I was at a thing. There were just a few of us in the room, gathered round a table.
I had been invited to speak. I waited what felt like a week before words started squirming in my mouth, forced a smile, and began. Quite quickly I realised I was not going to be able to speak for very long. I stumbled. I took a deep breath, my eyes beginning to fill. I forced another smile, even a laugh. I began again. To this day, I have no idea what I said.
‘The thing is,’ somebody said, ‘what you see with Anthony is that he is quite chipper. You don’t see how bad things are.’
‘Chipper,’ I repeated. ‘That’s it, exactly. I am tired of being chipper.’
And that is all I remember. Chipper. At last someone had said it, made it more or less official. I was chipper.
I was suffering from chipper.
The thing with my version of chipper is that I had seen it coming, but had reacted very slowly to the things it was doing to me. I persuaded myself that all of the things the chipper was doing to me and making me feel were ‘normal’. The tearing up. The loss of concentration. The lack of sleep. What I did not know, but now do, is that one of the things chipper does to you is persuade you of the truth of things that are in fact lies.
One of which is the lie that talking about it will not help you get better.
So I walked around looking normal, carrying my chipper, being chipper, for quite a long time, before I realised that I needed help.
Chipper is exhausting, you see. In a way I am grateful to the exhaustion, because without it I might still be walking around trying to carry my chipper.
Some weeks later I met someone whom I would go and see every week or so, just to talk about being chipper. They asked me some very direct questions, and I gave them some very direct answers, some of which scared me but made me feel free at the same time.
We talked a lot about the signs of chipper, and what to do about them, how to get better at seeing them coming rather than waiting to be bulldozed by them before asking for help. They never judged me. I remember thinking how much I valued that.
Inch by inch the chipper began to lose its grip on me.
I still have days when I am chipper. It has not left me completely. But I do have a toolkit which I use all the time to help me, when I need it and even on days when I don’t. I won’t say it is easy, but I will say it is a lot easier than being chipper.