Mental health mentoring – How can we tame the beast within?

Mental health mentoring – How can we tame the beast within?

I remember back when I first started blogging about my struggle with mental illness I used a lot of metaphors to describe how I was feeling. The most frequent, and one that sticks in my mind even today was the mountain and the abyss. I thought of my struggle as like climbing a steep, sharp, craggy mountain, dark and imposing. It became symbolic of how I felt, desperately clawing my way up the sheer side, bloodied and battered, exhausted, desperate.

Below the mountain was a flat plain, cold and dark, lit only by a purple-red glow of the abyss. I was never alone, there were always others, faceless shadows, somber and silent. The abyss called to me, and like the others I was drawn to its edge. Silently standing there surrounded by shadows, all staring into its depths. For the abyss was the end, those who have been close to ‘the end’ know that it is very calm, almost peaceful, the decision has been made, all arguments rectified, only the final act left, to plunge oneself into the abyss for ever.

With great effort, I could turn my back on the abyss, from the desperate calm I could turn to face the mountain once again. All the fear and sadness within me was embodied in that mountain, the more I hurt inside the more the mountain grew, But I always felt that salvation lay at its summit. So I would gather what strength I had, and sometimes with the help of other shadows around me, I would start the climb, we would start the climb. And yet the abyss still called silently behind me, the offer of calm and serenity its drawing offer. I climb harder, slipping, scraping, desperation, mental blood, sweat and tears, although tears have never come to my eyes, I can no longer cry.

This was my metaphorical struggle with mental illness for a long time. Until one day, I realised that I was actually moving in the wrong direction. The mountain was my illness, the abyss the sanctuary. The more I poured out my anguish, the more I let myself be mentally ill, the more I let it rule my life, that was the brutal climb. The calm of the abyss, was not the final act, it was in fact the first act, to go into the abyss was to face an uncertain future. The calm feeling was not real, in fact in those moments, those days of resolution, the abyss was choice, to step into an uncertain future or turn and continue to fight against something that could not be beaten. I realised that I would never beat my illness, it is in me, it is there for as long as I breath. There is no route up that mountain, I was always destined to end up a crumpled heap at its feet.

I could however turn my back on it, knowing it was behind me, laughing, calling me pathetic, daring me to try fighting it again. Or I could walk silently across the plain to the edge of the abyss, and stare into the infinite darkness of the unknown, to take one step into the abyss would be and was, the taking of one step into living with the beast behind me, every step into the unknown was a stronger step, I did not know what would be in front of me, nobody does, but I knew with each step I could tame the beast behind me by being strong enough to accept it, and try my best to live with it. I have looked back at times, I have felt a draw to face the mountain again, but I look forward, no matter how bad I feel at times, I know that behind me lies more pain.

I still take steps, I stumble at times, but I move forward into the unknown. I do not know how many steps I have left to go, but I am learning to enjoy this journey. The mountain is still there, but I prefer acceptance to denial.

I hope you understand

Love and peace

David

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