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Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing

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There really is a bravery in writing about a total breakdown of the senses and mental processes that make us who we are in our lived experience. It is such an unusual ordeal for most of us to comprehend, that shifting of reality and otherness of existing. Partly a tribute to those who looked after Horatio, from family and friends to strangers and professionals, and partly an investigation into how we understand and treat acute crises of mental health, Heavy Light 's beauty, power and compassion illuminate a fundamental part of human experience. It asks urgent questions about mental health that affect each and every one of us. This is a striking book: the title, the cover, and the intensity of the first part of the book which embeds the reader in Horatio Clare's experience of mania. That was a difficult read, it was overwhelming: "Give us a break" I thought... but that's the point, he didn't get a break, he largely didn't recognise the need for a break and he conveys all this so effectively. To the reader, privy to his thoughts, he is clearly 'mad' but as is clear from the account and his much later discussions with those involved, he was also skilled at withholding all his perceptions from others. But eventually his admission to hospital is legally compelled.

Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing - Goodreads Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing -

Although it is an account from his perspective, he does show how difficult it is for friends and family... I thought it was telling how his partner Rebecca only learns much later of some of the things he has done (about which he says very little overall). I was particularly interested in the experiences of his stepson, and his stepson's father...contrasting perhaps with the simpler experience of his six year old son. He doesn't quite talk of the 'positives' or things about himself which might be attractive but I wondered about his partner's acquisition of a husky puppy (a puppy! a husky!) whilst he is in hospital and they seem destined to cement their separation, and later their cosy evening routine involving a glass of red wine.... but she is adamant that there is no negotiation on him continuing to take medication. One of the most brilliant travel writers of our day takes us us now to that most challenging country, severe mental illness; and does so with such wit, warmth, and humanity, that, better acquainted with its terrors, we may better face our own' Reverend Richard Coles The second half is incredibly engaging. Clare describes everything in a way that makes it easy to relate to, or to sympathise with, or at least to understand, from both his perspective and those around him. Parts of his experience, I could definitely feel myself relating to. In particular, the moment when he is in the gallery, when he feels like everyone around him knows he is from the psychiatric hospital, that everyone is hyperaware of him. Same feelings, different reasons for them. And when he goes on to talk about how he will not let the breakdown define him, that resonated deeply with me. I will define myself, not let those things that others see as 'abnormal' define me. Erasing the line between normal and abnormal, and the sentiment of healing, not curing, is something I think needs to be better taken onboard. The album reaches its highest altitudes on “The Quiver to the Bomb,” a sweeping anthem about the birth of humanity and the environmental disaster that has followed. The pain you hear in Remy’s voice is drawn from the terror humanity has inflicted upon the earth. We are not just killing one another through our bottomless hunger for violence: we are mutilating our planet, too. “Accretion speaks louder than words,” she sings, flatly, banging the gavel on the trial of our species. After a lifetime of ups and downs, Horatio Clare was committed to hospital under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.I listened to this as an audiobook read by Horatio Clare himself, which I think added to the experience since it was able to capture his emotions on the topic far better than if I had simply read the words.

Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing

Whereupon it appears medication (or was it something else?) pretty much immediately removes all the delusions (other, arguably, than that he is perfectly fine) During the later section of the book where he rightly questions many of our models and practices, he doesn't seem to reflect at all on this occurrence. Nor on his repeated assertion that he knows the triggers for his illness and 'just' needs to avoid them... but doesn't (and, I suspect, will not, consistently, for reasons it might have been interesting to explore) This is, soberingly, not his first memoir of emotional distress, dysfunction and mental ill health, nor, arguably, even his second. I thought that most of this book was astounding. I have never read a more enthralling and completely terrifying account of psychotic delusions. What is almost harder to bear, clearly for him, is the impact on his wife and family. His account of his treatment by psychiatrists is highly critical, while much more praise is given to others in mental health services and especially the police. He is also interesting how his class and education help him elude services which probably wouldn’t happen for others. It's no wonder that Clare is especially skeptical of prescription drugs as a treatment for people suffering mental health issues. Side effects from these drugs can leave a patient reeling and getting off the drugs can be just as dangerous as the manic episode for which they were prescribed. Clare's distrust of the drugs prescribed is so great that he decides to wean himself off his drugs without telling his partner, who is understandably terrified he'll start having delusions if he stops taking the drugs. Happily, Clare does not relapse, but he attributes this to keeping his stress low, avoiding pot and alcohol, and meeting with a therapist. He points out that many people do not have the resources and support network that he has. They can't spend money on a therapist and so languish on waiting lists. He believes more government resources need to be earmarked for mental health and social support, but sadly, that doesn't look like it will happen. One section I found very interesting involves Yasmin Ishaq from the Kent Open Dialogue Service. She discusses how the language we use to talk about patients is important - for example, referring to them as 'non compliant' or 'not having insight' can be damaging and dehumanising. She uses a therapy based on dialog with the patient and trials seem to indicate it could have positive results and be much cheaper than traditional methods for treating mental health issues. What to say? The description of this mans “ journey into madness” is so real it’s amazing. Written so well.

Two thirds of the way though he finds a psychiatrist who gives house room to Clare’s ideas on treatment and says ‘At last I was being listened to’. I understand the frustration but the others listened too, they just didn’t agree. The last third is least good, with some journalism on austerity which I agree with but is quite light weight and Open Dialogue, which seems to be the solution, but is barely mentioned. Mental illness is deeply complex and contested and it is too much to ask that he can provide the answers. Like 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited, Heavy Light is a sideways look at the history of pop music and the capitalist world in which it thrives. What’s different here is how it sounds, and how it feels. These songs capture the watershed moment when your throat closes up, your head cools off, and your tears run dry: It is when you enter what can only be described as a zone of weightless grief. It’s dense, heady, hard to grasp, but that’s what makes her music so rich. Remy casts herself as a pop star and reflects on the traumas of childhood and earth through parables and the music we grew up on. The writing was almost bleak in its honesty, raw in its sincerity and brutally self-effacing. Clare's description of his "breakdown" or manic episode which resulted in him being Sectioned under the Mental Health Act is heartbreakingly authentic and I feel his bravery in exposing not only his experience but that of his wife/his children/his friends/his family. The best balance came in the interview with the social worker and the nurse. I was interested though that he didn’t choose to approach the inpatient psychiatrist. It rather gave the impression that all psychiatrists are interested in his prescribing medication which felt extremely unfair as that is a profound misrepresentation. Psychotherapy originated amongst psychiatrists and is a crucial part of their training.

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