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Monday, 2 September 2013

Leonard Cohen Knows.

I am occasionally  blindsided  by a  television soap scene, a piece of  acting in your mundane two to three episodes  a week soap, that  is quite simply a tour de force. An actor who over time and quite superbly makes a part their own. An Eastenders fan,  I was blown away by  character Jean Slater's recent scenes as she tethers on the brink,  struggling to manage the derailing high of of  a new love affair, and the agony of deciding whether to tell the beloved of her Bi polar disorder. It is good stuff on so many levels. To place a mental illness squarely into the human context, to show and tell what that means, to put the person first, the illness incidental; that is worth something.

There is a drive now to insist  that mental illness is an illness like any other, that  the sufferer is human,  is not possessed, not  alien, not other.  This is not a simple matter.    Sufferers of metal illness have traditionally been driven out, put aside, to assuage our haunting  fear of madness maybe. We who are periodically on the brink.  And then there is the fact that the extraordinary suffering caused by  mental illness surpasses all other suffering, more or less..

And that's not all.  For the acutely mentally ill among us,  we have to offer only  the drugs, the anti psychotics. . These are not fun drugs. The pathos and the bravery of the Eastenders character when she speaks of not choosing this, not wanting it, but anyway she has it, so get over it,  reflects I think the personal via delorosa of people obliged to submit to a deadening drug regime in order to be acceptable to the rest of us, to be allowed to live side by side with their family and friends.

 The folks who do not stick with this regime are in the deviant corner, judged,  labelled non compliants.  And as to side effects, why  we have antidotes for those, more drugs, so that  the constant plaintive wail of protest from the afflicted can be denied,  ignored.  Has to be,  we have nothing else,  have to keep pharmaceutical firms sweet,  ain't going back to the drawing board on this one no way, and, anyway, how easy it is to have our way with such lost and wandering folk. Our arrogance is breath taking indeed.

A woman then, describing  her condition, her ordeal, is invaluable, dragging  us out of the bunker, bringing us to acknowledgement, engagement. AND AFTER THAT I DO BELIEVE THE ONLY THING IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE OUR OWN INADEQUACY. And assume a proper humility, wonder even. I have some experience of people in that acute state, as yet undrugged, and have wondered about that which is revealed. What mystery, haunting, visitation, is coming through that other, altered, mind. Can we be so sure it  is only for smothering, snuffing out?

There being a crack in everything letting the light in to mess with the words of leonard cohen come down from the mountain to tell us one more time.