Having been proved right, or rather not proved wrong, the neurologist had proceeded with treating me exactly as he had said he would. The quantity of drugs were to increase week by week until I hit the magic quantity, and then I’d continue at that level for the rest of my days. Providing I didn’t fit, he saw no reason to scale the medication back down, as it’d only increase the chances of me fitting again and therefore losing my licence for another year. I’d also be tested (and tested and tested) for side-effects, abnormalities and anything else anyone could think of on a regular basis.
Once I’d got the hang of getting hold of repeat prescriptions, it was all fairly straightforward. For some reason, the taxpayer foots the entire bill for those of us taking treatment for epilepsy, so it’s not even costing me the standard prescription charge. All I do is renew with the pharmacist every month (it seems dumb that I can’t get larger quantities less frequently, but I’m not complaining), take a bunch of tablets twice a day, drop in at the local surgery every six months for blood tests, and that’s basically it.
Just as he said he would, the neurologist also factored in my bipolar disorder when prescribing the medication. Curiously, quite a number of anticonvulsants also have mood-stabilising properties, so there were a good few drugs from which he could choose that would tackle both at once, providing he got the dose right. So I followed all the instructions, and the months began to roll by.
One year ago, I published a piece about bipolar disorder. It had been something I had wanted to do for a long time, and the act of doing so marked a significant point in my life. The piece itself has been useful on a number of fronts. People who know me have either found it or been referred to it, and it has given them something of an insight into my head. Some people I thought I knew well have opened up a little more as a direct result of reading it. It has also introduced me to some new people. But more significantly was the effect it had on me. Up until that point I had been enormously guarded on the subject but, almost instantly, I became much more relaxed both with others and myself.
I’d liken the experience to something like bungee-jumping: while you’re standing at the top crapping yourself with fear, but after the event you’re left both with a sense of achievement and wondering what all the fuss was about.
I have considerable admiration for anyone who’s ever had that discussion with their parents. If the parents have managed to overcome shock and respond with the usual parental love and support, I admire them too. I like to think that, by the time my own terribly liberal generation is old enough to have children of the “finding one’s sexuality” age, we’ll be so chilled-out, unfazed and approachable about it that it won’t even register as a milestone.
Last year, I found myself in a situation which I believe is as close to this as you can get if, like me, you’re straight. It took place, as convention dictates, around the kitchen table.
It wasn’t premeditated: I had not intended for it to happen, nor staged the moment, nor even planned what I was saying. For the life of me I can’t even remember exactly what I said. I remember realising that I’d just said it, and that I was already part of the brief silence that followed.