I’m starting this post by nipping back to the time after my return from Africa leading up to to the big breakdown. There are signs of oncoming mental collapse which might be useful for you, the reader.
Moving the career along
In Chester, I’m based at Mom’s and Pop’s. After Caitlin’s wedding I strike out for my goal of finding a job that will lead to business experience, with marketing being the buzz word.
Interviews include one with a blue-chip pet food company in Halifax, initially in trainee production management.
The interviewer does everything he can to rattle me. He leaves me waiting in the interview room for half an hour without a glass of water, let alone a cup of tea. When he arrives he starts throwing out question after question, starting the next one before I finish answering the last.
A little winking twitch starts by my right eye.
‘Do you know you’ve got a twitch?’
‘Do you always get a twitch?’
After more rat-tat-tat questions, he puts his folder down and asks, ‘What marks you out from everyone else I’ve seen?’
I say a couple of things to which he says, ‘Everyone says things like that. A difference, please.’
After a great deal of thought, I say, ‘I’m honest.’
He is stunned. ‘Honest??!! No one’s ever said that before.’
Then I show him my three references from South Africa and shortly afterwards the interview ends. I’m surprised to get an offer of a second interview in the post a few days later, but turn it down because I didn’t like the way he treated me – would I want him as my boss? – and because I’m through to 2nd interview stage with another company.
An empty mind
I attempt an interview for a job as trainee manager with a ready-mixed concrete company. The interviewer asks a simple question. ‘Why do you want to move away from civil engineering?
All knowledge goes out of my head; all of it. It’s empty. Contents? Fresh air with a fresh breeze blowing through it. Not being able to answer the question, not able say anything worthwhile or impressive, I stall for time by asking for a glass of water. When it comes I sip it slowly.
‘Are you OK?’
“You are Marc Prospero?’
‘I can’t carry on. I’m sorry.’
Looking back now, it is clear that the twitch and the empty head were warning signs of the massive, imminently approaching breakdown.
Winding the clock back a little bit further, to South Africa, I see three other warning signs which I didn’t recognise as harbingers of horror:
- Watching a sunset with a lovely girl, it seems to last for a very long time… like the slowing down which leads me to throw away my watch. Particularly as we’re near the equator where the sun rises and sets in just a few moments.
- Swerving to the right for no reason while driving my car, fortunately not hitting anything… or anyone.
- Saying to someone, ‘I think I’m great.’
‘Great at what?’
So at that time I thought I was ‘A Great Man’ – a classic case of the ‘bigging up’ of yourself that can come with hypomania.
Anyway, back to the interviews. After the above I had three in rapid succession with Silver Satin, blasting through their recruitment procedure on the high octane rocket fuel of enthusiasm. I knew I was the right person for the job and the job was the right one for me: Accelerated training to management, four spells of six months in varying areas of the company, including Sales and Marketing. After two years I’m on the fast track to the top.
And then then I’m hit by the hammer blow of mental breakdown and redundancy after only one week. But something very strange and wonderful has happened in my life: God has chosen these times to demonstrate himself and his love to me.
Ill? I believe. Well? I doubt
What I find over the next few years as I yo-yo in and out of hypomania is that when I’m ill my belief is absolute, but when I’m well all sorts of doubts creep in, despite having seen the love and glory of God first-hand. But I want him to be as real to me as he is to the Christians I am starting to meet.
For five years I pray for steadfast, solid belief before finally my prayers are answered and I can say that my love for Jesus is total and true.
Insurance sales? No
My first opportunity for work after my tiny career with Silver Satin is training in selling health insurance with Combined Insurance Company of America. I get a car so as to be able to get to the training in Alderley Edge. Unfortunately the training itself is too edgy for me and feeling unsteady, I exit the training.
A return to hypomania
On the spur of the moment, I decide to go to Cardiff, stay with Matt and Marge for a day or two and investigate going into civil engineering research. I’ve never considered this as an option before.
I drive away, without my address book, without M & M’s phone number or any other way of locating their house. I’ve only visited a couple of times, but there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll find it.
Knowing I’m not well, Pop tries hard to stop me going, without success. He’s so worried about the safety of my driving that he phones every police station down the motorway to Cardiff to check if there’ve been any accidents. Fortunately for his worries, that day there are none.
A search for friends
I get to Cardiff and drive around looking for M and M’s house. I seem to be going round in circles. I don’t recall important stuff like the road and suburb names or landmarks.
What do I do? I have my wallet but no money or bank card. I remember my academic tutor, Mr Caine used to live in Cathays Terrace. Fortunately for me, although very elderly, he’s still alive and still in the same house. He’s happy to put me up for the night.
Night and day
I haven’t packed any PJs. Haven’t packed anything. I just have the clothes I’ve traveled down in. That night I toss and turn; no sleep comes my way. Morning eventually comes. I get up and go to the front door. Caine says good morning, I open the door and run off barefoot and naked, apart from a dressing gown, loosely flapping around me, out onto the icy, lightly snow-topped December streets.
I carefully hurtle down the road – don’t want to slip on any ice. Where am I going? Don’t know. What am I doing? Don’t know. I enter a random university building, blunder around and find myself at the front of a lecture theatre which is half full of students.
There’s a phone on the wall to my right. I pick it up and dial 999. ‘Police? I’m in a university lecture theatre. There’s a nearly naked man disrupting the proceedings. Please come and take him away.’
The moment just before the police arrive is just that – a moment. No slowing of time. They hustle me out of the place and take me to the police station.