you are being engulfed in the quicksands of your mind;
if you are calling for help in the silence of your mind;
if you cannot silence the voices that invade your mind,
dominate and torment you;
if you are caring for someone who is struggling
within the morass that their mind has become...
...if you are any of these, I am writing for you"
if the people coming to see you,
if the people wanting to talk to you
can`t manage to express
the uproar raging inside them.
Much more important
than listening to the words
is imagining the agonies,
fathoming the mystery,
listening to the silences..."
I am probably
one of the people least likely to write anything remotely autobiographical.
Not that I have led an uninteresting or uneventful life. As my friends
know to their cost, they have only to press the appropriate button and
they will have their ears bent with anecdote and happenstance for some
considerable time. Essentially I am a private person and cringe at the
products of this self-revelatory, tell-all culture in which we live. Daily,
hourly, by the minute, on television and radio and in the printed media,
people are pouring out the dross of their lives to a gaping, prurient
world, and like most trash it is soon dumped and overlaid by the next
So why write anything at all? Friends persuade me that from what has happened
to me, been inflicted upon me, there can be drawn that which may be of
help and guidance to others; to people who find themselves overwhelmed
by the problems of their minds; problems which flood their lives and threaten
to submerge them, to drown them, or suck them down.
If I was to find myself trapped in quicksand, the person most calculated
to be able to help me, in whom I would have most confidence, would not
be an expert in sand and water mixtures, emulsions, but someone who had
actually been there, had been mired and sucked down; someone who
had actually extricated himself from the slough - who, even though
he used the immortal words of Corporal Jones in Dad's Army, "Don't
panic, don't panic", would say them with all of the conviction and
authority of someone who knew what he was talking about, and would back-up
his words with the practical rescue techniques learned in the maelstrom
of personal life threatening experience.
'Life threatening'? But isn't this going to be an account of the perils
that can terrorise, intimidate the mind? How can these be classed as 'life
threatening'? I have twice been in these allegorical quicksands; the first
time I was pushed, albeit accidentally, but over the long period in which
I floundered I almost lost my 'mental life', my mind; the second, much
briefer time, the one in which I strayed accidentally and innocently into
a mire, I found myself in grave danger of losing my spiritual life. So,
in that context, yes; life threatening. But also, and it must be faced,
a point can be reached when suicide is the preferred option. So, 'life
Unless you have been there yourself, I imagine that you will have difficulty
with the concept that death and oblivion could be preferable to continued
life, assuming that one had any choice. Frankly, I hope that you never
find yourself in that morass. But the imagination cannot conceive of the
terror that can be created in the human mind from one's own tormented
soul or which can be planted there by dominating 'voices', from whatever
source they may come. Perhaps a better understanding of the prospect of
final submersion before the reality of which suicide is preferable, might
be achieved by contemplating the dilemma of someone actually trapped and
in imminent danger of being overwhelmed in real quicksand, and having
in his hands the ready means of his own death and release.
Sir Peter Scott in his wildfowling book, Morning Flight graphically
paints in words the picture of his own brother, David, facing this very
situation. David had spent a day alone wildfowling and found himself towards
the close of the day having shot a widgeon, but it having landed on the
opposite side of a small estuary. The tide being out, he had waded across
and walked along the far shore. Suddenly he found the sand to be soft;
he took two more steps and it became softer. He tried to turn back and
he had sunk up to his knees. At every move he sank deeper, and the sand
around him had turned to a viscous pudding. His movements became desperate
and he made greater and greater efforts. When he stopped, he had sunk
to his waist. The more he struggled the farther he sank, until he was
so much submerged that he could no longer struggle. Only his head and
shoulders and arms remained above the jelly-like morass. Then he began
to think carefully of his position.... In an hour the flood tide would
arrive. But he would not see it come. He would not watch the water approaching
inch by inch until he lost his reason. There were two cartridges in his
David was within moments of taking his own life when something made him
turn, and there, a dark shadow on the tide, was a small boat with three
net fishermen. After desperate and hoarse shouting and waving, they saw
and came near, but not near enough for a rope to reach, so two of the
fishermen got out.... they were adept at moving on the surface of the
quicksand without sinking in. They hopped about 'on all fours', never
remaining more than a second in one place. They reached harder ground
and from there threw a rope...the men gave him hope and strength, and
after ten minutes of tremendous effort he felt himself gradually working
up and out... It turned out that it was the first day of the smelt fishing
season, and one day earlier there would have been no boat on the river.
The quicksand of the mind and the quicksand of the shore are most terrible,
most vile because they are invisible, indescribable. More terrible for
the victim in his mind, because he cannot shout, for who is there to hear
him, if indeed he knew what to shout. And yet, in the fastnesses
of his mind, there is a desperate call, plea, for help. The quicksands
of the mind are terrible because of their loneliness. On the brightest
day, in the most sparkling company, the person in depression cannot lift
his eyes to beauty, nor open his ears to the laughter, life and joy around.
He is in the gut-empty world of no-mind; robbed of all emotion; unable
to believe in human love, nor love from any source. If he knew them he
would echo the words of the psalmist...you have turned my friends and
neighbours against me, my one companion is darkness.
But, while darkness brings the immediate oblivion of sleep, it is a traitor.
It at first hides, then treacherously opens the trap-door to the world
of no-sleep; the world of the night terrors; the world of no-time between
true night and day; the world of the tormenting, mocking, teasing, dominating
voices - voices from where? If you read on you will find an answer. It
may not be an answer which you will want to read or which you will accept,
but if you don't I'm afraid that that is your problem. My answer is the
answer of personal experience.
For nearly forty years, I have had experiences that I would rather not
have had, experiences that could have made me exceedingly bitter. But
the bitterness could further have harmed me had I let it take a hold.
Instead, I have been exceedingly fortunate in being able to extract, distil
from it all, much which has been, and is, enthralling and enlightening.
Friends have persuaded me that others may derive benefit from my experiences
and enlightenment. So, if you are yourself being engulfed in the quicksands
of your mind; if you are calling for help in the silence of your mind;
if you cannot silence the voices which invade your mind, dominate and
torment you; if you care for someone who is struggling in the morass which
their mind has become - if you are any of these I am writing for you.
As someone who has been there, extricated himself, I am trying to throw
you a rope; and while I do not hop around on all fours, I have learned
to tread lightly, warily amongst these perils.
I have a very good friend whose approach to a new book, no matter how
devious or complex the plot, is just to dip at random each time he picks
it up. I am still exceedingly baffled to know how he derives pleasure
from his reading, or, indeed, apart from seeing the first and last pages,
how he knows where the story begins and ends. If he ever gets to read
my writings, I wonder just how he will approach them. Without trying to
impose any compulsion on you, I shall be grateful if you will read what
I have written in sequence, otherwise the thread, and much of my purpose
in writing, will be lost.
As I wrote
at the outset, I open part of my life with reluctance, but with hope that
you will benefit. Make of it what you will - each of you will see me differently.
Many people quote the one well-known verse of Robbie Burns' poem To
a Louse as if it embodies deep philosophy and wisdom; he wrote -
some power the giftie gie us
to see ourselves as others see us.
I have my
medical notes covering a period of thirty years: they do not make for
happy reading, particularly in respect of seeing just how one has been
seen, interpreted. My advice to you is to decide for yourself just who
you are, and to do all in your power to be yourself, hold on to your own
identity, and strive for your own goals. It took me a long time and much
hard work to recover my own life and identity after I had been robbed
of them. So please, try to see me as I portray myself, and if you want
to know how I lost and found myself again, well, just read on...