What There Is Instead of Rainbows

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In the Bible, after the Flood, God is said to have put a rainbow in the sky as a promise that it wouldn’t happen again. So whenever the rains came and however hard they came, you just had to look up at the rainbow and know that it would be OK. It would end. And it wouldn’t end in a flood. When you find yourself locked in that grey pit of despair, guilt, self-loathing, anguish, white noise screaming inside your skull, slashing at the inside of your head to get out, people often say something similar. “It’s OK,” they say, “you’ll get through it, I know you will.” They mean well. Most of the time. Some of the time, it’s true, it’s just a knee-jerk lazy response they give without thinking because it makes them feel better. The chances are though it won’t make you feel better. When you’re down there in that tight bubble of simultaneously heightened and greyed sensation that is your world, all shrunk down to the exact size of your skin and trying to get smaller, it’s impossible to make a connection with ten minutes ahead, let alone the idea that it will one day be gone, be “better”. And the tragic truth of the matter is that sometimes it won’t be better. And sometimes, even if it does get better, it will get worse again one day. Those well-meaning wishes, the survivors’ stories reassuring us with their “I got through it, so will you”, those rainbows held out to us – sometimes they can feel like the cruellest joke of all. Sometimes what we need most is to know it’s OK not to feel OK; to know it might never get much better but that’s OK too; to know that someone else has reached the depths we’ve reached; to know the noise is there in someone else’s skull too, the universal hum, the cosmic background radiation of pain folded into the fabric of time. When we’re at our lowest point, those moments that reveal the traces of that pain as they intersect the tiny lives of others, like a Hubble telescope pointed inwards, are what there is instead of rainbows.

The pieces in this exhibition are anonymous, but make no mistake, each remains firmly © copyright of the author/artist

With a word of thanks to Seaneen Molloy, force of nature behind The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive blog, who spoke on the same panel as me at a conference on mental health in the media last year and whose passionate plea for coverage of mental health difficulties that were not “survivors’ stories” first made me want to put on this show

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6 Responses to What There Is Instead of Rainbows

  1. Excellent piece. I don’t suffer myself, but am very close to someone who does. From an outsider, (and a surfer’s) perspective, it’s like watching a wave crash down, destructive and powerful. You see, If you watch, you can see a wave build, and build. You know it is going to break at some point. It can’t be stopped, it can’t be controlled. The bigger the wave, the more damage it will leave in it’s wake. But, any good surfer can predict the wave. Make sure nothing is in it’s path. Though destructive they are predictable, to will end, it will get to shore, it will be over at some point. I can predict the storms, and pick up the pieces when the wave hits. From my experience, all I can do is say “It’s ok after, not before.” For them to know, that I know. Though I don’t know what it’s like, I do understand that the darkness is your shadow, it is always with you and you can never out run it.

  2. danholloway says:

    Cheers, Jonny. One of the things you learn to do in the “before” phase is to see the wave coming – like you say, there’s nothing you can do to stop it, but knowng it’s coming means you can take steps to mitigate the effects, and knowing you’ve been there before is very helpful. Takes a lot of time and a willingness to look at things you’d rather not look at to get that self-knowledge, and the sad thing is some people never get through in order to start building up that knowledge.

    You got an exact date for your book yet? Talking of splashes, I’m looking forward to the launch immensely

  3. Oh man, some funny shit’s happened. I had to do some work with some (I can’t say for legal stuff) reality TV people. I don’t like to judge but, sooo thick. I’m seeing if I can blog it, but one guy and one girl… from Essex, both thought the North pole AND the South Pole… were in Poland, hence the NAME. And, it’s where Santa lives. They pay these people? I lost it a bit… things were said!
    Paper is out in March, the Ebook/amazon thingy is rocking and getting good reviews.

  4. Pingback: Mental Health is for everyone not just … (fill in your own ending) | indie e-book review

  5. Pingback: Amid depression, bleak stories can be as consoling as self-help | Stop Addiction.firstrus.com

  6. Pingback: The View On the Way Down | eight cuts

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