Tag Archives: mental health

Everybody Hurts…

Tonight, when we went round to my parents’ place for an early Mother’s Day dinner, Mum piped up and said she wanted us to listen to a priest singing on Britain’s Got Talent. 

Well, I must admit I was rather taken aback. I don’t know what comes to mind when you think about a singing priest, but I was thinking of something more along the line of Gregorian chants, than something I could relate to. So, while my mother was uncharacteristically excited and really wanted us to see it, I had no interest whatsoever and instinctively wanted to extricate myself and runaway. However, considering it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d better play the dutiful daughter, and avoid being a complete ratbag. Listening to a priest sing for a few minutes, wasn’t going to kill me. Moreover, I am a bit more mature these days.

Then, I see Father Ray Kelly on the stage, and there’s something immediately likeable about him. There’s a sort of brown shoe honesty about him and he is that simple, heart-felt man of God. The sort I’ve come across now and then, but is far from commonplace. He is one of those men of God who is of the people. A shepherd who knows his sheep and responds to their cries. Who knows there are 100 sheep in the flock, and not only knows when one is missing, but also by its name. This type of person is very hard to find.

When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes…

REM: Everybody Hurts

Well, of course, I don’t really know whether all of these impressions are true, but when he sings, I not only believe him, but I also know he’s singing to me. That he personally cares for each one of us and our hurts, and is a reflection of God’s unconditional, personal and intimate love for us. These aren’t phrases I throw around lightly. Father Ray was there in a simple grey suit, his collar and brown shoes and there were no props. No machinations. He simply was, and he was speaking for all those people out there who are desperately hurt, and he’s personally asking them to hold on. It was so clear he cared and was singing straight from the very depths of his heart…his soul. It was just so beautiful and I had to share it with you. Indeed, I hope it touches a chord for you.

What are your thoughts? How did it make you feel?

I could listen to it over and over and over again!

Best wishes,

Rowena

The featured image was drawn by my son.

PS Here’s the wedding song which launched him on You tube Father Ray Kelly singing Alleluia

G- Vincent Van Gogh…A-Z Challenge.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

As you may recall, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Today, we’re off to catch up with Vincent Van Gogh, the “Painter of Sunflowers”, who is equally well-known for his Starry Night and many other iconic works. I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that Vincent Van Gogh somehow opened Blake’s “doors of perception” and possibly even saw a glimpse of something in between Heaven and Earth. He was indeed a visionary genius.

If you are interested in some musical accompaniment, here’s Don McLean’s Starry Starry Night

It’s no secret that “Vincent The Man” was more beautiful, intricate and complex than any of his paintings. While his self-portraits barely scratch the surface, the inner man is best revealed through his letters to his beloved brother, Theo, an art dealer who financed his entire artistic enterprise. Indeed, these letters are considered masterpieces in their own right.

“But what is to be done? It is unfortunately complicated by lots of things, my pictures are valueless, they cost me, it is true, an extraordinary amount, even in blood and brains at times perhaps. I won’t harp on it, and what am I to say to you about it?[1]

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh  Arles, 17 January 1889

Yet, it is also well-known that Vincent Van Gogh had a tortured existence. That, despite the vibrant colours almost glowing in his later works, he experienced extreme hardship, failure and rejection most of his life. Indeed, he only sold one painting in his life time. That’s hard going. So, you could say that all these failures added up and that these, combined with his psychological troubles, caused him to cut off his ear and ultimately commit suicide.

Or, so the story goes…

Meeting Vincent

Trying to remember when I first “discovered” Vincent, is like trying to track down the origins of a dream. There are endless stars and nebulae with no beginning. His paintings expressed an anguish, an inner-chaos which I couldn’t put into words. You see, I spent the first 28 years of my life living with undiagnosed, untreated hydrocephalus, which I jokingly call: “a harbour in my head”. In the year leading up to surgery, I experienced a myriad of bizarre neurological symptoms. So, you could almost say those swirls in Starry Night, had moved inside head. Indeed, my head was like a pressure-cooker about to explode. So, it’s no wonder Vincent made sense and somehow he cast a light out of the darkness. Indeed, it was the light of a thousand stars.

