Friday, 20 November 2009

Things fall apart: The centre cannot hold.

During my years as a psychiatric nurse I learnt a lot about the lengths people can go to in order to escape the responsibility and stresses of ordinary, everyday life. There are times when we all feel overwhelmed, incapable of dealing with even the simplest things like getting out of bed in the morning. I witnessed men and women so burdened with hopelessness that they no longer controlled their own bowel movements; curled like a fetus on the linoleum floor of their wipe-clean hospital room, as incapable as a new-born baby, their wails a desperate cry for someone to come and take care of them, to take on board the minutiae of their existence.

Although extreme, this dissociation was always something that touched a part of my understanding that most of the other behaviours I experienced on that ward couldn't reach. Empathically I understood their desire to just give it all away. To abdicate all responsibility. To surrender all control. There is peace and comfort in this quietism and it is the comfort of the womb; the soft, warm fleshy fortress where all our needs were attended to and all we had to do was just 'be'.

The drug addict, the dissociative patient, the ex-con who dreams of returning to the structure and enforced regimentation of prison, the alcoholic, the 'blame' junkie constantly searching for external obstacles to their happiness, the depressed. All of these are lost souls yearning for the womb and for the peace that they knew there. But they are also us. Every time we 'cannot be bothered', every time we choose not to act, every time we give in to the seductive urge to just stay in bed, or play Mafia Wars on Facebook we are taking one more step towards the abyss.

(The Death of Chatterton by Kelly Humphries)

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