Delusions. How becoming a comedian got me the correct diagnosis for my mental health condition.

Below is a link to a short ten minute interview I did recently with the BBC regarding my new Fringe comedy show. And below that is an excerpt from the same show. It’s all pretty much how about I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 24 and how by becoming a comedian, mental health services arrived at the correct diagnosis of me being  Bipolar One. The show runs in Edinburgh from the 4th -29th. You can get more details from the image above. 

BBC interview on mental health.

OUCH.

HOW BECOMING A COMEDIAN GOT ME THE CORRECT DIAGNOSIS FOR MY MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION.

Hello, my name is John and for the past thirteen years I’ve been a professional Stand Up comedian. Also during those years I was a person who was diagnosed with schizophrenia which was then changed to the correct diagnosis of being Bi-Polar One. So there’s a lot get through here. I am aware Bi-Polar comedians are quite common now. I was thinking of getting us all together, forming a jazz band and calling ourselves Mood Swings.

So I’m here to tell a story about how becoming a comedian was actually a big factor in me getting the correct diagnosis and then correct treatment for my disability.
So, the reason I chose to do a show at The Fringe about my experiences came about because one night I found myself doing a show with other comedians about mental health and I came to realise that I’ve had experiences that aren’t that common to many of the things you’ll normally hear about mental health. My condition can induce psychosis and delusions, which is why at age 24 I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.

In the 90s when I was diagnosed you were either schizophrenic or you were Bi Polar. There wasn’t much in-between. But there’s also a thing called Schizoaffective Disorder and it wasn’t until as recently as 2013 that it was acknowledged this can affect Bi Polar people also. Prior to that change in assessment we are told there was “excessive misdiagnosis”. At least that’s what Wikipedia says and who dares challenge them. I also agree with that. On another note people like me take up less than one percent of the population. This makes me feel kind of special.

You see I never developed many of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. I never had the most common one which is auditory hallucinations; I never heard voices, which is the most common sign and must be an awful thing to endure. And the voices can say terrible things which can on very rare occasions lead to something bad happening. Like an attack or something. Sometimes people think God is telling them to do things.

This always makes me wonder…why does God never say anything sensible to the mentally ill…like…

“Hello, this is God…maybe it’s time you tidied the house? You’re looking a bit anxious, perhaps you should give your mum a phone…have you ever thought about switching to a cheaper energy supplier?”

But these bad events are rare. We’re more of a danger to ourselves than anyone else. Although I am aware at moments when talking about such stuff I may look a bit like Steve Irwin going, “You know what…Stingrays are really misunderstood.”

I’ve also suffered delusions. Bipolar delusions can often feel like you have special powers or are on a special mission. For us just watching an X – Man movie can sometimes lead to a trip to the doctor.

I was raised in a religious background so that would come to the fore when my health was poor. I would actually think things like Hell was real. Which is bloody terrifying. And when the delusion wore off my sense of relief was palpable. I’d be thinking, “Thank heavens that’s over. And thank the Lord I’m only Church of Scotland. Had I been raised a good catholic boy I might never have snapped out of that!”

Thing is we all have delusions to a certain degree don’t we? I see just now that young Millennials have a bit of an obsession with all things Unicorns. People are putting colour in their hair and glitter in their beard and dressing up for fantasy conventions. Thing is…if I was a young person with no chance of a house, working a zero hours contract, for minimum wage for seventy hours a week…I’d pretend I was a bloody Unicorn as well. That’s what a delusion is. It’s just your brain needing to get away from it all for a bit.

But as I mentioned Bipolar delusions are a bit different in that we can think we have special powers and are on a special mission. Special powers, special mission. Yeah…kind of reminds you of a certain Donald Trump.

And a lot of my new show does bring into question the idea of who’s really deluded. I mean, I’m mad so I’ve got an excuse. But right now it feels like half the planet is deluded. It’s as if the world has been taken over by a bunch of shite James Bond villains. The most powerful man in the world is a Wotsit coloured used car salesman. I think we’re starting to realise that “because it would be a great laugh” was not a good reason to make him president. People say we should respect Trump because he’s a self-made millionaire…Yeah but he started out a billionaire.

