§ The night a compassionate strength, vastly superior to my own, reached into me §
As my family and some few of my friends know, I suffered in my early twenties from periodic intense depressions.
I lost my opportunities, so carefully planned and worked for, for entering higher education. I lost contact with my peers, who were starting university courses, establishing careers and founding nuclear families.
I lost my independence. And to a large extent, I became institutionalised during two long stays in hospitals, such that it later became necessary for me to be taught and to re-learn some of the most elementary routines of self-care.
I passed a couple of years in shadowland, on many medications, and finally here is where this story begins. I am being cared for by a good family friend, at her home with her young adult children.
I had been, for I don’t know how many weeks, living in one small bedroom with my racing thoughts. They weren’t overwhelming or unfriendly thoughts, just an unhappy separation, a disconnect from objective reality.
I surfed stories of mystery and imagination, locating myself like a Robinson Crusoe on the inside of my own island populated by innocent fantasies.
I experienced a phase-change, a transition, which professionals call Spontaneous Remission. I refer to it as my first Epiphany.
It is a documented fact. At around the end of their twenties, some fortunate few patients experience this automatic correction or re-balancing.
I had consistently followed whatever medication regimes I was prescribed. I may well have been taking a broad spectrum of psycho-active drugs which were not relevant to my condition for long periods at a time.
When the correct new medication was found, it was Lithium Carbonate. This is an inorganic molecular compound, related quite closely to that simple inorganic commonly known as Chalk!
I dutifully accepted to take this one as I always had all the others. So much the better for me, as the events that followed were primed to take their course.
My intense experience of this event in 1969 is clear in my memory many tens of years after. It’s a short story in itself.
It happened quite literally overnight.
It coincided with and was induced by a few hours of almost unbearably intense physical pain. There was nothing other-worldly about it. It originated purely from elementary causes in my soma.
During the night-time hours of this traumatic physical trial, I began to pray as hard as I knew how, because it was not like anything else I could remember, not even acute appendicitis twenty years earlier, nor could I understand it.
As the muscle spasms strengthened, it occurred to me I could not survive them at this rate. I began to prepare for when I might pass out and not wake up.
I bit down hard on my pillow, because I didn’t want my teeth to smash.
Irrational as it seems to me still today, I also did nothing to alert the others sleeping in the house. This was my time. My time has come.
The prayer I repeated was, “I offer my soul to you, my God. Do with me as you see fit.”
Later I learned that what I was enduring was not life threatening, but in the night hours, and after spending so long out of reach of rational thought, I did think I was most likely going to die.
I am perfectly sure my plea to God for mercy and my offering myself up to God to do with me as He wished was central to my realignment into objective reality.
Even as I grated the prayer through my throat, even though I knew they were the right words and that no other choice of words would do, some part of me felt slightly self-conscious.
Perhaps this is how objective normality, with its attendant banality, was beginning to return?
In the grey light of morning,I woke up. I was pain-free.
I remember it in detail with crystal clarity, I was on my own wavelength again and fully aware of the frames of reference outside of myself.
In other words, for the first time in weeks, I felt once more completely in touch with all of myself and with my thoughts, with ‘normality’ and with me in my own quiet undramatic place in it.
I got out of bed for first time in ages and had a wash and a brush up. I even took a pair of nail scissors to my straggly beard and my unkempt hairline.
Then the unshaven hairy guy they had jokingly referred to in front of me as the Wild Man of Borneo, turned up in his dressing gown, to join the others and take his place, a bit sheepishly but with his usual good humour, at breakfast.
Not a word was said out of place. I noticed a few nervous incredulous and amused smiles exchanged around the table.
I never descended into this illness, or anything remotely like it again. I had travelled into, through and out of a series of Manic Depressive, or Bipolar episodes over three years.
Now I swiftly started on my return to the world of work and personal independence.
Mine’s a lifetime of living in gratitude.
Gratitude for the love and trust of my Father and Mother, my family, my friends, those many people who looked after me when I could not.
And I return again and again, with an awed sense of gratitude, to be in the presence of a compassionate strength, vastly superior to my own, which reached out to me, held me, cleansed me through and through on that night of dread and dark all on my own
~ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life.
Amen Amen Amen