Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Emily's Advice

This poem is a simple poem, but I take its advice seriously. It was written by Emily Dickinson.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---

I've memorized the poem to recite it to my therapist during our next meeting. In our last meeting I explained to him that there are times when I don't tell the truth about symptoms of my illness to others. To the therapist I'm clear, but to acquaintances, especially people who don't have a mental illness, I'm circumspect.

When I joined the church I was in a class with several other members. We were asked to explain our spiritual journey and what had brought us to want to join the church. My reason was simple. I had switched anti-depressants and the new anti-depressants could not fully help me to survive. I was suicidal a lot. I came to the church looking for meaning in life and a way to cling to life. I had noticed that as long as I attended every Sunday, I stayed well and did not have many suicidal fantasies. Church was a silent bullet - I got hit, but I don't know where and I don't know how. All I understand is that I cannot hold a belief in God in my head and be suicidal at the same time. God will win. This was the truth as I experienced it. Yet to the potential members who were listening; a lawyer, his wife, and a school teacher, I changed the problem of being suicidal to a problem with depression. I said that it was depression that lifted when I went to church. I told the truth but I told it "slant" and in "circuit" (as Emily suggests) because I didn't want to scare the people with the severity of my crisis. I didn't want to tell them that I considered church a life or death matter. I didn't want them to know that I was that fragile, or that very different from them. I perceived, that letting them believe that we had more in common than in difference would be soothing to them. I told my story with their comfort in mind. People don't mind someone who confesses depression, but someone who confesses suicide is cause for alarm.

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