Monday, May 24, 2010


Someone whom I love very deeply suffered a bit of a wobbly over the last week. This prompted me to contemplate yet again how powerful and delicate an organ the brain is, how easily the balance of it can be disturbed and how distressing such disturbances are for both the person who is suffering and that person’s friends and family.

I suppose I understand it a little myself because I have sunk into some terrifying pits over a twenty year period. I get the very odd high-very, very, odd and not enough to warrant either medication or psychotherapy. I quite like the highs, I always write my best work when I’m in that head, the big ideas come and I try to hold them, write them down, record them for use in some piece at a future date. The worst I do is stay awake too long and talk too much. After the last episode I mentioned these warning signs to the beloved other, he is in general able to spot the dark clouds glowering before I do, but he’s not so tuned to the slight highs and his reaction was

‘But you talk so much anyway, how am I to know you’re going high?’

It’s hard on him and on my family but they’re great. They never ever condemn me, tell me to pull up my socks or to get on with it and stop feeling sorry for myself. I wouldn’t blame them if they did, living with mental illness is haard on everyone in the family. Sometimes I feel self-indulgent, letting the high or low get the better of me – particularly a bad low day, a day I cannot, physically cannot get out of bed, a day I want to die, count the paracetamol or contemplate the branches of trees pondering would they take my weight in a noose. I hope I never get to that space again where I actually do something with the thoughts that lurk in the recesses of my mind. But sometimes these very thoughts are the only things that calm me. Planning my death, my funeral – incredibly morbid, dark dark thoughts.

But then the doorbell might go and a freckle-faced boy comes home, and how could I leave him yet? How could I abandon him when he still needs me. He and his brother, my step daughters, my husband, family and friends. They are my ‘will-to-meaning’ (Viktor Frankyl). I draw breath for them. I be. For them. And as long as they are I too will be.

Why am I blogging about it? Why pour my soul, the fireflies in my brain onto the page? Because I have to. We have to. As a society we have to drag mental health centre stage, it is an area of medicine where prevention pays off. With the slow decline of religion in the Western World something must replace that spirituality, the comfort the contemplation of the divine gave to generations. Whatever the Divine might be. For we all need a ‘will-to-meaning’, something to make sense of it all, make living worthwhile. For some it is Art – painting, music, reading, writing – all the disciplines. For others sport or yoga or something non-chemical for which one has a passion. That, and one good teacher, is all any human being needs after all basic physical needs are met to live a contented life. Live, love and be safe in the moment.

Amn’t I horrid deep?

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