In April 1992, my best friend and I touched down in Amstersdam. I was a 22 year old Australian backpacker, and I’d just finished my university studies. It was an exhilarating time. My cocooned world of intensive study had sprung open, and I’d flown to the other side of the world. You can’t get much more liberated than that, and being in Europe for the very first time, was incredible. It blew me away.

In those early days, we not only visited the Anne Frank House, but we also went to the Van Gogh Museum. It was there, seeing Van Gogh’s paintings in the flesh, that Vincent suddenly came to life with the force of a thousand stars. That was now over 25 years ago, so much of the detail has faded. Yet, I still vividly remember how his paintings came to life. Indeed, I could swear they were moving. You know, the irises, the sunflowers… The whole experience blew my mind.

A few months later, I even visited his house…The Maison de Van Gogh in Cuesmes, Belgium near Mons. This was where Van Gogh worked as an itinerant preacher. That was yet another mind-blowing Vincent experience.

Vincent and I were growing closer…

Starry Night MOMA

Vincent Van Gogh “Starry Night”, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

His Paintings

When it comes to Vincent’s works, I find it hard to pick a favourite. Of course, there’s Starry Night, but I also love his Sunflower series. I love sunflowers, but when you hear that the Amsterdam Sunflower contains 32 different tones of yellow, you’ve got to respect the mind-boggling genius of the man, and his sensitive attentive to detail. As a cafe lover, I adore Cafe Terrace At Night 1888.

After immersing myself in all things Vincent for the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been struck by an intriguing pair of paintings: Vincent’s Chair With His Pipe (1888) (left) and Gauguin’s Armchair (1888). The two chairs are like chalk and cheese and were painted while Gauguin stayed with Vincent at the Yellow House in Arles. Vincent’s chair was comparatively simple and painted in daylight. On the other hand, Gauguin’s chair was much more sophisticated, and it was painted at night. Van Gogh seemingly hero-worshipped Gauguin and bent over backwards to prepare the Yellow House for his arrival. This included painting the first of the two sunflower paintings to decorate the walls. He also had furniture made and asked Theo to help Gauguin out of his financial woes . However, their friendship became rather tempestuous. During a heated argument, Van Gogh cut off his ear and Gauguin returned to Paris.  The breakdown in their friendship must’ve devastated Vincent.

Van Gogh’s Last Days

Unfortunately, no discussion of Vincent Van Gogh is complete without addressing the psychological/psychiatric struggles which plagued him towards the end of his life. These, as you may well be aware, culminated in him cutting off his ear and ultimately committing suicide by shooting himself in the stomach. He died two days later.

Vincent was only 37 years old.

If you are a lover of Van Gogh’s and are particularly interested in his last days, I strongly recommend you see the movie: Loving Vincent. It’s now available on DVD. They have animated hundreds of his paintings in the movie, and also question whether he actually took his own life.

So, without any further ado, here’s my letter to Vincent Van Gogh:

Maldives Postage Stamps

Letter to Vincent Van Gogh

Dear Vincent,

Vincent! Vincent! Wherefore art thou, Vincent? You appear before me like a dream, an apparition. Stars are swirling through a wave of blue, carrying me to a place inside my head, which exists somewhere beyond the lines.

Like you, I feverishly work away. Not for dollars and cents or immediate payment, but through a belief in something bigger. I don’t know whether you can set a dollar amount on that. Yet an artist, a writer, needs to eat and pay for their kids’ school shoes and excursions. These realities place a sense of gravity on even the most inspired imagination. That is,  unless we have no strings, no ties to hold us down to the earth, and we can just do as we please. However, that life is not for me. As much as I might crave time and space to write and “be”, I’d die in my own orbit. My family and I are one, interwoven, yet each is our own being (however that works).

