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Chris Danes: our audio diarist on Bipolar disorder

Natasha Emerson | 17:41 PM, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Chris Danes

Chris Danes, his wife and carer Ruth with Peter White at the Mind Mental Health Media Awards

In this guest blog, Chris Danes reflects on his experience of keeping an audio diary for us over the past year.

Radio sets up a relationship between the broadcaster and the speaker- look at how many of lives have been enriched by say, John Humphrys or come to think of it, our favourite comedians. On TV, we feel close to Matt on X-Factor because we are voting for him. I never thought about this until I started doing the Audio Diaries.

The experiences of has been a weird one. Apart from the odd local radio interview about mental health I was a broadcasting virgin, writing bits and pieces, the struggling artist in his lonely garret at last getting his book published. Many a time I had felt like Rudolfo at the beginning of La Bohème burning his manuscripts in the fire to keep warm. I wonder if he had been living on incapacity benefit it would have made much difference. Those of us who have to might suspect not much.

When I am depressed I often have to theorise about killing myself to stop myself from doing it. It can be a bit hard when you're trying to make the brain work overtime when it is precisely the brain which is messed up. But what I do is to think of a list of reasons not to do it. So upsetting my wife and the kids comes first. And somebody has to find the body. And it might hurt. And so forth.

Then what you do is to list the positive things about yourself. You may think you're a bad person but you're not as bad as Hitler or Stalin. You are tormented by the thought that your friends secretly despise you but look and so-and so who is good and kind.

And then you have achieved things. You got your qualifications. You have helped people. You got an email out of the blue from a listener who said something you had spoken about had helped her.

Now, I had an upbringing in which my failures and odd behaviour were diagnosed as sin, and any hint of self-congratulation on reaching an achievement was considered as Pride. I know some wonderful people who have a real goodness from the same background as me too. But you can see how that kind of language can make a depressive very much worse. So sometimes I think it is extra hard for me to do the achievements bit. But the relationship with that listener and others who wrote the feedback to You and Yours seems to have helped both of us. It's something else to hang on to.

So doing the Audio Diaries had an unexpectedly therapeutic effect on me. How long it will last as the memory recedes I don't know. It enabled me to achieve something rather special and it's given me a big thing to cling on to when I feel like poo again. I'm learning to value myself despite my upbringing. And it was more than cool to be in a team with Peter White and Joe Kent, and to find out again that healing is found in the mysterious world of human relationships.

It has been a good journey.

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