The inspiration for my articles comes from many sources.  Sometimes it’s an event, or a person who has done or said something that has resonated with me.  Sometimes it’s just an item that seems to trigger an idea to write about.  In this case it’s a combination of two things; one is a song that is currently on air and the second is an event involving an action of some one I know.

The song is by Matchbox 20 and is called “Unwell” and as I listen to it, particularly the chorus, it evokes familiar emotions in me.  Reminders of the feelings that I get when I am a bit out of sorts.  Of the times when I have laid on my bed and literally stared at the ceiling feeling alone, sad and depressed, when nobody understood (or at least that’s how I felt).  On those days, the shadows and imaginings from the play of light were indeed my only friends.

At the other end of the day, haven’t we all had those nights where we simply could not sleep due to the racing thoughts and energy levels of a high or the continuation of a down period and the thoughts of tomorrow might be just as bad as today, or worse!

Here are the parts of the song that I relate to mainly – the first verse and the choruses.

All day - staring at the ceiling,

making friends with shadows on the wall

All night hearing voices telling me that

I should get some sleep ‘cause’ tomorrow might be good.



I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell

I know right now you can’t tell,

But stay a while and maybe then you’ll see a

different side of me.


I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired,

I know right now you don’t care

but soon enough you’re gonna’ think of me

and how I used to be.


Now, I have no idea if this song is written by someone with experience of bipolar or depression – but, to me, with my warped sense of life, it really does fit.

Now let me share the second part of why the choruses talk to me about an experience that happened to me recently but similar ones have happened before.

For many years I have been involved in community work of some kind and in between bouts of bigger episodes have managed to carry on most of the time very well.  What I find most frustrating, and is on the top of my pet irritations of life with bipolar, is when people from an area that you should be able to feel most secure or confident in show that very subtle form of stigma that hurts the most.

My family and I have been actively involved in teaching and other work in our local church for many years but occasionally both our health and work schedules have meant that we have had to scale back our workload for a time. Let me give you an example.

My wife had a meningeal tumour removed a couple of years ago and has it checked every year in case of a re-growth.  Naturally, everybody fully understood when my wife stopped teaching her Sunday school class prior to the operation and for quite a while after to allow her to recover.

However, earlier this year when I was going through a rougher patch with the bipolar with the stresses of my fathers’ last six months with cancer and other family worries, I went to my minister and explained that I would need a break from my assignment for a while.  He is a wonderful man and understood without question and the arrangements were made for my successor.

About a month ago while I was off work recovering from my knee replacement surgery, I was asked to lead a discussion during a church meeting, which I did.  In that discussion group was a member who knew my personal circumstances, the stresses of my father’s illness and death and my own bipolar illness and reasons that I had reduced my commitments currently.

All through the discussion he made constant remarks about how people had to be ‘doing’ things and not sitting on the sidelines.   That we had to be doing our best all the time regardless of circumstance – only that was good enough.

Well – without going to any further details – you know the myth, righteous people don’t suffer mental illness, ergo if you have a mental illness, you must be unworthy to associate with the righteous.  The ‘crazy’ have no place in Heaven was his attitude.

You would have been proud of me!  Although my irritation levels were sky high by the end of the session, I kept my cool and just managed not to say what I felt like saying or doing!  I gritted my teeth and gathered my things and left the room in a statesman like manner – at least my version of statesman like!

To me this quieter style of stigma is worse than when people just shy away from you and is far more damaging to you when you are in a down period. 

Wear your scars on the outside you are okay.  When your scars are on the inside and some people just don’t want to stay around and see who you really are.

Like the chorus says:

“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell”, just like people with any other chronic illness – no better or worse.  We deserve to be treated as such


Graham Brown

9 November 2003

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