The Invisible Man



People talk about the issue of class as if it were a thing of the past, but I’ve discovered that there are still those who look down on others because of their job. I’ve been doing some driving work in between gigging to keep the pennies coming in and it has surprised me just how many people look straight through you because you’re not doing a job they see as valuable.

When I was teaching there were always those who looked down on you as they believed the “Those who can do…” nonsense, but mostly people recognised your role and you in it. As a delivery driver I’ve been grunted at by grown men, patronised by a couple of idiots at a well-known department store, sneered at by receptionists and ignored by many others.

I have to say that the domestic deliveries are fine – most of the people you meet are lovely and happy to get their post. They are polite and treat you well, but there are many in companies – and I don’t know if it’s just an Aberdeen thing –  that are just rude. I don’t know if they even know that they are doing it  but the curled lip, short response and looks you get are surprising and make you feel around two foot tall.

I’m sure I’ve done it to an extent myself – maybe we all do – but coming from a very working class background with a joiner and housewife for parents you learned to respect people regardless of their career. I would never judge a postie or checkout worker or sales assistant just because of their job – for all you know they have a PhD or have recently retired from a high-powered job and just fancied something different. There is nothing to say that just because you have qualifications you will be working and earning at the perceived levels society expects.

And the sad thing is that those “little” people doing “unimportant jobs” are in fact the backbone of companies. To look down on the person with the sandwich van or the storeman or janitor or handyman is missing the point. Those in their ivory towers would not be able to do their work properly is the cleaners hadn’t cleaned and the janitor hadn’t replaced the bulb and so on.

As a teacher I always chatted with the office staff, the jannies, cleaners and other staff because they were just as important as me in that building. All workplaces are a combination of skills and people and to ignore any one shows you up for the snob you are. In life there are very few queen bees but millions of drones and some people just get above their station.

Having been on both sides as a very public figure who was recognisable and now driving around town in my van dropping off documents and parcels it saddens me to think that the job you do lessens your value or usefulness. Without waiters there’s no food, without the man in the van your prescription wouldn’t be ready to pick up at the pharmacy and without me you wouldn’t have that £300 pair of shoes you ordered on-line.

I was always told to treat others as you would want to be treated, and I try to do that regardless of who I am speaking to. Some people need a wee reminder from time to time – but I have to bite my tongue at times as it’s not worth the hassle, they’re probably too stupid to understand the point anyway.





In a real dip in mood just now – so much unsettled and unknown in my life that it’s getting to me. Then there’s the world around us that has an impact too. It’s something I’ve become more and more aware of in the last few years just how much external news and events have a direct effect on my mood.

If you’re in a slump the best bet is to ignore the news as stories hit home in an almost personal way – but it’s hard to ignore the tragedy in Tunisia, the attacks in France and Kuwait over the last few days, they add to the depression. These kinds of things make you sad anyway but you are without protection from their influence when you are in the low ebbs of bipolar disorder.

In a low you are tearful, unsettled, frustrated and angry all at the same time and any stimulus from things in your house to the wider world take hold of you even though there is no direct link to your life. There’s little you can do about it – you might not even be actively thinking about it but in your subconscious it weighs you down.

You try to find moments of joy and laughter in any form to help drown out the negative thoughts, but they’re like downing a can of Red Bull when you’re tired – a quick fix for the short-term but ultimately useless. Mind you by the same token I have found that longer and more sustained periods of pleasure and happiness can give you just as bad a set of “blues” once they pass too.

You try to maintain that stiff upper lip, but once you are on your own and the mind has even a few seconds of time you find yourself dropping and tearing up again. Keeping busy is fairly easy during the day but it’s right now when the rest of the house is in their bed that the brain switches on and reminds you of the depression. That moment of silence for us night owls can be the best part of the day – only if you are not going through a stage of depression.

You want to break the cycle; you need to fight it back from taking over and become something darker – something that will overtake your life. It’s not easy. The darkness is as good a place to live as any. It’s where the worst parts of us live – not nightmares but warped reflections of ourselves that we can’t see past. Those corners of our mind that hold the weapons against our self-belief, self-esteem and hope. You have to find a way of avoiding that place and pull back into the “real world”.

There are many times I’ve opened the door – there are many times others have opened it for me and caused problems. Not all know they are doing it, but the effect is still the same. And we all have it, not just those who live with depression, it’d be a lie to pretend that there is a monopoly on misery. The difference is that combine the chemical imbalance with the darkness and sometimes it’s hard to turn back.

