Depression: Spike Milligan died in March 2002. This is a synopsis of his journey with manic depression by Michelle Clarke





There is a huge price to be paid in loneliness. Spike spoke of an overly active brain, moving in all dimensions. He reported that he had a very strong feeling that he could not cope with children. He said that mistakes made, remain with you as persecutors. His first marriage broke up due to his wife’s adultery. Spike proved in retrospect highly critical of his contribution to the marriage. He deemed himself to be too watchful of what his wife was spending. He also deemed the system wrong that she was held responsible through adultery for the divorce grounds and not his mental illness. (Ironically, I thought the reverse when it applied to me and as it still does in the eyes of the Church).

He was a romantic and very much in love with his first wife. He referred to a ‘token suicide’ that he attempted after she left. He acknowledges it was a ‘cry for help’. This led on to the characteristic period of withdrawal from society. To try and redress the balance over the grounds for divorce, he wrote a book of poems.

Quite interestingly, his four children stated that they were happy to have been brought up by their father despite his ‘ups and downs’.  It is worth noting that eccentric behaviour can be so appealing to children.   He used to engage in games with their imagination. He would write notes and hide them and the children would find them – it constructed an imaginary game. These notes would be signed by the Pixies and Fairies.

My fondest memories of JJ, my cousin, (a manic depressive) with whom I spent a considerable amount of time and who also knew Spike, were his visits from England nearly every weekend.  JJ would sit in the black chair in the kitchen in Belper, our rambling home. Shane (his Godson) and I could swish around the chair amusing ourselves greatly. Basically, Shane and I ‘tortured the man’ in our childish ways. I had lots of questions and used to like combing his virtually non-existent hair. Now I know why he just sat – unlike others he never tried to tickle us or catch us. I know why now because I am the next generation family member with manic depression. When I see my nieces and nephew, I am like a ‘sack of potatoes’ – Lithium and the other medications have side effects. Muscle weakness occurs and strength is minimal. The great thing is the human brain adjusts so you can be the passive being with young people and put your mind into play and create imaginary jaunts that might equally entertain them. We are talking about Vicarious Compensation. We need to openly recognise this. Holistic education exists in Canada and it is my belief that it is critical to teach people ‘life coping skills’ and make others aware of differences that exist between people.

Spike Milligan had a socially driven mindset. He hated the hardship in the world. His view for the future of the human race was negative. Being a creative, he tended to take world problems and issues on his own shoulders as if they applied to him personally. I truly understand this. Two of ‘us’ who had been part of the Trinity Horizon Programme – a rehabilitation workshop for women with depression, shared our deep concern about Foot and Mouth last year – it proved to have serious effects for both of us. Our rational minds told us it was irrational but not our emotions….

The tendency when Spike started thinking was to keep adding on – never going back and consolidating a point – his mind would be moving too fast. His mind was very active and away ahead of others. This is often referred to as ‘racing thoughts’.

This Manic Depressive (Bipolar) illness is best viewed as:-


Spike Milligan served in the Second World War and sums it up best himself when he said ‘I ran out of guts’. He was discharged with Battle Fatigue/Shell Shock as mental disorders were described at that time.  Basically, he left the war, a manic depressive. After his mental illness, he would often comment ‘I did that when I was alive’

Spike Milligan was friendly with Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers would refer to Spike’s ‘Mad Abstract’ mind but that he was a very likeable man.  Spike Milligan’s work always attracted a ‘special type’ of audience. The kind that would move from laughter to near hysteria. Spike was deemed to thrive off the ideas of another and their thoughts became the springboard for his mind to move in all directions. He could generate so many ideas but never really had time to write them down.  Even when admitted to the mental hospital, he continued to write frenetically. To behave this way – there is an obsessive characteristic embedded behaviour.  Logic did not apply for Spike. He would continually change rules and add in more and flow onwards.

Think of Spike being asked for a few kind words and the reply to come:-

‘Librium, Valium etc.’

He believed it was perfectly okay to have a show with no beginning – no end. He would interrupt and input – no problem.  Spike was fascinated by what people want. The aim according to the way he thought was about making each other laugh.

Spike Milligan liked instant decisions and was extremely disciplined.

  • THE KEY IS TO FIND SOMEONE TO FOCUS THE PERSON (especially if they are a manic depressive).

Michelle: Hence now at 43, I know why I could not concentrate at school, it took a skull fracture and brain damage to teach me to focus……….most of the time………



Michelle Clarke

Revised: 22/06/02

Revised: 27th April 2019

About michelleclarke2015

Life event that changes all: Horse riding accident in Zimbabwe in 1993, a fractured skull et al including bipolar anxiety, chronic fatigue …. co-morbidities (Nietzche 'He who has the reason why can deal with any how' details my health history from 1993 to date). 17th 2017 August operation for breast cancer (no indications just an appointment came from BreastCheck through the Post). Trinity College Dublin Business Economics and Social Studies (but no degree) 1997-2003; UCD 1997/1998 night classes) essays, projects, writings. Trinity Horizon Programme 1997/98 (Centre for Women Studies Trinity College Dublin/St. Patrick's Foundation (Professor McKeon) EU Horizon funded: research study of 15 women (I was one of this group and it became the cornerstone of my journey to now 2017) over 9 mth period diagnosed with depression and their reintegration into society, with special emphasis on work, arts, further education; Notes from time at Trinity Horizon Project 1997/98; Articles written for 2003/2004; St Patricks Foundation monthly lecture notes for a specific period in time; Selection of Poetry including poems written by people I know; Quotations 1998-2017; other writings mainly with theme of social justice under the heading Citizen Journalism Ireland. Letters written to friends about life in Zimbabwe; Family history including Michael Comyn KC, my grandfather, my grandmother's family, the O'Donnellan ffrench Blake-Forsters; Moral wrong: An acrimonious divorce but the real injustice was the Catholic Church granting an annulment – you can read it and make your own judgment, I have mine. Topics I have written about include annual Brain Awareness week, Mashonaland Irish Associataion in Zimbabwe, Suicide (a life sentence to those left behind); Nostalgia: Tara Hill, Co. Meath.
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1 Response to Depression: Spike Milligan died in March 2002. This is a synopsis of his journey with manic depression by Michelle Clarke

  1. Pingback: Depression: Spike Milligan died in March 2002. This is a synopsis of his journey with manic depression by Michelle Clarke | canisgallicus

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