Losing an arm in an accident and being diagnosed with manic depression was a massive challenge for former advertising executive, trainee monk and doorman Chris Joseph. He tells Graeme Hetherington how his outlook remains so positive
REMAINING conscious while an industrial crane mangled his right arm is where many of Chris Joseph’s troubles started.
However, that is only the beginning of a tale that has many highs and lows, including running a successful advertising agency in London, succumbing to bipolar disorder and writing a book on his life.
After being sectioned on at least a dozen occasions, between 1988 and 2002, Chris finally realised it was time to pull his life together.
“I decided that I was never going to be sectioned again,” he says. “The last time I came out something must have happened and I thought I need to pull myself together and sort it out.
“I have been well for ten years now, but I need to take my medication regularly to ensure that I don’t have another relapse.”
The story of how he reached the point of his diagnosis is captured in his autobiography, Manicdotes: There’s Madness in his Method.
HIS book chronicles his topsyturvy life in short chapters, which are in turn bittersweet, heart-rending and highly amusing.
The emotional pendulum swing of dark despair to creative overload first raised its head when Chris was studying French at the University of Liverpool in 1977. Feeling that his life had no purpose, he decided to quit academia and return to his religious heritage to train as a Benedictine monk.
However, his dalliance with the Roman Catholic church was shortlived when he failed the entrance exam after he said he believed that celibacy was unnatural – perhaps not the wisest move he took during his early years.
The priests who carried out the interview asked him to try again in a year’s time and continue to work closely with his local clergy.
Undeterred by the delay in answering his calling, his next career choice would be the complete opposite of his craving for spiritual solace, when he started working as a bouncer on the door of the Fiesta nightclub in his hometown of Stockton.
After witnessing more than his fair share of trouble, he turned his attention back to religion and spent time in Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland, where he realised that a life of reflection was not for him.
It was his next job that altered the course of his life forever.
HE never imagined how much his life would change when he started work at Head Wrightson Iron Cast, on the outskirts of Stockton, as a maintenance fitter’s mate.
On May 24, 1978, his right arm was crushed when he was dragged into the cogs of an overhead crane.
The father-of-three from Norton, near Stockton, says: “I could not describe the pain, it was so intense, but I was conscious throughout. There was blood everywhere and I thought I was going to die. When I was in hospital and the surgeon showed me where he was going to have to amputate my arm, I realised how serious it was.”
Without realising it at the time, the accident meant he headed back to the University of Liverpool, to do a combined degree of French and communications studies.
While studying, he met the mother of his three children, twins Caitlin and Rebecca and son, Leo, but declines to name her, as he says himself, to save her from any further embarrassment.
A career in advertising beckoned, and after a short spell at an agency, called GDA, he set up his own business – Hook Advertising.
He says: “Working in advertising provided me with more money than I knew what to do with, but the high pressure and high intensity of the work environment took its toll on my mental health.
“I was at my most creative when my mind was racing out of control, but the affect it was having on my family was unbearable for them.”
His erratic and impulsive behaviour came to a head when, on the spur of the moment, he decided to fly to Morocco where he ended up being institutionalised until he was well enough to return to London.
“It was the most horrendous place I have ever been in,” he says. “However, it was just the start of my spells in psychiatric wards. My wife could no longer take my erratic behaviour and our marriage fell apart.”
Having his stump broken while in Tolworth Hospital in Surrey and legal battles with clients and banks took Chris to the edge and he was in and out of hospital until 2002.
However, his resolve to overcome all of his problems was never diminished and through strictly controlling his medication and accepting that he was a manic depressive, Chris was able to regain control of his mind and life.
He says: “I know I will have this condition for the rest of my life, but as long as I continue to take my medication I should be able to control it.
“I may not have the fantastic highs of inspiration any longer, but I also don’t have to suffer the crippling darkness that descended after I came down. Sadly, the one insanity that my medication can’t cure is my love of Middlesbrough Football Club.”
- The book chronicling his life is now available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Manicdotes-Theres- Madness-His-Method/dp/1905609078 in paperback and in digital form