I’m fortunate that my condition has never pushed me too far down that road. I know how and when to step back and to go and get help. I’ve seen too many lose the battle with their demons to not do something about it. You need to know when to ask for help or point someone you love to get support.

The only way to stop darkness is to shine a light on it.


At the crossroads



Sometimes you find yourself at a point in your life where several roads are open to you – some you have found and others that are presented or removed from you. I’m standing there at the moment looking down each road and wondering which direction would be my best option. There are a couple of roads that others hold the key to and I need to wait to see if they will become viable routes or if they will remain no entry for me.

Current head situation is not helping as the depressive state I’m in just now doesn’t make it clear what lies down each track. Being Bi-polar masks the signs as you are reading them with a negative slant – what may seem like a common sense option is often obscured by your mood and chemicals. People struggle to understand how the glaringly obvious is so difficult to pick out but in either extreme of the illness ideas, reality and choices are not straight forward.

You look at life differently – and often you don’t know exactly how much you can trust your own judgement. If in a low period the negativity can hide the opportunities laid out before you, either that or your self-esteem is so non-existent you rule out things that should still be on the table. In a high period you over-estimate your abilities or your mind wanders off in its own direction leaving things behind that should also b on the table. Finally there’s the neutral position. Why is this an issue? Unfortunately it’s difficult to know if coming off an extreme of depression or mania whether you are levelling off or just heading into the polar opposite position. So you can see that our minds do not help us here.

Can you imagine not being able to fully trust yourself? That removal from reality where you are doubting judgements and others doubt you too. Just because of a label and diagnosis suddenly your actions and choices are poured over by others while you are also questioning yourself. To have doubt cast on your ability when you are using all you have in you to sort things out yourself. It always reminds me of the cartoons with the angel and devil on each shoulder – except with me it’s just two more versions of me arguing with me and each other over the right decision.

That’s why those who live with bi-polar disorder need sounding boards and those close to them to point out the realities to them at each step of the way. That’s why for me, my relationship with Jill is so important beyond the usual love that marriage is about. As long as I open up and speak about what I’m thinking – regardless how daft or disjointed it is – she can help me to map out my next steps. You really do need someone who you trust completely if you live with this illness. I really do wonder how single or isolated bi-polar sufferers survive.

So this crossroads that I stand at has several options and directions, and down each road more junctions will appear presenting opportunities and considerations, each time you have to consider them before choosing. For most people they can at least make a measured decision – I and those with me in this diagnosis have to first ensure they are clear minded before even considering stepping off in any one direction.




Jessica & Daddy

In our 24-hour world where nothing stops and there is little chance to catch your breath, it’s nice to discover the pause button occasionally. Our kids provide those moments and never more so than when they are shiny and new.

Jake and Jenna have their own lives and go about their playing, watching their shows, play acting and hobbies. But you forget that when they come into your lives they provide moments of pure solace you don’t expect. It’s not that you don’t love the older kids, it’s more that you are involved in less and less of their day and they don’t need you as much as they once did.

I think I’ve smiled. laughed and felt better about things over the last week because of Jessica. When I’m starting to think about jobs, money or other issues, those tiny reliant eyes fix on you and all the problems evaporate as your heart warms. I know that she too will move on and develop, but for the next couple of years there will be a closeness that you don’t get again – and it’s a time you have to cherish, it flies past so quickly. And for us this is our last shake of the bag; three’s enough.

It’s no secret that I have had a hard couple of months since losing my job, the depression crept in quickly early on and has been in the background working away at me. I am acutely aware that I need to try to find something to ensure that the family is provided for and wants for nothing. Easy said, much more difficult to sort at the moment with the state of the job market in Aberdeen. Jessica has given me a slightly different perspective on it though.

Yes there is a need to pay the bills, but to be reminded of the human face behind that need has been a welcome one. The reality is that shit happens to everyone, but it’s how you deal with it that matters. You can wallow in it, as I do at times, or you can make it a motivator to push you on – sound in the knowledge that you are doing it for the best reasons.

There is a peace in the house – even when the newest is crying, the eldest is sulking and the middle child is….Jenna-ing. Without becoming a gushing fool, I just need to look at the four dafties I share a house with to realise that good things do happen in life and I am drowning in good fortune:

My wife & best friend who keeps this family together and on the right track; a son who takes life in his stride, has both an honesty and sense of fun I am proud of; a middle child who is a nutter, adorable loopy little Jennaboo running round the house pretending to be a Minion; and now Jessica who will bring her own style and personality to the family.

So when it gets dark – and it will again – I need to remember that these four amazing individuals are the thing to hold on to. Medication may help, but family is key to good mental health.