Life Line


A 14-year old girl was murdered in London. It’s a well publicised case. Another pregnant, 16-year old was strangled to death by her boyfriend, “to teach her a lesson”. Another 28-year old woman with everything to live for, has mysteriously died in her sleep. I knew none of these people yet I cannot help but be moved to tears for each.

The 28-year old women, it turns out, was a cousin of a close friend for whom I instantly felt a surge of sympathy. She described her as having been, “one of those special people”, lighting up the lives of everyone she encountered. The outpouring of love and loss is the most I have ever seen online amongst a group of friends. Every photo reveals why, within a cuddle of girlfriends, she wears a huge smile at the centre of each, a Cheshire Cat of a grin that radiates joy, to which mirth moths are willingly drawn. Others capture family, friends, partner; the body language is universal, echoing, “We love you and we love being with you”.

I cannot imagine how distraught she has left her partner and family and the very many friends to whom she brought this joy and laughter and happiness, but it is obvious and tangible and recorded online for all to see. So it is the loss of that last individual, a shiny happy person, with bright eyes and fair complexion, that hit me most. The golden straw that broke the camel’s back.

This is the increasing and inevitable penalty, an emotional cost, of continuous news feeds and social media. All these stories arrived within a week leaving me punch drunk and bruised. Never before have we been so connected with lives and events. Ceaselessly updated, how can we fail to form a real relationship with the narratives of parallel lives, so that when there is an abrupt cessation of news, especially because of a tragedy, the emotional response is also real, and personal, and hurts.

This is not a delayed epiphany of mine, but I have recently felt it more than ever, rendered raw by an ongoing spate of clinical depression; three years of debilitated capacity for work, family and friends. Today I “celebrated” the first anniversary of visiting my psychologist, specifically not a psychoanalyst with answers, but someone I trust, who is invaluable in making connections between otherwise apparently disparate events in my present and past. I’ve hopefully also whittled my medication down to the correct type and dosage.

Beyond those interventions, I have decided there’s something else I can do. In fact, desperation dictates it’s something that I must do. Every time I feel myself dipping into another black hole, literally a pitiful state, I have to remember that help, a life line, is within reach, a symbolic rope to pull myself back out. That’s why this post: to make manifest an abstraction. Shape the idea. A reference point I can return to.

The concept in my mind is unclouded, not the customary fug-muddle. The fog has lifted and this time it’s a good rope, not one of the other types that have threaded my knotted thoughts. This is no hangman’s noose: I see it as a golden braid, a Rapunzelean lock to climb to a higher state of mind. There, you see, more Grimm than grim.

So, that’s what I shall do when blue. I shall think of the smiling woman, that 28-year old – nothing weird or inappropriate – simply to bask in her eternal light a little, be warmed by her smile and celebrate another day, ruing that she is unable, and then, taking hold and proceeding hand-over-hand, I will pull myself out of that fucking awful hole. And when I’m eventually shot of the blackness and have dragged myself safely clear, I shall look all about, delighting in the view and breathing deeply of the day, taking a moment to smile, myself, and stealing myself to say, “Thank you. Thank you, my Rapunzel”.

About jfderry

Humanitarian Aid Disaster Relief Social Media / Hospitality Manager Conservation Scientist Modelling incl. epidemics Evolutionary Ecology Author+ @DISSENTOFMAN @DarwinMonkey
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