Despair is the necessary prerequisite for the next degree of consciousness. That’s absolutely a prerequisite Ram Dass
It’s getting on for 6am and I’m still just lying here, awake. Dark thoughts swirl around the periphery of my chemical-tinged, completely wired consciousness that I’m not sure is even dented by the muscle relaxants, the beta-blockers, the pretty herbal spray I basically broke open and drank whole a couple of hours ago. Didn’t even touch the sides.
I think of Sally Brampton and how it came around again for her and how she walked into the sea in the small hours of a Spring morning, aged 60.
There can be no complacency when it comes to this shit: the mind can be an insidious and T1000-like adversary. Waiting to strike at any moment, like Sartre said with The Nausea, like Matt Haig says about the ‘unseen tightropes’ we walk, ready to slip at any second and eyeball the existential horrors that only lie dormant in our minds. What if this is me now forever? I know I’ve survived this before but each time the terror seems to be bigger, more insurmountable, and my mind layers terror on top of terror about the fucking terror itself.
I’ve been reading Reasons to Stay Alive with the obvious motive of surviving, but also… empathy. Although Matt Haig says in the book that October is the saddest month and I disagree because for me it’s November, the saddest month. It’s the month my brother left forever and he was 35 and now I’m 35 and I’m terrified I’m not going to make it either.
I didn’t experience anxiety like this before he left – I’ve always considered myself more of a depressive, which I almost long for now because at least then I’d get some fucking sleep. But these labels, these words, they mean shit-all to me really. Depression, Anxiety, Psychosis, Altered Experience Disorder (isn’t that cooler than ‘Schizophrenia’?): just terms we’ve imposed on what is essentially being a human.
I remember this when the me I consider my Real Me, the higher self spoken about in spiritual realms, makes itself felt from time to time like a chink of light beaming through a dark, cobwebby cave like the place where that guy played by James Franco got stuck for 127 Hours and hacked off his own arm to get free.
I know I can do this, survive this. I know the anxiety, the heart-pumping, sleep-destroying, stomach-churning anxiety, is a symptom of my higher self nudging me to move forward in some way, shed something that is old and no longer necessary. But I know this means change, and that makes my heart pump even more, my stomach churn madly and my mind run riot to the point that I get my partner to call an ambulance on the morning of the fourth night in a row I haven’t slept a wink and I’m petrified that I’m going to start hearing voices like my brother did and I want to die but not really die, more like just stop being awake so that I can rest. Mind, body, spirit… if we don’t rest them the result is this, madness.
I’ll tell you about the ambulance another time: you’ll likely feel sad about the state of mental health services, in my borough at least, but a bit happier about the legends cruising around London’s roads in the nee-nors looking for lives to save.
What I do want to share at this juncture is that there is a lot to be said for movement when it comes to this mind-terror shit, whatever your movement of choice: running, shuffling, punching a punch bag/if you don’t have a punch bag just punching the air in front of you while breathing deeply into your stomach and making the exhale as long as you can… Channel your inner Balboa! #montage
Move the energy from your mind with its clusterfuck of thoughts that provoke all kinds of messy emotions crashing over you like stabby waves; move it through and out of your body. This human shell your consciousness is inhabiting while it does what it needs to do on the planet.
I promise that this will help, in even the smallest possible way. For these moments of reprieve are what keep us going during the mind-terror, they remind us peace is possible, accessible. It’s THERE, always there somewhere inside you which becomes difficult to access because the mind is a c**t but you can forgive the c**t and let it exist as it will during your human life in a way that’s detached, or at least detachable, so you can get on with your shit.
Matt Haig is right to invoke the Lotus flower towards the end of Reasons To Stay Alive; the Buddhists know their onions. A flower that grows out of the mud and crap at the bottom of the river to rise up and bloom out of the water before dying… that’s life right there.