Daily Archives: November 9, 2013

(S)he’s Been Away

It’s been a month or so, for those of you who follow these ramblings on a regular basis, since I last bothered you with my wisdom on two wheels. Too busy clocking up autumnal miles in the Sussex countryside as the changing colours make me look up from my handlebars and take it all in?


All this time I have only once been seen out in my bike tights. I’ve only been out on local trips clocking up a couple of miles here and there, and what’s more I haven’t bothered to check why my bike computer has decided to blank me this whole time, either.

Warning: Self Pitying Moan Approaching….

Did any of you wonder why? If you did, no one said anything to me about it. That wasn’t how it was that first time I disappeared from my usual haunts because I had vanished into a peat bog.

That was in the spring of 2001. I had been dagnosed with depression and off work for I forget how long – a while, anyhow. Enough for it to have been more than the flu, that’s for sure. I’d been running a mental health day centre at the time. No, really.  I had immediately told my colleagues. In fact I had insisted on going into work (it was a Health and Safety Training Day which, I recall, had included sinister references to the dangers of using the coffee machine in the corridor). I think that my team were surprised, even a little shocked, but it felt important for me to tell them. Did I want to reassure them that I’d be back? Or me, that this thing was not so serious?

My return to work was, as these things tend to be in my experience, a somewhat damp affair. Coming back to a place where – I had come to realise while I had been away, trying out various antidepressants – was, well, a place I had no business working (let alone being in charge). I had expected people - who had been a whole lot sicker than me - to actually turn up fully dressed and with something sensible to say about current affairs (we provided a selection of daily papers for the punters). Side effects? Well one slobbering, word – slurring side effect of my return to work was to realise with all the clarity of someone on 200 mgs of Sulpride (some of them, not me), that I had had absolutely no idea about mental illness, its symptoms or the impact it has on, well, anyone.

The moment I remember most clearly was when one of the people who used the service asked me what had been the matter that I had been away so long. Without missing a beat I replied, ‘my probation officer said it would be alright to come back…’ I relished the moment of shock and delight on her face as she registered what a story this was to share at the day centre lunch later that day. I gave it a moment and winked at her, and saw all her goggle – eyed interest evaporate.

These days some people think that I’m on a bit of a mission to tell anyone who will listen about my moods and mental health in general. It’s not just part of my role as a Peer Supporter where it’s my job to share my experiences with fellow travellers in order to promote recovery, fuller, more meaningful lives, but a kind of soundtrack playing in the background.

I’ve taken the title of this edition from a film that is worth watching if you have a spare 1 hour 42 minutes.


The Tollund Man

Some day I will go to Aarhus

To see his peat-brown head,

The mild pods of his eye-lids,

His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by

Where they dug him out,

His last gruel of winter seeds

Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for

The cap, noose and girdle,

I will stand a long time.

Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him

And opened her fen,

Those dark juices working

Him to a saint’s kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters’

Honeycombed workings.

Now his stained face Reposes at Aarhus.

I could risk blasphemy,

Consecrate the cauldron bog

Our holy ground and pray

Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed

Flesh of labourers,

Stockinged corpses

Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth

Flecking the sleepers

Of four young brothers, trailed

For miles along the lines.
Something of his sad freedom

As he rode the tumbril

Should come to me, driving,

Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,

Watching the pointing hands

Of country people,

Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland

In the old man-killing parishes

I will feel lost, Unhappy and at home

Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

Ominous Dreams

I don’t think my  Life In Turmoil dreams would give Carl Jung  a run for his money, although I would dearly love to call the old man up and ask his opinion.

The first to make its appearance is usually the tornado.  I spent most of my childhood years, and many of my mid-life years, living in Tornado Alley: Ohio, southern Michigan, Illinois–where tornados were a very real reality.  Many spring and early summer days we  anxiously watched the skies, and went to bed not knowing whether we would still be there in the morning.

I was nine or ten when the super-tornado swept most of Toledo, Ohio, into Lake Ontario.  I heard it roar over our house.  I was listening to a record at the time.  The turntable growled to a stop.  The dog ran under the couch.  The lights went out.  The roar and hissing in the dark sounded like the sky had broken loose from the firmament and was racing off on its own course, leaving the rest of the world behind.

And then just as suddenly, the noise stopped, the lights went on, the turntable started up, the record took up where it had left off, the dog came out from under the couch and sat licking herself on the rug, and everything was normal again.  We didn’t know what it was.

The next morning, my mother and I loaded up the trunk with the laundry and went to the laundromat.  It wasn’t there.  All that remained of it was the concrete slab it had stood on.  It was two miles from our house.

There are many more tornado stories, but you get the idea.  For me, the tornado symbolizes existential impermanence.  Of course the nature of our existence is impermanence itself.  Nothing about this life is permanent.  Everything is in a constant state of decay.  The human condition is a continuous fight with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Entropic Force that demands that the sum total of creation should find itself in a permanent state of impermanence.

