We get a balloon to blow up as we walk down into the theatre. We are offered vodka, laughing juice - the merriest of spirits, we are informed - by a woman in open-toed kitten heels, red dress and suicide-blonde hair with an overdose of makeup. We’re at a surprise party and she’s the host. Now all we need is the guest of honour. For the proceeding hour of I’m Doing This For You, Haley McGee takes us through the story that has led us here, to this particular location, at this particular moment.
The party is for her ex-boyfriend of four years past. She has moved on, but still needs him, in the raw neediness that manifests itself in extreme loneliness and loss of self of sense. When you can only validate your existence through someone else. Step by step a little more of back story is filled in. He was an aspiring comedian and we are her gift to him, a willing compliant audience, so he can kickstart his career again.
Much of the show occurs in darkness or subdued lighting, reflecting the human condition, the bleakness of outlook when the desire to belong overrides everything, except, you can never truly belong, you are always you and ultimately alone. The best we can hope for is a robust sense of self to contain us through those moments of difficulty, the pain, the unknown.
We are taken from the time when he was invisible to her to how they met and how she kept him. How at each stage she would give away a little more of herself in order to keep him. Lose a bit more of her self respect, confidence and esteem. There is nothing caricatured about this portrayal of the fragility of the human condition and someone experiencing mental health issues. Repetitive preparation salves anxiety and sex equals love - equals 'I must be worth something' - even if it is demeaning sex and not real love. In her denial she is lying not only to us but to herself. Yet, despite the darkness there is lots of laughter.
The woman in front of us slowly unravels from ‘his’ perfect ideal pornstar, together and sassy, to a woman struggling to hold things together. She explains the ‘zone’ she needs to live in as she medicates herself with mood stabilisers. The further from this zone she strays, the harder it is for her to get back in it.
Bipolar Disorder affects up to 2% of the UK population. It is characterised by episodes of Mania and/or Depression. These phases differ in severity and duration. Within Bipolar Disorders other pathologies, with clearly set defined disorders exist. For example, someone with Bipolar Disorder may also exhibit aspects of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Psychosis or Borderline Personality Disorder for instance, all of which may be present on a sliding spectrum of prevalence at anyone time - including not being currently present as a pathology.
Bipolar Disorder is an incredibly complex Affective Disorder and as the Public Health Agency of Canada states ‘Living with Bipolar Disorder is not easy’. It is treatable and with the right therapies those presenting with it can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. (AM)
I’m Doing This For You is on at 16.15 at Summerhall until August 28th (not 22nd). See venue for accessibility information - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/i-m-doing-this-for-you
Bipolar UK: https://www.bipolaruk.org
Kay Redfield Jamison: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kay_Redfield_Jamison
Public Health Agency Canada: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/mi-mm/bipolar-bipolaire-eng.php
Televisions’ Homeland and Bipolar: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/may/07/homeland-mental-illness-bipolar-tv