I watch a paddle boarder skim up the sea-loch. She is travelling at one hell of a lick on an ebbing tide but I know her and she is experienced in such matters. She stands straight as a die, the salt surface flat and unruffled. I can’t see her smile but I just know there is a wide one on her pretty face. Balance. She has it, knows it, holds it. I find myself envying her, not for the paddle board thingy, but for her ability to balance. I have never been balanced, not like that. I am not saying I am clumsy because that wouldn’t be the truth. I am a dancer and know my feet, the ground beneath them, my space available, my pivot, my spin, or I used to. I don’t mean that sort of balance. I mean mental balance.
I know we have weeks for things, for awareness, for an alert that shows us, to a degree, how others are living, the others we might not think about much at other times, or, at least, not with a mindful engagement. Last week was Mental Health Week. My ears pricked up. I am all over mental health, being, as I am, essentially unhealthy in that arena and with a backlog life of working to control, manage and accept it. In my youth I saw people with obvious external evidence of mental compromise. So did you. But what I did not see were those who look just fine, are beautiful, kind, high functioning, holding together what looks like a normal life and who are really going through inner hell. Now I can see them, when they let me. Having noticed the PTSD in my own father, my father-in-law, my uncles, my mother, my aunts and a load of other relatives, myself included, I know how incredibly exhausting it is (and was for them) to maintain that ordinary life, the one that gets you out of bed, into clean clothes and down the stairs to live another day.
When I had the hand of Life always at my back, was the IT for absolutely everything inside a day, I paused not for thought on mental health, mine or anyone else’s. There was no time for pausing. It was go, go, go from the second my tired feet touched the floor and all the way up to the moment they finally lifted back into bed. Sleep was an exhausted one and not always refreshing. Days wove around me like ropes until I honestly believed I would drop strangle-dead half way through making soup. I remember driving down to collect children from school with an evening ahead of dinner for 16, gourmet, plus at least 10 for a kitchen meal plus children to bed, cocktails to pour, bright chatter and lift-light required from me, the hostess, the mother, the wife, the IT, and seriously considering driving on until I ran out land. Often. The inner strength of a human being extraordinaries me.
This day I walked a corridor. On the one side was exhaustion due to poor sleep (again) the tears like a rising wave behind my dry eyes, the feeling of failure, of alone-ness, of pointlessness and on the other side my always ready clean page on which I dutifully write what I am thankful for, what I did today, that sort of nonsense. Of course, it isn’t nonsense at all but it can feel like it sometimes. I do it anyway. I do it so that my demons won’t get me. What I really want is a lobotomy, even though I don’t. Some of us seem to be born with demons, or we readily pick them up as children. I am not good enough. I fail. I don’t deserve love and when it comes I push it away. I do things to make someone happy and when they thank me I brush them off. No matter how much I appear to succeed, I fail according to me. Whatever I start, I don’t finish. When I have the sudden inspiration to do something the demon comes in to remind me it will never work. These demons have big voices, are so believable, and it seems to me that no matter how many daily practices I employ, no matter how good the going can be for a while, they are just patiently waiting for me to get a bit tired, a bit down and in they come like a West End show I can’t not watch. (double negative, sorry Dad). Like today.
However, and the cheerleaders out there will be waiting for this, for me to present the positive even if I don’t really believe in it. I did achieve quite a few things. I played music (to drown out the demons). I welcomed the carpet fitters, cleaned up after them, re-assembled the bedroom, changed the sheets, potted 15 seedlings, walked the wee Popster, completed 3 more baby quilts, washed clothes, hung a few paintings, ironed 3 frocks, lugged wood, spoke to one of my lads, did some paperwork.
And I am thankful for quite a list. I forget my talents at times. I forget who I am and writing this list, even as the pen wiggles in my fingers and my eyes roll and I sigh the biggest sigh, I make myself write. I am thankful for:-
My singing voice (even if the song is what……resting just now.
My kids, my life, my friends (name them), my ability to cook (don’t feel like it much these days), my sight, strength, the way I can repair things others would throw away, my new carpets, the way I can pick out a tune on my piano with chords first time off, my gift of writing. Even my demons.
Because what I have come to realise is that strong demons are just one side of the coin. The other side is a sort of lift-light brilliance with no idea how or where to shine. They say it is not failure we fear most, but success. Although I am still working through what the heck that means, I am beginning to get it. I know I have a very high IQ. I also know you don’t want that. It is a lonely place and a place where confusion reigns. In a school environment it is just fine if you have a high IQ and behave yourself, but if you have that high IQ and rebel you become a monster. I was the latter.
I write this just in case there is some other beautiful, kind, high functioning humanoid who relates to demons and lift-light. I just know there are many, even those who would tell me they aren’t bright, aren’t this, aren’t that but, in some deep place, relate. I salute you. We have a great deal to offer the world but first our single task is to shapeshift from demon rule to lift-light rule. This is not simple. I have a counsellor, no, two counsellors because I know, as I know that I cannot take apart a tractor engine and reassemble it effectively, that I need help. I may always need help. It bothers me. I am 68 for goodness sake. I should know my way by now. After all, don’t all other 68 years olds, other 40 year olds, other 20 year olds, know their way? (They sure look like they do) However, the answer is an unequivocal NO. Just because others look like they know their way and appear completely happy with it, is one socking great delusion. They are just good actors. You are you, unique, as am I.
However if you, if I, are one of the ‘tapselteerie’ ones, then let us learn ourselves. We may have mental health issues, according to the world, be awkward around the rule book, feel lost in an inner silence, but maybe, if we can flip the coin, we can be the ones with vision who can fly over the ordinary, the limitations of life and be the ones who might, just might, see further that Debenhams closing or whether or not the one way system in Edinburgh is causing everyone to be late home for their tea.