A few years ago an acquaintance killed himself by drinking a bottle of whiskey, filling his pockets with pebbles, and walking into the sea.
I was struck by the fact that he had filled his pockets with pebbles. It brought to mind the burdens we all carry, and which are too heavy, which are light, which we choose to drop, and which we feel we cannot put down.
Periodically, I empty my bike panniers, and each time I am surprised at what I find I have been carrying around. Allen keys, spanners, and tyre levers, sure; but it’s the other stuff that makes me think.
Old receipts and newspapers, mainly.
I take a few minutes to leaf through them – reliving the news stories that grabbed the headlines, and pondering my expenditure. Stories that were so important then, seldom seem so weeks later. As for the stuff I’d bought, much of it has been used up, broke, or didn’t fit.
The American poet and writer Sylvia Plath wrote a children’s book called ‘The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit’. I used to read it to the kids when they were young enough to allow me to get away with such an over-indulgent parenting style. The story follows the escapades of a child called Max Nix wearing the made-to-measure yellow wool suit. Whatever scrapes he gets into it turns out alright everytime. For all the repitition of the message in the story – and the numerous times I read this story to my son and daughter – the message of the long-dead Plath is only now beginning to sink in.
The depressive in me says: ‘It matters!’ Sylvia Plath, and Mrs. Lovely, my Long-Suffering Spouse* say: ‘It doesn’t matter! Let it go!’**
With my new diagnosis still bright and shiny, lacking the grubby fingerprints of closer inspection that time and tablets will bring, I still find myself pondering when this all began. Clearly it wasn’t on the Ides of March 2001***, when I took myself off to my G.P. to tell her what was wrong with me. But, I soon find myself rejecting this foolish caprice; it’s now that matters, and what’s next.
What’s next for me is to keep taking the new tablets in a gradually increasing dose, and keep taking the old ones in a steadily decreasing dose. For now, my mind is still Ping-Pong Central, but I am confident that it will not always be thus.
This truncated instalment of my life in the psychiatric solar system is a nod to my flaky thought processes at present. Please be patient, I will be back to my rambliong, incoherent best some day soon.
In the meantime, I have decided against giving Sylvia Plath’s poetry an outing this time – there’ll be plenty of opportunity for every teenager’s favourite suicidal Muse in future editions, I’m sure.
For now, I’ll settle for a glimpse of the fastidious genius of T.S. Eliot.
from The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
*,**, see earlier posts; *** The 15 March, the day I was first diagnosed with depression.