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.

 

Some favourite quick jokes.

Some of the my favourites. You can see me in clubs…I might not be doing stand up, but that’s where you tend to find me….   

My uncle wasn’t well in life. he used to have a cheap NHS pacemaker. It wasn’t so great…every time he farted the garage door would open.

Mt father passed away through having white asbestos all through him. The funeral was lovely but it took an age to cremate him.

A man said to me, “Hypothetically speaking you’re in a hot air balloon with Donald Trump and Theresa May…Who do you through out?”   I said “Probably myself.”

Government to impose cuts to mental health services. Self harmers were said to be initially furious but then spotted a window of opportunity

Andrea Leadsome famously said, “men can’t be nannies, because all men are potential paedophiles. ” I wonder what it was about working in Westminster that made her leap to that conclusion.

If Heather Mills and Abu Hamza were to have a baby together they’d make a pirate.

I saw in the paper the other day a headline proclaiming “The Hunt is on For The New Jihadi John. I thought these talent competitions have gone too far.

My name is Jock Scott which is a very Scottish name. I’ve got a cousin from Yorkshire called Hovis Broadband Miners Strike.

I actually typed tax evasion into the internet and it just went to Google’s homepage.

Gary Barlow is so tight that when questioned about tax evasion he wouldn’t even share his thoughts.  Sorry, I mean Gary Barlow OBE – Offshore Banking Expert.

In Scotland we didn’t vote for Brexit because to us the word just sounds like something’s been damaged. Brexit…it’s what happens when a fat lass sits on a chair.

I got the Donald Trump version of Cluedo. that’s the one where it doesn’t matter who did it, you just always blame the immigrant…and Mrs White always wins.

A UKIP councillor has claimed that the recent floods were caused by God being angry at gay marriage. I was sceptical until I heard that lightning had damaged the statue of Jesus in Rio.  God must be depressed about something if he’s started to self-harm.

It wasn’t all good news for Farage in the lead up to the election was it? He got hit by an egg in Stoke.  Because of that he now chooses to travel with four body guards. Fair enough…there’s six eggs in a box.

A UKIP donor has published an advert in the Telegraph stating there is no such thing as homophobia because the words not in the dictionary. It actually is in the dictionary. It’s sandwiched in between homoerotic and homosexual….which is probably the last place homophobia wants to be sandwiched but that will teach it a lesson.

So we finally left the EU. Or as UKIP pronounce it EUGH!

I actually typed tax evasion into the internet and it just went to Google’s homepage.

Gary Barlow is so tight that when questioned about tax evasion he wouldn’t even share his thoughts.  Sorry, I mean Gary Barlow OBE – Offshore Banking Expert.

A Christmas message for the generation of the self.

Christmas is coming. But please remember there are people less fortunate than you. And there’s a good reason for that, it’s because you’re better than them! Fuck em! Homeless types are in that situation because they bring it on themselves. How dare they put us on guilt trips as we have to step over them during the sales. Same goes for the unemployed. What’s wrong with an 80 hour week on a zero hours contract? If you don’t want to do it I’m sure we can get some child from the Eastern bloc who’ll be more than happy on £2.50 an hour.

So stuff your face and spend thousands on bling, blood diamonds are probably best for profit margin. Up yours Jesus. Anyway Jesus hated the poor didn’t he? There was that time he cured the cripple. He said, “take up thy bed and walk. you’ve been declared fit for work you scrounging bastard” And as for May and Joseph…what you think we’re paying bedroom tax so you can just freeload for the night! That’s what we believe the rest of the year. So why change all that just because it Christmas? Why spoil 30 years of the self just because of some foggy minded Christian values. Hail Thatcher.

A short conversation on right wing comedians.

As a comic I’ve no huge issues to make with comedians that go at stuff from the right. If I don’t like it I move on. Simple. Surely that should be the rule on all of it. But I did have this conversation with a posh old lady recently that really made me laugh….

 

 

OLD LADY:  “Why is it that all comedians are on the left? I’m a Tory and would like to see more right wing comedians.”

ME: “Well there are conservative comedians nowadays. And if you think not so long ago lots of comedians were Tories or on the right. Just look at Jim Davidson and Bernard Manning.”

OLD LADY:  “Yes but they were horrible.”

ME    “Yeah I know. I wonder why that was.”

The Male Pill.

So we’ve got Trump, Clinton, Brexit and the failing pound but the big news is…Scientists announce they’ve finally developed the male pill. And it’s not really before time is it? I mean for women you’ve got pills, coils, implants, patches, caps, and being locked for a week in the menstruating hut. What do we have for men? Err…Rubber Johnny. 100 years of contraception and that’s it! Or get your balls cut off.

Thing is just by a show of hands…How many women here would trust a man who said he was on the pill? (TUMBLEWEED SOUND) Exactly!

I reckon before they bring the male pill out it should have something in it that helps prove a bloke is actually taking it. Perhaps it could make your willy glow in the dark, or it makes your balls make a noise like wind chimes.

I was looking at how the male pill actually works and apparently it lowers sperm count by targeting a bit of the man’s brain. REALLY? You’re telling me there’s some kind of correlation between the brain and the penis. No way! My willy can’t tell the difference between a woman and a bus.

Genuinely there’s a term for why men get unprovoked stiffies on public transport. It’s called Diesel Penis. It’s because of the vibrations from the diesel engine. I mean this could explain why bus drivers always look so unhappy. “Look son just pay the fare and get on the bus. I’ve been sitting with this thing for six hours now. I just want to get home and throttle the life out the bastard. Anyway when are you getting off?”

“When am I getting off? Well that really depends on your driving. If you just give the engine a good fierce revving when we get to the lights I’ll see what I can do.”

