to write a 100,000 page novel, and to be honest, the rest is far too graphic to be made public and I am not ready to share everything just yet – it’s taken me nearly 10 years to share this much. But hopefully this short piece explains, for those who know me, why I am the way that I am, and hopefully helps everyone to understand that unfortunately, my condition is completely uncontrollable, and whilst in a depressive or manic period, there is no stopping me. It just has to run it’s course, and yes, I have hurt and upset many people in the process, and I’m sure I will hurt more people in the future, but I have a fantastic network of support; amazing friends, girlfriend, bandmate and family that I would have surely died without, and to them, I am truly sorry for how I am, I just hope they stick with me whilst I struggle to stay on top of this disease.
I hate my condition, and I would change it if I could, but the simple fact is that any mental health condition is either hard to cure or a life sentence – mine, unfortunately, is the latter. But unlike heart disease or asthma, mental health conditions are invisible, hard to diagnose and near impossible to cure without the correct network of support around you, and this is why we, as the music industry, and we as a human race really need to understand these issues more, and be less judgemental. Yes, things are better than they were 50 years ago, but in terms of stigma, we have a LONG way to go because these conditions are rife within the arts and amongst creatives, yet there seems to be a very sparse support network within the industry. This needs to change. The industry needs to be about people and music again. About love and about helping each other, not shaming other artists for their past, or their behaviour because guess what, that is what happened to me. People used myself against me to damage me, knowing full well that I have underlying issues. Why? To get ahead? To muddy my name?
It’s disgusting and it needs to stop. AND IT HAPPENS ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Not just to me, but to thousands and thousands of people across the world. An industry that is struggling to keep its head above water in terms of identity and what it should be about (not money and pointing fun at celebs, obviously) needs to start changing its ways. Because I for one no longer wish to exist within a culture that is constantly destroying people. We need to understand mental health and stop being, well, simply, mean. Stop being knob heads, because we don’t know how someone is suffering, or what they have to battle day in, day out.
We as a collective may not understand it, but we should empathise with it and try to help any way in which we can. So all I have left to say now is be kind, be understanding, and never ever give up on someone, because if people had given up on me, I wouldn’t be here right now to write this.
One love, Daniel Johnson x