Working with Images (3)
To Hell and Back:
I have already mentioned how powerful images are in my last two posts. The title I have given this piece is “To Hell and Back”. The polar images of “hell” and “heaven” have been used to describe the whole gambit of reality as we experience it – from the absolute lows (hell, obviously) to the absolute highs (heaven, obviously). There are, of course, myriad states of being/non-being in between these poles.
I wish to allude to images that describe depression in this post. Firstly, I suffer from endogenous depression, diagnosed when I was 40 years old (8 years ago). In retrospect I had suffered from it since I was at least 25, and it went undiagnosed for some 15 years in-between. However, as life goes, things came to a head (another image) in 1998 when I was hospitalised for a period of 7 weeks, diagnosed correctly and offered the proper treatment. In short, I have not looked back since.
Now to those images of depression. Needless to say I have read much on the nature of depression these last 8 years and have discussed it will fellow “depressives”. Images that come up for us “sufferers” are legion. For me I literally had the experience of being “befogged” before I went into hospital. It was as if a rather dense fog had descended on me, cutting me off from the world out there, preventing me from seeing things in any way objectively. Everything and everyone were at a distance. Conversely it is true to say that I had receded further into myself also. So “fog” and its associated image of “cloud” are very common pictures used to describe depression. Other sufferers use terms such as “prison” and “prisoner.” “Night” and its associates “dark” and “darkness” are also prevalent. I have often wondered about St John of the Cross’s “Dark night of the soul” and what association it may have with the depressed state! I am sure it has some little connection. Weather also provides us with images like “rain” – singers sing of “rainy days” – days when one feels “down” (another images). Speaking of “down” the images of “drowning” and “suffocating” also come to mind to describe my topic.
“Tunnel” is another image of depression that I have heard used. Again “dark” and “darkness” are bedfellows here. Obviously images of hope here would be “light” – we’ve all heard so often of “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Being “lost” is another powerful image which we can all associate with. If you get a bout of depression you are literally “lost” to the world.
I have heard others, still, talk about living as it were in “a glasshouse”, with world able to look in at you and you not being able to leave it and go out and join them outside. Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J., spoke of the mind having “mountains – frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed”. I quote from memory so these words may not be 100% correct. The images then of frightful heights like mountains and cliffs are also potent images of depression.
Working with these images can be good because as you explore them meditatively and slowly you can also conjure up their opposites, namely the “light” at the end of the “tunnel”, the “light” after the “dark”, “the rising fog”, “The dawn of the new day”, “being found”, “coming down the mountain”, “being saved”, “surfacing from the bottom of the swimming pool”, “being released from prison” and opening the door of the “glasshouse” and walking free! This is a good note to finish on!
Beannacht leat a scríbhinn.
The image above at the top of this post is a photo I took of a tapestry depicting the Great Blasket at Ionad an Bhlascaoid October 2005.