The Red Queen, the Dormouse and the Cheshire Cat

28 Jun 2022

“We’re all mad here,” said the Cheshire cat. “I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

If you’re reading this, then you have a reason. Perhaps you are living in the darkness of depression, with the Black Dog as your only companion – and I’ll come to dogs in a moment – or you experience the disorienting cycles of bipolar disorder. Perhaps you support someone who has depression or bipolar, and this blog helps you understand them a little better.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, sixteen years ago, my husband found it difficult. “I don’t want a mad wife,” he said, and I could understand his devastation. He didn’t understand bipolar disorder; nor did I. He was dismayed, while I was relieved. Finally, I knew what was wrong; finally, I knew why I became depressed and lethargic twice a year for no reason. At last, I knew why there were times when I was full of energy, highly competitive and felt twice as alive as other people, and why there were times I resembled the Dormouse and would sleep for seventeen hours a day. I started to research bipolar disorder and find ways to manage it. I knew I was not “mad:” I was ill, and it made all the difference.

I am relieved to say my husband no longer fears bipolar; nor does he think I’m mad. I’m responsible about taking my medication and do my Moodscope score each day. When I am in the low point of my cycle, as I am now, the whole family picks up as much of the slack as they can. I’m fortunate the medication takes care of the highs; while the best bits felt like flying, the toll on relationships was severe.

Rereading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been interesting; I recognise so much of her experience in my own.  The sensations/hallucinations of being large/small and short/tall; the feelings of dissociation/acceptance, where all this seems perfectly normal; the unreasonable demands of the Red Queen and her extreme reactions; the somnolent habits of the dormouse: all these are familiar.

There is a general acceptance that Lewis Carroll used drugs, and the story’s fantastical elements are a result of these. In fact, there is no evidence at all that he took anything but the occasional glass of sherry. Nobody knows where he got his ideas.

“To begin with,” said the Cat, “a dog’s not mad. You grant that?”
“I suppose so,” said Alice.
“Well, then,” the Cat went on, “you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now, I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore, I’m mad.”

That reasoning is obviously nonsensical. So too, is our reasoning about our own Black Dog. We believe it’s normal to be happy, and we are different and “less than” because we have depression.

But, what if, just as he says, our Dog is normal, and it’s the grinning Cat people who are “mad?”


A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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