David Parkin’s Delusions of Grandeur is a heartbreaking, hilarious book that takes an honest look at bipolar disorder and being sectioned. In all the excitement for David’s reading of the book at the WORD! Evening on Thursday, we caught up with him for an exclusive interview.
Abi: It’s brave of you to write such a raw and personal book, where does that courage come from?
David: There really is no courage involved at all! For me inspiration comes in two forms. An interesting, weird idea appears, you follow it and you end up writing a kid’s book about a nose that can talk. The other inspiration is real life. Having a bipolar manic episode and being sectioned is an experience that is so odd, weird, scary and profound that it just demands to be written about. I feel, as an artist, you can’t ignore these moments. Also, I have no shame. Which means I can make art about the worst moments in my life. It also means that you might not want me as a speaker at your funeral.
Abi: What advice would you give to someone going through a difficult time in their mental health?
David: Something I said to myself when I finally crashed and got depressed whilst still under section, was that it was just a moment in time. Know that and just get through another day. Sometimes that’s the best you can do. It will pass. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that it will pass. Also, nurture and develop your coping mechanisms. For me, jogging has played a huge part in my well being. I’m short, I’m chubby, I don’t look good when I run, but jogging has probably saved my life on more than one occasion.
Abi: I love the mix of mediums in the book, from pictures to pages of your notebook to doctor’s notes- where did the idea to combine those come from?
David: When I created the installation that inspired the book I wanted to throw as much ‘real stuff’ as I could in there, including my mad little notebook. When we came to make the book we thought the doctors’ notes would add something extra. Hopefully, all the mediums give you a multi-layered look at bipolar and sectioning. The notebook is real, first-hand madness (sometimes eloquent, other times just batshit), my accounts of moments on the ward give you a feel of what sectioning actually is, and the doctor’s notes offer a somewhat colder, clinical view. Smash ‘em all together and you have a great little toilet book.
Abi: Do you find writing to be therapeutic? Do you think writing your experiences has helped you in your recovery?
David: I think taking a moment in your life that is so brutal and crazy and giving it a beginning, a middle and an end is incredibly therapeutic. Giving something like that meaning is a vital part of my recovery. Then there’s the humour. I’m immensely proud of the section called ‘Wanking’, about the difficulties of trying to knock one off under section. When the installation went up and I saw people laughing as they read that text board I got a delicious, bizarre form of closure.
Abi: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
David: Read. Sounds obvious but I did an MA in creative writing and was shocked to find some people in my class didn’t really read. Put your phone down, switch the laptop off and just read a book.
Abi: Finally, who is your biggest inspiration in the writing world?
David: Impossible to choose so I’ll go for someone current who I always pre-order. Having said that, Emily St. John Mandel’s latest, ‘Sea of Tranquillity’ isn’t up to her usual standards. Go for the one before, ‘Glass House’ or her classic, ‘Station Eleven’. Her books are eloquent, often a bit weird and just pure pleasure to read.