My name is David and I have been involved with Moving Forward more or less since its inception.
I have received a professional diagnosis of bipolar although it has changed through the years from manic depression, mild schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and then back to good old bipolar which is the new and respectable name for manic depression.
It can be a battle sometimes, and Moving Forward is set up in such a way that the support is mutual and genuine.
I will tell you briefly about myself and my history of mental illness. Some of you may find this hard to understand.
There is a history of mental illness on both sides of my family, yet those afflicted were high achievers, very intelligent and appeared to have the world at their feet. I remember that one, or two of them had spectacular crashes and sometimes it was frightening to see.
My father was very severely afflicted by manic depression of the highest order. He originated from Hipperholme, near Halifax, and was a Church of Scotland Minister as well as a secondary school teacher.
As I recall he had some quite revolutionary, and sometimes strange ideas some of which may have been frowned upon by the Church of Scotland.
Throughout my life he was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. His mood swings were always sudden, starting with him thinking that he was being funny when most of what he said did not make sense. A few minutes later, he would always descend into a violent rage and very occasionally it would be physical.
At those times I could feel a very real sense of evil coming from my father which was almost like static, yet I knew that this was not who he was.
Many times I would witness a very kind hearted and humorous dad who was also apparently highly thought of by the pupils he taught. I have a feeling that he was quite forward thinking in many ways. For a start, he taught comparative religion to the fifth and sixth formers which was virtually unheard of in the sixties.
Sadly, he died in a psychiatric hospital in 1975. It was either suicide or he may have been pushed out of a three-storey building. I guess I will never know.
When we first moved to Lochmaben in 1964, my father was the minister of the church in that small town and we all moved into a very large and rumbling manse with two outbuildings and a big walled garden which gave one the impression of being in the country.
Much of the house was bitterly cold in the winter, and I am thankful that I retained my ability to reproduce!
On reflection, I clearly recall that my personal journey with depression started when I was seven years old. Prior to that, I was a bright and happy little boy. The bouts of the blues usually occurred in the evening and words fail me to describe the feeling, almost like being utterly alone and desolate.
Looking back, it was very clear that from early on I was wired differently to “ordinary” people, and this is quite common with adults who have depression.
I no longer believe that either the depressive gene or the illness itself in other people is a sign of being defective as a person. On the contrary, it has been shown time and again that this condition has affected some highly intelligent, deep thinking and compassionate souls.
I had intended to keep this first letter brief, and apologise if it goes off track occasionally.
I started boarding school as a day pupil aged twelve, then became a “weekly” boarder the year after that. The school was run by Marist Brothers and was very strict and often unfair. The tawse was administered liberally and with great relish.
Many of us developed a grim sense of humour to help us cope with some of the pretty awful things that were carried out by a few of these “brothers”. No need to go into that now. In a positive way, this school taught me to be proficient in my letters, to meet different cultures with an open mind and to be polite and courteous.
The music room had a knock out Bang and Olufsen sound system and a Sony reel to reel recorder which sounded awesome. I am certain that this has nurtured my love of music, especially as the music teacher would often play prog music like Pink Floyd’s then newly released album “Meddle”.
I left boarding school aged 16 and attended technical college for two years after that. The first year, particularly, was very happy indeed. Without going into detail, I pulled out all the stops, said “yee hah”, lived life to the full, and caught one or two transmitted diseases which fortunately were completely cured.
The following year saw the spectre of depression reappear towards the end.
It would simply take too long to mention my personal journey with mental health as there have been so many instances and episodes.
Let me conclude, right here and now, to assure anyone who may choose to read this, that my involvement with Moving Forward since its inception has been very positive and a privilege to be a part of.
Here’s to growth this year, and I am looking forward to starting a new chapter with you all.