PlAy oN – mental health


As a lifelong sufferer of severe depression I’ve heard, if not heeded, most of the well meaning advice, like, ‘pull your socks up’, ‘exercise’, ‘think about something else’. Etcetera, ad nauseam.

In the process of therapy and learning to accept depression as a companion and not an enemy, I had one of those moments that seemingly come out of nowhere which was a thought explosion that changed how I think, or more correctly taught me how to not think and be in the moment.

I was in my forties and realised I didn’t know how to play or be playful and it was a pile of leaves that forced the thought upon me. In my head I wanted to kick them, wild and free, just because, and I didn’t know how. I was rigidly tight inside, constrained, locked in, unfree, uptight, afraid of letting myself go.

So I played in my head, not a bad place to start. I whumped those leaves, I rioted in colour, a kid in yellow wellies with woollen gloves dangling from my sleeves on woollen thread, that flapped around me as I threw my arms about in clouds of multi coloured autumn leaves.

Inside me it was a taste of heaven and I cried, big wet tears which even as a write this are here again. They came up from a great lake of sorrow that I had known was inside me for years but had found no way to express.

Tears are rather like play, they’re a letting go, an unbidden sincere act of spontaneous release.

They led me to write this poem, for me, a message to myself, to lend myself a helping hand.

This child dreams with hopes unfaded.
This child sees through the eyes of enchantment.
This child plays on the field of uncontested triumph.
This child laughs with the sun and dances with the moon.
This child is me.

Part of what depression is about for me is taking everything horribly seriously, and there is a great deal in life to be serious about. But isn’t there also room to be frivolous? Too much seriousness is like a lead weight tied around my neck, I can feel it dragging me down and I need to bust out, cut loose, break free.

That’s what play does. Its purpose is to be. Its juicy, delicious, lush, for its own sake. It is life, love and laughter, it’s an explosion of life itself in a fantastically primal way.

For much of my life I did not know who I was and it’s hard now to recall how that felt because I know who I am now. I’m me. That doesn’t look like much written there, but it’s a huge deal and I think learning to be playful was an incredibly important part of coming home to myself. Which is what being me is.

I got lost, for years and years and years, and coming home was the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. I’m not sure you can ask more of life than that. No amount of money can buy it. It’s life yearning for itself. Lots of people undertake life journeys and, as far as I know, everyone discovers that you have to go on this huge journey to discover that you were here all the time.

Life is a funny old thing and it’s not true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’m still learning, every day. New thoughts, new ideas, stuff that has never occurred to me before. At 65 I now know the journey is everything. The journey isn’t to arrive, it’s to keep on being in the journey. Here now. And this little journey of words is now over but it’s shared with love.

KOG 26 July 2016

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