Striking Out! – One would think this is the wrong time to be making plans or looking to the future. From my perspective, there has never been a better time to seek new horizons. I’m not writing this piece from a mental attitude of blind optimism: The words are about survival and striking out when some are collapsing in on their darkest fears. When in darkness an option is to plan for the future.

Six weeks ago, the dog started to bark. During conversations, there was a feeling of separation. I could hear the words, but they were in a vacant space. And, anger was beginning to manifest during everyday situations. Believe me; I have a temper beyond your wildest expectation. Hostile and aggressive thoughts were entering into my conscious mind.

Nearly two decades ago, I’d been diagnosed with chronic depression. My health professional told me she thought I’d lived in the darkness since my teenage years. ‘How could this be possible?’ I asked, and she replied ‘You have functioning alcoholics and drug abusers and there are functioning depressives. My feeling is your normality was one of living in depression’. After some time working together: I realised why I’d lived in the nightmare of ‘broken everything’. There was no defining change or so-called cure: we considered options and ways to see my world differently. Within two years: I began to live in a world unknown: bright, clear and happy. I moved from the past and began to build a life.

And when the dog of darkness began to howl. I knew, if the animal were not contained seventeen years of progress would be lost. Do not fall into the trap of thinking ‘It’s the C-19 and lock-down, which caused Ian’s concerns’. The darkness does not work like that for me: and if you have walked alongside the dog, you’ll know there is no defining start or end. Something happens, one becomes less interested in everything: people agitate, so many indicators add up to a significant signal, that something is amiss. And attempting to discover the reason for the onset is pointless. You see, the inner-being may have been agitated some months beforehand. And a common mistake is to think, working out why will give you the how-to escape.

No time could be lost. So I made sure my clothes were fresh and clean every day and the crucial showers morning and evening (a meditative exercise to prepare for the day ahead and wash the issues of the day away). And working to a set timetable every day. Timetable? Yes, it is something learned nearly twenty-years ago. To get out of the shadows, you have to push the threshold of daily life and be organised. One has to force the body to act and not capitulate to the suggestions of an apathetic mind: the ‘what’s the point?’ mindset. Good food and rest are essential to the plan of action. Constant application of routine and concentrated effort to attaining small goals changed the situation. I’d stemmed the threat.

I’m not writing about the idea of ‘working in the moment’: this is a flawed concept: to win at anything we have to work at all times for the right reasons. Once one starts to think of ‘the moment’ as the pathway to fortune, or positive change, once something goes wrong (and something always will) faith in one’s ability is lost: not the right mindset when climbing out of the darness. Key to calming the dog down is to keep active and progressive. And don’t worry too much about ‘positive thoughts’ or ‘positive thinking’ because positive thoughts are promises: and once the pledge is broken: the issue becomes more prominent, the dog barks louder.

I usually read two and sometimes three books each week: realisation that I’d sunk to a book a week or less: offered a moment of inspiration. Perhaps I should rethink my reading list? I revisited my text and fiction books: rereading some of the favourite titles of the last decade. Making careful note of passages and chapters which resonated helped to ease me out of the darkness. Sleep patterns were returning to normal and uptight anger has all but disappeared.

My choice is not to talk about the dog while he snaps at my heels. Let’s be clear, he is no faithful companion. I have no fear of his presence: but I dislike his persistence. And there is no complacency, the dog can play many mind games. I know and respect his dangeroue nature. Two of my friends have closed the book of life because of the dog: He is a bastard as dangerous as any disease.

When we are in darkness: packs of dogs group ready to hunt down the unwary. When the feeling of loneliness and vacancy arises, a mist of uncertainty enter’s the house of the mind. It is my sure feeling the C-19 situation will be setting seeds of mental illness unparalleled in history. After the reality is accepted, there will be unprecedented social horrors to overcome. Loss of jobs, homes, relationships are inevitable. The face coverings and social distancing have damaged trust: a social element essential to happiness. And yes! I understand the reasons for the restrictions: do not think otherwise.

My words are for those who feel blackmailed by the selfish who see physical disease as the only enemy of life. If the darkness comes: one has to be resilient, one has to realise an almost selfish attitude of survival should be cultured. Because, once one is in the shadows, there is no care for anything: situation, illness, problems. The place is that dark we can see no way out, and one can be there for decades. Mental illness is as horrific as any physical disease: and it kill’s people: suicide: a life of psychotic drugs, alcholism, loneliness, are a few of the outcomes of mental disease.

Health professionals can help with the part of the recovery. But why allow the depression to cast such a dark and cold shadow? Sometimes, we have to realise our survival and mental stability is paramount. My guidance is, if you feel anxiety and fear begin to seek the significantly good aspects of your life today. You may not have a big savings account, super-intelligent kids, the home you desire. The washing machine may only work on two programmes, and you’re tired of watching the same confusion. But remember this certainty: You are your most important person: you are unique and capable of attaining happiness. If you sacrifice your health for the ideas or point of views of others: they control you: and the fact is: they do not know or care about you! Your mental wellbeing is essential to happiness: you have a right to a happy future. Depression is unseen and not understood by many people: the: ‘snap out of it’ people.

Mrs Green, who helped me to understand my illness, asked me a question: it was ‘How would you describe depression?’ My answer ‘Depression is a living death’. Many of those who have listened to the pitiless wail of the pursuing dog: know the fear it instils. And those of us who sense the approach of the snarling teeth, must calm the mind: to do so, one has to separate from anything which is not beneficial to wellbeing. An act which is not selfish: it is one of survival.

Bi-Polar is known to me as chronic depression. There are darker psychosis of the disease and god forbid involvement with the advanced stages. My friend, do not feel bad for focussing on your mental wellbeing today. Those who distort their beliefs to lever your opinion against you will have no understanding of the darkness. There are no absolute answers to any situation where billions of people are concerned.

Cast a light of right-thinking – Strike Out! For your mental survival and happiness.

Ian Timothy

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