Two Hebrew Kings Blog For Mental Health

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.”  

blogging mental health

 

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!

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31 Comments

  1. tis good to be the king (in the words of mel brooks, history of the world) because you can act as crazy as you want and still be taken seriously. the rest of us, tho.–not so much.

    i am glad you are here, im glad i am acquainted with you thru our respective blogs. im glad of your words, whatever they might be. i know you know how potent lithium is–it really works. i have mentioned my acidosis/rta 4 issue. and recently edema. it is finally time i have to give up my lithium, and thus perhaps also my sanity. i plan on switching to valproate and lamictal (if they will let me switch to both) as they seem to be the most likely to work in the ways lithium does. i had hoped this day would never come so that i would not have to make the decision of brain health versus physical health. what is physical health without brain health? oh if only i were the king!

    Reply
    • Oh Kat, that is hard news. I pray that the new combo will be even better than the “natural medicine” Lithium. One of my pet peeves is that some people will not take medicine that is made in a laboratory because they think it’s inherently unsafe, while we who really need this mineral that comes from the Earth are nevertheless suffering physical damage from it. I dearly hope that your kidneys recover quickly, and that the new medicines help your brain feel healthy too. Please keep me updated!

      Reply
  2. Laura, your blogs provide me quite the medical help I need and I know for me, Words are an apothecary of true relief. I have joined the 2014 Mental Blog. I hope I shared it properly. Do not stop blogging. Do not stop sharing. The chemistry in your mind, is alchemic. This is quite the release and better than a effexer ER. LOL! No disrespect of course and I really don’t know if it is really an Rx. 🙂 I just love the brain chemistry after I write. It is a medicine to my bones.

    Reply
    • Fast, fast relief LOL! I’m glad my words have that effexer on you. (bad pun, sorry) Hope it’s long-lasting. If you keep blogging, it will be. I do believe it is a medicine. King David, after all, wrote his heart out, and look what he got done! Three wives, too! But we don’t have to go to that extreme. Just a place of serenity in our hearts, and bones, yes. Strictly over-the-counter, anyone can have it. I’m going to go take a peek at your Mental Blog! Much love to you, Holly!

      Reply
  3. annesspirit

     /  January 12, 2014

    Laura, Liked your blog. Anne

    Reply
  4. As a fellow practising Jew I am fasinated on your take on King David. Later this year I plan to read the Tanach from cover to cover. I will pay special attention to the episodes you mentioned. I’m not a fan of King Saul,really. But if he suffered from depression then I really should be more sympathetic.

    Reply
    • Hi! My view on King David was opened by my former Christian psychiatrist, who used my faith to show me that David was an extremely sensitive man who got things done, yet suffered greatly from the down side of his ebullient hypomania. Just think of the Batsheva episode–hypersexuality or what??? Goliat–risk taking behavior??? I do think Michal was a prude, though….;-)

      That’s great that you’re going to do a siyum on the whole Tanach! Navi gets very thick and hard to get through in places…there’s a rabbi on the net who writes mostly for Noahides who does a kind of “daf yomi” on Tanach…I have a friend who has been through it twice now! I admire his tenacity. I keep thinking I should do it but it hasn’t made it into action yet.

      Shaul was a pitiful creature, really. He had untreated mental illness that was partially responsible, I think, for his chronically poor decision-making, and hastened his undoing as King. Of course it was time for David to take over, but it took the shaming of Shaul to accomplish that. Givat Shaul in Jerusalem is a terribly boring place. I wonder what it was like when Shaul repaired there with his tail between his legs, so to speak. Now it’s just a strip of corporate offices and government ministries. I had to go to the main post office once, which is located in the bowels of Givat Shaul. The taxi driver didn’t even know where it was. He dropped me off in the middle of a bunch of concrete buildings that all looked alike and I just asked people till I found one who gave me the classic Israeli look of disdain and pointed it out. I think the place is cursed.

      Reply
  5. Laura I love your blog, as I hope you know. I hope you have more stories of what you have learned.been taught. I am truly fascinated. Learning Hebrew is out – I was told disdainfully when I was in Israel that I would never be able to learn it – much too difficult.
    The Mental Health Blog – you know I think everyone belongs on that blog because we all need good mental health, Yes, I know I’m presently bombed on pain killers but it does make sense. Taking my head for a rest and thinking about Saul chasing David until David took him down. Many thanks Laura, I’ve loved your blogs .
    Blessings, Susan x

    Reply
    • Thank you so much-sorry they put you off Hebrew. Some people….! When were you in Israel?
      I hope you feel better soon!

