Dave's Progress. Chapter 103: Not Until You've Been to the Lowest Valley...

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine over lunch yesterday, and we both agreed that in some bizarre way both our experiences of mental ill health had been some sort of mixed blessing. I have written before in these pages of how mental illness has been both my nemesis and my saviour, for although when in the throes of illness it was indeed a harrowing experience, I would not, for example, even write this blog or do the voluntary work I so much enjoy were it not for that experience. Not only this, though, makes me think of mental ill heath as an experience which has, in some ways, been "good" for me. Indeed, it is as if I have found a new and invigorated appreciation of life. After being so ill, I can almost not describe the transcendent joy of just, even, waking up in the morning at a "normal" hour and not feeling unwell, and I am reminded of a friend of my mother's, who said that when you reach a certain age, it is almost as if you're grateful just to wake up in the morning and still be alive.
Perhaps it is the same when people have experienced physical illness, and I remember the interview given by the writer Dennis Potter just before his death. Speaking to his friend Melvyn Bragg, Potter said that the experience of being so close to death had somehow made life all the more vivid. He went on to explain that just taking a look out of his window at home had become a breathtaking phenomenon. He seemed awed by the beauty of his garden, and upon seeing a blooming blossom, he said that it seemed to be no longer just a flower, but "the blossomest blossom" you could ever see.
Also, in my friend klahanie's blog, he often speaks of the beauty he sees around him and retains a deeply idealistic view of the world, despite his experience of depression. Indeed, perhaps it is an experience common to those who have been, in some way, unwell, or perhaps it is a case of the old saying, in a roundabout sort of way, that failure teaches you more than success.
So it is that as I potter around my little home, I am immensely thankful for all the little things that seem so often to be taken for granted. For one, I have a roof over my head, and for that I have to thank my parents, who, by allowing me to live here independently, saved me from a situation of imminent homelessness. I have all I need to eat and drink, and never do I end the day unsated. And as I look out of my bedroom window in the early evening, at the verdant green fields illuminated by the Vale floodlights and the sky an astonishing amalgam of reds, oranges and yellows, I can not help but think that there is a certain unkempt, industrial, vagabond beauty to this old renegade city I live in, a city so often maligned and run down even by its own inhabitants.
Perhaps it is true, then, as Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his diary (and who was quoted by, strangely enough, Richard Nixon upon his resignation after the "Watergate" scandal) that "not until you've been to the lowest valley can you know how great it is to be on the highest mountain top."       


klahanie said…
Dear David,
Flipping heck dude, have you gone all prolific on us?
Once again, what you so vividly describe, resonates within me.
I do appreciate you mentioning my shy and humble blog. In a way, I consider my mental health concerns to be a rather bizarre blessing.
A most pleasant visual description of your 'renegade' city. I have a rather fond feeling about that much maligned place.
David, we both have much to be grateful for. A most inspirational and positive focus.
With very kind wishes and an oatcake, your way, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Yes, I have posted a few blogs in quick succession. No doubt, though, I shall soon be back to my less prolific ways. I don't think I could ever keep up with "the reckmonster" anyway.
Anyway, it is my pleasure to mention your humble blog in my post and I'm glad you liked my visual description of the view from my window. By the way, the "Vale floodlights" I refer to are of course those of the Port Vale football ground, which I can see from my humble abode. Thought I'd just clear that up if anyone was wondering.
Thanks, Gary.
Best Wishes and a doner kebab (yuk!) your way,

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