Vincent, I hope you don’t mind me dredging up the past. However, there are many doubters among us, who could ironically also be termed: “believers”. I just find it hard to accept that you took your life. That after suffering for so long, why then? Your paintings might not have been selling, but you were producing masterpiece after masterpiece. Surely, you could see that. What went wrong? Indeed, I’m even starting to wonder if you even shot yourself at all. Did somebody else pull the trigger, and you wouldn’t say? Please speak up now. Send me a letter. It’s never too late.

Your loving friend,

Rowena

Van Gogh Crows In A Wheatfield

Vincent Van Gogh, Crows in a Wheatfield, Van Gogh Museum.

Letter From Van Gogh

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. My old friend Joseph Roulin from Post Office in Arles delivered it this morning. We were both overjoyed.  Joseph’s been missing the old post office. You’re the only one who ever sends a letter around here and we’re all trying to work out who’ll be next.

By the way, I loved the stamps. Who would’ve thought!

Sorry I can’t help you with the details of my final days. I’ve put all those earthly matters behind me now.

However, I wanted to send you a fragment of a letter I wrote to my brother, Theo on the 21st July, 1882:

“What I want and have as my aim is infernally difficult to achieve, and yet I don’t think I am raising my sights too high. I want to make drawings that touch some people.”

That’s what it’s all about.

I’m not sure that I regret not finding fame and fortune in my life time,. However, it baffles me that I could be spat upon and ridiculed in life, yet hero-worshipped in death. Does that make any sense to you?

Your friend,

Vincent

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh

[1] http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/19/571.htm

http://blog.vangoghgallery.com/index.php/en/2012/07/29/van-gogh-and-gauguins-chairs/

The Yellow House, Arles

 

Further Reading

https://www.facebook.com/VanGoghMuseum/videos/10159187334010597/

DVD: Loving Vincent

Brainpickings: The Fluid Dynamics of Starry Night

The Unexpected Maths in Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night

 

 

 

 

A Stone In My Pocket – Friday Fictioneers.

This was it. I took a deep breath. The 23rd Psalm echoed in my head, and I recited the Lord’s Prayer. Not deeply religious and anything but devout, I still kept a toe in with the man upstairs just in case. However, as I stuffed the heavy stones down my shirt and stared into the lake, I wondered whether he’d accept I was repentant, even if I did commit the ultimate, unforgivable sin. However, it was a done deal. I’d left a note, blown my dosh. I closed my eyes….5,4,3,2,1…Geronimo.

Oops. Next time, I’ll find a deeper pond.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s photo prompt comes from  © Sandra Crook.

 

Missing…Kings Cross, Sydney: Friday Fictioneers.

“Double expresso to go, please Tom.”

“Night shift, huh?”

“Should’ve stayed in Byron Bay.”

Night shifts at St Vincent’s were pure Adrenalin, but Saturday nights were insane. Yet, I couldn’t walk away. This was medicine. Real medicine.

“M…m..my daughter…Have you s..s..seen my d..d..daughter?”

The faces on the photos kept changing, but the anguish was always the same.

I refused to look at the photos anymore. Tried to zone her voice out. You could drown in Emergency,  if you didn’t hold a piece of yourself back.

“Sh…sh…she has carpe diem tattooed on her ankle with a p…p…purple b…b…butterfly.”

I couldn’t speak.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Butolt.

Last Friday afternoon, we took our son to Emergency at our local hospital for what seems to be migraine auras without the headache. We were very stressed and were naturally concerned he might have a brain tumour or some form of serious neurological problem. However, we were told it wasn’t acute and so we found ourselves down at the waterfront having dinner at what we would call a street cafe, but it looks very similar to a diner.

St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst is right in the thick of things near Kings Cross in Sydney’s red light district. Thought you might appreciate reading about  a typical Saturday night in their Emergency Department.