      Reply
      • I ran away in 2009 and spent six weeks there. I had a wonderful time and met some fabulous people. I did go on an organised tour because I wanted to get the history of the land…and I fell in love with Israel all over again.My mother (who passed in 2008, my best friend) and I have always loved Israel. It was her wish to go there also but ill health prevented her from going. So I know she followed me and saw everything with me. I am looking forward to taking my husband there when I get better.
        Yes in 2009, though my back was a little sore, I could crawl around the ruins and pyramids and walk everywhere… now I can’t walk for five minutes without shooting pain, sheesh, I can’t sit for five minutes. 🙂 Soon though.
        At the time I went over the Gaza area was still sensitive. I seriously hoped to meet some…well that’s another story. I haven’t been put off Hebrew – it’s just finding a good teacher to put up with me…:) Thanks Laura, I hope you have some more Jewish history, teachings for us.
        Blessings, Susan x

        Reply
        • Great that you got there! In my (not so humble) opinion, everyone should make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least once in their lives. Going on a guided tour is the best way to see things, as you said. My first trip was a tour called “In The Footsteps of King David,” which provided the fodder for this blog post! On my trip-before-last in May-June 2013, I went to the tomb of the Baba Sali, a great sage and miracle worker who had been thrown out of Egypt along with his surviving family. His tomb is in a little town just south of Sderot, which is the town on the Gaza boarder that has been bombarded by terrorists since the 2005 disengagement, at times getting hit with 20-30 missiles a day. They call them “rockets” but they are not the kind that come in a box! I have pictures of the bus stops in Sderot. They are unique because each one has its own bomb shelter. There are villages in the area that have signs that say: “Israelis, do not enter. Entry to this village may cause injury or loss of life.” Friendly, eh? We went to the Ein Gedi Spa at the Dead Sea instead. Anyone can go there, because it’s Israeli. There are no cultural barriers in Israel, contrary to the news reports in the US.

          Reply
          • I agree Laura, the miserable reporting, not only in the US has inflamed things there more than necessary and given the Palestinians and other fanatics easy fodder to throw at Israel.
            I am still returning when I can. I also would love to show my husband the pyramids but that is out of the question until things settle down .
            I cannot, nor do I even want to, explain my deep attraction to Israel but, it’s there and I am happy with it.
            Blessings, Susan x

            Reply
  6. As they say, “Nothing new under the Sun.” We isolate ourselves and that reflects in the world. No doubt blogging is a catharsis for many.

    Reply
    • True. How does isolation reflect in the world? Certainly many sages have retired from the world. I believe that many of us are sages whom the world has rejected, for one reason or another.

      Reply
  7. mental illness is definitely not isolated to our times. It must have been so much worse for people back then with no treatment and all…

    I took the blog pledge this week too. How fun! Blessings to you in this new year.

    Reply
    • Very true. At least King Saul had music therapy, until his mania overcame his inclination to merely heave spears at David’s head while David played the harp for him! David himself used bibliotherapy (writing), the way we Mental Health Bloggers do, by writing the Psalms. Of course he prayed all the time, too, which can be therapeutic. His son King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, which is not the most optimistic piece of literature in the world (“all is in vain…”. Blessings back, and happy blogging!

      Reply
  8. PsiFiGal

     /  January 15, 2014

    I didn’t know you were a recluse, I am a bit of a shut-in myself. I started blogging to have a journal/diary where I could write about things I was interested in and about my feelings and what was going on in my life. I finally started sharing with the WP community and it has helped me a lot with my mood but I still want to work on getting out more, move around more. It was interesting to learn about the bipolar Hebrew kings, it made me think about what it must have been like to be bipolar or to have any mental illness before modern times. You always make me think 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks, that goes both ways! I sometimes think about the asylums they used to have, and am very glad things seem to have improved somewhat. The number of homeless and beggars have not changed appreciably, I don’t think. Thinking about it, I wonder if we don’t just have different methods of isolating mentally ill people from society, marginalizing and recently demonizing us. I feel safer staying in my own little world.

      Reply
  9. Awesome post! Those guys were definitely insane not to mention very flawed. It’s kinda reassuring 🙂

    My family gatherings are most pleasant. But yours remind me of the gatherings of my ex-husband’s family. You had wear your armor and never down your guard cause you never knew when you were going to be stabbed or impaled. UGH. 14 years of that. Really don’t miss it.

    No drying up or falling off of fingers allowed, though

    Reply
    • Glad your family gatherings have settled down. It’s tiresome having to lug all that Jedi shit around….slings and arrows are cumbersome….even a decent size rock will weigh you down…that’s why I stay home most of the time.

      Reply
  10. Jess

     /  June 20, 2014

    Hi there! I found your blog through google, as I’m currently writing a paper on Bibliotherapy. I was wondering if would you recommend these stories in the Hebrew Bible to others with bipolar, and other types of mania? It must be quite cathartic to realize that King Saul, and indeed the prophets (Ezekiel in particular) display symptoms of mania and bipolar, and in Ezekiel’s case, schizophrenia. Bibliotherapy seems to be a highly recommended way to understand one’s illness, and your post made me think that the Hebrew Bible is a good source for this. Thanks for your time, and thank you for sharing such great thoughts with us all!

    Reply
  11. Very interesting post. Seems that poor mental health has been with us a long time. Best wishes and keep up the great posts. David Joel Miller counselorssoapbox.com

    Reply
    • I don’t know if I’d call it POOR mental health. I like to think of is as neurodiverse. It’s what you do with it that counts. And of course, the degree of disability. David is the model of a bipolar person who got himself into some terrible scrapes when manic, and suffered horribly with depression, but got an awful lot done in between. Saul, on the other hand, was not so functional even on his good days. So as with everything else, there is a spectrum, and functionality often varies over a person’s life.

      Reply
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