Let’s Talk About Mental Health

GUEST BLOG – Wendy Waters

Hi all!
This week my guest blogger is Australian author Wendy Waters, whose debut novel Catch The Moon, Mary was published last year.Anyone interested in guest blogging about their own experiences with any mental health problem or know someone who is, please get in touch with me via Twitter – @letstalkmhealth or Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/letstalkaboutmentalhealth/

Wendy Waters is an Australian writer/lyricist/librettist who’s first published novel Catch the Moon, Mary was launched in London at Questors Theatre and Cellar Door in September 2015.
She is currently adapting the book into a play with playwright Jemina Macedo and composer Shanon D. Whitelock. Wendy and Shanon are also writing a musical called The last Tale based on the life of Scheherazade, storyteller of The Arabian Nights 1001 Tales.
The constant themes in Wendy’s work are music, magic and the power of the imagination.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their song unsung.”
– Henry David Thoreau
But those who sing out loud may be revered as celebrities or reviled as crazies.
CRAZY as defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
1.Full of cracks and flaws; impaired, liable to fall to pieces.
2. Broken down, frail, infirm.
3. Of unsound mind; mad; insane. Often in the sense of mad with excitement; perplexity 1617. Showing derangement of intellect 1859
DERANGEMENT definition
1. To disturb or destroy the arrangement of. To throw into confusion; to disarrange.
2. To disturb the normal state, workings or functions of known habits; to act abnormally 1776.
IMAGINATION definition
1. Existing only in the mind or fancy, not in reality.
2. Forming a mental concept of something not actually present to the senses.
3. The mental consideration of actions or events not yet in existence.
4. The power which the mind has of forming concepts beyond those derived from external objects.
5. The creative faculty. Poetic genius.
We live in a time of numerically quantified absolutes. Global communication is instant. Anything we need to know we can Google. No need for imagination. No need to think for ourselves. For every situation or problem there are solutions we can freely quote and faithfully rely on. There is no need to question absolutes like the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, the value of energy – E=MC² (Energy = Mass x the speed of light squared), the evening news or the price of housing. Other people have done our thinking for us and supplied us with all the answers.
We live in a world run on information overload. Quiet reflection is unnecessary and time is money. Sitting around pondering events not yet in existence is wasting time. Our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe is built on numerically sound, rock solid absolutes. Rock solid?
Hmm …
it seems some quasars have been caught travelling faster than the speed of light. Are they crazy? Don’t they know that light’s velocity –186,000 miles per second – marks a cosmic speed limit? For those of you not particularly scientific a quasar is a superluminal stream of light shining so brightly it eclipses the ancient galaxies that contain them and some of these renegades dare move faster than the speed of light. Quasars are powered by black holes a billion times more massive than our sun and they shoot through our galaxy at ridiculously disruptive speeds.
In short, these renegades are singing their own song! Poetic genius? Or just plain crazy?
And what to do with this rocking of the absolute? Ignore it? Explain it away? Or considerevents not yet in existence. Come now, that would be crazy! We have a whole field of science based on relativity supported by absolutes that have no business altering on a whim.
Crazy, full of cracks and flaws, maddened with excitement and perplexed by rules, filled with a sense of what could be, shining brightly, dancing through space in defiance of gravity –social and weighted. How dare these quasars fly through space at breakneck speed and dance for no apparent reason beyond joy.
My God, they’re as pointless as artists. Creative people and quasars simply don’t understand how disruptive they’re being when they defy gravity for the sake of it. But for the artist, the misfit, the quasar and God chaotic disruption is the precursor of creation. Nothing new springs from order. Absolutes must be “disarranged” to facilitate the arrangement of imagined events not yet in existence.
“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”
– Vincent Van Gogh.
But today we celebrate his genius. Why not? The crazy man is dead and no longer bugging people with requests for money or offers of love. Now that the pesky progenitor of the Irises and Starry Starry Night is safely silent we are free to rhapsodise over his legacy and romanticise his suffering. But would we have lent him money for paints had he come knocking? Would we have spurned his rather excessive love? Probably. Passionate people are difficult to be around. They make poor partners and demanding co-workers. They have this pesky dedication to excellence that makes the non-achiever look slack and incompetent. Who needs it?
