Friday, 20 May 2011


“What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?” Aeschylus, c 500 BC.

Correct. Absolutely. And what joy and gentle pride can be gained from engaging with a multitude of strangers, of sharing smiles and knowing their night is good from your engagement. In the world of hospitality “We aim to please” stands tall. Simple effort brings pleasure and warmth abounding.

And the flip-side?

“I’m a Centurion/Platinum/Diamond-Encrusted-Ermine-Bordered-Emerald-Enshrined Card Holder.”

“I’m a friend of Owner/Manager/A Celebrity.”

“You’re stupid/I’ll have you fired/Or a varied selection of Insult & Profanity abounding.”

And the most simple classic of all… “Don’t you know who I am?!”

Er… No. So?

Or… Yes. And?

It will never fail to, baffle, or better, simply to amuse how some folk think to attempt a rapid round of volatile diatribe to demean, criticise and attack will help them gain entry to somewhere after refusal. It won't. I've seen the 'Big I Am' a thousand times before. To be gracious and charming could be the only ploy to win, and could actually help one do so with relative ease. Insult my colleagues, you are not going anywhere but away.

Hospitality is the relationship between guest and host. It is, therefore, like all good relationships, inherently a two-way street. If the etymology comes from the Latin hostis, which originally meant ‘to have power’, then some people really need to wake up to where that power lies; certainly not in the hands of the intoxicated arrogant pomposity of the one who does not hold the key.

Of course, good manners often means you simply put up with other people's bad manners; if you spoke your true mind how little would they cope.

Manners are also a good balanced awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners; if you don’t, you don’t. Simple.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it: “A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.”

And who puts a portrait in their house they don’t like?

Monday, 16 May 2011

“It’s a Twister!”: The Tornado Mind

I was having a bit of a tough ride, the dark side generally beating over the light, bringing despondency, chaos, and all manner of internal conflict (which invariably, as it must, ripples out).

I’d actually put on my facebook page that very morning:

“The fight betwixt philosophy and genetic disposition of DRD4 exon III polymorphism is tough lately.”

And it seemed I was not sure why. It was too cryptic, or simply seeming of nonsense to those – most likely all – who would not know to what it referred. I was expecting no response. Hoped, yes, but expected, no. None came in the twenty-four hours it was there before I changed my status.

Of course, I did know why I had put it up; it was a cry for help. I wouldn’t need anyone to point out that a social networking tool was probably not the best place to express that, but in a flux of pained confusion I was desperate in my yearning to find inspiration, to have that cry heeded, even if I had made that very call so obtuse.

The crux of it all, however, is that people simply don’t want to know; or at best, they don’t fully accept and understand. Even if they do somehow get it, say they are there if you need, they’d really rather not. It eventually becomes clear to you that this is something that you to dealt with by yourself.

So, down to me. Oh fuck. Well, I’ll muddle on.

Then, one of the big breaking stories of the day:

‘Catherine Zeta Jones has received treatment for bipolar disorder…’

“After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check in to a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her Bipolar II disorder. said her publicist.

Now I am sure the illness of her husband had indeed been a immense worry, and however cosseted another’s life may be, I do not believe their suffering in this to be less than with anyone else; my sympathies truly.

Nor do I lack empathy for her having an internal battle within her own mind. How could I?

And I even accept what Mark Davies, from the mental health charity Rethink, said about her announcement, that it aides in removing the stigma around mental illness. Or rather, I’d like to believe that to be so, because removing the stigma can only be a good thing.

Will it though? Does it? I’m not so sure.

Yes, she will receive the best treatment, the most understanding. She’ll be shown all good will in accordance with the very basic fact that she has it and is Hollywood royalty. If she has a bad spell, she can take some much-needed ‘time out’, with whatever help she needs at the time. I’m not saying her journey is easy, but it is certainly more comfortable.

Her public declaration therefore is certainly commendable; but to be lauded as ‘courageous’ over it?

Yes, I think every one who lives with bipolar, or some other mental health issue, and endeavours to deal with it and live a full life despite of it is being courageous in some way. But most will not know empathy, acceptance, patience, understanding, compassion and care. Most will not be able to put life on hold whilst they take some time out to manage with it. Most will have to muddle on as best they can. Alone.

I know, because I am one of them. So yes, the recent revelations on Ms.Zeta Jones does have a relevance, because it opens the discourse right here.

Some years ago I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, part of the spectrum of Bipolar Disorder. I’m not going to go into the science behind this all, but in essence, it is a chemical imbalance that affects my moods, to put it mildly, regardless of outside stimulus; or serves to dominate my existence when being extreme.

