I had a discussion recently with an intriguing person I met in cyberspace – all about reality. About slipping in and out of it and what this feels like. About what reality is anyway. (Check out Willem de Kooning for some thought provoking quotes…)
Of course, I got to thinking, and my thoughts went like this:
• Can we actually slip ‘out of’ reality at all? Surely, wherever we are at the moment – physically or in our headspace – is actually our reality?
• If where we are in our headspace is totally weird, doesn’t this just make reality more interesting?
• If this freaks us out, isn’t it time we started changing our idea of what reality is, or challenging others in their limited concepts of reality?
I’ve spent a lot of time around people with mental health problems and believe we should learn from the experience of those who hear voices. This applies not just to people with labels like schizophrenia, but to people with some types of dementia, too. Although the voices can sometimes be very frightening and aggressive, they are often positive and accessible. A bit like me finding I coped much better with my erratic mental health once I simply accepted that this is part of me, many people who hear voices find the solution is to make friends with the voices, rather than trying to banish them through therapy and drugs. The voices are part of reality, too.
Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly low day, I try to focus my reality in to an exact moment of time. The instant I let my reality widen out I think about the things I ‘should’ be doing but that I can’t face at all. Instead, I try to find the ‘now’ reality: the raindrop running down the window pane, the tiny buddleia seedling that has found life amidst the cracks in the mortar of a wall, the sound of the wind and the feel of it on my face.
Living with a reality that keeps creeping into the surreal, or that is not acceptable to the society we live in, is a hard thing. Occasionally I look at my lovely assortment of friends and wonder at the proportion of us who has some kind of experience like this. But then it is logical, given my own experiences, that we have found each other and formed our own community of support.
Connections through mutual experience are really important. Take, for instance, the time I was low and could not work out how to handle myself, so I sent out a tweet into the twittersphere saying:
‘Down, down, down today. Lovely friends but just can’t shake the blues. Made scones as therapy and avoiding computer.’
I had decided on the strategy of baking and avoiding digital stuff, but was finding it hard to follow my own advice. Miraculously (Or not? Some things are just given to us when we need them), within seconds a tweet pinged back:
‘Scones sound great! I’m feeling the same and must go and treat myself now.’
I replied: ‘Hope you find something treatworthy enough for you – remember you are precious’, with the response: ‘Thank you Anne. That really made me smile ☺’
I can’t begin to tell you how important this exchange was to me at the time. My reality collided for an instant with a complete stranger ‘out there’ in the ether. I have since started following my responder’s wonderful and touching blog, also about living with mental health problems. Check it out at:
So what is my reality now? Well, actually it is sitting on a beautiful stone bench in the sunshine surrounded by the wind and scent of herbs in the garden at Hardwick Hall.
Deciding to have a ‘Pamper’ afternoon for friends with wonderful Weleda products and reflexology (see my ‘Brain Libraries’ post for details of the brilliant Emma Brown). I now have two friends planning to do reflexology training! Just hope they want to use me as their guinea pig.
Hardwick Hall herb garden comes pretty close!
© Anne de Gruchy