We do. If we are to find meaning and purpose in life we need to set ourselves challenges and goals that defy gravity and follow paths so narrow they can only safely accommodate one traveller at a time. The roads less travelled lack signposts and charts. They are steep and invariably offer no shelter. But oh, the view.
I have depression, anxiety and a mild form of Asperger’s that manifests as excessive dedication to my work and a need for precise order. I get panicky if things have been moved on my writing desk, anxious if routines change. My life is ordered around the chaos of my imagination upon which no boundaries or restraints are placed.  My imagination travels at any speed it likes, stumbles map-less into worlds of its own and leads where it may, even into hell. And I follow. Why? Because I trust it. I trust my imagination in a way that I don’t trust reality. And herein lies the key to the myriad triggers that contract my consciousness into despair, anxiety or depression.
Like everybody else I live in a world of rampant insanity. Daily I am bombarded with images of death, corruption, war and natural disasters on television. The media-induced panic proliferated every hour on the hour keeps me in a constant state of low-grade fear. When will I be
a) struck by a car
b) attacked by terrorists
c) murdered by a psychopath
d) killed by a tidal wave, earthquake, fire, volcano, hurricane?
The odds are strongly in favour of something dreadful happening to me. After all, it happens to other people every single day. It’s a numbers game, surely? I am also subjected to a negative stream of numerically conjured defeatist mottos by well-meaning neighbours, friends and caring family members.
Examples being: the odds of you being successful are zero to none, have you any idea how many other writers are out there, get a normal job and be happy, why should you be different from your Uncle Joe who wrote lots of books that never sold, what makes you think you’re so special, why do you keep persisting when it’s obvious you won’t make it?
And then there’s the worst one of all – You’re too old to succeed now, you’re a failure just accept it.
Is it any wonder my panic triggers are
1) loud noises
2) silence
3) ticking clocks
4) low rumbling sounds
5) waking up each day
6) the news jingle
7) a ringing phone
8) checking my emails
Get the picture? EVERYTHING is a trigger because I have been indoctrinated into a belief that I live in a dangerous world full of psychopaths and terrorists and only the lucky few succeed by virtue of nepotism, genius or a lottery win.
No bloody wonder I’m depressed.
No bloody wonder I’m anxious.
No bloody wonder I doubt my very right to exist.
Don’t you? It’s all right, I know.
Now let’s return to the farthest reaches of the universe where those quasars are out-pacing light and out-shining galaxies. They are the flotsam jettisoned from a darker force of rampant accumulation – the insatiable and apparently starving black hole, which consumes everything around it – ingesting and hording entire galaxies for its own sustenance. The black hole regards its surrounding magnificence – stars, planets, comets and light – as its due and raids freely. Black holes are at the heart of almost every galaxy. They will be their destruction. However, before the greedy sucker gluts the feast we are treated to a stream of exuberant light that outpaces anything known. The by-product of rampant consumerism is exquisite apposite light. I would posit that this insane consumption is fear-based. I would also posit that society has a black hole mentality. The super-rich amass more than they can consume in a lifetime and are lauded as high achievers. While the poor are dismissed as losers. Do we feel inadequate by comparison? We’re supposed to.
People who do well are generally regarded as successful.
People who own nothing and have low-paying jobs are generally regarded as losers.
Van Gogh and Mozart were both losers by that measure. And yet they sang their songs out loud and shone spectacularly brightly. We still admire the light they left behind.
In fact, when the dust of past civilisations settles, art, music and literature is all the light we see. So bright is this by-product of consumption that it defines the culture it outshone. Galleries, bookshelves, walls and minds are illuminated by Art, Thought, Wisdom and Love.
These are the values we acquire at a distance but the progenitors suffer the pangs of non-acceptance at close range. In our own time those of us who are different are crazy – mad with excitement and perplexity as we follow the uncharted paths of pure imagination.
Not everyone is born with genius but rest assured it is acquired at the apex of the road less travelled.
Wendy Waters
Author Catch the Moon, Mary”
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