Firstly, my apologies for the inconsistent posts concerning Dr Weekes’ book Self Help For your Nerves. In attempting to give commentary and reflection on the late Doctor’s work I forgot that I would have to make the time to read it first!
And so our not so weekly offering (randomly picked) concerns Chapter 22 and ‘The 3 friends’ of occupation/courage and religion.
She begins; nervous breakdown is an emotional and mental exhaustion that usually begins with, and is maintained by fear. To a degree these symptoms of nervous breakdown are experienced by many people at one time or another and are a natural extension of everyday stress, magnified of course, by many times.
When we suffer such a breakdown we often believe that we are finished and cannot deal with what we are experiencing. Dr Weekes reassures us that there are no monsters waiting to devour us; no precipice over which we fall ”if we don’t look out”; no special point beyond which recovery is particularly difficult. Anywhere, at any time during breakdown, if we lose our fears we can step out of it.
These words do seem flippant, especially to the person deep in the pain of breakdown. But what the Doctor sees is what those people who do recover see; that healing can and does happen. And indeed that those times which seem darkest are part of the illusion that binds us to re-experience and re-cycle that darkness. She does not lay down time constraints for recovery. Only thoughts on the pathway toward it. The constant link between her thoughts is the vanquishing of fear. Fear is the obstacle that bars our way. It holds us to the breakdown itself. Breaking this link sets us free.
I never really know whether there is a point of no return. I guess there is otherwise people wouldn’t kill themselves. But whatever the case there is always something inside that wants to live and that urges me to live. I think it is this to which the Doctor appealed.
We believe that fate bars our way to recovery but whatever the circumstances of our life’s 3 friends will help us forward: Occupation courage and religion.
The racing mind is almost impossible to quiet by will alone and idleness can be torture to the sufferer. But occupation in the company of others is the best crutch for the tired mind. We must however, make sure that occupation is not used as a tool with which to fight our problems. This will lead to greater exhaustion.
If a person 1st accepts their condition, be prepared to cease fighting and accept the tricks that the frayed nerves will play on them, then occupation can divide the mind into 2 parts; the suffering part and the new part which accepts what is going on. This will help the person float on and into recovery rather than hang on through fear. The suffering part may continue to suffer for a while but the trouble will hover in the background.
Occupation is now the blessing that acts as a splint for the tired mind, replacing painful thoughts with impersonal ones and helping us to relax and break the cycle. Suffering recedes: This is on the condition that we look forward to our future healing without resentment, resistance, fighting or fear.
In her own style (and one that I favour) she sums up the 1st part of this chapter:
let occupation be a crutch
accept the tricks that your nerves will play on you while attempting to lose yourself in occupation
relax, accept the temporary slowness of your thought and be prepared to think as slowly as your tired brain allows; time and peace will bring full recovery
if you are a housewife, do not stay alone all day; find interest away from home
seek occupation in the company of others
remember, an hour spent in bed in panic, will exhaust you more than light occupation will, so get off that bed.
I hope this gives you food for thought and something to hang onto should you be in distress. it is better to be occupied in a simple routine than to be trying to work out your problems by thinking them out. It goes without saying that the broken mind cannot suddenly un-break itself. If you fear for your mind and life then seek guidance from the right places. Doctors are not everything but a good place to start should you need immediate help. Do not suffer alone and in the dark.
The next part on Courage will follow.