Elastic Bands

Today an invisible elastic band snapped

There will be better and more appropriate words for what happened but I know of no other way to describe the suddenness and shock of what transpired

It began with a call. 

“ He is missing, we don’t know where he is ……” 

The weather was appalling, some of the worst we have ever seen, driving rain just above freezing and he left the house on foot heading into the distance in jeans and light jacket. 

“ It is out of character …” 

It is , we know him. He is a strong man, he copes, it is his ear that listens. 

We searched, many of us,   but we couldn’t find him . We looked everywhere, as did his family. 

Twelve hours later, twelve hours in the incessant pouring rain he was found by the coastguard, alive, hyperthermic but alive .

“ He could have talked to me, didn’t he know I was here for him?” was probably the voice of guilt in most of our minds. This is someone we know but clearly we don’t know quite well enough and that grates, fills us with a sense of helplessness. 

“What was it that caused this? “ 

But in a  sense we know don’t we? 

We had seen the pressure building up through a surreal year of sadness and challenges that would cause anyone to buckle.But that is your life, we would support you …if you asked, but we don’t want to interfere. It isn’t an excuse, but is is an explanation of our reticence to pry. A curious characteristic of our culture, for all of us but particularly in terms  masculine ineptitude. 

I can see what brought you here my friend but I cannot feel it as you did. But be assured,  to us you are more than the sum of the burdens that you carry. 

But there is one thing I know.  Your’s were the soaked and soggy shoes yesterday but they are the shoes that I or any of us could be walking in tomorrow.So as you reflect on this, as I know you will, be assured that you have nothing to explain to us. 

There is a reason for that . 

Yesterday in your dark moment we held you gently and and with infinite care in our hearts, because we know this much of you,  without a moment of hesitation you would have done the same for us, indeed you have . 

There is no debt to be paid where there is infinite credit. 

We begin life and end it alone and in the extremes of emotion, but the points in between are a shared journey where we tend and nurture  those emotions. We need to not lose sight of the fact that we are in it together . We interact,  we support , we irritate , we argue, we befriend, we love but this is a continuum of dependency .

Because you love, you are loved, because  you care, you  are cared for . Now you must heal and if it takes the energies of a hundred souls to get you there then they  will be willingly given, you will never know how many people held you in their hearts that day . 

Be calm, you are valued and precious . 


A week ago I made a statement 

“ You have to have physical health to have the luxury of mental heath “

It is a statement I still stand by. A truism and like many a bit fatuous but now I see it more as a concurrent rather than a consecutive issue. Health and emotion as the Gemini twins of our being . 

It was a statement made in frustration about comments around COVID and political arguments to end lockdown by a politician who used the mental health ticket to justify what he really meant- he wants to reopen the economy, because that is what he is really about. He has no record in mental health .

We have seen in recent weeks and months, more spoken about mental health than possibly in the last 50 years . 

That is good and at the same time dangerous . 

Good that it is recognised,  dangerous in that words do not substitute for commitment and action . There is a real concern right now that politically it is convenient to talk about mental health without making the investment either in cash or intent  to make a difference. Add it to the armoury of words delivered with false sincerity for insincere ambition. 

This is part of the debate about many things around a “new normal. “ We have choices to make about what “normal “ we want in the future and we need to question whether the old normal is a paradigm that we can cope with. 

It just takes our hands. And fingers  

Clapping our appreciation and putting an X where it will deliver investment that could make good on that appreciation,  use the same digits. 

For instance when other nations set their financial support level for people who are in need at 40 50 and 60% of the national average income are we happy with the old normal that sets it at 17% in the UK ? 

If we are then why are we mumbling platitudes about mental health? Doing something about mental health means leaving people where they are not pressured to the point at which their elastic  band snaps and where we stop disinvesting in mental health service. 

“No more snapping elastic bands “ might not be the most engaging of political mantras but I  think I’m going to be looking for it when I next vote . 

Image by Enrique Meseguer

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4 replies »

  1. I started to read this, but I couldn’t. Too close to home.

    I recognized the wanting to just…walk away.

    Good to have written it though – for if it helps someone.

  2. I’ve read it now – I’d be sorry not to read one of your pieces, Steve. Before, I had just woken up, not a good state in which to head down that kind of road.

    Here’s something….
    Some years ago, when I was in the care of a lovely nurse from the Orkney Mental Health Team, let’s call her Nurse J – Nurse J advised me to get a piece of paper, write my name in the middle, put a circle round it, then……out from that circle, draw lines connecting my name with the names of any one or thing which I felt a connection with – human, animal, place, dead or alive. I did that, and surprised myself at how many there were.
    Nurse J then advised me that when I found myself heading into the “I am, yet what I am none cares nor knows” (John Clare) state of mind, to look at that piece of paper, and remind myself of all the connections.
    It was one of a number of very good pieces of advice given to me by Nurse J, and something I have passed on to a couple of other people since.

    It might be helpful.

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