Never feel afraid to think.
Currently, if the state of my allotment and garden were recognised by the medical profession, as being acceptable diagnostic tools for determining state of mind, and a certified means of determining a ‘healthy psychological bill of health’, then i’d make easy work for any kind of Psychiatrist, I imagine.
Over the past six months, there have been many different events, stresses, overgrown and domineering thoughts, which have accumulated without due intervention and control, in my mind, wrecked havoc on my mental health, and my ability to ‘see’ or ‘think’ clearly. I’m thankfully beginning to make progress, towards the goal of recovery in mental, and physical health, now.
Part of this journey towards recovering, has included suddenly being able to notice, and reflect on things again. This is both good and bad- it’s reassuring and hopeful to realise I must be moving away from a negative place, because I can suddenly see quite clearly, the areas of my life and the passions enjoyed through living, which have suffered neglect.
It’s daunting, to be able to look at the overgrowth, the ‘jungle’ left to grow wild, and the flower beds without flowers, which currently shape the canvas of my allotment. Yet at the same time, it is exciting and positive, when taking into account the ‘bigger picture’ this paints. The garden endeavors.
Hinting at the prospect of the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, nearing achievement of wellness, I have to concede, while humbling, and fairly worrying, the realisation there is a mess to address, left in the wake of my mind’s little rampage and attempt at self-destruction, surely surpasses the short term moment of panic, in this story.
Imagine if all of us busy, full time working, thinking, feeling, hearing, social networking, living, breathing, sleeping people in this world, were able to find the time and the resources to be able to ‘dig for victory’ for our mental and physical health. Then have the means to look back at the ever shifting landscape of a garden/outdoor space, which we create, sustain and maintain over a number of years.
It’s funny to wonder if this would put Psychiatrists, Doctors, Therapists, self-help books and more, out of a job!
Obviously, there are practical obstacles which get in the way of having time to tend to nature- work, and living in a flat/having no outdoor space, coming to mind first as being just a few of them. It’s all well and good knowing that ‘to spend time outdoors’, in ‘fresh air’ and with Radishes growing out of your fingernails, you’re so ‘in touch with nature’, as a means to recovering mentally and physically from illness, if you couldn’t even fit a plantpot on your windowsill, or hospital bed, for that matter, if you tried.
But there are ways– and you know what they say about ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’… Personally, I think that saying works out both ways around- where there is a way, there will be a will.
Having the will to work towards the way in the first place, feels more like an oppressive reminder, of just how hard it can be to regain that will/motivation/drive, when you’ve lost sight of what it even means, feels like, or represents.
‘Will’ or ‘willpower’. The idea that you might need this first, before you can make your way to progress, might serve only to make someone feel more powerless, more trapped.
‘Means’ or ‘way’. As it happens, even when there isn’t a will, there is still a way. Sometimes, we know of many such ‘ways’ already.
When I have found myself ‘lost’ in the petrifying stomach of Depression, or other such ‘adventures’ in mental illness, I am only too aware of WHAT I have to do, to reignite the wick which fires up my will.
Sometimes, we need a bit of help, when emerging, confused, scared, and downright vulnerable. As it happens, we do still know, deep within us, what ‘the way’ is. It’s never this straight forward (typically) though we understand.
I heard some interesting quotes today. It emerged from within the context of a conversation between several people, about suicide.
“Be good, do well and right and let the world sink.”
On the contrary:
“Death is not a one person ticket, it’s a group fare.”
Living is also a group fare. So you see the paradox we all exist in.
Sing. Sing, Sing.
Revealling, in a moment so sudden
That other, distant sound
Breaking softly, the glass cage
Of noise, to which you were bound.
It is melodic, and harmonious.
Serene, so as to distinguish itself
As being unique, and deviant,
Distracting, to behold.
Sing. Sing, Sing.
Amplified by recognition, it feeds
On realigned senses,
Inviting and enticing
Comprehension, of the proof
That there does exist, a brighter path
A different path, stripping out
The discord, the friction, the clash
With undeniable rhythm, it leads up,
Up. Up. Up. Up Up!
The refrain, the song, and the new
New, and the old, old harmony
Acheing muscles relax
Instructed by the compelling,
Those tones, those beats: Enabled,
You soothe and you slip,
Dropping into dance, allowing lost chords
To become your own teacher.
The song is reviving, the song
Is exciting, and you begin to remember
A Cappella, a cappella!
Where there was dischord, now hear
The choral rhapsody.
Settle back in,
To the symphony you created
In the beginning, out and beyond,
The tangles and the set-backs.
Original manuscript, so completely,
I’m talking about Depression, and mental illness, in this case.