I Also wanted to share a bit of real-life excitement here on the home front. Last Monday morning, we were expecting a visit from the host of our local breakfast show, Rabbit, who was popping around with a prize. Well, the prize turned out to be a surprise visit from his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. They filmed it and posted a clip on their Facebook page. I thought you might enjoy hearing me, although my mother said they could’ve captured more of my serious side.Here’s the link

xx Rowena

The Drowning – Friday Fictioneers.

Watching myself through an oblique lens, I’d blown to the four winds. Defragged like a faulty hard disk. Mid-40s, degree, career …now stealing food off strangers’ plates and sleeping rough.    

“No, Julie! Don’t do it!”

Ravenous, she’d snatched the pizza straight off the table, and was scoffing it on the beach like a Bangkok stray… twisted, distorted, wild.

“Julie! Julie!” I slapped. “Wake up”

“Nobody gets me. Never has.”

“What about me?”  I beseeched, but my words fell flat.

Praying for eternal nothingness, destined for oblivion, she slipped into the surf. Floundering. Gasping…

I ran.

Safe on the beach, slowly our breathing merged…again.

…..

This week’s prompt brought many things to mind for me. The first thing which came to me, was backpacking through Europe and being so tight with money and rationing our food and then watching others leaving food behind and feeling like we could almost lick their plates. I still remember that ravenous hunger!

From there, my thoughts drifted towards being homeless and being that hungry, you could snatch that pizza out of a restaurant in what felt like an act of utter desperation. Who would do that? How bad would it have to get to take you there?

I wonder…

I don’t know whether you’ve ever wrestled with yourself like this before where you’re split in two. Perhaps, not in such an extreme situation, but a time where you’ve been through hard times and you end up talking to yourself. Or, you’ve experienced God comfort you. Or both.

Becoming homeless and being swept along that dreadful downward spiral, is only be a paycheck or two away for most of us. I’ve never been homeless, but I have fallen on hard times and have often found this voice within myself guiding me along. Giving me encouragement and strength I didn’t know I had.

Given the very dark nature of my piece this week, I just wanted to explain it a little further. After all, when you play with words arranging them into very dark and foreboding pictures, I felt the need to debrief in a sense. Let the reader know that all is well.

Well, almost!

xx Rowena

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff. This week’s photo prompt kindly comes from © Dale Rogerson.

Keep Breathing…Friday Fictioneers.

“All my life,” Melissa sighed to her therapist. “I’ve been peering through the keyhole too afraid to live.”

Phillippa was trying hard not to yawn. Dumping clients was hard. Never mentioned the “F” word.  It was all about “finding a better fit”.  Being a “therapy drop out” wasn’t good for their self-esteem.

“Anyway…”

Suddenly, Melissa became strangely animated, even possessed. “I finally attended a writer’s group this week and read one of my poems. Thought I was gunna die. Then, I heard you counting and this other voice saying: “Breathe, Melissa. Breathe. You can do it.”

“It was actually me.”

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s image was provided by © Shaktiki Sharma.

This week, I’ve spent a bit of time researching my grandmother who was a concert pianist and I’ve been thinking about that experience I had as a child of almost looking through the keyhole into her adult world. There was definitely a “them” and “us” policy and children should be not seen AND not heard. That suited us and we’d round up change for lollies from the adults and disappear with our stash.

Yet, there were those times I distinctly remember peering into this adult world and watching through that metaphorical keyhole. Nothing quite like being a spy!

By the way, I’d also encourage comments about when therapy doesn’t work and what that was like. Personally, I’m a lousy one for taking action but I’m currently working through that with my physio. Or, should I say, I’m “walking” it out.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

 

 

That Christmas Black Rain Cloud.

“There is a little black rain cloud,
Hovering over my Christmas tree.
There is a little black rain cloud
paying too much attention to little me.”

Words adapted by Rowena Curtin  and sung to Winnie The Pooh – Little Black Rain Cloud.