Another thing that seriously aggravated my condition was when I was younger is that I was addicted to smoking cannabis. Lots of it. Regardless of your viewpoint on drugs they are there to alter your judgement. We were the rave generation and we could be a bit reckless. We used to drug drive. Well, my mate Jimmy would drive and I’d roll the entertaining cigarettes. It does affect judgement. I remember once looking up and saying, “Jimmy we’re going to hit a tree…Eventually…There’s a tree Jimmy it’s right in the middle of the road…Oh no…hang on it’s the air freshener.” So don’t drug drive kids. These days I generally feel there’s nothing in life that’s worth achieving that can be improved in any way by a stimulant.

So how did becoming a comedian help change things? Well when I started out in comedy I was without treatment. I had been taken off all meds, there were now questions on my diagnosis, but nobody would come forward and say what they really thought it was. At that point it was really hard to get a diagnosis changed.  So then I started getting up on stages and telling everybody about it. Now what sort of person does that? I’m lucky in that I have a condition that can actually become profitable.

Eventually I started researching Bi-Polar disorder because even though at times delusional I was aware many of my behaviours were beyond average. One day I phoned The Scottish Bi-Polar helpline. As I was telling the woman on the other end of line about myself I happened to mention I did a bit of stand up. The woman says, “Oh I like a bit of comedy do you ever play Glasgow?” I said, yes I was just there a couple of weeks ago. Then she asked, “Hang on do you go under a stage name?” And at that time I did. I used to use the name John Littlejohn. And then the helpline woman said, “I saw you two weeks ago. You are definitely Bi-polar.” Wow. I actually wish other comedians would phone some mental health helplines, “Hello, this is Jack Whitehall I think I might be deluded.” “Nah mate you’re just a tit.”

Also during this period my Bipolar behaviour was impacting on everyone around me.  There’s a thing called hypomania. The term means less than mania. You’re not delusional with hypomania. Some of its affects are positive. You become creative with a lot of productivity and energy. But it can also make you aggressive and short of temper. I was never physically aggressive but my girlfriend at the time could often get verbal stress and aggression from me. “Everything is wrong, the house is a mess, the cats done a poo…And it’s all your fault.”

So I went and got some literature on Bipolar to help her understand why I was being like this. Thing is she came home from work one day and off I went, “Everything is wrong, the house is a mess, the cat’s done a poo…” then I went, “Oh hang on I’m doing it again! Wait there I’ve got a leaflet.” Then I ran off to get the leaflet and gave it to her to read, also apologising on return.

On other nights my hypomania could keep me awake all night. Eventually I decided to visit the local psychiatric hospital and see if they could help in any way. So I turned up on their doorstep at two in the morning…as you do. Eventually a ward manager came to see me. I told them my symptoms and they asked if I could hang on for a bit. After about an hour they came back with another ward manager and a consultant and said, “John we know who you are. We know you do comedy…there is no way you can be suffering paranoid schizophrenia and do the job you do.” I replied, “Exactly, I mean if I was in a permanent state of paranoia I’d just be up there going what’s everybody laughing at?”

Then they said. “You’re definitely Bipolar and it imperative we get this sorted out immediately.” Finally I thought. I’m to get the help I need…and eighteen months later I did.

Yeah that’s how long it took. It turned out to be quite tricky to get a diagnosis changed. At one point I visited the local GP because my condition was acting up, and he didn’t believe I was a comedian. He actually thought I was being delusional again. Thankfully at that point I had my secret weapon. The same girlfriend I mentioned told me to gather up my entire collection of press clipping. I had a whole folder of them. And she escorted me to a meeting with the same GP. So I showed him my reviews (not the bad ones obviously, I’m not totally mad) Then my girlfriend asked if she could speak to the GP alone for five minutes. To this day I’ve no idea what she said to him. But when I went back in the room he’d gone all kind of meek and insisted I was definitely Bipolar and it was imperative we get this sorted out immediately. Two weeks later a consultant changed my diagnosis and I started to receive treatment which eventually made me well again. Although even as the consultant was agreeing to change my diagnosis he actually said to me, “This Bipolar is a very serious condition you know. You’ll be registered as disabled, are you sure you want that?”

