Mental Safeharbors

We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this – through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication – we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor, a sanctuary away from the crippling turmoil and pain, but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh seawater that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness. For someone with my cast of mind and mood, medication is an integral element of this wall: without it, I would be constantly beholden to the crushing movements of a mental sea; I would, unquestionably, be dead or insane.

But love is, to me, the ultimately more extraordinary part of the breakwater wall: it helps to shut out the terror and awfulness, while, at the same time, allowing in life and beauty and vitality. When I first thought about writing this book, I conceived of it as a book about moods, and an illness of moods in the context of an individual life. As I have written it, however, it has somehow turned out to be a very much a book about love as well: love as a sustainer, as renewer, and as protector. After each seeming death within my mind or heart, love has returned to recreate hope and to restore life. It has, at best, made the inherent sadness of life bearable, and its beauty manifest. It has, inexplicably and savingly, provided not only a cloak but lantern for the darker seasons and grimmer weather.

  • Pg. 214, An Unquiet Mind, ISBN – 978-0-679-76330-7, Kay Redfield Jamison
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