Day 944

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The Great Master

All I manage to read these days are short stories. Partly due to my abbreviated attention span and partly because the time has come when I ‘should’ start wearing reading glasses but I don’t. I get by, by increasing the font size and by reading for short periods of time. Also by squinting a lot.

‘The First Forty nine stories’ is a collection by the Nobel prize winner, Earnest Hemingway. In the preface he says, “In going where you have to go and doing what you have to do and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and out a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.”

After devouring the collection, I read up about him and was saddened to find that he suffered with depression and died of suicide. Here’s an example of the sensitivity and vulnerability of his characters and the simplicity of his story telling style. It’s called ‘Cat in the rain’.

https://soundcloud.com/user-474898075/new-recording-2

 

Day 940

The dark thing that sleeps in me

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Thomas Joiner, author of “Lonely at the Top: The high cost of Men’s success” is an avid suicide researcher. He lost his father to suicide.

His career choice is dismissed by some as : “You’re just trying to fix your own psychological problems, just like all mental health professionals.” Having psychological problems is not insulting. They are common, often treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

Surely, heart and cancer researchers are not perceived in the same light. This is another reflection of the stigma that surrounds suicide.

Stigma is fear combined with disgust, contempt and lack of compassion – all of which flow from ignorance. We need to understand that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful or rash. It is not caused just by medicines, anorexia, smoking or plastic surgery. It is partly genetic and influenced by mental disorders which in themselves are agonising. That it is preventable (eg. through means restriction like bridge barriers) and treatable (talk about suicide is not cheap and should warrant specialist referral).

Once we get all that in our heads, we need to let it lead our hearts.

“I am terrified of this dark thing that sleeps in me,
All day I feel its feathery turnings,
Its malignity.”
– by Sylvia Plath

Source: ‘Myths about Suicide’ by Thomas Joiner.

Day 936

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Born to run

“Patti will observe a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track… she gets me to the doctors and says, ‘This man needs a pill’.”

 His new memoirs speak a lot about his long battle with depression. Bruce Springsteen had a strong family history of mental illness. He didn’t do drugs as a rock star which is unusual. He was afraid  they would unmask his genetic potential for insanity but he was already suffering  with serious melancholia.

On the therapeutic value of touring he says, “You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them. There’s one voice, the voice you’re speaking in.”

His wife of 25 years, Patti understands his illness. She helps him manage it. “A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself”, she says.

The media often reinforces negative stereotypes of people with mental illness, depicting them as inadequate, unlikable, dangerous, confused, aggressive and unpredictable. The Boss’s devotion to many progressive causes sharply contrasts that image.

Public stigma leads to self-stigma. It stops us from talking about mental illness and worse, ask for help when we are struggling. Patti was initially apprehensive about the book in which Bruce speaks openly about how years of depression left him crushed. It would be read by millions. But then, she saw the value in that.

I watched Bruce Springsteen in 1985 at a Live Aid Concert in Delhi. I was terribly envious of the young lady he invited on to the stage from the audience to dance with him.

Long live The Boss!

“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line”
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

 

Day 935

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Defeated as a dead dog

At the end of my meditation, I don’t want to open my eyes. There is nothing more to see. I don’t want to open my mouth. There is nothing more to say. All is done. There isn’t much more. It would be ok to have a quite existence in an obscure little place that no one has heard of.

At the end of my meditation, the word ‘acceptance’ hits me like an arrow right in the middle of my forehead. What is the distinction between ‘acceptance’ and ‘resignation’? How can either be experienced without a sense of defeat?

Where is the need to wake up to an alarm every morning?  Where is the need to wade through the London traffic every day? What for? There are more peaceful ways to get through time. I long for them.

The last bit of Liz Lochhead’s poem ‘Favourite Place’ written in memory of her husband:

“But tonight you are three months dead
and I must pull down the bed and lie in it alone.
Tomorrow, and every day in this place
these words of Sorley MacLean’s will echo
through me:
The world is still beautiful, though you are not in it.
And this will not be a consolation
but a further desolation.”

Day 930

Anthony

Look out for me and watch the signs
I have come to you, so many times
I am a feather that falls from the sky
I am in those events that make you think – why?

