What fun my illness is

Hypomania cannot really be called a complaint as it is so pleasant.
But it is excessive and excess must be cured. The victim may be so
hilariously happy that this leads to paranoia and certainly

I “suffered” from hypomania 40 years ago. I didn’t know I was
suffering from anything at all. I brought a ventriloquist’s dummy
into the office and started fooling around. The boss was not
amused; he sacked me. At home my hypomania turned to hallucination.
Lying on my bed I seemed to be witnessing a trial going on in the
room above. My mother and the queen were both on trial for crimes
against the state. It was gripping and lasted about half an hour.

So real were all these shenanigans that I rang the police. The next
thing I knew was that I was languishing at the top of a hill
somewhere in Surrey for a year and a half. With a record like mine
it was a devil of a job to get back into society. I was in and out
of mental hospital for 15 years.

Talking the language of mental illness is to contract it acutely.
To be cheerful is to be “high”, to be depressed is to be “manic”.
The big hurdle is to get out of hospital, earn your living and
establish a little home. Then you can be as manic as you like
provided you don’t harm anyone (especially yourself) and you don’t
go “over the top” (whatever that means).

The chemicals in my brain may have gone wrong and I am a great
believer in chemicals that put this right. Four decades later I
still take so many that I’m sure I will rattle to my grave. It is
up to me of course; the patient himself is his finest physician.
But the pills certainly help where willpower fails.

Hypomania is the cheeriest illness in the book, but excess can
stretch the paranoid critical faculty to extremes. Hate is the
other side of the coin of love; gloom gives shadowy shape to the
portrait of joy. At least the hypomanic never gets bored. Perhaps I
can contradict myself and say I was distressed, but was extremely
agreeable. But with hindsight I see that incarceration was not the
answer at the peak of my career when I was about to star in a
musical at the Lyric, Hammersmith. A few kindly words and a night’s
sleep might have achieved as much as 15 years locked away.

Now I am preparing myself for death, looking back on an innings of
absorbing interest. This is the way it has worked out. I continue
to go on stage with my magic show. At night I sometimes chat with
Clive Bull on his LBC radio phone-in. I’m also trying to hammer out
a scientific paper on hypomania.

Oh well, I may not have scientific qualifications but I have lived
through these difficult times. It is odd that something so
agreeable should be classified as a serious illness. Rest,
medication and recuperation might have achieved more than 15 years
put away. Hypomania is only a touch of mania and I’m glad now that
treatment is usually more realistic.

Richard Jameson uses mental health services and is

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