Category: Storms


It’s that time of the year again.

The first brush strokes of autumn begin to tinge the greens and yellows of late summer. The air grows a little cooler; the sun, a little whiter and dawn’s breaking, slower and quieter.

And then there are the spiders.

Scaffold-legged, they run amok in our houses, apparently mo’t measured the fear of a fully signed up member of Arachnophobes Anon against the brazen tap dance of these too-quick-for-comfort creatures.

I digress hopelessly.

The fact that I fall apart when faced with a spider contrasts markedly with the way I react in a crisis. Put me in a room with the spider and I break into a cold sweat. I experience weakness in my major limbs. Paradoxically, when faced  with a REIMAG1372_1AL shock or crisis, I become almost ultra cool… Weeping and woe-ing makes me impatient and I will veer away from any kind of hysteria.

Today though, I was shocked to the core and though nobody would have known to look at me, inside I was choking on my own words. Words that wouldn’t form to express, to heal, to challenge, to cut through layers of psychotic deception.

Sometimes, words won’t do. They don’t hold enough power.

Then, there is nothing to do but fall to your knees and cry out. Cry for help from one who is bigger than the chaos outside and more powerful than the feelings within.

Today, I cry. I cry for a friend whose mind has descended into the hell of psychosis. The first episode.

I couldn’t help.

The irony is, as we sat on her hospital bed, she told me that her Anorexia has never been so good.

Straight swap? I wish I knew more about the mind.

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Hamlet_

Perhaps it is the sheer weight of Hamlet’s question, the blunt , blatant daring of it, that has made it the most famous line in the history of Shakespeare.  The phrase, often coined as being an expression of ‘existential despair’, or in less literary terms, a ‘question of life, or death’, has become widely quoted (very often comically) by students and adults in all manner of situations. Rarely however, is it used to describe the slightly darker context within which Shakespeare penned it.

It’s been in my head.

I write in an attempt to somehow pin down the darting shards of unfledged thoughts and feelings that fleck the walls of my brain every time this quotation smashes against them. This question of living or dying is particularly potent for those whose legs dangle over the sea wall of contemplation; eyes alternating between the storm tossed ocean of addiction and disorder, and the dark, unending tunnel of recovery.

Neither side is alluring,

sea stormThe ocean is cold and squally. It’s so very tiring just trying to stay afloat. Your life jacket is failing and you’ve swallowed water enough to poison you. The horizon is nothing but pitch black, unknown, perpetual  and when you’re washed into a cave, you have nothing to keep your feet steady on the  slippery algae and the rats that litter and skitter the black rock floor.

In some ways, it makes no difference what your sea of troubles is. For me, it’s severe Anorexia Nervosa, for you, it may be Alcoholism, Bulimia, Gambling, Drug addiction, Perfectionism, Depression, I could go on…

At some point, no matter what we’re suffering with, we have to decide whether to slip under the life jacket, under the

devil_may_cry_4___drowning_by_amoralisch-d5l34px tumult and into the cold, grey peace of the damage; breathing in, suffused with fatal calm as our sickness becomes us.

OR whether we choose to sum up courage and force frozen arms to propel us one more time into the darkness, in the teeth chattering, tiny hope that somehow, at some point, we will be washed onto an unknown shore which MAY, MAY look less bleak than the land we once swam from.

There is, always, a point where we have to face the options. I’ve dressed it up, made a fuss. But it comes down to this.

Sink or swim.

Be, or not be.

One thing is certain, to remain passive, is to choose death. 

Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite American poets, didn’t have a single poem published at the time she died. Subsequently, her poetry has been flagged as some of the greatest literary work

Imagein the nineteenth century.

Biographers and researchers have scrutinised her poetry and letters to learn more about her reclusive life although, It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Emily was more than familiar with poor mental health. Loneliness and self imposed solitude were, no doubt, unkind relatives to the deep depression and anxiety she suffered.

One of the best descriptions of depression (to my mind) is to be found in her poem, “I Felt A Funeral In My Brain”. Contrary to this, I find one of the most uplifting metaphors for hope in a poem where she famously likens hope to a little bird, who carries on singing through the darkest of storms, making no demands (despite extreme conditions) and remaining alive throughout.

The poem is a reminder that hope, although fragile as a feather and tiny as a bird, can withstand our darkest and deepest depression, our cold fear and our flustered anxiety. It can survive the tunnel of sadness and it will not drown in the well of grief.

During recovery, there are moments of screeching inner agony, where the illness claws at the very lining of our guts, our gullets and our skulls. The challenge is to stay still enough to hear the sound of hope, singing its song, far, far beneath the aching and the clawing and the piercing scream

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops at all.
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

What gives you hope?