Although my featured image this month is cheerful; our window with bunting, spring flowers and a mermaid, I want to write about some serious stuff too.
I have bipolar disorder which can cause extremes of mood from elation to depression. I have had episodes since my early twenties, mainly treated with tranquillisers and antidepressants. Since 2014 I have been on Priadel (lithium), remaining calm and stable. Because of side effects, I have been on a very low dose of lithium for the past six months. Recently I have noticed my thoughts racing, I’ve been reading even more than usual (you may have noticed), and painting almost obsessively. I have been behaving impulsively, making mistakes.
I am incredibly lucky to have close friends and family who are understanding and supportive. Once I managed to make contact, psychiatrist and GP were proactive, increasing medication and scheduling appointments. I have blocked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for a while. I will get back to social media once I feel properly in control. The constant fizz in my midriff is slowing. In the past, mental illness tended to be hidden, even within families. Am I taking a risk in writing about my experience now? It is not something I could have shared openly when I was younger. I would like to believe attitudes are gradually changing. What do you think?
World events can’t be ignored. I just watched a video of a child the age of our own WeeBoy, dashing away his tears as he talked about leaving his father behind to fight as he and his mother escaped on a coach, relieved not to have to walk for days.
The Tarot card which keeps coming up, no matter which deck I use, is The Hermit; I need to rest, retreat and reflect. Maybe this will resonate with some of my readers too? Although we are cautiously making plans, booking holidays, going out…..there is still a need to stay safe. For me it means sleep and more sleep, tucked up on the bed or sofa with furry cushions, my faithful Teddy and a heated blanket.
However, when awake, I am appreciating driving again, going swimming, meeting friends. Janetta’s, my favourite café in St Andrews since the 1980s, is open again after refurbishment, with a new streamlined look and even more flavours of ice-cream.
Audiobooks are great when my brain needs distraction. Following White Debt I was interested in the life of Olaudah Equiano, a slave who bought his freedom. To help my mood, I have returned to Dickens and Dombey and Son, which has just the right balance of pathos, humour and strong narrative to distract and soothe.
I have not read so many books lately. Hyde by Craig Russell has echoes of the old Edinburgh of Luckenbooth, background to a strange crime story based on RL Stevenson’s classic. With feminism, race, nationalism and queer culture as themes, it tackles the idea of dual personality in a new way. I am reading a series of fantasy novels by A.E. Rayne. The Lords of Alekka, beginning with The Eye of the Wolf. I have A.N Wilson’s Life of Dickens to begin.
After a long wait, Morag Sangster at Tribe Tattoo has now completed a design on both my forearms based on a lace collar of my mother’s. Reactions vary. Disbelief – why? At your age? Both arms? Didn’t it hurt? I am thrilled with my tattoos. Not a manic thing; planned two years ago.My sessions with Morag have been a real pleasure. As well as being a talented artist, painting portraits and designing amazing tattoos, she runs an animal sanctuary. Click on link below for more information about Tribe Animal Sanctuary Scotland.
Before Covid, I had joined a local Art Group which I very much enjoyed, but it seemed unlikely to resume. However, I was delighted to receive an email inviting me to come along to a meeting this month. After two years of working alone, it will be exciting to sit with others and explore ideas. The Easter exhibition planned for 2020 might even happen this spring.
Our last visit to Dundee Contemporary Arts centre was to see Nightmare Alley, a great film by the brilliant Guillermo del Toro. Then we had dinner at the Jute cafe. Also good.
I’ve been been missing my djembe drumming group which meets once a month and look forward to being there again soon. Thanks to J for permission to use this photo!
Next week we have a real treat – a night at the opera! A friend’s daughter is one of the Fairies in Scottish Opera’s Midsummer Night’s Dream by Britten.We plan to wear something smart with our FFP2 Masks and take our seats in the stalls.
With spring beginning after this long winter of LFTs and uncertainty, let’s hope we can look forward to summer, to sunshine and socialising, swimming in the sea. I hope to be walking again without sticks and maybe travelling a bit. Harris and Lewis perhaps and we still have train vouchers for London.
If this post has raised questions for you about mental health or stigma, or you want to know more about bipolar disorder, then please do contact me privately at
SAMH is the Scottish Association for Mental Health for resources and help.
Wishing you all good health and happy times ahead. Love. Elinor
Hi Elinor – thank you for such an interesting post. I don’t think you were taking a risk in posting about your mental health issues at all. It was refreshing to read and a helpful thing to share. In this digital/online age, we tend to see only the positives in people’s lives and it is too easy to think that everyone else is having the best of times. In reality, I suspect the mental health of our nation is the worst it has ever been. From such a young age children are exposed to adult problems, world problems etc that we were more or less shielded from as children. This has been a difficult week for all of us as the unfolding of Ukraine’s terrible attack by Putin unfolds in front of our horrified eyes – almost beyond belief. I have painted in an attempt to smooth myself whilst almost compulsively listening to/checking the news. It’s good that you are able to shield yourself from social media etc and recognise what helps your bipolar. However, I suspect that this condition must make you the creative and interesting person that you are. I hope you don’t mind me writing to you directly. I love getting your blogs. Take lots of sofa naps and all of the sleep that you need. Best, Roz
Rosalind Walker, Scottish Artist E: email@example.com W: rosalindwalker.co.uk M: 07813916684
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Thanks for sharing. It has been a strange time and perhaps the impact on mental health will be felt for a while. Talking openly definitely helps others and builds more awareness. I loved hearing about the tattoos!
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