“Think of love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.”
From ‘Love in the time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
When I spoke to her six weeks into our shared but separate isolations, a great friend of mine asked “This may sound odd, but does this make you feel in some way vindicated?” I looked the word up, and it means ‘Cleared of blame or suspicion.’
The Covid19 pandemic has led the world to experience something like the sort of physical detachment that I have regularly lived days and weeks of my life in for as long as I can remember. My periods of depression have been more akin to self induced solitary confinement than government imposed social distancing, but they have two things in common. Both are caused by life threatening illness (in my case Bipolar Disorder), and both have made society acutely aware of the fragility of our minds.
I used to blame myself for my condition and my resultant behaviour. I was suspicious of any feelings of wellbeing or, heaven forbid, joy, because I felt certain that they would soon give way to mania, and that I would become really sick, swiftly plummeting back down to my dark prison cell without passing go.
I started to develop the colour system that I now use to keep myself well into a website just before lockdown started. I have been helped so much by it, and I want to try to help others too. Despite that desire I have long been reluctant to share, because even now, seven years since diagnosis, I still self stigmatise & shame myself for my condition.
As the weeks of lockdown have gone by, the world seems to have become increasingly accepting of and vocal about the universal reality that our minds are as fragile and prone to illness as our bodies are. We all have emotional ups and downs, and left unacknowledged and untreated these can become painful and ultimately lead to debilitating sickness. The concept of dis-ease applies to our minds as much as our bodies, is the main point. Kindness and love are stronger themes than they have been before, not merely nice to dos or to be reserved for the hours either side of entering and leaving our places of work each day.
For very sad reasons then, I have felt myself slowly releasing the weight of shame that so wrongly used to sit upon my shoulders. Discovering that kindness was this years theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, which fell towards the beginning of the second phase of lockdown, encouraged me still further. Kindness from others and ultimately to myself is the number one thing that has helped me learn to live well with mental illness, and kindness is surely the ultimate expression of love.
If you feel more inclined now to look after the health of your mind than you used to, if you have always struggled with ups and downs and want to give something new a try, or if you veer between manic and melancholy and would like to see what consistent attention & kindness might help you to discover between those two extremes, I hope that my work can help you. Whether you choose to take learnings from the information on my site, or work with me directly, I hope that you’ll take at least one useful thing away from what you find here, and that whatever that thing is it will help you to be kind to yourself or to another.
I wish you safe and well, and my thoughts are with anyone who has experienced loss and hardship in this time. So many positive and lasting changes to our unique & fragile world could result from this global pandemic. I very much hope that an individual and shared understanding of the need to look after and love our unique & fragile minds will be one of them.