Whenever the Tornado Dream appears, I know that my subconscious has Had Enough of wherever my present state of chaos has spun me. My Inner Self wants to get off the merry-go-round and live a nice stable predictable life, with a real bathroom and no bed bugs.  Or at least no fears that bed bugs follow me wherever I go, which what has happened ever since my Bed Bug Crisis last summer.  The fear, I mean.  I hope.

Hate to disappoint you again, Inner Self, but this particular brand of chaos ain’t goin’ anywhere soon.  We am Stuck Here until the last dog is hung.

The Second Archetypal Dream is the one where I am in my own dwelling (which is not necessarily a house, as is currently the case, as I am dwelling in what used to be my father’s ceramics studio–basically a pole barn), and I am looking for something.  I know where it is, but the problem is that the building keeps changing its configuration.  A room will become a closet (I have neither, but never mind), the bathroom is suddenly a parlour; there is a hall lined with closed doors where there was none before.  I open a door and find a Victorian bedroom with an old lady sitting up in bed reading.  She does not look up.  I try to hold onto myself and not be overcome by the wave of panic that is building like a tsunami.  Usually I wake from those dreams hyperventilating, drenched with cold sweat.

Last night I had a New Archetypal Dream, building and expanding on the Second.  In it, I had rented a small apartment at the top of an old apartment house, somewhere in the Middle East–it was hard to tell where.  The buildings shared some similarities with Pueblo-style architecture in that they had levels piled upon each other, many passages and nooks and crannies.  Very complex.

I had one of my late beloved German Shepherds with me.  We went out for a walk, and marveled at the denseness of the population, the many and varied apartment buildings that seemed to hold people of many different ethnic groups.

As we walked we began to get thirsty in the desert sun, and headed toward our own dwelling, only to find that we were in a part of town that we had never seen before.  There didn’t seem to be any order to the positions of the buildings: no North, South, East, West.  We were completely disoriented.  The neighborhood seemed to have expanded into a sprawling city, and we were walking in the baking noonday sun around the edges of the city, as if we had been pushed out by some centrifugal force.

Dog ran off, to find our apartment, I presumed, and to come back and get me.  My dogs were Search-and-Rescue trained, and that’s what they would have done, if I sent them.  I wandered in the direction of Dog, thinking he must know something.

Eventually he came back to me, panting, but I knew from his look that he had not found.  The sun was lower in the sky, though, so at least we had a sense of direction.  We headed North, not because we really expected to find anything, but because North is a good direction to go when you are lost.

I could not remember the name of our street, or the name of the apartment complex, or anything.  I suddenly remembered I had a cell phone, and was hoping I had the landlady’s number on it, even though she spoke I language that I didn’t; perhaps I might have noted the address in the contacts.

But alas, the phone had changed into a prism made of glass!  There was something written there, embedded in it, but I couldn’t make it out.

At last Dog and I found our way to an apartment.  It wasn’t ours, but there were some young people inside, and they were speaking in English!  The door opened and someone came out.  We slipped in, uninvited.  My chief concern was to get some water for Dog, who was panting hard.

There were several young hippie types in the apartment, but they didn’t seem to see us at all.  It was as if we didn’t exist.  So I found a bowl and got Dog some water but he wouldn’t drink it.  I was distressed about that.

And then we were outside on a patio behind the building, and there was an Arab lady hanging out clothes in the sunset.  I went up to her and greeted her in Arabic, but she also did not seem to know I was there.

Dreams Two and Three are about displacement on top of impermanence: not only is my world in immanent danger of total destruction, but now there is no place to go, no place to be.  What seemed real is unreal.  The solid has become fluid: the world is quicksand beneath my feet.  Just as solid ground becomes liquified during an earthquake, so has my life become now: no solid ground to put my foot on, because as soon as I take a step everything changes.

Not only that, but my person-hood has been erased.  Nobody sees me.  It’s as if I have become a ghost, wandering around looking for my resting place and finding none; seeking relationship, yet invisible to others.

And even my guide dog becomes blind in the glare of the shifting sands.

Meh, Feh, Bleh!

Allo lovely folk! Alas, nothing going on; in this case, no news is probably good news. Oh, I still feel puny and miserable and am doing my best to take each day one day at a time. The month is very slow going at this pace, but… *sighs* One must do what they must to survive unpleasant things with the best of grace and pleasantness. At least I can say, nine weeks down, and hopefully ‘only’ three more of this nausea hell!

Past that, I’m amused/bemused by the changes to my body already. I’ve heard that one starts showing much faster in their latter pregnancies, but I’m already sticking out a mile. My belly button is already turning to an outie — already! I’m sure I’ve got some growing out to do still, but still… much more of it and I’m going to need someone to load me into a cart to get me around. *giggles*

So in short, my mood is still holding up in spite of being physically miserable. I can probably thank my sleep finally evening out for that. I’m sure it’ll get worse again as the pregnancy progresses, but for now… just being grateful for the bits that are good.


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Thursday: Tired and Triumphant

It has now been over two years since I found the two lumps in my breast.  For those who haven’t read my blog before now, the lumps were cancerous. Many ordeals later, the battle has been won.  I lost a breast and a few lymph nodes, but kept my life.  Not a bad trade-off in […]