Archive for November 2012

Ghost from the Past

November 22, 2012

Thank Friendship for Hopefulness

Gosh – Now this is a find that traces the temporal flow of my mental health undulations. I have been feeling so empowered and ‘in the flow’ in recent months, including the period of my intensest grief following my dear father’s recent death, that this evidence of self doubt and ‘hope fading fast’ mood had entirely been eclipsed from my being and memory. It is still eclipsed from my sense of emotional memory, including the question in my mind as to whether at the time I may have published an entry similar to it, but still – here is ‘my (depressed) state on July 1st 2012’. Luckily hidden, I believe, from my father when Michael and I and other members of my family arrived to celebrate his 82nd Birthday on July 14th. An achievement less successful at the University of Birmingham I suspect.

It’s odd, memory – if reminded as I was today by recovering a saved draft for this blog, I do remember that I was pretty low for several months this year – so horribly low, in fact, that I just didn’t want to start the advanced research course I’d signed up for because it would mean leaving my house (‘cave’) and seeing other people (‘being seen by people’). I felt ugly, dirty, unkempt, stupid, empty, and somehow ‘infectious’ in a very bad way. It was impossible for me to believe, in my heart of hearts, that others would fail to perceive me as I was perceiving myself.

When I’m not suffering from depression I simply don’t recognise these perceptions of me as a ‘picture of me’ as I am. I see people from time to time who kind of do ‘look like’ those ‘portraits’ – usually they are homeless and unhappy people, or very ill and food deprived people, or very ill and overfed people – either way, severely neglected people – toward whom my feelings of compassion and pity are raised but about whom, also, feelings of some fear and discomfort are raised.

What I do notice, however, is that as I spiral downwards into these long and annihalating depressions I begin to assume the characteristics of the associations I perceive myself to ‘have’ – I become dirtier, more unkempt, untidier, more disorganised, less focussed, less able to concentrate, less able to remember or mentally process even the simplest thought or utterance. It gets to the stage, usually, where I can hardly string a sentence together of the most functional kind, before the spiral finally stabilises at that paralysed low for a few weeks, or months, before finally beginning to spiral upwards to ‘normality’ again.

Maybe, the associations I hold with my internal depressions are bound up with neglect and dirt and ugliness to such a degree that unconsciously I create myself as the very embodiment of them. Perhaps that is the case with others less luckily held by friends and family and one highly skilful psychotherapist.

I begin to wonder if my need is to separate my experience of these ‘qualities’ from persons. Especially from the person of me. If I cease to see myself or anyone else as ‘possessing’ ‘dirt and neglect’ perhaps I will cease to fear or be disgusted AND also cease to pity and have compassion for signs of it. Either reaction is a manner of embracing it and, as it happens, I don’t enjoy dirt and neglect so I really don’t want to carry on embracing it in any way.

I may choose to allow it to some degree – I DO choose to allow it in two rooms of my house, my front and back garden and in the loft of my house at the moment, for example. Although, as it happens, during the past year (in fact – three or four months) moves have been afoot to alter even this degree of neglect.

Nevertheless – as a home maker and maintainer I do leave a lot to be desired and, I must confess, as a woman in our culture I am more than averagely self-neglecting: I forget to file my nails; I can seldom remember where my moisturiser is, let alone wear it; I frequently leave my home and jump into the car before brushing my hair or applying make-up and not infrequently have to use my fingers as a brush and a slap to the cheeks as make-up. Were I more attentive to the decorative requirements of humanity I would no doubt apply more of my time to these immensely important matters. But I always wash and I always brush my teeth and I never leave home without clothes on – so I kind of meet my own lowish standards of ‘clean and cared for’. Ditto in relation to maintaining my home. It may be a standard that Ikea fanatics would simply die on seeing as distinct to die to see, but it’s a standard that I merely live to rise above.

And – if anyone has read this far – why thank you, for you have accompanied me, post-haste, along my journey of self-therapy ‘from chronic and severe depression to nirvana [concept not band]’: May you live a long, joyful and prosperous life.. and so may I. 😉

Now for the precipitating ghost promised at the beginning:-

July 1st 2012.


