In reporting following the tragic death of Robin Williams the expression ‘battling’ has cropped up quite a lot in media shorthand. I don’t personally think that depression feels like ‘battling’. It’s not a particularly helpful metaphor for people suffering from serious illnesses, or for those who are near them in their efforts to understand or to give support. Depression in particular is not like an enemy that can be defeated. The ill are not in a war, and when we are not well, we don’t need drill sergeants – we need patience.
Taurus in the Mist
For R.W. – and the rest of us
As the gradient rises into cloud
I can only shorten my stride,
Work at breathing steady,
And pace an ageing heart.
I climb but cannot fight the mountain
Any more than I might duel a dandelion.
Each thing only is, as I only can be.
So I only step, and nearby step again.
A fly to the mountain’s toro grande,
A wee unobserved transient flanking
These great seductive undulations,
Picadored by time and tide alone.
A fine three-masted barquentine, splayed
Like a broken moth in a press of Weddell ice,
Endurance cannot rent half a day of victory,
But still Cautious Jack crews all a passage back to life.
No battle cries or bravado charges
Yet always with defeat close by.
Was he, am I, are you “battling”
Each time when we sudden silent fall?
When a finger’s shift is titanic
There is nothing warrior there.
No trench-foot rotten glory,
No battle-scarred territory lost or won.
No one can reinforce us as we traipse up into the rouk,
We are not a fighting army, we’re not in any war.
But be close, be heard, be patient – touch.
We can yet walk our bearing out: we only must endure.