Would you turn to the 'dark side' to have a great bod?

Would you turn to the 'dark side' to have a great bod?

Who wouldn't want a beautiful body? Some people are genetically blessed. Others, not so much.

Every movie that is based on a comic book has an actor or two that has undergone some amazing physical transformation. While it is an incentive to try for something similar, I have to confess, seeing a photo of me at the beach is enough to push me into the gym.

There is nothing wrong with aiming to get that beach body, the good sort. But there are those that take it to extremes.

Competitive bodybuilders have a look that can elicit any response from "mmmm" to "eeeeew".

Not only are they taut in a way that looks like the slightest exertion will tear their skin, they also like to paint themselves in what looks like mahogany brown varnish for competitions.

It reminds me of the description of Arnold Schwarzenegger by the critic Clive James - "he looks like a brown condom full of walnuts." I suppose some find that attractive.

Then there is the world of steroids. The pills and injections that promise a more muscular physique faster.

Given the notorious side effects of these performance-enhancing substances, it begs the question of why do it?

Zaihan Mohd Yusof speaks to one man who takes steroids, knows the risks and feels that the results are worth it (Page 3).

One infamous side affect of steroids is "roid rage", an uncontrollable anger that can manifest without notice.

While this is self-afflicted, there are people who have extreme mood swings through no fault of theirs.

One mother spoke to Maureen Koh about life with her daughter who suffers from bipolar disorder (Page10). The condition has been in the news recently and the term has become prevalent these days.

It's also known as manic depression and the cliche is that someone who is the life and soul of the party one moment can easily become a dark cloud over everything the next.

There is something of a romanticism about it when connected with art and music as there are many artists that have battled the disorder.

It is almost seen as a creative stimulus - that great art can be created from the depths of an ill mind.

You could argue that the band Nirvana would not have been so great had Kurt Cobain been of a more even temperament. Or that Vincent van Gogh's art would just have been pretty pictures without his "black dog".

Some, like the British polymath Stephen Fry, have been honest about how bipolar disorder affects them in a bid to achieve greater public understanding.

It is not just a case of "pulling yourself together". When someone is in the depths, there is very little that can be done to pull him out.

It is a sad case when you hear of those that know something is wrong, but refuse to take medication for fear of not being who they are at their peak.

While the famous have many media outlets to bare all, there are many more people who have to live with it.

What our story reveals is that while being bipolar is debilitating in itself, living with and looking after a sufferer is just as tough.

It is an immense task, incredibly infuriating and emotionally draining.

Maureen's story of this mum's love for her daughter and the glimpse it offers us into the role caregivers play and the pain they go through is compelling. What's really affecting is knowing that there are others in the same situation.

It begs the question: Who looks after the caregivers?

jonrob@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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