My podcast: a manic soundscape

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Posted on 18/06/2014 by Robin Blamires |

In 2007, whilst halfway through a university course studying radio production, I was beginning to feel physically elevated and was viewing life with the perspective that nothing could go possibly wrong. Shortly after I was sectioned and diagnosed with hypomania.

I had ongoing thoughts and personal fears that haunted me throughout my stay in hospital - my thoughts not only caused anxiety for myself, but frightened the staff of the hospital and my parents who had to cancel a holiday to make sure I was alright.

I had no idea what was wrong with me, and what the sectioning process involved. Having grown up with Asperger’s Syndrome, I was now having to come to terms with a new condition that from my point of view made me different to everyone else, for the wrong reasons.

When I was let out of hospital and put onto special medication. I felt the complete opposite to how I felt before I went in. I was very down, dreadfully depressed and had no motivation for the things I was previously interested in.

My unwell state meant I had to postpone my studies for a year, and although I later recovered and graduated with a 2.1, I had no idea how or where I would move on from university, with my manic episode still lingering in mind.

Since this time I have had no episodes to the same extent, but I have had minor low points and anxiety attacks. Five years after my sectioning, I decided to combine my love of radio with my own personal experiences and create a soundscape that reflected what it felt like to experience hypomania.

In 2013, whilst on a work placement at independent radio production company Folded Wing, I decided to tell them about my idea, and they were very keen to help me transform it into a professional piece of radio, and in the process build public awareness of mental health issues.

With the help of company founder Karen Pearson, Executive Producer, Ian Parkinson and the rest of the Folded Wing team, we spent a day in the studio recording my dialogue and additional elements such as drama and spot effects.

One key component that was crucial yet slightly distressing whilst making the podcast was the use of an air horn for one of the hallucination sequences.

For a long time I have been scared by air horns, but thought it would be good to challenge myself by being in the same room as an object that had caused distress during my manic episode.

Karen and the team were really understanding and despite them offering to record the air horn without me in the room, it was important to challenge my personal fears and everyone was very sympathetic over what was a hard moment for me.

The finished podcast ‘Inside The Mind Of A Hypomanic – A Bipolar Journey Through Sound’, available to listen to on SoundCloud, has led to positive responses from radio critics in the UK including the Metro and Observer newspapers.

It also gained interest from the BBC World Service’s ‘Outlook’ programme, who invited me to appear on the show and explain to presenter Matthew Bannister and listeners around the world what it felt like growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome, and how this built up to my manic episode.

The podcast itself and the response it has received has enabled me to celebrate my mental health condition, and I hope it continues to encourage others who have had similar experiences that they can do the same.

You can listen to it here

This podcast contains vivid descriptions of Robin's hallucinations so take care if you might find this triggering.

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