LIVING WITH DEPRESSION AND DESPAIR –
Depression in one form or another has never been that far from me. I am never sure when I will react to something said in a way that closes me up. I am also aware that I am getting off the topic of Eugene, but my struggle with challenging mental states has been an important part of my inner journey. It has been both a negative and a positive experience, negative because it is distressing and positive because it increases my sensitivity and the pain provides the stimulus to find an inner balance. Even though I have not referenced Eugene in this blog his influence was permanent and pervasive, he taught me the ideas and symbols that gave me the courage and framework to be able to process these experiences. His book the Conquest of Anxiety gives a very clear explanation if you want to read his thoughts.
Thoughts that I have found very helpful are:
It is the self which is consciousness itself that is experiencing this feeling of …….. that self am I. I return to that self.
The observer is not the observed
Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me
I am the source of the love that I am seeking
This is what I wrote before going on a 14-day journey of self- discovery and growth in 2006.
Dawn is breaking and today I start the journey to the Netherlands. Inside I am shaking with a mixture of fearful anticipation of the difficulties that I may encounter, my dislike of restrictions to my personal freedom, painful memories, the fear of getting stuck in old feelings, and I also feel a light joy, an excitement, an expectation, that this experience will lead to a new, more real type of choice filled freedom that I am seeking. I expect to emerge with sufficient mental clarity, sensitive loving emotional awareness and centered resolve to make the best choices that I can to create my new future.
My father died last year, and I have spent much time as his legal executor sorting out his estate and making sure that care was provided for my bedridden and dependent mother.
My parents had three children First my sister Hazel then three years later my brother Andrew, then after another three years myself. My father had just returned from the war when he and my mother got married. In the war my father Fred fought the Japanese behind enemy lines in Burma and because of natural ability and fighting instincts was promoted to the rank of Major in his early twenties. The family house reflected his expectation to be the leader and give orders that had to be obeyed. He was not tolerant of disobedience or work not performed to a high standard. He set very high standard for himself and he drove himself to serve society with exceptional single mindedness, He swam year-round in the sea every morning. There is much that I admire in my father and I respect his achievements, but I do not feel love for him. As his son I lived in his shadow, he was not affectionate man although he was often sentimental. I craved affection and touch as a child and he was not someone I could turn to, I learned not to come to him with problems as he would tend to take them over tell me the solution and then push me to implement it. I realised that I was better off away from his sphere of influence and moved to Australia at the age of 19.
As a small child I lived in fear of my father, he was unpredictable and often very angry. My brother sister and I were regularly and harshly punished by spanking on our bare bottoms with a shoe or hairbrush. It was very painful, and we emerged bruised and humiliated. At about age 8 I remember being beaten for not having passed on a telephone message; I remember how unfair I felt it was and how much I hated him. The family situation was made worse with the nervous breakdowns that affected my mother from about the time of my birth for the next 15 years or so. The trigger point that unbalanced Yvonne was the purchase of a new house to accommodate the growing family. She did not like the new house because it was dark and more importantly away from her many friends who also had small children. She suffered the first breakdown in about the first year of my life and was given ECT and drug therapy. She never really seemed right and we all had to be very quiet around her when she was at home. I do not really have much of a sense of her presence, although I can remember cuddling up to het on the couch while she was watching television. My mother was not very present in the house and all the punishments took place behind closed doors and away from her. We were really brought up by a daily help that was employed to look after these three children. She was a wonderful woman and I feel deep affection for her because she loved us.
I spent as much time as I could at my friend’s houses as I felt unsafe in my own when my father was around. My friend’s parents I know viewed me with some suspicion because I used to steal money from my father and buy sweets to try and make myself popular and be liked. I can trace an inner feeling of shame, loneliness and anxiety back to those days. I did however have friends and they were really important.
I am sure that I would not have survived to this present age if an unexpected event had not happened within our family system. The medical professionals realised that there was little
more they could do for my mother and one of them said that he knew someone who, although not a doctor, could be very helpful in cases like my mothers. My mother was introduced to a man called Eugene Halliday, who the first time they met asked her if she wanted relief from the symptoms or to learn something. Eugene was a teacher who had a profound influence on my mother, father, brother and me. My parents changed under his influence. Eugene was a self realised spiritual master, a reflexively self-conscious being who lived embodied and taught spiritual truth.
He became the most important influence on my life. When I was 11, I was yet again caught stealing money and instead of being beaten I was taken to see this strange man with a beard. I thought he was very weird, and he asked me all sorts of questions about what I wanted when I took the money. Anyway, realising that this was better than being spanked I told him what I thought he wanted to hear. This although it took me some years to realise was the start of a long friendship and extended learning process that continued till his death 21 years ago. Eugene was my teacher, mentor and source of all the good ideas that I have. I feel great gratitude towards him, and I feel that he actually saved my life.
As a child I looked up to my big brother Andrew and wanted to have his attention and approval. He is actually a very different person than I am, even then it was noticeable, Andrew was studious and had the patience to build his own darkroom enlarger for developing films from coco tins. He eventually went to Cambridge and got a degree in physics. He is in my opinion also deeply damaged by our childhood, he lives in a bedsit by himself, has no job, spends his days in the library. He is very defensive, deeply suspicious and has not spoken to my father or mother for at least 25 years. He has no telephone no email and will not reply to letters. That said I love him deeply; miss his company and wish he had not withdrawn from my life
although I can understand why. I could also have become something like him which frightens me.