The project for Renata Aazman weighs upon me. I can’t have the draft I sent her published because her criticisms were spot on and I don’t want to publish so ungracefully and one sidedly. I don’t want to be in battle. I need to lay down arms. I need to move on. Yet I need to be an author in this (her) anthology – I need to be in a place where that is appropriate, not in a place I will later regret.

Anyhow, that’s not why I came back to this page. I returned with an amused recognition about my creative blocks. May God forgive me for them – and that’s not blasphemy that’s genuine prayer. Nonetheless, the prayer takes a light hearted turn.


Diagnosis Hopelessness

I’m so powerless it exhausts me.
The grass grows despite me,
Taller every day,
Waving at my cares, carelessly
As if to force me to see
It’s free.

The honeysuckle on the lilac tree
Is strangling its delicate flowers;
The tree will soon be dead,
So strong is that persistent honeysuckle;
So weak the perishing lilac tree.

You’d think that I could overcome
that little piece of grass, but its an army
advancing and looming
like the honeysuckle on the tree,
And thus I have no possible chance
Of saving the beleaguered lilac tree.

Fear not, however. I have prowess
In relation to the sunshine
Who smiles at all who venture out
And touches all their hearts:
I stay in resolutely:
It has no power over me;

I am fear and shadow,
How can the sun reach me?

Dancing in His Grave

November 11, 2012

Dad’s safest where he is just now…

This entry should be read to the song ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong.

My lovely Dad must be dancing in his grave. It’s what he did on top of the soil so presumably he’ll be doing it even more now. He won’t be feeling too hot or too cold, he won’t be feeling too happy or too sad, he won’t be feeling too amused or too enraged – he’ll be as serene as ever he could have felt in this life. That’s a good thought, a good feeling – he’s past pain and past pleasure – a state of utter peace.

Those of us with breath in our lungs and blood running through our veins can’t genuinely imagine this state. After all, our very capacity to experience ourselves as living is dependent on this constant state of flux between various potentially opposite extremes. I can’t offer to throw light onto the matter either, because I don’t remember anything until I was about two so I’m blind and deaf to the eternity I was in before I was conceived and presumably that’s the same space he’s returned to now.

Of course in another sense he hasn’t because a fair few people remember him and hold him in their minds eye and in their heart. I hold him in both, and let’s face it, I hold him in the length of my arms and legs; my addictive love of music; my temptation to hedonism and my sense of humour. Oh – and in my insistence on personalising anything and everything that comes within my sphere. Oh – and one more thing he gave me – a ‘bloody good brain’. He had a very high opinion of his own, so when about a year ago he conceded that I’d inherited one of my own – well, I knew I’d ‘arrived’ 😉

I want to check with St Andrews if there are any audio or video recordings of my dad performing to his peers and carers. It would hardly assist me to show the world what a gifted man my father was but it would warm my heart to see anything to keep him alive to me.

For the time being I have his order of service card, young soulful photo at the front, heart warming image of his birthday party in July on the back. To me he’ll never die.

Which is why I’ve only sobbed about his concrete death a few times so far. I feel like he’s still with me somehow, so most of the time I feel he’s actually closer to hand than he’d been for some years. Particularly because during the last year for some reason I felt on and off that he was ‘coming back’ mentally, though of course physically he was getting frailer by the minute.

During my last seven hours with him, well, it was more special than I can say. I didn’t properly realise that he was approaching his last breath so rapidly, I thought I had a few months left with him. He, I think, had a different more accurate sense of matters. And so he was an unadulterated delight throughout and we smiled and laughed almost non stop for the whole time.

And there was a special moment when he looked into my eyes and said something that healed a thousand years of pain within me. What he said was ‘You look beautiful today Janie; I’ve never seen you look so beautiful’. It was a father’s flattery that you could discount but he and I knew just how profoundly it would get under my skin in a good way. I wasn’t ‘ugly duckling’ any more. And recently I’d stopped dying my hair dark and red so it was light and blonde like my sister’s, so I felt like he was looking into my eyes to see both of us. I hoped he was because I know how dearly he’d have treasured seeing both of us there. I’m sure he was.

Oh what a lovely outlet this is. To speak what’s in my heart in an environment stripped of people who intrude to corrupt it.

Clear the air again with a rendition of Louis Armstrong and ‘What a Wonderful World’.

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