I lived in Seattle for a time, and was crazy as a bed bug (ugh! bed bugs!) due to indiscretions in several arenas of my life and untreated bipolar disorder. Fortunately, I found a wonderful psychiatrist named Ray Vath. Dr. Vath, if you are reading this, please know you saved my life.
On more than one occasion, I got so manic and paranoid that I locked myself in a hotel room for several days at a time, hallucinating, emerging only to walk my service dog and get more bottled water. I ate nothing. No amount of Ativan slowed my mind. I had to wait it out. I would not call the doctor for fear he would put me in the hospital–something I feared worse than death, having been in twice already.
On one post-mania visit, Dr. Vath, after writing a script for Lithium, suggested that King David was manic-depressive. Just look at Psalms, he said. In one poem he would be elated, dancing and singing before G-d, and in another, crying out in pain and suffering, begging forgiveness and professing to be nothing but a lowly sinner.
I did look at the Psalms, but at the time had no Hebrew, so I had to make do with translations. These did put across Dr. Vath’s point. But it wasn’t until I learned Hebrew that I really got the impact of the language David used. It is so poignant–and so bipolar.
As I got more confident in my Hebrew (and my ability to use a dictionary) I set myself the task of reading the first book of Samuel in Hebrew. It’s easier than a lot of the ancient texts, because the language is more like modern Hebrew; and it’s easier than the later prophets, because they raved on so. (It says in Samuel I that the prophets would fall down in something like an epileptic fit and prophesy. Hmmm, sounds like a Pentacostal Church service. Maybe they read the Prophets too?)
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that David’s uncle Saul, the first King of Israel, suffered terribly from depression! He would send for David, “The Sweet Singer of Israel,” to play his harp and sing for him. That was the only thing that would pop Saul out of his black melancholy. But what happened then! David, playing his lyre and seemingly oblivious, would jump slightly to the right or left, in order to avoid the spear that Saul, waking from his depressive trance, heaved at his head! And David would just keep playing, while Saul hurled spears at him right and left. Crazy, or not crazy? I vote crazy. Sounds like one of my family get-togethers, fortunately rare.
Saul did some other manic-type things, like going to a necromancer to call up the prophet Samuel, who had recently died. Saul needed some information quick, so that was the best course of action, he reasoned. He got severely punished for that through Divine Retribution.
Saul had this thing about trying to kill David. David would run to various difficult to get to places in the Land of Israel, like the caves at Ein Gedi, which overlook a beautiful waterfall and pool. I have taken a dip in it. It was cold. The caves are very high up, but that did not deter Saul and his army from hunting David down.
One time, David was hiding in a very dark cave. Saul needed to “relieve himself,” so he went into the very cave in which David had crammed himself way in the back. While Saul was indisposed, David sneaked up and silently sliced off a piece of Saul’s garment. Must have been a very sharp knife! After Saul finished and left the cave, David ran after him and handed him the piece of cloth, entreating him to show some reason and call off his dogs. This only intensified Saul’s paranoia, and he continued to hunt David from North to South and East to West.
It gives me comfort to know that I am not the only crazy person in the world. Yes, I know the numbers and statistics, but sometimes the isolation of my own particular variety of bent mind makes me feel as if no one else could possibly have experiences even mildly reminiscent of mine.
This is where Mental Health Blogging comes in. Here in this wonderfully crazy part of the blogosphere, we let our hair down, and let our brains hang out. We listen and console and comfort each other. We do not throw spears at each others’ heads. Instead, we provide a warm, loving community, something we all need desperately.
Some of us are more functional than others, holding down jobs, having families and social lives. Others, like myself, confine our social interactions to the safety of the Internet and especially our safe Mental Health Blogging community.
A cornerstone of our community is that paragon of group blogging, A Canvas of the Minds. Masterminded by Ruby Tuesday and Lulu Stark, it is truly a place where mental health issues are out of the closet. If you haven’t been there yet, I urge you to do so immediately! But not before you finish reading my post 🙂
Although Lulu has retired from Canvas, she left a very special legacy. Each year, Mental Health Bloggers from all corners of the Blogosphere take the following pledge:
“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
Well, that was easy, wasn’t it? Because that’s what I do anyway, and I intend to continue to do it until my fingers dry up and fall off (Heaven forfend), and after that I’ll have to learn Dragon Dictate that I already bought but haven’t even looked at yet.
So. You’ve heard about my crazy Hebrew relatives, and I hope you enjoyed their stories. Reading this post over, I realized that my own 21st Century family gatherings are no more shockingly unhealthy than the Hebrew families of 2500 years ago. Not that it makes me feel any better about family gatherings. On the contrary, it reinforces my commitment to being a recluse. Lonely at times, but many fewer slings and arrows!