I know that you feel me when I am around
I guess there’s breeze or a certain sound
I can see in your eyes my presence is felt
In a movement, a glimpse, or something you smelt.

In my new life I’m different, there’s so much to do
But still my thoughts turn back to you
I sometimes play truant from this world of beauty
I must get in touch, I feel it’s my duty.

For giving me life, for just being there
For showing me love. For showing you care
I feel I must thank you and tell you each day
That I know I am loved, that won’t go away.

Despite all the sadness a cruel world applied
You kept me afloat till the day I died
And now I can tell you- have no fear
For certain I know you will meet me here.

So in the days ahead, till the end of your life
Whatever the worries, whatever the strife
Keep strong, keep loving, keep living with joy
Remember me … your friend, your boy.

‘From son to his loving Mother’ by Anthony’s dad for his wife Nicola who uses Anthony’s favourite T-shirt as her pillow case.

Day 928

Metamorphosis

When something like this happens, it changes who you are and how you live your life. Your alignment with the universe shifts and you transform into an avatar of your former self. There are some similarities but huge differences.

I can’t remember what I used to be like.

Large swathes of my mental canvas have been rendered blank. Maybe it’s a defence mechanism. Maybe it’s the accelerated ageing process. Maybe shock and grief have gobbled up millions of my grey cells. Maybe part of my brain has mulched into pulp.

Whole new plantations have made an appearance in this barren space. I feel like I am going mad about MAD – making a difference. Writing was a miniscule and secretive part of my life but now it claims a lot of territory. I used to spend a lot of time and energy on my job. Now it takes up only a small part of my time. My job used to be satisfying and pleasurable. Now it sits in the back-ground. I find fulfilment in writing, connecting with people and volunteering my time to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Keeping Saagar alive through sharing his story seems like the most meaningful thing to do. Repeating his story as many times as it takes, to change things that need to change is of paramount importance.

Living in gratitude is the only way to live.

Last week I wrote this article sitting at the dining table in my parent’s house with the intention to mark the Mental Health Awareness week. Thankfully Huffington post published it today.

Thirty months on:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sangeeta-mahajan/thirty-months-on_b_16412078.html

 

Day 923

The idea of this blog was conceived in a state of utter shock and numbness. All I knew was that no one should suffer alone. I didn’t want anyone to experience the pain that was in me.  All I wanted was to immortalise Saagar. I wanted to continue having him in my life on a daily basis. This blog was and is, my sacred time with my son. On some days it’s my life jacket. On others it’s a luminous shrine or a punch bag, a podium with a loud speaker or an art gallery, a story-telling exercise or a tear-soaked handkerchief, a rant or a vent.

Every week I hear back from people who have been touched by Saagar’s story.

Message from a Mum:

“I don’t know you my dear but I have to say your son is so beautiful and he is watching you from heavens and being happy that you are able to save so my kids by opening up …..virtual hugs from a mom who is dealing with the same disease your son fought i was able to hug my daughter today as i knew more what she is dealing with because of you rather than getting frustrated with her ……..thanks from the bottom of my heart for correcting me in dealing with this disease.”

Message from a lovely young lady:

“Hi S. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. I just wanted to say that when we met last summer and we had an emotional conversation about Saagar and life in general. Something definitely struck a chord with me. I’ve spent my whole life since I was a child, running away from my mental health issues. I had a complete breakdown shortly after seeing you. I’ve just been discharged from the Home Treatment team after a very difficult period. I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and am on the waiting list to receive the right therapy. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you because I think if I hadn’t had that conversation with you I wouldn’t have been able to open up to my family and ask for the help I desperately needed. I’ve been wanting to message you for a while but it’s taken me some time to accept that I have a mental disorder. I read your blog all the time  and it’s inspired me to write my own about my own thoughts and experiences. Thank you for the amazing work you are doing to raise mental health awareness. Sorry about the mammoth text. I hope you are well and your yoga retreat plans are going well. Love, Z. x”

(Z’s blog: http://notasimplemind.wordpress.com)

Thank you! We are together. Never alone.