I need to set forth here, for my own sense of worth more than to persuade any who should read this: I am an intelligent man, and a sane (as opposed to insane) one. I also believe I possess in me some of the best qualities to be found in a person. I am caring, not lacking in empathy, loyal, trusting, and insightful. I can be witty, hold my own in most topics of discussion, and can inspire myself and others to a better way of seeing. I can be rational and, for someone of an artistic nature, even logical. I enjoy literature and all the arts (which I believe to be the true magic in humankind’s expression). I enjoy philosophy, and believe the continuous application of wisdom in our lives to be good and right. The main issue for me is that there are times in my life when none of these qualities will resound in my being to even the slightest ring.

I can find myself overbearingly confused or anxious for no particular reason, or unable to make even the simple decision without things going round and round in my head.

“Oh, we all do that sometimes!” is what I am told. Really?

For hours, days, sound and silence combined screaming into the head, blocking out all reason?

I do love the company of others, and can be the life and soul of the party. But then I can suddenly find myself feeling intensely isolated and alone, wanting to remove myself from any interaction, compelled to numb myself utterly. I perhaps feel trapped in a bubble of disturbing hypersensitivity. I may literally just stare at the wall or my pillow or empty space, for hours or even days. I can be deeply pensive, agitated, depressed, or just a blank void.

“Oh, we all do that sometimes!” is what I am told. Really?

For hours, days, sound and silence combined screaming into the head, blocking out all reason?

When these times come, I have absolutely no motivation. I can't get out of bed, pick up a phone, don't eat properly and have the most erratic sleep patterns.

“Oh, we all…” How often would that be I’d ask you?

Or I’m told to get a grip, sort myself out. As if logic and reason are actually allies of mine at these times! It is actually kind of insulting. I have a condition, yes. I do not however lack intelligence or empathy, even if at such times either of those would seem alien to me.

Of course, sometimes it is all quite the opposite. It can be quite amazing. I become a fireball of enthusiasm and inspiration, full of ideas and goals. I feel fine, no, great, and I know how energy breeds energy, so focus to lift others with this too. Like He-Man, I hold up my hand and proclaim “I have the power!” Yes truly, The Force is strong in this one.

“Where is the bad in that?” you might say. To a certain degree and level, there is not. But just as the dark side of the journey can be overbearing in its power, so can this seemingly ‘light’ side.

This then is called the manic phase, or hypomania. And yes, it can indeed be quite wonderful. It can also be quite damaging too, as I get consumed with wild ideas, find myself acting in weird ways that hold no consequence, beyond any law of cause and effect. I’ll start getting things with money I don’t have and that I don't need, spending as if I’m Rockefeller and living as if invincible, pursuing highs that further me on.

I am aware this aspect, my inferno of light, sometimes gives cause for my friends and family to despair at how I'm not doing really well with some glittering career as actor, writer or world leader of my own plane. Especially as I can be seen so be so in command of a great untapped potential. However, it gives me more despair, for I invariably spiral into a bewildering state of being. I tell myself this is just the way I am and I have to learn to accept it. But I don’t want to. Not always.

These conflicting mood states are not only extremely tiring, they are also deeply frustrating. Not knowing how or when I am going to flux means I have grown to be deeply mistrusting of myself, and adopt many a mask to cover when I can. I can sometimes manage to operate despite the screaming inside. Other days, all is just fine. I'm someone who most find polite, chatty, understanding, honest, compassionate, mildly interesting, etc. I know I'm a decent man, I like who I am, and so do most who know me. I think.

There have been times in my life when this dis-ease of the mind has overpowered me. It has, in effect, won. There are other times when it has been defeated, when I have come out as victor, the captain and master of myself.

In the latter half of 2010, I believed that to totally be the case.

I’d felt pretty damn good for some months. Good days and bad days, like everyone, mistakes and successes, but pretty much doing ok.

Which is perhaps why this that you have read now, for the most part thus far written in the early months of that year, never saw the light of day; Cyclothymia, the tornado mind, was, it seemed to be, not something I really had to consider.

Then the start of a new year, 2011, and reality bit, and bit hard.

Without even seeing it, I had, at some indistinct point, slipped into a prolonged phase of hypomania. So productive in its existence it seemed, and so engaging it must have made me, no-one saw the signs of what a level I was at. And why would they? They had no reason to. As for me, riding along this huge crest of the wave that it is like a champion surfer, I would be the last person to question any negative aspects found in my behaviours. I would not, as is the wont when in the grip of this powerful state, even recognise it as such.

I had become unwatchful, unmindful, and the fall out of this could well prove personally catastrophic.

Of course, I only saw this when the flip came. Like someone had flung a switch.

I’d been in the grip of one cycle. Here was the next.

My entire outlook, inward and outward, changed.

It all became bleak, downcast. And I felt in the grip of despair: lost, confused, and the worst aspect, empty.

I hated how I now was. I also hated how I had been. I hated me.

I look to what I wrote at that time:

…I feel in the grip of despair: lost, confused, and the worse aspect, empty. I hate how I now am. I also hate how I have been. I hate me.