What is the meaning of all this? How did it happen!?
“Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed…It’s weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it’s frustrating for them when that doesn’t happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you’ve simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are… ”
( Source, and must read to this text.)
Once you begin to move away from a situation, and are no longer therefore blinded by the immediacy of it, you reflect. It’s perfectly obvious that humans should do this, once they’re out of the danger zone, we need to formulate a plan and learn how to avoid facing that danger again. It is so important to us that we can trace back to certain events which led up to the danger, so we can avoid them. It’s an essential ingredient to intelligence, and our ability to survive as a species, against all odds.
If we ventured into some unknown territory, for example, and found that we were not prepared for the climate, or the presence of new predators, we would reflect that maybe it would be wiser to bring different tools, perhaps a bigger group for safety in numbers, etc.
But sometimes, trying to understand how you came to be in such a threatening place, is not as crystal clear and quantifiable, as we would prefer. Sometimes you can’t explain it, to yourself and/or others. This is yet another challenge, dealing with not knowing. Because when you can’t pin point a particular cause, it’s frigging scary, and damn frustrating.
“We’ve all heard the typical sentence of “how can he be depressed, he’s got everything one could ever wish for”. Unfortunately, clinical depression can affect anyone, sometimes without any triggers if the person is particularly vulnerable to it.”
This above quote is extremely fitting to my own conundrum, now. How, despite being so lucky in all you have around you, can you actually find yourself so depressed that you no longer want to live!? I am a lucky one- I have a wonderful partner who I adore, and I have the most fantastic friends surrounding me. I have a roof over my head, don’t (usually) have to go hungry, am in good physical health, have a job which I genuinely enjoy. All the right things in life, so I should want for nothing. I feel so guilty, for having obviously lost sight of all this somewhere along the way, and become a shadow of my real self.
“It’s disappointing to feel sad for no reason. Sadness can be almost pleasantly indulgent when you have a way to justify it – you can listen to sad music and imagine yourself as the protagonist in a dramatic movie. You can gaze out the window while you’re crying and think “This is so sad. I can’t even believe how sad this whole situation is. I bet even a reenactment of my sadness could bring an entire theater audience to tears.”
But my sadness didn’t/doesn’t have an obvious purpose.
My friends have all reminded me about everything I have going for me, which is well-intended and completely benevolent. But in reality, I suddenly find myself feeling even worse, because I somehow ‘didn’t deserve to breakdown’ in such a way, ‘I don’t have half of the stresses which other people have to contend with’, so why, why, why, have I overreacted to circumstances in such an intense way?
I knew before my mental health even started to slip down the slope, that I had everything around me to cause ‘happiness’. I never stopped knowing that I had all of these things, even (and especially) when my mind was at it’s utter lowest. This is why it is so hard to understand mental health, and to accept it as what it is. The whole meaning of being ‘mentally unwell’, is a testament to the fact that it doesn’t make any sense.
When you know, but cannot physically feel, the reality which exists, and therefore you cannot believe it. You can’t see it, because the emotions which we normally take for granted, are all fused and out of order. The neurotransmitters in your brain are behaving completely paradoxically- They are far from balanced or proportionate to real events.
Where normally, for example, Dopamine triggers a physiological change of state- feeling fulfilled, physically experiencing the urge to smile, to laugh, to move. Usually, Dopamine can be relied upon, particularly after exercising. It is the ‘reward’ chemical. Similarly, Noradrenaline commands your body to respond in certain ways- rapid heartbeat, sweating, suddenly experiencing a surge in energy so intense, it is near impossible to contain, which is why it’s so reliable for ‘flight or fight’ circumstances.
When communication between external and internal events, becomes contradictory and totally out of sync within the brain, that, my friend, is ‘mental illness’.
That is why your situation becomes such a confusing and nonsensical place- because it is a paradox.
This is the difference between mental health, and mental ill-health. We can all relate to being depressed, or anxious, in the usual and healthy way. Where there is a trigger, and the emotional state is just the appropriate response, kind of way. So no wonder it is so imcomprehensible to both sufferers and observers of mental illness, no wonder you cannot ‘justify’ it.
Please don’t ask me to explain ‘the reason(s)’. I’m sick of feeling sorry for confusing and worrying everybody, including myself. Now that I am finally beginning to ‘see’ again, I can’t let the guilt stage get me. The guilt for upsetting my friends and loved ones, and for alienating people. I feel perfectly bad about that already, so I don’t need any ‘help’ with this particular area.
