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hidden-face-in-meadowsThere are many patterns in my life it seems. Many hidden pictures, subtle indicators.

Hidden pictures, subtle indicators which – when noticed – tell us that things are not quite what they may at first appear.

Hm. I wonder if you have the same?  Perhaps you do and are aware of them.  Or perhaps you do and are not quite aware of them?

One such pattern, with hidden pictures and subtle indicators is that sometimes – actually often – I experience episodes where my mental health slowly slips. Doing so in such a way as not to arise any major concern on anyone’s part. Just slowly, gradually, until I reach a point where I mentally withdraw and where my mind slips into ‘auto-pilot’ mode.  The mode where I am; simply surviving, simply being, simply (and only basically) functioning.  Aimless and purposeless and without direction, lost within the confused fussiness of whatever is happening within.

To all intents and purposes I appear to be fine.  And, thanks to the ‘auto-pilot’ mode I have switched into – often unknowingly and yet sometimes (I must admit) deliberately in order to not cause concern to others or in an attempt to seem fine whilst I process what it going on – to the casual onlooker I appear to be just fine.  And yet that is far from the truth.

It is a ‘pattern’ because of it’s reoccurring frequency in my life.  And last night – well actually about four this morning – I realised that I am yet again just coming out of such an episode.   And so the ‘catch-up’ and ‘repair’ process begins.

LostAnd to be absolutely honest I have no idea what caused this latest episode – nor do I know how long it has lasted.

But I do know is that is was in some way linked to my physical health and that due in part to both I had withdrawn – both mentally and physically.

And I do know – as along with this early morning’s realisation that I had once again withdrawn and slipped into ‘auto-pilot’ mode  – came the realisation that I had also – once again – not been alone during all this time.

Now for all my Christian brothers and sisters who might be reading this post and who might therefore be thinking that this is the point where I introduce my faith and the fact that Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit were with me. Yes of course this is true.  My faith was always there and I have no doubt that Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit was also right there with me.

But that is the thing about mental illness and with having difficulties with your mental health.  Those facts often get somehow distorted, somehow faded, dimmed, perhaps the best description is that the become gradually eclipsed (not like where one  celestial body does to another but as with clouds blocking out the sun) until they become concealed, taken and robbed from you.

Your connection with them – just like your connection with true awareness – becomes somehow stretched – concealed and even consumed.  As if within your mind, within your cognitive awareness of it all – foggy night has fallen.

scary-wallpaper-man's-figure-in-fog-730x400And within that ‘night-state’, within the grey fogginess of it all the ‘old man’ comes a calling.  The ‘old man’ – those suicidal thoughts which ever linger – who has been ‘waiting for the night to fall’, finds stronger, clearer, more convincing a voice. And more receptive a target.

For in this your ‘night-state’ he has your attention, he has connection in your solitude – even your sometimes self-imposed solitude or sometime self-inflicted confusion.

Let’s make no mistake here. And let’s not try to dismiss or diminish the importance of this with twee comments or seemingly Christ-centred and yet actually all too often compassion-less and thus Christ-less platitudes or clichés.  It is a terrible, potentially tragic state of mind to be in, to fall or slip into.  And let’s be very real in acknowledging that actually it is one where escape is often far less possible than rescue.

Isolation and solitude can be potential killers.  I am convinced of this.  It something – a truth – of which I have long since been aware of.  And yet a truth which I often lose sight of and often slip away from.  And just like the truth that Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit are always – subject to the unthinkable of course – there for the believer, it is a truth which needs feeding, which needs recognising and holding onto.

Actually it is a truth – these are truths – which I have thankfully, I think, been becoming more and more aware of as I started to come out of this latest episode.  And so the task now becomes (once again) repairing any damage that may have been done during this last episode and catching up with things in order to get to a state where we can once more progress.  Where once again the light – the strength that comes from that light – becomes the focus and the direction provider.

In truth I don’t know how long it will be before the pattern repeats itself.  How long, if at all – and I am, as always, praying that the pattern ends here – before the next slip. And I remain ever hopeful (well outside of these episodes where hope, along with that awareness of the light, seems to fade) that this pattern will one day end.

But I am painfully aware that I am not the only one who experiences such episodes, who experiences such hopelessness.  That I am not the only one for whom ‘the ‘old man’ comes a calling.’  So to all those out there for whom ‘the old man comes a calling’ I want to share that there really is hope.  A hope which is worth fighting for and which is – despite the night – real and true and also available to you.

And for those who have never experienced something like what I have – albeit inadequately – tried to explain here, I want to invite you to put aside your preconceived ideas or opinions and to – just for a few minutes – try to imagine what it must be like.

And for both  – those who have experienced something along the lines of what I have described above and those who haven’t – I would like you to invite you to view and listen to the following video by Casting Crowns and to – whilst you do so – focus and reflect on the lyrics and message of this song.

I am grateful for the ‘dawn’ that came in the small hours of this morning. And I pray that others may find a ‘dawn’.  For some, like myself, some of the lyrics of this song may be hard to take and yet truth can sometime be like that can’t it? But whichever way it speaks to you. I truly hope it blesses you.

For me personally – this side of the dawn – I cannot in, all honesty, say that the old man is dead, but I can say that I am not willing to feats at his table or listen to his lies. And I can at least say that I once again have seem to have the strength and the clarity of thought to let the light grow once more.