Last Chance Saloon is the story of Neil 'Twink' Tinning, a troubled, magnificent man living with bipolar disorder, and his unique attempt to understand the science behind his, and many other, mental health conditions - all while getting ready to play the biggest gig of his life.
In part 10, with their gig now imminent, tension mounts as the band and their roadies hit the road to Cardiff. Twink visits his friend Professor Nicholas Craddock's smallholding; in amidst the pigs, alpacas and spitting goats, Twink and Nick tease out the causes and treatments of bipolar disorder, addressing one of Twink's major concerns - will it affect his children? Contains strong language.
Previous episode: Part 9 - Harleys and Alzheimer's
Next episode: Part 11 - Music, motifs and mental illness
[Previously on Last Chance Saloon…]
Twink: Because I hadn’t realised at the time, that sort of high and low was going to be for the rest of my life. Unbeknownst to me I think I’ve been bipolar all my life.
Bipolar is such a hard thing to deal with. I just wish I could cry.
I’m actually on 17 tablets a day. Noel Gallagher this is drug taking.
Twink: People die from bipolar so therefore it’s a very serious issue and I’ve forgot the question. [Laughter] It’s because I’ve been on so many meds. [Laughter]
I actually took a massive overdose in 1995 and ended up in intensive care. And I’ve not worked since 1995 but I didn’t actually get diagnosed until about 1997. My understanding as we sit here now is it takes an awful long time to get a diagnosis of bipolar.
Okay Nick, well we’re here doing this photographic study. What’s bipolar?
Nick Craddock: I think the very best way of describing it is to say that our brains all the time are trying to keep our mood within normal levels. We’re having things happen to us and just random changes going on, everyone’s mood can be up one day, down a bit another day, but normally our brains keep the mood within normal levels. But bipolar disorder, what’s happening is the person’s brain can’t maintain those normal levels and they can either go excessively high or deeply low and that may either just come out of the blue due to random changes or it may be an overreaction to something that’s making them feel good or low. But in addition to those extremes of mood, people can often experience delusions where they believe things that aren’t true or hallucinations when perhaps they hear things that aren’t happening or see things that aren’t happening. Often there are episodes that occur of either high or low, and between that the person’s relatively well, but in other people the mood may be changing continuously, so-called cycling. So it can be very different in different people.
Film maker: Oh bollocks. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.
Twink: Prior to the diagnosis I think I was being treated for just depression but I got on - they put me on a medication called Seroxat, and I went completely off the scale. Yeah, flew to Seattle to see Jimi Hendrix’s grave, thought I could communicate with whales, because at the time I used to play guitar, and chartered a boat and went to Tofino, which is on Vancouver Island in British Colombia. Wanted to see the killer whales in their natural environment, so - that was ’97 and obviously the psychiatrist then had the evidence that I went high and low. I think generally speaking people don’t go to a medical professional when they’re high because that’s something that you don’t tend to do. You only get involved with medical services in a high when it becomes into like the psychosis and the dangerous element of the illness.
Twink: Okay, are you recording? Okay so we’re on our way to Cardiff, is everybody in shot for the crew? Okay. So here’s to our adventure, we’re going down to Cardiff and having a beautiful day and let’s say let’s have a fucking great gig. Good gig, good gig. Right.
Nick: In the general population the risk for most the severe sort of bipolar disorder is about one in 100. If you’ve got a parent who’s had bipolar illness, the risk increases from one in 100 to about one in ten. Okay, but it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get the illness, but it’s a signal really to be more careful about the things we know that might trigger illness. What you have to remember is that nine times out of ten the child will not develop bipolar.
Twink: Absolutely. That’s what I put to my kids that instead of being at increased risk is the fact that even though there might be an increased risk it’s still ten chances of possibly getting it or 90 chances of not getting it.
Nick: Exactly, yes.
Twink: I thought the second coming’s going to happen and I’m going to be the second coming, so I got in touch with the Chief Rabbi and tried to convince him to teach me how to read and write Hebrew so I could read the Bible in its native tongue, because I figured if I was going to be the next Jesus I would need to know these sort of things. And you know, at the time you’re so serious and you know, you could get yourselves into a lot of problems.
When I’ve been in mania I’ve never gone to the doctor, it’s always been because of the depressive elements because I have a lot of problems with suicide ideation, which - it becomes an ideal, it becomes the only solution, and after four attempts - I know what it’s like to be in that particular frame of mind and it is not pleasant.
What do you think causes bipolar?
Nick: Okay, it’s absolutely all to do with both the genes that we inherit that make our brain and behaviour go in a certain way, and also the various experiences and life events that we have that impact us. And I don’t think it’s all to do with genes and biology and it’s not all to do with life events and experiences, but it’s that combination of the things.
Twink: Right, so in bipolar, what are the big fundamental questions that we need to get answered?
[Sound of revving]
Nick: Okay, I think the most fundamental questions are pinning down exactly which brain systems are important and exactly which environmental experiences and triggers are most important, because really what we want to do is to be able to make a difference to people with illness, to be able to make diagnoses more rapidly and accurately and then to get people on the very best sorts of help that we can offer. It might be medications but it also might be lifestyle advice or it might be particular sorts of talking treatment. But without knowing in detail the brain mechanisms and the specific environmental triggers we can’t really give that excellent advice we want to give in the clinic. The key message is that actually people vary enormously and no simple answer fits everybody.
Twink: So it’s like a one size all doesn’t fit.
Nick: There is no one size all, and for bipolar disorder there’s no one size fits all treatment. Different people respond to different treatments and that’s why it’s really important that people with illness go and get professional help, they get a full assessment and then they get the advice and help and treatment that’s focused on them as an individual, rather than thinking it will just be the same thing for everybody.
[Sound of revving and music]
[Coming up in part 11…]
Twink: The music is - I’m fairly confident about the music and the performance because I know we can play these songs. Whether we play these songs and we get enthusiastic response at the gig is a different matter.
Rick Buckler: I mean I didn’t really understand it at first, I think a lot of people find that they don’t really understand what’s going on. I mean I just sort of bumped into him as an old mate and just picked it up from there, not really realising exactly what had happened to him.
Twink: What’s happened over the course of the films and perhaps it’s part of the rehabilitation thing that I’ve been going through, is I’ve bounced back and that’s a huge benefit for me.
[Music and applause]