Not Waving but Drowning…

Those who suffer from bipolar disorder know what it means to be misunderstood, misinterpreted and unfairly judged.  Perhaps more than any other illness, bipolar disorder can create an aura of normality – the exuberance, free-flowing ideas and boundless energy that accompanies hypomania can be misinterpreted for happiness and wellbeing.  But scratch the surface and one is confronted with confusion, dysfunction and fear;  an emotional whirlpool lurks just beneath that facade and is fuelled by the knowledge that the impending crash will be real and devastating.

How best to describe this feeling then?  As is often the case, I find some measure of solace in the spoken word.  I love poetry; it speaks to me like nothing else.  And so it is perhaps unsurprising that I find Stevie Smith’s ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ an evocative and poetic exposition of my emotional state at times:


Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much farther out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.


Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way.

They said.


Oh, no, no, no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

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