Mental health recovery is full of activity. In fact, if someone like me acted on the advice that is freely available, I would barely have any time left to stand and stare.

Last month I wrote a thinly disguised rant about World Happiness Day. It bugs me still. It’s the reams of good advice that get to me. In fact, mentally balanced people have been giving out good advice since, well, ages ago …. In his book The Anatomy of Melancholy (published in 1621) Robert Burton (1577 – 1640) ended with the following: ‘ Be not idle.’ I never met the guy, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m pretty sure that he was a happy go lucky fellow.

Down the Rabbit Hole.png

I am not disputing that there activities that have a proven track record in helping to foster resilience and promote physical and mental well – being. What I want to say though is that there are many factors that swirl around all this good advice that those well – meaning happy folks just fail to take into account. First and foremost it is the most basic factor that these pieces of good advice are, well … good. I have to concede that getting exercise  has a proven track record in having positive benefits for one’s health, mental and physical. And before you all start protesting that you can actually hurt yourself going to the gym, or feel dispirited by only managing what feels like a small thing – such as walking round the block. Yes, I know. It was me who you saw tottering round the block on his bicycle on the pavement back in 2002 (before it went back in the shed for another year.) And it’s me who thinks of ‘spinning’ in a gym as a form of mental torture – not at all recovery – oriented.

There is something uniquely destructive about hearing/reading/talking about effective strategies for good mental health when they all feel out of reach. What the promotion of these nuggets of good advice do is counter – productive. They say that if you – yes, you – don’t act on the fruits of all this research then, well, who’s the one to blame?


What I put more store by than all this busyness to promote wellness renders obsolete much of what  the recovery industry has to offer.

It is the ability of peers like myself to say and do absolutely nothing. What lies at the very heart of recovery is the ability to be with whatever is troubling. And by ‘troubling’ I mean anything from a nagging insistence that life is devoid of value to voices clamouring for your attention every day, every hour insisting making you a slave to their cackling thrum; resisting the rush to help.

Doctors and therapists send us away. They send us away with notes for the pharmacist, with feelings we don’t understand (but they do). We spend money and time on Self – Help books that send us away by telling us to put the book down and go and act; act in our own self interest.

An imaginary rabbit once said: ‘Don’t just do something, stand there.’



What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)


This entry was posted in Bi Polar Disorder, Cycling, Depression, Mental Health, mental health services, mental illness, Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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