 

The Holy Trinity Explained.

THE HOLY TRINITY EXPLAINED.

I was raised in a church background. It’s alright I was a prod so it was mainly getting pissed at communion and sacrificing the odd goat. Saying that I am from a massive protestant family…there’s just me.

Anyhoo I remember the minister saying to us once, one of the things folk find most confusing in Christianity is the Holy Trinity. You know, the idea that the Father (God), the Son and the Holy Ghost they’re all the same thing.

Mind you that’s maybe not so confusing nowadays. Just look at Westminster. You’ve got the Tories, Lib-Dems and a sizable chunk of New Labour and they’re pretty much all the same thing.

Thing is if you look at the Trinity it’s pretty much Jesus that got the shitty end of the stick. The Holy Ghost only had to put in a two day cameo appearance then buggered off for a lifetime on Americas Most Haunted and the odd Panto doing the past, present and future in Scrooge.

And as for God…well he’s God he can do anything he wants. Although according to some he seems to spend most of his time hovering about and watching us masturbate. Or knocking out the odd natural disaster just to see how easily we go squish.

But Jesus…he got sent on a suicide mission. I would have loved to have been at the meeting where that got decided.

“OK this is the new millennium annual general meeting. Since I’m God I’ll take the minutes. First up is a proposal from myself and the Holy Ghost. Son, Jesus, me…whatever. We’ve come up with an idea that we’d like to send you on a mission.”

And if you were Jesus you might go, “Ah cool a mission. I’m well up for that. Now people can meet me face to face. I was getting tired of everybody thinking I’m a white bloke.”

And then God might go, “Ah good I’m glad you’re up for it. So as well as being the living representation of me, him and err… us on earth I’m also going to give you some super powers.”

And at that point Jesus was probably quite happy, “Wow super powers. Awesome! Can I get claws like Wolverine?”

But then God threw a damper on things. “Ah well its more “earthy” powers than that. You know you’ll heal the sick, raise the dead and turn water into wine. Mind you the last one will make you popular for a bit. You’ll be like a Harry Potter for the needy. There’s just one wee thing…You have to die at the end. When you’re quite young actually”

And Jesus might have gone, “Fuck that. What’s the point in that?”

And God might have said, “Well you know. It sets a nice example.”

To which he might reply, “A nice fucking example? How do I die like?”

And God owned up, “We’re going to have you nailed to a lump of wood. By some Romans”

To which he probably replied, “Fuck that! Send the Holy Ghost. He won’t feel a thing.”

To which God made the excuse, “He’s busy…he’s in Panto.”

At which point Jesus saw a flaw in Gods game plan. And did protest, “Hang on a minute if I’ve got superpowers how come I can’t use them to stop the Romans? I mean fuck water into wine, how about nails into water? That could be a great laugh. We could have them there all day…Yeah just hammer away…Oh look it’s turned into water again. That would be a crowd pleaser. It would probably be a bit more productive than dying.”

And then God may declare, “Look we’ve had a word with marketing and we feel this is the best way forward for everybody. Anyway you’re not going to be that popular. I’m bored of Judaism. I want you to start a new religion.”

And Jesus may question, “Worshiping who.”

And God put the final nail in with, “You.”

And Jesus did realise, “Well it’s no wonder they want to kill me. You’ve set me up to look like a total wanker.”

And ye verily the poor lads fate/faith was sealed.

 

 

 

John gets Mad, Class and Elites.

I was doing a gig in a posher bit of town the other night and an elderly lady came up to me and asked, “Why is it that all comedians are on the left?” I replied that there are conservative comedians nowadays. And if you think not so long ago lots of comedians were  right wing or Tories. Just look at Jim Davidson and Bernard Manning. And she replied, “Yes but they were horrible.” I said, “Yeah I know. I wonder why that was.”

I miss the simpler days when there were just three classes. Upper, middle and working. Now we’ve got

  1. Elites
  2. Upper
  3. Middle
  4. Working
  5. Oh my god he’s wearing Crocs.

Class really does inform your sense of humour. here’s a genuine conversation I had with one of the Cambridge Footlights at The Edinburgh festival this year.

ME. So yesterday my front row was four 13 – 14 year old boys.

FOOTLIGHTS. That must have been difficult.

ME. No. They were great. I had a great moment when I did my money bucket speach. I said to them. You young guys don’t have to pay…But I do want a blow job. Don’t worry you still get the free CD.

FOOTLIGHTS. Good God! And the audience were OK with that?

ME. Yeah. Err…It was one of the biggest laughs of the night.

FOOTLIGHTS. Im shocked.

ME. That’s nothing. I shifted another 4 CDs and got a blow job.

FOOTLIGHTS. ( Gazes into the middle distance…. Then goes inside)

ME. Sniggers…

I recently quite inadvertently stumbled on a way to make yourself feel like an Elite. I was in the park and had eaten a bag of pistachio nuts. Obviously when you finish pistachio nuts you’re left with a bag of hard empty shells. Just as I was about to clear them away a gust of wind came and scattered them over the ground. I suppose it looked like I was throwing out grain as a flock of pigeons descended on them… Well, suddenly I felt like the chancellor. I thought “You think you’re getting something. But it’s nothing but empty shells. That’s trickle down economics for you. I get nuts, you get empty shells. Know why? Because you’re vermin.”

And there was this one pigeon that couldn’t fly because it had a broken wing. Well…It was making out it had I broken wing. But I knew better than that. So I started kicking it, “Come on you, you can fly, you’re not fooling me.” Eventually I just picked it up and threw it in the air. It came down with a thud and died. I said, “Fair enough. You’ve passed the assessment.”