Is it just me? Or, are you also feeling that despite all the joy, Christmas cheer, tinsel and flashing lights, there’s something not quite right with your “Ho! Ho! Ho!” That you’re struggling to squeeze into the spirit of Christmas and it doesn’t quite fit.

Not that I’m all dark, gloomy or in anyway Scrooge or Grinch-like. It’s just that sometimes, I can get really annoyed with Christmas. I don’t know whether there’s a term like “Christmas Rage”, or the “Christmas Depths”, and that’s before I even get to absent friends. Of course, no one likes an empty seat or any form of change at Christmas, even if it is only the discontinuation of Molly O’Rourke’s famous Irish Whisky Cakes 1945-2014 RIP.

Anyway, today I thought I’d just  run through a few of the dark shadows, which can jump out and bite us  at Christmas:

A Few Shadows of Christmas.

Christmas OCD

This describes that desperate pursuit of the perfect Christmas. It’s characterised by that uber-achieving Christmas newsletter, mowed lawns, dogs washed, groomed and teeth brushed; tree with matching decorations, colour-coordinated Christmas clothes. You get the drift.

CDOCD- Christmas Decoration OCD.

This relates to the meticulous selection and placement of Christmas decorations, particularly in the Christmas tree. Generally characterised by having a colour theme and having one decorator in charge, while the rest of the household spectates or evacuates to watch TV.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

No one likes an empty seat at Christmas.

SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This is where your mood is affected by the seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s due to the shortened hours of day length. In Australia, it’s caused by excessive sun baking, insufficient sunscreen leaving your skin redder than a Santa suit.

Failure

Christmas is a really difficult time of year to be unemployed, sick, homeless, dumped or even just being your little old self. Having to face family and friends when you’re feeling like @#$% can be the last straw. Been there. Done that. Sort of stuck in this gear and have now acclimatized, but would still love to be a Big Shot or at least get a book published. At this point, even A Little Golden Book would do.

Silent Night

Unfortunately, this relates to so much more than the Christmas carol. There’s the silence of not being able to find your CD of Christmas carols. Then there’s the silence of spending Christmas alone. Worse still, there are those broken relationships where the walls have become so high, that even the Spirit of Christmas can’t get through.

Stickytape-Itis

On a much lighter note, after finishing off my wrapping today, I’m adding Stickytape-Itis to the list.

Does stickytape-itis need any introductions or explanations? Of course not. We’ve all battled to find the stickytape, cellotape or whatever you might call that stuff which sticks to your fingers and just about everything else except the wrapping tape. Meanwhile, the end of the sticky tape goes missing and you’re going round and round in circles like a dog chasing its tail.

It’s enough to drive you crazy and could very well be that tipping point, which pushes a normally sane and sensible person over the edge of madness.

……

So having brought up all these issues, I guess you’re wanting me to come up with some preventative measures or kind of treatment. However, I’m sorry. I’m just the messenger and I have no psychological credentials whatsoever.

However, what I can suggest is letting all the expectations go…just like a helium balloon floating way across the sky until it’s out of sight. This might take a bit of practice, but you’ll soon find out that you won’t die if someone adds a green decoration to your purple and silver themed tree. That it’s not the end of the world when the dog eats your handmade Christmas Cake leaving you nothing but crumbs. That is doesn’t matter if you neither give nor receive Christmas Cards, presents, pudding whatever. I am thankful that God sent us Jesus at Christmas time and I am also mindful that we can’t take the ones we love for granted. That while it might be hard to focus on each other every single day, that we can at least be more conscious of family and friends at Christmas and truly savour the people who mean the world to us.

Life is too short to let anything get in the way of that.

We but not only carpe diem seize the day but also make the most of each other.

Love & Blessings for Christmas and the New Year,

Rowena

PS When it comes to dealing with little black rain clouds, especially ones hanging over our special moments like Christmas, perhaps we should simply borrow cupid’s bow and arrow and shoot the darned thing down. One pop…and it’s gone!