As well as being the Founder of Sales Confidence, the UK’s biggest SaaS sales community, I also have bipolar disorder. I live with it and manage it every day, and most of the time you wouldn’t realise. However, it wasn’t always like this. When I was in my 20s, I was admitted to hospital 5 times.
After I wrote about my bipolar for the first time, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the reception I received. The number of positive comments I’ve had from friends and strangers alike has been unbelievable. I feel truly blessed. As a result, I’m writing a series of stories about my mental health. I want to tell my story, and hopefully help anyone who, or knows someone who, is living through their own mental health struggles.
I’m often asked how it happened. How did I realise my mental health needed checking, leading to my bipolar diagnosis? Well, it depends how far you want to go back. However, there was one incident in particular that sticks out. It was the first time I realised I had been mentally ‘high’. Let me tell you about it now.
Once upon a time…
Let’s go back in time to 2007, and my time at university in Oxford. Even before university, I’d had dreams of being a businessman. I’d read Richard Branson’s autobiography and had ambitions to emulate everything he had achieved. I wanted dozens of different brands under my name, just like Richard.
I decided that my first step on the road to serial entrepreneurship would be to run a club night in Oxford. This was a plan which would help me on so many levels. Not only would I make a load of money, I’d also look super cool and win over some ladies that I liked at the time. What could go wrong?
I’d organised a sophisticated venue in a great location. I had a guest list with hundreds of people on it. All I had to do was open the doors and the rest would look after itself. So, that’s what I did. At 10 pm I opened the doors. And… nothing. Not one single person was waiting at the door.
I was surprised, but not worried. People usually visit a few pubs or bars before they go to a club, right? The club would start to fill up soon, surely? After all, it was the students’ first night back after summer holidays. They would be ready to party.
An hour or so past, still nobody showed up. I started calling people to find out where they were, but couldn’t get hold of anyone. The club manager came to speak to me and he wasn’t best pleased. OK, now I was starting to get a bit nervous.
I decided to do a quick sprint down to the main nightclub strip to see what was going on. To my horror, every single club seemed to have a mile-long queue outside it. Plus, people I thought were coming to my night were in those queues.
This is when I felt something switch. A flood of emotions came pouring through my body. On one hand, I felt let down by my friends. On the other, I was angry at my failure. I was scared about what the club manager would do. What could I do to turn this situation around?
Ideas were rushing through my head one after another. So many thoughts. Actions I should take, right now, to change my fate. I ran back to the club and told the manager, the bar staff, the DJ and everyone else to brace themselves for a crazy busy night.
Out for a spin
I ran to my car and started it. I then wound down all the windows and started blasting pumping music at full volume. Honestly, they could’ve heard the noise in London! I started driving, seriously driving. I was spinning my wheels as I ran through red lights, en route back to the main clubbing strip. I found a spot and completed a 360-degree turn in my car, screeching to a halt.
So far so good. Next, I got out of the car and climbed onto the roof. I took off my coat and began screaming at everyone in earshot that they needed to leave their queues and come to my club, as we were giving out free booze to everyone before 12 am. I was shouting at the top of my voice, on top of my car, flailing my arms to get hundreds of people’s attention.
I had no concern that around me there were cars and buses and my car was stationary, right in their way. I had no concern for my, or anyone else’s, wellbeing. All I cared about was getting people to come to my club.
Then I noticed something out the corner of my eye. A student had seen his opportunity to add to my humiliation and ran towards my car. He reached in through the window and grabbed my keys, which, of course, were still in the ignition. Oh dear. People were in hysterics, enjoying the entertainment. The one saving grace was that I saw people heading in the direction of my club!
Still, I decided I better get my car keys back. My demeanour changed from euphoric to determined, aggressive anger as I tried to find the guy who had taken my keys. I jumped down from the roof of my car and started randomly grabbing people in the crowd. I was screaming at people to hand over my f**king keys or someone was going to get hurt. (I’m a 6 foot 4 rower, so I guess it was a vaguely plausible threat!) Then, something landed at my feet, shining like a diamond. My keys!
I raced back to the car, started the engine and set off back to the club. However, I didn’t get very far. Almost straight away, blue lights appeared and police sirens were ringing in my ears.
I pulled over (first sensible decision I’d made in a while), and they pulled me out of the car. The police were accusing me of all sorts of things. I stood there, completely oblivious to the scene I had just created. To be honest, I thought it had gone rather well!
I explained to the police what I was doing and what had happened. They were not impressed. They suggested quite strongly that I’d been taking drugs or drinking. I could see how serious this matter had become. I hadn’t been drinking at all, but the policeman couldn’t find a breathalyser in the car so I didn’t get the opportunity to prove it.
My first high
Like I say, I hadn’t been drinking at all. What I would soon learn is that this was my first manic episode. Only a few days later, I would be asked to check myself into a mental hospital.
The events of those few days are probably best saved for another story.
I’m sure this story has made you chuckle a little, but there’s a serious point in there somewhere. Pressure can lead people to do things that are totally out of character, to take risks without concern for themselves or others. When the pressure hit me that night I went totally out of control, but now I know how to deal with pressure differently. Check into yourself regularly to figure out how you’re coping with the pressures of everyday life. Don’t let it creep up on you unnoticed.
If you’d like to ask me anything about how I deal with having bipolar disorder, I’d be happy to try and answer your question. Likewise, if there’s anything you’d like to say about this story, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment down below.