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My battle with depression - by Richard Cartridge
HIS confident, silky tones have made DJ Richard Cartridge a household favourite for years.
No one tuning into his popular Radio Solent show could have guessed that the confident, consummate professional was struggling mental illness.
Richard is exclusively opening up to the Daily Echo about his battle with bipolar disorder ahead of a new show – coming to the Concorde Club in Eastleigh on Friday – which tackles it.
Today he has, with the help of mental health experts and medication, won the battle against bipolar.
And he is no longer subject to the huge swings between lows so bad he was hospitalised to highs when he spent money he couldn’t afford, splurging on top of the range cars including a Jaguar and two BMWs and hiring limos to take his friends on nights out.
Richard says he wasn’t aware of suffering from bipolar disorder, which is characterised by severe mood swings, until around 1997, when he and his second wife separated.
He found himself “in the wilderness” and checked into the Priory in Bournemouth, where he was diagnosed as suffering from the disorder.
It has been a difficult condition to deal with.
At a low point he was picked up by the police at night at Studland Bay.
“I grew up in that area and it felt like home,” explains Richard.
“When you feel low you want to go home. When you’re like that you don’t have a great sense of time. I got to the beach and just curled up and went to sleep.
“I was wearing a very expensive designer suit because I was spending a huge amount of money then on clothing (lavish spending was a manifestation of the disorder). Some police officers came along and they knew something wasn’t right and were very concerned.
“They said ‘you’re vulnerable here’, so they took me to the police station and gave me somewhere to rest and in the morning they gave me some breakfast and sent me on my way.
“They were so lovely and genuinely concerned.”
Other lows saw Richard take to his bed for long periods of time.
Different things could trigger a low episode, including the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Richard found himself breaking the news of what had happened live on his Radio Solent show and scrambling to find out what was happening and relay it to his listeners.
“I was quite ill after that,” he says, “I needed hospital treatment.”
He was treated at the Royal South Hants hospital, with a combination of talking therapy and drugs, which have turned out to be his saviour.
“They were absolutely wonderful and so understanding,” he says.
Today he feels completely well, and has for around ten years. He says that he still feels highs and lows, but not the manic highs that saw him go on spending sprees, filling the living room of his and partner Chellan’s living room in suburban Southampton with things be bought, nor the crashing, crippling lows.
He is sharing anecdotes about his disorder in his new show, along with ones from his friend Nigel Hopkins, a recovering alcoholic, as well as music and singing.
Perhaps surprisingly, Richard says that the show is very uplifting.
“Alcoholism and bipolar have some very funny symptoms if you look at it that way,” he says.
“Because we have the conditions we can talk about it. If it was talked about in this way by someone who didn’t have the condition it would be quite sick.
“It’s uplifting because we survived and sometimes they both have fairly comic symptoms.
“It seems to be encouraging people to open up about alcoholism and depression.
“We’re not ridiculing these conditions but talking openly about them in the hope that people will think about them.”
Looking back at the time he was suffering bipolar, Richard says it was like having two lives. At the same time that he was having incredible lows and highs, he managed to have a successful career and raise five children.
“You can have a normal responsible life and also be having these episodes,” he reflects.
“They almost run in parallel.”
He is happy and stable now, although he says he still monitors himself.
“I’m outwardly quite outgoing – I might be too loud for some people. I catch myself and think ‘oh, you’re being an ass!’.
“I’m much happier now,” he continues.
“I don’t miss the highs. I do still get big adrenaline rushes, like when I go on the air, but not like the old days. I’m so much more content now.”
n Richard Cartridge and Nigel Hopkins’ show, How Blowing my Own Trumpet Nearly Killed Me, is at the Concorde Club in Eastleigh on Friday.
For more information about the show, visit nigelhopkins.co.uk