I put out a ‘why?’ to this, as if someone else is now reading and asking that very question, when really it must be a part of my own self throwing out that very question. It doesn’t make sense.

And that is just it. It doesn’t make sense.

I look, as I have so many times in the past, to beautiful words of gospel that I believe to be true.

As a rock on the seashore he standeth firm, and the dashing of the waves disturbeth him not. He raiseth his head like a tower on a hill, and the arrows of fortune drop at his feet. In the instant of danger, the courage of his heart sustaineth him; and the steadiness of his mind beareth him out.

Akhenaton (c. B.C. 1375)

The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every

man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it and it

will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.

Thackeray (1811-1863)

These truths, and many others I have collected as my armoury and allies over the years, still serve me, but I acknowledge it is with a slight respite that has no hold. The moment I stop reading, or writing, then any good is clouded over with a gloom that is so overwhelming. My reason is begging me to listen, I feel.

I read the words, written some two-thousand years ago, of Nagarjuna, the Tibetan Father of Mahayana Buddhism

The misery which follows pleasure

Is the pleasure which follows misery.

The pleasure and misery of mankind

Revolve like a wheel.

I know this to be true. But there is no peace in the pain of my head.

I tell myself ‘This too shall pass’. To breathe. To be at peace.

‘HELP ME!’ I cry out in my head.

And I re-read my blog entry written just a few hours earlier.

…Call on The Divine, but row with purpose away from the rocks.

I wrote this slight tweak of an old Indian proverb because, as is often the case when I feel rather low and lost, I’m pleading for some kind of guidance to bring me out of the dark, back into the light. And I must trust it will come. However, it can never come alone. When we find ourselves flailing in a storm that is the ocean of our life, seemingly uncontrollable waves bringing us closer to the rocks of despair, it is ultimately up to us to row damn hard in the opposite direction.

I know it to be so. And I know that I am about to make the choice to stop writing just now.

And fall darker still…

Now I am not making some “woe is me” plea. For one, I am one of the fortunate ones. I have many caring, loving people in my life, most of whom will accept this aspect of me as best they can. And I’ll say now, before I write one word further, I am truly thankful to them for that. I’m not ashamed in a wider sphere either, not in the sense that I keep it secret anyway; I’ll be quite vocal about it. I don’t shout it from the rooftops, discuss it with everybody, but I will speak of it. Because it is part of who I am; because prejudice needs to be broken. However, much shame still lives. Why?

Camilla Long, in her superb piece in The Sunday Times, was quite right when she put: “People are still frightened of mental illness in a way that I can only equate to a kind of racism.” I have heard much prejudice from all walks of life, even if not intentionally hurtful in its ignorance. And it is an ignorance everyone should work to dissolve within themselves, if only for the fact that one in four people suffer some kind of mental illness at some point in their lives. You are reading of me here, but it is pretty much guaranteed someone closer to you is to suffer such also.

I am always reminded of how difficult my condition is for others. They won’t hide that, because they can’t. So we can talk about it, but usually when I am doing ok; when I’m in the grip of it, when I am suffering my worst I must do so alone. No-one will take my hand and listen and say it is okay. They will simply not hear my cry for help, back away, get frustrated or tell me to deal with it.

I know the strength lies in me and me alone. Sometimes though, you need it from someone else. They can’t, because it scares them. So then you must choose not to burden them, and walk the terrifying journey alone, whilst still doing a job, earning a living, maintaining relationships etc. No time to step out, take a break, pause till it passes (for it will). In doing so you take one more step closer to ultimate isolation, something I feel very strongly when I’m slipping down. And that carries with it many negative consequences, of this I can testify.

I’m okay today. Where and how I’ll be tomorrow, or in the next hour, I cannot say. In the end though, we all must walk alone. The best I can hope to do therefore, indeed, the best any of us can endeavour to do at any time, is to breathe deep and remember the ancient wisdom in:

“This too shall pass”.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The world would be less without...

Alexander the Great...




St. Augustine...


Leonardo da Vinci...

Christopher Marlowe...

William Shakespeare...

Florence Nightingale...

Oscar Wilde...

Virginia Woolf...

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey...

George Gershwin...

Tennessee Williams...

Eleanor Roosevelt...

Andy Warhol...

Lily Tomlin...

Jodie Foster...

Ian McKellen...

Lilli Vincenz...

Derek Jarman...

Freddie Mercury...


Michael Stipe...

Alan Ball...

To name but a few.

AND probably about three to five we personally know, at least - let alone those we don't. Like it REALLY matters? Which it doesn't, yet STILL carries such prejudice.

True human rights cannot exist without freedom of expression. An unthinking, but all too real, censorship of essential human freedom exists - freedom is everyone's inherent right.

Sign this petition today.