Well, here’s the thing…..
As a child I spent most Sundays in Sunday School, dressed in my Sunday best, tartan skirt, frilly blouse, embroidered socks and shiny patent leather shoes. Sounds picture perfect and for all intents and purposes it was. But, here’s the catch ;-
My frame of reference was not exactly in sync with the lessons I was being taught and the hymns I was asked to sing. The content of my Sunday School class was moral and above-board, but it was not consistent with my thoughts and 5-year-old context.
I remember being asked to sing “I will make you fishers of men”. Firstly I had absolutely no clue what this meant. Secondly, because of my lack of understanding, I made up my own more realistic lyrics. They went something along the lines of ;-“I will make you vicious old men”. This concept seemed more viable to me, but needless to say I never joined in singing this song as I had no intention of turning into a vicious old man!
There are other Sunday School incidents that I recall to this day, but the one that stands out most clearly is the reading of Psalm 23. This perplexed me no end. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want”. Why on earth would I not want the Lord to be my shepherd? Why was I wasting my time learning about someone I wasn’t supposed to want? This really confused me. However I should put it out there that I wasn’t a conventional child and my thought patterns can only be described as ‘contrary’.
Only years later did I realise that I’d taken the phrases out of context.
I also remember when I was a bit older and already an avid magazine browser I saw an adverts for Dr McKenzie’s Venoids (the little pills that supposedly kept you ‘regular’). My mother had friends who complained about painful varicose veins in their legs and so my natural assumption was that Venoids treated veins. It sounded so logical that whenever anyone complained about anything to do with their legs, I recommended Dr McKenzie’s Venoids, much to my mother’s great embarrassment.
Then I grew up and had a child of my own. I decided to continued the tradition and sent my daughter to Sunday School. By this time religious instruction was less Victorian and officious, but none-the-less the frame of reference dilemma continued. The difference however was that my daughter was a beautiful songbird and was taken to singing at the top of her voice. People often commented on her voice and this bolstered her confidence and volume. Here are some of the songs she belted out ; –
“You make your face to shine on me and my car goes very well.” (This my soul knows very well). Admittedly we had been experiencing car trouble.
“When the gates are opened wide, I’m gonna slip down on my slide.” (Sit down by Your side!) I had just bought her a jungle gym attached to a big yellow slide.
Then there’s one of my all time favourites, sung with great gusto and conviction, “Thumbelina lives!” (My Redeemer lives!) Needless to say, we didn’t return.
What I have however learned along the way is that frame of reference is all important, particularly when communicating misunderstood concepts and conditions.
The word depression is a glibly used term and is seen as self-indulgent and a weak excuse that Prozac or any other ‘happy pill’ will fix. Some of my friends even joke about the quick fix ‘happy pills’ their doctors have prescribed. If only they knew.
I have started using analogies to try to explain the extreme black place my bipolar low takes me to. For me I wake up during an a long and invasive surgery. I feel the pain but I am not able to move or speak. Paralysed and desperate and not able to do anything about it, except lie there.
Recently a family member suggested that I shouldn’t attempt something and that she should rather do it, because I’m not as strong as she is. She did not have even an inkling about the strength required to drag oneself from the abyss. It takes way more tenacity, and brut force to pull something out from a deep dark narrow hole than to pluck something out of thin air. Strength is relative to the situation and experience.
I feel that perhaps ‘the theory of relativity’ can be broadly (and unscientifically) used to describe the relationship between concept and frame of mind. Mental illnesses and other chronic and debilitating conditions can never really be understood by those haven’t experienced them.
And lastly here’s another amusing frame of reference, once again church related; –
My daughter attended a holiday club when she was 3 or 4 years old. Everyday they did creative activities and learned a bible verse. On this particular day they drew a parrot. She brought this artwork home and I then asked her what bible verse she had learned. Her answer was simple and spontaneous “God loves parrots!”
PS. Thank you Stephanie Rose for amusing me no end and also for being my angel of music. You have made my life so colourful!