Month: September 2015

Stars, in your multitudes

Stars, in your multitudes, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness

With order and light, you are the sentinels, silent and strong, keeping watch in the night,

You know your place in the sky, you hold your course and your aim

And each in your season returns and returns and is always the same….

Repeating the lyrics of songs in my head was one of the distraction techniques I was told to try early on in my diagnosis, when I was in a highly anxious state.  Actually, it doesn’t work very well for me in episodes of the most heightened emotion but it is something that can distract me from repetitive cyclical thoughts, if I persist.  I think I learned to do it myself as a child, actually.  I do relatively often get songs “stuck in my head” and when I find one I like, listen to it over and over before moving on to another.  (This also results in certain songs becoming associated very strongly to particular times in my life, even years later.  There is some music that I like but just can’t listen to anymore because it is too strongly associated with journeys to visit my mother in the hospital 5 or 15 years ago.)

Anyhow, lately it’s been songs from Les Miserables in my head.  “Stars” in particular came to mind as I reflected on one night a few weeks ago.

Granted the song is largely a bitter and very sad quest for an ideal of justice to the exclusion of all else, yet it is in parts beautiful all the same.

I was walking home after a very long day at work and my mind just would not stop and thoughts were spiralling painfully and I was exhausted.  Shortly before home, I cross a large park and that day I was surprised how dark it was, autumn evenings fast drawing in this time of September.  Just that little removal from the street lights and there was an inky darkness and a hush of the quiet night.

I looked up and happened to see The Plough almost right above me, then I stopped and my eyes jumped from star to star, “scarce to be counted” as the song says.  “And each in your season returns and returns and is ever the same…” I remembered watching the stars as a child with fascination.  Watching them through the darkness – or equally, the lights of distant towns on the skyline as we drove in the car – somehow calmed and reassured me and I would look intently, needing them somehow, especially on drives to and from the hospital, or when signs were multiplying that the next crisis was coming.

It was the same now.  Watching, stopping, my mind too began to stop and still.  The stars told me calmly of the world outside, of the beautiful and good, of constancy, patterns, hoping.  I was enveloped in something much bigger than myself.  The turmoil and spirals in my head spun less loudly.

Javert sang to the stars for constancy, clinging to something – justice, retribution, the quest he thought he must never lay down til, by himself, he brought order and vengeance.

I cling to something too, when I go outside and stare up at the stars.  But I cling to their brightness, steadiness and the order and beauty they already show, that is far beyond any work or thought of mine.

When the panic rises and terror comes, if I can form any rational thought I try to tell myself to go outside, break the spiralling thoughts and noise by just stepping outside into something else.  And I look up and surrender and sometimes, just for a moment, it is quiet.

Here’s “Stars” sung by Philip Quast in the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis, at the Royal Albert Hall:

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Some thoughts on what this can and cannot be

This is a post that I think that I will revisit and update from time to time.  I’ve been wondering how to make this hang together but in the end, I decided to post as several separate thoughts, on what this blog can and cannot offer or be.  I hope this doesn’t come over strangely. These things seem important to express about what I’ll write here, though all quite different from each other.

So…

I am not a medical professional.  I am writing from my own thoughts and experiences of living with several mental (and physical) health diagnoses, including borderline personality disorder, and of caring for / about loved ones with mental health difficulties.  What I post is my personal experience and opinion only.  If I describe certain experiences, thoughts, behaviours, I am doing just that – describing them, not advocating them.  I may discuss what has and has not helped me, and again this is very personal – I do not intend this as direction to anyone else or to say that such-and-such an approach will help everyone.  This path has taught me clearly that no two people’s experiences and needs are alike no matter how similar they may seem on the surface.

I hope that what I write may help someone.  I hope that if this blog generates discussion (for example, in the comments) this will also help people.  But because I am not a health professional, this cannot be a place to find treatment for particular problems and particularly not emergency assistance in a crisis.  I hope that anyone who is visiting this site who is struggling or feeling unwell or in crisis will also be able to access face to face medical support.  Having said this, I may put together a separate post containing resources and contact details of organisations and support networks that I have found helpful in times of crisis – or indeed, at any stage of living with mental ill health.

Please bear in mind that information you share in comments and posts on here is publicly visible.  For this reason I myself will be very cautious about disclosing personally identifiable information and specifically will not divulge my full name, where I live or the specific service within which I receive treatment.  I would encourage everyone who posts here to be similarly cautious.  Having said this, I will always keep confidential anything that you tell me in a message, the one exception to this being if I believe that you are about to harm yourself or another.

The frequency with which I update this blog will vary.  This is for many reasons, including my varying mental and physical health and the fact that I work part time in a stressful job.  This also means that I may not always be able to respond to every message or post, or may not be able to respond promptly.  If I do not respond promptly, please do not feel that I am choosing to ignore you.  That is not my intention and I am very thankful for any posts, messages etc that anyone wishes to take the time to share, and I value these contributions.  I may simply not be able to reply right now.  I ask for your patience and understanding and I am sorry that I may not be able to reply as quickly as I would like to.

I do not intend this blog to have a political or religious slant.  However, I may discuss social, political and religious issues as they become relevant in particular posts.  Again, these are my personal experiences and personal beliefs.