I replied, “Well trust me on the odd occasion I’ve run about telling everyone I’m Jesus, I’ve never really felt I should be allowed to operate heavy machinery.”

I no longer have that girlfriend in these stories any more…Now she’s my wife. I can’t go on too much about how much she means to me because I start to well up. Just trust we are very happy.

Tell you what though…Schizophrenia? I wouldn’t want to catch it again.

 

The Young Conservative Rap.

With appearances at Glastonbury and support from the UK Grime scene  Jeremy Corbyn is making huge inroads with the youth vote. Rumours abound that Tory HQ are trying to figure out how to connect with UK “yoof” themselves. Apparently the Young Conservatives have even released their own rap.  

We are the Tories and we are street.
Well we are if your dad is one of the elites.
To get a majority we just weren’t able.
But if you shout strong we say stable.
Kids don’t wanna pay no student fees.
But there’s no magic money tree.
Unless you’re a member of the D.U.P.
Fuck the Pope.
He’s not dope.
There’s a poor person.
Have some soap.
Word.
Douglas Hurd.
Strong and stable.
Fuck the disabled.
You wanna hear more.
Shout fuck the poor.
Fuck the poor.
Fuck the poor.
Fuck the poor.
When it comes to cruelty we can’t beaten.
Cos we’re the toff massive and we come from Eton.
There’s no pay rise for the public sector.
We got the same principles as Hannibal Lecter.
If you can’t eat it’s us you thank.
Just get in line at the nearest foodbank.
We’re not really gangsta’ like Dr Dre
But we like running in the fields with Theresa May.
Been spending most our lives
Living in a tax haven paradise.
Of the NHS we shall be rid
To Richard Branson or the highest bid.
It’s all down to our homie Jeremy Hunt
Ladedadedumdum…yup he’s a c**t
One time
Two time
Three times and we stop your benefits.

 

 

 

Consume (poem)

This is a rewrite of something. Decided to enter a poetry slam so will open with this. A long time ago a woman called Thatcher decided we were no longer citizens we were consumers. The free market became the last word. I think we’re all getting pretty fed up with such philosophies.

 

I want I want I want it all
Work buy get paid
Hoping to get laid
Give me more stuff
As I work rest and get played
For that new phone
Over glass I would crawl
It’s only ever Adidas
Who get to kick at my balls
Gas coal black oil
The planet burns
The planet boils
Are we gonna screw it
Nike says Just Do It
If there is shit
Then we’re shovelling it
But we care not a bit
McDonalds says we’re loving it
Consume erode deplete
We’re not pioneers we’re sheep
I need I need I need Everything
G String nose ring
Grabbing at the gold and bling
Only drink that brand
Because It’s The Real Thing
Eat drink
Piss in the sink
Work hard play hard
For everything else there’s MasterCard
Royal variety
There’s no society
That’s the word of Thatcher
A nation full of bastards
Consumed by liars
be the biggest buyer
Tower block in London
Consumed by fire
Put a price on everything
Greed is good no more a sin
I have I have I have
All the best stuff
I bet he drinks Carling
Cos he looks kinda rough
Consume deplete
Live in compliance
This the rot
The Appliance Of Science
It’s a fairly safe bet
This is the worst a man can get
Advertising hoods
Finger lickin good
My health fuck it
Eat shit by the bucket
This credit card’s a git
Don’t leave home without it
We’re ravers and cravers
We’re masters and slavers
Lost sight of ourselves
Should have gone to Spec Savers
Does this fit that bit
Cashmere fine knit
Close pit job quit
Because we’re worth shit

 

 

 