Allie Brosh‘s blog, Hyperbole and a Half, NEEDS reading. She explains her own experiences with depression, in a perfect way. A way which constantly reassures me that i’m not just pathetic, and in a way that sheds some light onto the illness, for other people who haven’t experienced mental illness in quite the same way. It enables much more understanding, which is really useful as someone on the outside looking in, say if your friends/loved ones ever come down with inexplicable ‘Fluenza of the Mind’, shall we call it?
Plus, she tells it with pictures. Way more effective I think!
This post will constantly be subject to additional tips, as they are acquirred through the process of living, and learning new survival mechanisms. Please feel free to add any of your own tips in the comments box!
Mental health- it is completely synonymous with physical health. The mental is the physical, and the physical is also mental. So just to get this straight, everyone alive has mental health. Therefore, everyone alive exists in a constant flux of good health, poor health, and the bits in between. Mental illness can happen to anybody. Just as illnesses like Flu, or Tonsillitis, impact on our livelihoods, due to a dip in ‘good health’, so too do Mental Health afflictions affect us. Some perhaps, more than others, but all the same, any stigma needs to be stamped out, before anyone can engage with this post meaningfully, and benefit from it.
Write it down, tell someone, send out your distress flares before you become unable to ask for help (because by that point, you’ve already finalised your decision, haven’t you, so if it’s going to be a success, it will have to be a silent one).
I know that in reality, this piece of standardized advice doesn’t necessarily give you any answers. In the middle of attempting to take your own life, or before you begin to, ringing 999 doesn’t instantly throw itself at you as a plan of action, does it!? But you always, ALWAYS, need that one extra sleep, just one more day, to actually know you want to do this. For real.
Change your surroundings
So if you can get yourself to a safe place for a night, even if it’s completely the harder thing to do, then you can think again. Also, actually ending up in A&E with ‘Suicidal Thoughts’, isn’t at all uncommon. You won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last person to go there, believe me. It’s through A&E that there is a guarantee (unless you make a dash for it) you will have to be seen by the Crisis Team at some point, and thus help speed along referrals for proper mental health intervention and recovery.
But you can change your surroundings in other ways of course. Go to a friend’s, or a random place, wherever you can. Because you need to remove yourself from the area in which you were imagining, plotting, and preparing for a suicide. You can still go back to it, but you need to escape that area, and put yourself in a different area, for at least the time being.
Get lost on purpose
Even if you are literally on the way to the place you have decided to die, take a new route. Know that you can still get to where you want to be, to finalise the act still, but you may as well go an unusual way, so as to see just a few more scenes before you can never see them again.
This saved my life once. I drove out to the place, and I had a CD on in my car. I had the ropes, the scalpel, the cocktail and the note. But I took an obscure route, and during this journey, I managed to realise that now was not the time. Plus, it was already getting dark, so by the time i’d reached my destination, i’d not be able to see what I was doing properly anyway. So I had to find my way back, and thus had to think outside of ‘the plan’, to figure out my bearings, and which roads looked most likely to take me back home.
Even better if you can get lost while walking. Going for a pointless walk, or even the last walk of your life, it will never fail you in it’s ability to allow you to think of other thoughts. Take you to ‘imagination land’ or whatever you want to call it, whilst simultaneously exercising and therefore stimulating endorphins and those neurotransmitters- sweet Serotonin and Dopamine- which seem to have gone AWOL, pre-walk. They will at the very least, give you some form of release from the emotional trap you were in before you started walking.
Music is truly a saviour
Get a sound happening. Any sound. Music you know you enjoy, or might enjoy, or perhaps suddenly realise: ‘I guess I may as well listen to that before I die”, when it comes to venturing into a new realm of sounds. Listen, dance, sing, do whatever you need, just let the music have a say first. It is truly a magnificent drug.
Play an instrument
If you have the luck of knowing how to read music, and have an instrument to hand (remember, your vocal chords are an instrument too!), then play it. Make yourself play it well, and concentrate on reading the notes, follwing the rules of timing and intensity, if only to challenge yourself. It will distract you.
Find an animal
Get your pet, if you have one. Go out and find a field full of Sheep, or anything, and just watch them do what they do for a little while. Know that they aren’t thinking about you, and your desire to die- they are just getting on with it in their own way. But animals are theraputic just to watch, or to touch, and they are wise beyond words for transmitting their silent reflections.
Now here’s a controversial one. There will be countless screams of ‘you can’t advise someone who is that vunerable to go and take medication/drugs of unpredictable side effects’, or whatever. Drugging yourself is definitely not ideal. No shit, Sherlock. But if you are about to take your own life, then the outcomes of both dangerous decisions are not ideal. One is final, the other perhaps not.
