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Don't talk to me about depressives .. I wed Spike; SHELAGH MILLIGAN ON LIFE WITH A GOON.

Some of the rubbish that is written about manic depression really makes me so very angry.

Recently, Freddie Starr was portrayed as a warped control freak and Lady Kanga Tryon as a savagely bitter and scheming woman.

I am not going to pretend that manic depressives are easy to deal with, but with love, commitment and understanding it is possible to maintain a loving relationship.

I am married to Spike Milligan and, I think, qualified to talk about the condition.

I have known Spike for almost 25 years. When I first met him he would have dreadful `lows'.

That was when he'd go to bed, pull the blankets over his head and take sleeping tablets, not wanting anyone near him, such was his pain.

Sometimes, he would post a note on his bedroom door saying: "Go away, I am ill".

At those times I would feel totally impotent. How could I feed him yet leave him alone at the same time?

When he would start to come out of the depression, he would say, in such a hurt way, that no- one had come near him and he could have starved to death.

Manic depressives have a chemical imbalance in their brains causing mood swings which they are unable to control.

Spike always coped with these `highs' by trying to channel the enormous energy these produced into his work.

Others I know find the `highs' devastating. They can't sleep at night and they pace the floor, possessed by a terrible energy.

Manic `highs' can be utterly exhausting. The person will talk wildly, their ideas tumbling out. It's as if a typhoon has swept through the room.

There are the times when things return to normal - and life with Spike is wonderful.

There is so much happiness, laughter and love. You marvel at this wonderful, generous man - at his courage during pain.

But, sometimes, you can be lulled into a false sense of security. Then, when the `Black Dog' strikes again - you're left devastated. Usually there are warning signs but that doesn't really help. You're desperate not to do anything to upset him - it's like walking on eggshells with hobnail boots on.

Then comes the guilt. Was it something I said?

But, if I had said it a couple of days earlier, it wouldn't have caused a problem.

I had to learn to rationalise - to conclude that his bouts of depression would happen anyway. They just needed a trigger.

Sometimes, Spike would go off in the morning in a great mood.

On his return, however, I could tell by the way he held his head, or the expression on his face, that something had happened during the day which had tipped the balance.

Eventually, I decided it was better to brazen it out and go up to see him - no matter how much wanted to be left alone.

I wanted to reassure him that I loved him and was there for him, no matter what.You see, when a manic depressive is difficult, they're not being that way to hurt you - they're trying to make sense of the chaos in their minds.

I know several manic depressives and I can say, without reservation, that they are wonderful - sometimes very gifted - people.

But people who feel more intensely.

Spike once explained it by saying: "When I see injustice or cruelty it really hurts me, but when I see a sunset I see a more beautiful sunset than most other people."

I am glad to say that, during the last few years, Spike's "Black Dog" has gone walkies and only returns very rarely.

Despite Spike's depression, he has been a wonderful father over the last 50 years.

He has used his fertile imagination to give his children joy. When they were young he would write them fairy letters - posting them under stones in the garden.

He would take them out in the dark to look for fireflies - or just make them giggle at his silly antics.

I have enormous respect for my husband's courage in dealing with this cruel illness.

Despite it, he has managed to enrich my life beyond my wildest dreams.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Milligan, Shelagh
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 7, 1997
Words:690
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