Dave's Progress. Chapter 102: The Mind is its Own Place.

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."
John Milton, "Paradise Lost".

It seems to me that it is often the case with mental ill health that it is very difficult for the sufferer to communicate what is actually happening to them, for it is so often misunderstood even by peers, friends, family and such. I know this was certainly the case with me. My first experience of depression was to find that friends, in particular, were either hostile, or felt I was being self-pitying or self-indulgent. "We all have problems, you know", one might say, or "Well, we all get depressed sometimes, I know I do", might another. What seems to have been missing from their assessment was that I was experiencing the symptoms of a very real and debilitating disease. Indeed, in my first experience of mental illness I felt as if something had just descended on me from a great height, a feeling so alien to my usual feelings that I knew and recognised that something was wrong. I knew I was ill. But some, it seemed, insisted that it was "just me", and I was being selfish and basically, spoiling everyone else's party. What I could not seem to get across, and what everyone failed to understand, was that I could not help the way I felt, and indeed, despite it I don't think I once bemoaned my lot or made myself out to be a special case. It was just that my low mood was so pervasive that it could not help but be noticed, and many seemed to take this as some form of personal affront. Why, exactly, people responded the way they did, other than that mental illness is much misunderstood, is still a mystery to me. I seemed bereft of any sympathetic ear.
So it is that mental illnesses like depression can strike anyone at anytime and the national anti-stigma campaign, "Time to Change" has made this clear. Even with all the privileges in the world, mental ill health can soon lay you low, and people such as Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax, Alistair Campbell and Patsy Palmer have all spoken out about their own experiences in an attempt to help the campaign. So, the question, "what has he/she got to be so upset about?" should be rendered redundant.
It is the case, then, that no matter what our circumstances, mental illness can appear. I know in a previous post I spoke of how such things as social and economic deprivation can exacerbate the chances of becoming unwell, but it should be remembered that no-one can really be excluded from the chance of succumbing to such illnesses.
I guess the reason I am saying all this is because it seems to me that certain mental illnesses, particularly depression, are often not taken for the hugely debilitating experiences they can be. As I said, they are often met with the dismissive responses highlighted above. One person told me that even Janet Street-Porter, a supposedly educated and intelligent lady, had said that depression had become the new "back problem", or some such, probably meaning that it was easy to feign and  perhaps in some ways a phony disease used by the work-shy to avoid responsibility. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that as I did, many must take such statements on board, perhaps exacerbating the feelings of guilt which the illness can also engender.
I would just say, then, that mental illness can affect anyone, is no respecter of status or money, and when it comes it would seem that one can barely understand it unless you have experienced similar upsets yourself. Many make sense of this by referring to mental illness as an "invisible" phenomenon. I would say that it is only all too visible, just misunderstood, derided and feared.
I hope that the misunderstandings I have mentioned, then, soon disappear, and those who perhaps have a friend or family member who is going through such difficulties will know that, as Milton said, "the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."


klahanie said…
Dear David,
I'm sure you will be aware that I can relate to this posting.
You've basically said it all. Thus, this time, I shall keep my comment succinct. Like we both mention in our blogs, mental health issues can happen to anyone.
Nice quote David.
With kind wishes, Gary.
bazza said…
Hey David! What happened to the new direction?
As it happens this is a brilliant post with your point being well-made.
I am sure I was an adult before I realised that mental illness should not be separated from physical ones (Indeed, the former often leads to the latter).
There is no real difference between a chemical imbalance in the brain and, say, one in the stomach.
Regards, Bazza.
David said…
Dear Gary,
It did cross my mind that you may relate to this post, being as it is about something you have experience of. I hope I did the subject justice. At least you seem to think so!
Thanks Gary and Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear bazza,
Sorry to disappoint, but I do feel a certain responsibility to keep my blog on a certain track, given that it was started as a project for the Media Action Group for Mental Health. And, I didn't exactly promise a "new direction", I was only getting rid of my old catch phrase.
Anyway, I do still hope to post more on other subjects, but for the time being I hope this will suffice.
Thank you, also, for your understanding remarks.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
dcrelief said…
Dear David,

Your blog looks great with warm, welcoming colours. "The passing thoughts" header...envelopes hope. As much as I look to the future with hope, I strive to heal the past in faith. When I come here I find that I'm not alone.
Interesting quote! I quite agree. What I feed my mind will try to direct my actions. So I decided to utilise all the resources available to me. Have you heard the expression, "There is wisdom in the council of many"? I count YOU as one of my 'many' resources. As a result, my mind is fed with more positive and helpful information. In short: 'what goes in, comes out.'

"The mind is ist own place," indeed! A song comes to my mind but I can only remember the words, "feed your head." Thanks for such a great post.
In peace,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thank you for your comment.
The intention with the colours of the blog was indeed to create a warm and welcoming feel. I'm glad that you picked up on it.
Also glad that I am one of the many sources of information you use to "feed your head".
Yours with All the Best,

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