Grenfell Tower. The Last Straw

It’s a fact that wealth disparity in the borough of Kensington is amongst the most acute in Britain. For those trapped in poverty there it was considered to be among the top 10% of most deprived areas in the country. However something stood out to me as we watched the appalling disaster unfold on the news. T.V. journalists and pundits kept referring to the residents of Grenfell as “poor people”. That description didn’t sit easy with me. Among the survivors I saw a woman described as “The head of a local design company” I also spotted other skilled professionals and tradespeople as events progressed. Such types I wouldn’t describe as poor people, they are aspirational working class people. Intelligent, articulate, hard working. They are also the brutally truthful reminder that this is how tight, how squeezed and how utterly disregarded so called ordinary workers are, especially so in London. It would seem that things are now so bad even skilled professionals can find nowhere more affordable to live than a badly facilitated death trap. Many of them will have fought hard and waited on a long list to get into their homes that are now destroyed. This is your beloved free market. This is where it has taken us.

“There’s no such thing as society.” Margaret Thatcher gleefully said as she saw her dream of economic neo liberalism come into focus. Well…this is where such idealism leads. Are you feeling proud of that?

As things progress some upsetting, disturbing and yet not at all surprising facts are beginning to emerge. It’s not yet proven, yet is highly suspected the cladding on the building caused the disaster.  If two pound more per sheet of cladding at a total cost of five thousand pounds had been spent the disaster would probably have been avoided. But that’s not the point of free enterprise is it? The point is to make the highest profit margin and hold little regard as to how it will affect peoples lives. Are you proud of your profits? You’re always claiming you work so hard for them. How entitled are you feeling today?   Worse still the cladding was put there for aesthetic reasons. So that millionaires would have less of an eyesore to look at and be reminded every day that they have to move among people worth so much less than them. People that don’t count like them. People that they know in their hearts they are just better than. They don’t need ugly reminders of the actual truth of the world. If we can’t actually entirely enforce the idea “There’s no such thing as society.” then perhaps we can paint over it and hide it behind flammable plastics.

For all reading this, all you Neo Liberals , Conservatives, thinkers, economists and patrons of the right, advocates for free market and the age of self.  I’m just going to post here the last words of some that died. These were gathered in the press from social media.

“Forgive me, the fire is here. I’m dying”

“I can’t leave the flat. Please pray for me and my mum.”

“Tell my sons that I love them.”

“Smoke is coming under the doors.”

“I’m staying here with the dogs.”

“We’re not going to make it.”

“Please help me. Please tell my family that I love them.”

“Forgive me everyone. Goodbye.”

Still feeling proud of all you’ve achieved in life? Your profit shares, your mega bonus, you’re filthy lucre.

Your chief representative Theresa May  went to visit the place of disaster. Gutless, afraid, guilty and refusing to speak to local residents. Why was that I wonder. Why can’t she face the very people she claims to serve? Is it because she is a pinnacle representative of every ideal that caused this atrocity to come into being? Well is it? I know the answer, I’m asking you.

Our guy Jeremy Corbyn also visited. He was welcomed with open arms by those who have lost everything. He promises to do all he can to help. Remind me again how you are just better than us. Remind me how we’re not really people, we’re a commodity, a consumer. “There’s no such thing as society!”

They decided to cancel The Mansion House dinner “As an act of respect” This is a dinner of bankers, stockbrokers, establishment and politicians where meals are literally served on plates made of gold. I wonder what the price of one of those plates is? Five thousand pounds perhaps? The difference between an estimated hundred people burned to death and your dinner looking the absolute best it can.  Are you proud of your status, your connections, where you feel you’ve made it in life?  “There’s no such thing as society”

There’s a hurricane coming. And the likes of Theresa May are going to be left in it looking like nothing more than a gasp.

 

 

Taken Out With The Junk (poem)

We loved the rave, those nights to day
We danced we talked cod philosophy
It’s the second summer of love
There’s something tribal in the funk
But a darker fate for some friends waits
As they were taken out with the junk
Dealer says he’s out of pills
Do you want to try some brown
And the love, the dance, the thoughts
All stopped
The smile became a frown
The comedown drops
In the corner flopped
Your robbing shops
The clock of life it ticks
And then it tocks
Ticks and then it tocks
Tick
Tock
Comes to a stop
And your slumped there on a bunk
Needle in arm
Deaf to alarm
Taken out with the junk
Some tried to escape with traveling
To stop their lives unravelling
This high was the worst discovery
Take twelve steps to recovery
The rave now seems a fiction
As you battle the addiction
I saw the last gasp taken in
As your veins are filled with heroin
Now I’m not saying you need live you lives
As though you were a monk
But I can’t forget that list of friends
Taken out with the junk

 

 

 

Orange President. Orange Prime Minister. We’ve been Tangoed.

