Glum on a knife’s edge
(Mental Health, Spirituality and Society)
There is a song called ‘Joy’ by PAGE CXVI and it sounds how I feel. More than any other song, it portrays the sense of comeuppance that I’ve come to experience from ignoring how I feel and trying to cheer my way through these moments. Perhaps this song is one of those ‘sing it to believe it’ pieces (and sometimes rightly so), but just for now, let the following hint at the daily battle of the will; ‘I can’t understand, and I can’t pretend, that this will be alright in the end. So I’ll try my best and lift up my chest to sing about this - Joy, Joy, Joy’.
This is not another story of forgetting and pushing down but rather a distressing acknowledgement of the reality of so very many people.
I’ve heard it described as a black dog, I’ve heard it described as a cloud, I’ve even heard it explained as a sense of ominous pervasion, and yet these sayings don’t do anything to describe the night that doesn’t have a shaft of light. Light isn’t even an option because this aura of malaise dampens any sense of access.
When there’s a sense of glum overarching and undermining each aspect of your moments - how do you surface and keep going? It’s like a sense of nausea that is not relieved until the fever passes or your body exhorts something so horrific that relief is found in its absence - sadly that relief is rarely the case. I sit in these moments, so weary, my shoulders heavier than I remember and my heart aching behind my sternum. I try to distract myself with the human rationale of making a physical shift to change an emotional state. Do I run, do I eat, do I sleep, do I distract with study or work - all are far too unappealing, and yet any or all of these things in their own right are suggested by professionals on how to relieve the cloud of unknown malaise. It’s in these hours and days that I should be speaking to God; this God whom I’ve had faith in before. This God who speaks of healing and a light burden. This God whom I’ve come to understand is all-powerful and intimately involved, and yet, my tongue can’t pray for lethargy, my heart won’t dare for fear of disappointment and my mind struggles to see the all-powerful capacity. But pray I do in the hope that somehow (like the eating, like the exercise, like the ‘work or study’) I will find relief.
The drugs do help, and the more I take, the lighter the load of weariness. Today hasn’t been a day for a higher dose though…today I fear a precarious edge that has my heart and body rest on its ridge. The edge of a knife, not used for glorious moments of good food, but one that slices an animal to pieces. It's feast - Mania versus Depression. The jitters that come with the mania - the need to race and pummel, the speed of thoughts, the ability to expend energy at a rate and capacity unlike any other time. The complete counter to that invasion of apathy. Has this barrage manifested its energy and exuberance by capping previous days’ portions? Like a green house, intensifying the growth of all within its walls - my spirit is faster and harsher and more alert than this house can contain. So what happens next? I try not to let the disappointment of my own waste be too evident to others, I attempt to push the guilt away for disappearing days when I have “many ahead”. Where can I gather crumbs of energy from to make the most of today and how can any dreams come true when today I can’t lift a finger?
What if there’s no healing, what if there’s no relief, what if the moments are going to be lived in the midst of a pervasive ache?
How can we together find some reassurance, not in the absence or removal of the pain and confusion, but rather in the sharing and honesty of it? Hold the ones closest to you, no matter how hard they struggle. We have the people around us, whether we like or agree, these are the few we have responsibility for, whatever they go through, whatever you go through, whatever we are dealt, we are with them. And they with us.
Sarah was diagnosed with BiPolar about 18 years ago and is aware that her experience is only one of the many forms that Mental ill health can and does take. She is currently gathering people from all over the world, from all walks of life, ages, faith/non, who are willing to describe their own experience - this can be in the form of one sentence or twenty.
This book will be a very honest tool to give moments of relief for those who are suffering but also to provide insight for those around us to understand.
It might be describing your own illness or the struggle of experiencing it with someone you are close to. (The sharing can be anonymous.) The book will be an incredibly real depiction of this hidden and sometimes indescribable struggle.
To get in touch with any questions or additions please email: firstname.lastname@example.org