20 years ago today, 7 March 2001, a day that is etched in my memory, I came to the end of a journey, almost to the end of my life. I’d been in a steep decline into a pit of chronic clinical depression and, on that fateful day, I collapsed whilst crossing Gosforth (in Newcastle upon Tyne, England) High Street. I was, unbeknownst to me, suffering from pneumonia and the NHS medical team at the General Hospital wanted to keep me in overnight for observation.
Later that day, I went into cardiac arrest. The docs didn’t know if I’d pull through and they told Yaf, my wife, that even if I did survive, I might not regain all of my faculties.
Ziv was two years old. I had been so zoned out by depression in the previous few months that it’s fair to say that I barely knew him. I’m told (I don’t remember) that he’d run to me for a cuddle but would get no response. Yaf, apparently, would cry in front of me but got nothing from a person who was dead inside.
I came close. I was in ICU for a week and on the heart ward in the Freeman Hospital for a week. Why did it happen? The docs didn’t know but I believe that it was the onslaught of my mental illnesses and a badly prescribed cocktail of meds, which included a tricyclic antidepressant which, I later discovered, can be bad for the heart (shame my quack of a psychiatrist at the time didn’t warn me!).
Romi, who nearly didn’t happen, was born a year and a day after I came out of the Freeman Hospital. Raphael was born in 2007. To this day, I look at them and realise how blessed I am to have them. To this day, I look at Ziv with an awareness of the fact that I so nearly died without him getting to know me – if I’d died, he wouldn’t have remembered me. To this day, I shudder when I think of how close we came to Yaf having an indelible memory of a declining Koby/Jamie and then – nothing. To this day, I think of how close we came to a situation which would (I say humbly) have destroyed my parents’ and grandparents’ and my sister’s lives.
Since then, how have I been? Life with depression, clinical depression, is a rollercoaster, ups and downs, some deep downs but some steep highs and I accept and live with that fact. I no longer refer to myself as suffering with/from depression but as living with it. I’m not a victim any more. I take my meds and I practise self-care, eg plenty of exercise – running and walking – and ‘time out’ listening to music in a somewhat meditative state.
I wouldn’t say that I look at life through rose-tinted spectacles but I have, I believe, a heightened sense of life, of the blessing that is life, of the great privilege that it is to be alive and no longer in the unprisable jaws of the black dog.
Life is a gift but it’s fragile and it ebbs away on the sands of time. Yes, of course, we are rightfully distracted by our responsibilities in life and we are subject to the vagaries of life, there’s nothing we can do about those, but what we can control, we do have mastery of, is our attitude:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl.
Life is ours do with, within the framework of the law and societies’ ‘rules’, as we please but I think the holy grail is finding joy and peace of mind and that is to be found where your body, mind, heart and soul are in sync, it is to be found in a place of authenticity, it is a place of integrity, a place where you are living your life in tandem, and in accordance with, your values, it is a place of giving, of sharing, a place in which you are manifesting love, kindness, empathy, compassion, tolerance, gratitude and forgiveness, that is where we find the holy grail. I believe that we have to look into our heart, into our soul, not outwards, but inwards, for the road map that leads to this treasure and that is what joy and peace of mind is, it is treasure.
I wish you all well on your journeys…
With love and appreciation,