To be Tangoed as the adverts used to go was to receive a shock to the system, often by a slap to the face. Which is exactly what Theresa May’s proposals for our future Government has been to the British electorate. You remember Donald Trump massaging his special relationship with Theresa? It was all hand over hand with the threat of a locker room grab to the nether regions hanging in the air. I’ve heard to brighten up her general death like demeanour he advised she should turn Orange like him…I’m not sure forming a government with The DUP was what he meant.

Watching the election results come in the other night was a bit like watching a game of Rugby. There’s a lot of stuff going on that we don’t all exactly understand. Then you get to the end asking, “Did we win? It looks like we won! How come the opposition are getting a penalty in the dying minutes? I THOUGHT WE WERE WINNING!”

I don’t ask much from my future government but I do think it a bit important they all believe Dinosaurs were real. The DUP are putting it lightly a bunch of creationist knuckle draggers. Their manifesto is essentially the Bible with the bins going out every fortnight. Anti LGBT, Climate change deniers, anti catholic. Brexit no longer seems to mean Brexit. Brexit means F**k the Pope. They actually believe the European Union was a Papal conspiracy. It seems the Romans are still very much a threat in their minds.

They’re not so keen on women’s rights either. They’re Anti abortion and believe public breastfeeding is an act of exhibitionism. Obviously putting on a bowler hat and a sash while a full brass band belts out sectarian anthems is the work of shrinking violets.

I can only describe May’s desperate cling to power via the DUP as sociopathic. This is a woman who cares not a jot for consequence as long as she still gets to sit at the top of the table. Watching Theresa May right now is like watching a fart trying to be heard in a hurricane. Flailing around in her MayBot way chanting “Strong and Stable” as her programmers try desperately hard to try and figure out to make her user friendly. It’s impossible. She doesn’t like people. Her alliance with the DUP is actually illegal in regards to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. A pact for peace in Ireland that the DUP refused to sign. It is also a threat to that peace and should be fought against at every turn over the coming weeks. Perhaps if we’re really nice to them Sinn Fein might choose to take up their seats in parliament and we can redress the balance. Jeremy Corbyn will drag us back to the 70s they cried. Well that doesn’t seem as bad as going back to the 1690s.

However this doesn’t mean all is lost. The exact opposite in fact. I’ve been a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn since before he was elected leader of the Labour Party. I always believed if we got his name on the ballot paper then his policies would chime with the electorate. I believed this because of what the SNP achieved in Scotland and think we owe them a decent nod for bringing compassion back into mainstream politics. The Tory smear campaign against Corbyn in the election was abhorrent. To attempt to label a decent man as a terrorist sympathiser while we were under attack from terrorists was below the lowest of the low. However now that the Tories are having to for a Government with the DUP…well these accusations seem to have…ahem…blown up in their faces. I really did enjoy the Tweet from the Police Federation page that said, “It’s not the amount of MPs you have Theresa it’s what you do with them. You have to do more with less.” How poignant.

For now Corbyn and the SNP wait in the wings. They look like they’re going to play the long game. I don’t think the changes that are coming are some kind of a flash in the pan either. If you look at what’s happening globally voices of the left are coming in from many areas. I think the changes that are coming to this island will be as seismic as the changes Thatcher ushered in and will probably last as long.  The future’s bright, the future is NOT Orange.

 

Populism (A very short and rather basic poem)

POPULISM (A very short poem)

I’m neither left nor right just full of shite.

I’m neither left nor right just full of shite.

I’m neither left nor right just full of shite.

I’m neither left nor right just full of shite

I’m neither left nor right just full of shite.

I’m neither left nor right just full of shite.

Repeat until elected…