So yesterday I wrote about the metaphor of the hole you fall down. So today I will talk about what being in the hole was like. It was strange. It was disturbing and comforting at the same time, but not in equal measure on any given day or period of time. At the bottom of the hole was my stay in hospital. But I don’t mean that it was the bottom in terms of what I had been, or would become, it was just the point where I ended up in the hole. In many ways it was a relief, I knew that I needed to be there (I will talk about the reasons why in a later post). While I was yet to realise the extent of the defences that I had built, I was vaguely aware that whatever I had built had turned in on itself. I had projected and managed facets of me that I presented in an attempt to inwardly manage myself.
Outwardly I was successful, inwardly I felt a fraud, waiting to be uncovered. For several years any time my boss asked to see me I thought that would be the moment I was uncovered, a version of the emperor’s new clothes. In the hospital I was in an environment where I could begin to let that go. I was lucky, Gill could easily come and see me every day. I know that she would have done that however difficult access might have been. In this country ease of access of informal support structures for patients hospitalised with mental health issues seems to be a very poor and overlooked relation in the concept of mental well being. I know they are a key part of any individuals recovery.
There was no expectation of what I should or who I should be in the hospital, I was the English bloke who spoke bad French. My days had no applied structure outside of an hour with a psychiatrist, any other activity was entirely up to me. Most days I would go down to the art room and just explore, messing about, playing. If I chose there was a teacher who would work with me but most days I was allowed to noodle on my own. Which is what I needed.
I now realise that while there were certain societal expectations/norms of who or what I should have been before falling in the hole. Many of those were in a large part manufactured/contrived or amplified by myself. If I think of each little issue that I chose to manage, rather than putting them in a row and having a steady low level of managing. I piled them on top of each other, building an ever higher barrier that rather than managing small issues turned them in to a major edifice to be maintained. As it got taller, the mental equivalent of gravity began to pull it apart and the energy needed to maintain it increased to a level that was no longer sustainable. It was this cycle of gravity and maintenance that was the momentum that pulled me towards the hole.
The other point about the hole is that because it allowed me to not be ‘me’ it had a level of comfort, which is sometimes why, when I could see the new road I still headed down the street with the hole.
Day 19 – 20 mins
Short, Slow and Steady – it is alarm, up and out by 6.25am. For the first time since June 2011 I have a salaried 9 – 5 day of work, then up to Keswick for the launch of a photography exhibition at the museum – so this is the closest to a perceived ‘normal’ day for a long time.
At 6.30am man’s dawn chorus is intermittent enough so that you can hear nature’s dawn chorus, which is uplifting. A short run, along the river, then behind Kirbie Kendal school a little loop round Heron Hill and back home via Nether Bridge. I am not at my best running this early but it is a good way of waking up and getting some fresh air before work.
View from Nether Bridge