If you know of a thing you can take, or get hold of, which will change your state of mind, then get it. I know I should not advocate the misuse of drugs, or doing things which are ‘illegal’ (more on that subject matter later), but mind altering substances can save your life, too.
Obviously, there will most likely be a comedown. Once you’re free of intoxification, your mind will indeed be vulnerable. You may feel worse, even. But you will still be alive, and live that extra day before you do it. Try and allow yourself to change your mind.
At least plant some seeds before you go
I mean, it’d be almost rude not to. You’ve benefitted from the Oxygen needed for Respiration all the way through your life up until now, so you owe it to the plants and trees, to at least give them more life, before you take your own.
Amazingly, the planting of these seeds is a perfect way to self-soothe. Gardening, soil, seedlings and engaging with nature, is theraputic and distracting beyond mere words of my testimony. You can perhaps say to yourself, ‘i’ll let this seed sprout up above the soil, and help it become strong enough to plant it out’, before you end that opportunity. Gardening saves lives. I genuinely know this.
Preferably, not against yourself. I don’t care if you have to punch walls, smash plates, scream at the top of your lungs and/or run for your life. Physically do SOMETHING. Please don’t hurt others, but please make sure you engage in something physically relieving (or challenging), if it can stop you from the act of Suicide.
Dance it out
Again, humanity’s most loyal and beloved friend, music, comes into the play here. Listen to some rhytm, and then close your eyes, and let that rhythm lead your body into shapes and movements like it is a puppet, played by a sound.
In the words of Friedrick Nietzsche:
“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
Seek out words of wisdom
“Kiss a lover,
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure.
Face your life,
Leave no path untaken.” – Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
So I ended up getting ‘sent on sick’ leave at work, due to a climaxing of several momentary meltdowns, into a longer, more insidious one. One which took me to the edge of the cliff, and had me dangling off there with just my bare hands to muzzle deep into the chalky periphery, and claw into the Earth for dear life.
All metaphorically speaking. It’s a way of conveying speech which I think is one of the only ways you can explain, and illustrate, mental health, and how it happens. It is just so much easier to paint a picture via metaphor, when trying to find the shapes which define your mental world, and narrate it’s story.
Trying to be fair to the recipient of your story, which includes yourself and those you voice it to, or those you don’t, it enables some kind of structure for understanding.
It is hard to talk about mental health.
The judgement which you (human), cast down on your own thoughts and feelings, suffers from it’s own distortions. How can you ‘diagnose yourself’ if you don’t know all your own mental parts, which of them you like, and those you don’t (and why?).
This is incredibly difficult to do objectively, when the ingredients of the ‘self’ come so many different sources. It comes not only from our historic, biological DNA and organs; that physical and’see-able’, quantifiable, human blueprint. And it comes from what our senses made of the environment, from birth to now (and counting).
There can be no such thing as a self which can replicated, because the variables, which shape it are too rich in their diversity, and all the odds are against the idea of there ever existing another self, which is identical in it’s on-going crafting, of your own.
So, returning to applying judgement- It’s fair to say that all of us can only use the tools for understanding which we have. Which is the condition against which we struggle, trying find the words to talk about mental health. We find that the words we have to work with, to describe and to think in the language of, are too ambiguous, too contested and too ‘sticky’ to talk with easily, about mental health.
When it comes to how people, including myself, can express and communicate matters of the mind, it’s almost like we’d need a whole new language to do so in a way which does it justice.
I myself can most certainly not be arsed, to embark upon threading some new complications and intricases, into our already infamously complex English Language.
So thank the weird minds of us all, for metaphors.
If to be human is to feel loved, then I feel non-human,
If to be human is to procreate, then I feel inhuman.
Even if the human is the gardener, in the kindest, clearest, blue-ish world,
Then I feel inhuman.
If to be human is to loathe, then I feel most certainly incapable of humanity, which is slightly strange and sad. If it is to exist within a group, and submit to a social stacking order, I even then feel not a human, but a near observer. Of a hive that is not quite my own, but is still the most accessible to my body-bound mind.
There is something wrong about the house. I shan’t even call it ‘my house’, as it feels completely not my own. Nor even Rowett’s, or the real landlord’s- perhaps more like the old man’s, who lives next door, and has done for many, many years.
Even then though, I feel he would take ownership of this house from a distance, as if knowing it’s rightful owner needed their claim to the stain of the bricks to be respected and left alone.
It breathes dust, ash, dirt and smog. All contents turn soon to a kind of trash, and clamber over one another in order to reach the little light.
I want to leave this house. It is uncomfortably temporary, and uncomfortably permanent.