Yes – it happened again. You'd think by now I'd be used to it.
So I've finished my twenty minutes of ploughing up and down the pool and, feeling pleasantly relaxed, exercise endorphins swimming lazily through my bloodstream, I think it would be good to chill in the sauna for a while. Well, not chill, precisely, but you know what I mean.
So I enter the room, the heat embracing me like a lover and nod politely to the only other occupant, a chap sitting on one of the high benches. I sit down on the other side and prepare to spend five wonderful moments in warm meditation.
But no. Inevitably he will want to talk.
Maybe MI5 should employ me. It takes only ten minutes for this man to recount all about his two ex-wives, his current partner, what all his children are doing now, how he gets on with them, what's happening at work and his opinions on the Government, the local council and the people who run the Leisure Centre where we're sitting right now. If I could have borne the heat much longer I'm sure he would have told me his GCSE results and how he once stole a stapler from the office stationery supplies!
This happens to me nearly every time I sit in the sauna (not with the same man, I hasten to add). I think there must be something about the small enclosed room, the warm dry heat, the intimacy of our mutual near-nakedness, which encourages this sharing of self.
And it's good for everybody.
It's good for him to talk I'm sure and it's vital for me to listen.
I'm in the part of my bi-polar cycle where I hate everyone because they're all just SO stupid, and if they're not stupid then they're still stupid for not recognising how amazingly talented I am and worshipping me! (And, by the way, I do know that all this is nonsense. It's the chemicals in my brain; it's not real, it's not me.) But because I still have at least a rudimentary grasp of good manners, I'm not going to be rude to this stranger. I will listen politely, respond appropriately and yes, feel grateful that he has linked me, yet again, to the real world and real people.
Whether I'm up or down, interaction with my fellow humans is essential. It is our links with our fellow humans which anchor us to reality. Depression locks us inside our own dark dungeon, the mania of bi-polar rockets us high above the mortal world to a place where the air is too thin to support us and we can't hear or see anyone so far below.
So a link with a stranger is a gift. It is a much needed anchor for mania; a chink of light in that dungeon.
Wherever that stranger and we may meet.
A Moodscope member.