When I decided to write about my experience with mental illness I didn’t really have in mind how much or how often I would share my thoughts. It was a case of have a go and see where it led. What I definitely hadn’t given consideration to was what, and if, to write when I am not feeling so great.
Part of the exercise was about being honest about the experience, and it goes without saying that a big part of most mental illness is not feeling too good about yourself. So it figures that when things are a bit of a shitshow that I should still write about it, otherwise I am not really expressing the full gamut of what it’s like.
This leaves me with a dilemma – on the one hand I do want to be honest about the experience, on the other I don’t want to come across as complaining or self-pitying. Bad times are just the way it goes, and I have to find a way to talk about that.
The other aspect is that shame is one of the things you commonly find in the big party bag that is mental illness, and as anyone who has dealt with the aformentioned will know, when shame is rearing its head the last thing you want is the attention of other people.
I’m not there yet but I hope that over time I can find a way to write about the uncomfortable stuff in a way that I am as comfortable with as I can be. If that makes sense…
One reason I enjoy this time of year is the way bird song gathers pace. It is a long lead in before it might be called the dawn chorus, although when exactly that starts is a moot point. In my mind it is when Blackbirds start singing in numbers. Great tits are one of the earliest to start – often within the first two weeks of the year I will hear the joyous monotony of their song.
Another bird that starts early in the year is the Song thrush, and for the last two years we have had one sing from a tree just beyond our garden during spring. He starts before I get up and I can hear it in the house. I see I made a note of it on the 1st January. I have heard him pretty much every morning since then. Dunnocks, House sparrows and Blue tits have all started singing now, and in a few weeks I’ll be listening out for migrant warblers such as the Blackcap and Common whitethroat.
At the end of last year But She’s A Girl wrote about the fear of losing our bird song. This resonated with me as I had recently watched a video sent by a family member who lives in New South Wales. They had been caught up in the bushfires and the footage showed the trees around where they live. It almost looked like a winter scene in deciduous woodland – no leaves and the white of ash on the ground like snow. What really struck me was the silence.
It’s a sobering fact that most British species are on the decline. I have taken my son on bird surveys in the spring partly so that he can hear the call of Curlews, knowing that it is possible they may not be there to hear when he is an adult. Bird song is the soundtrack to my mornings, and while I don’t think I take it for granted, considering the possibility that we could lose it makes me appreciate it all the more.
In a few weeks time, when the Blackbirds around us are in full song it is a treat to go outside early in the morning and listen to the sheer depth of the soundscape. I don’t pretend to have any real knowledge of poetry but the last verse from Edward Thomas’ ‘Adlestrop’ sums it up perfectly.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Plan A was to go and do a bird survey this morning. Storm Ciara has rather put paid to that. Not that I am averse to being out in inclement weather but there are limits. Plus the practicalities of trying to see and count birds in rain and gales…
So to Plan B. Stay indoors, enjoy a roast with my family for lunch and recharge from a demanding week.