What I was looking for that I did not find in Eugene or those around him was direct honest emotional expression. I went to Australia aged 19 to get away from all spheres of influence and to search for my-self and I tried everything on offer like a hungry caterpillar until I found the personal growth movement and encounter groups. This was what I needed. I found myself to be numb from a lack of emotional self-expression. I continued to travel but now with a purpose it was no longer a movement away now it was a slow movement towards a definite goal. The goal of having and being able to know and to express my feelings. I remember my father once saying that he could not understand women’s feelings at all, in our house the only feeling expressed seemed to be my father’s anger and everyone else’s fear of it.
So eventually I moved back to England and got a job in London so as I could attend the encounter workshops at Quaesitor on Walm Lane in Kilburn. After some time of intensive personal work, I found myself to my amazement in a real relationship. This was a major change to be in a long-term relationship.
Some other writing in my notes that give a flavor of my process.
It seems I have gone Mad. I have been told so by people who know me well. You are crazy, mad they say and so perhaps it is true.
I lie in my bed and feel this fear this raw naked fear, I forget my age, skills and ability and surrender to this inner shaking anxiety. Ask me in the morning and I will have found a solution but now at night in the privacy of my dreams I quake with a lifetime of encapsulated submission. This is not for public show it is my personal hell.
Another part of this nigh time drama is the quiet grateful acceptance of this visitor who wakes me. Fear anxiety anger
they are all visitors who are welcome with the gifts they bring. They turn my home upside down change my blood chemistry, alter my heartbeat, dance inside my belly and in my chest. Tense my hands but all are welcome and entertained. To the seeing eye all emotions are passing visitors to be gratefully acknowledged. Surely this is true madness getting up writing about fears instead of engaging directly in solving the problems that they bring like the threats to my financial security. Yet a part of me is not bothered. Security is never in outside events, however much money I can get hold of I will always face the ultimate insecurity of death. Real security is in my ability to be present and interested in what is happening now. Acknowledgement that all I really have to offer in any given moment is my interest and attention. I own nothing more than my ability to choose what I give my interest to. Interest is catalytic. The rest is subject to change like tonight’s ancient visitors they awaken the child in me fearful and dependent. Memories of distant situations immediately come to life how my adult self-image floats precariously on a lake of unremembered woes. My poor posturing adult self-image so desperate to be seen in a good light and yet so prone to inundation from the lake dwellers, the half dead. My ego really is such an insecure self with no real authority, no wonder it grabs all the trophies of success it can, to fill that emptiness.
The one who owns nothing has nothing to lose. For him every moment is a gift, whatever is presented. This moment of fear is a delight because it reveals something. This is the madness that I am pursuing.
The pounding of the keyboard has modified the pounding in my chest, yet it is still there, and I wonder if sleep is a possibility yet. My other mind will stay up till dawn then go happily for a walk whatever the outcome of this particular situation. It is not invested in outcomes, wastes nothing and always makes a
profit. Every moment is an opportunity for affirmation. Consciousness of consciousness,
How can I live with this madman in my house who does not take my life’s concerns seriously. Mocking my self-importance.
Alone at night 12.57 now 1.51 the empty hours where the tide comes up from the depths and my moon mind fills with recorded fears and guilts. In the sunny morning there will be little trace unless I record it now.
I try to step into Gods presence my other night-time activity.
Your childhood was very different to mine in that I knew I was loved and cared for by my mother and father. Though my father was strict in that we were supposed to obey him, and were afraid of the leather belt which was kept at the top of a cupboard in the living room,- it was never used! Also, dad, although he couldn’t work due to bad asthma, tried to do “mannish” things in our home. He chopped wood, lit the fires, and polished our shoes, (ex-army). But he was partly “emasculated” by my mum who’d say, “Harry, you can’t do that”– But he DID almost chuck each of his troublesome 3 daughters out by the ages of 18, so we then had to survive! In Sunday school, I learnt of a God who loved me and did amazing things, and have held that dear all my life. He’s shown me wonderful answers to prayers, kept me alive after nearly dying/being killed 3x and has brought me to a safe haven here at Tan Y Garth Hall. Here is peace. And my God has kept me at peace even through bad times. I hope you find that peace, Richard, so will read more to find out how things have “panned out” in your life. May God bless you.
Thanks for your reply and your good wishes. Your comment will stimulate me to post another blog in the near future. I did not post more because it appeared like there was not much interest or response to the previous postings
Many other events happened after and things eventually panned out well.
Here is a recent poem
Intersect to create our individual cross of being
Ninety degrees of separation between action and passivity
Flat conditioned time-bound response crossed by vertical immediacy
Eternity ensphered in a moment of cellular time
Only time for the quick to affirm
Before the dancing light recedes once more
The silt at the bottom of the well needs to be removed
Before reaching this cross over point
It takes Gods will to hold this cross together
This Easter cross that crucifies all beings, quick and dead
Every souls willed choice to deny or affirm