What are you doing to take care of your mental health on World Mental Health Day? Tell me, is something eluding you, sunshine?
Today, I’m listening to Pink Floyd for 2 reasons:
1. This morning, I did a 10-minute yoga flow with Denis Morton, who played Pink Floyd’s Us & Them. It set my whole mood on this cool, rainy day, comforting me and making me feel ridiculously alive.
2. It’s World Mental Health Day. I was 10 or 11 when I first heard Pink Floyd. It was through the visual experience of the movie, The Wall. My dad had a laserdisc player, and it was one of the only discs he owned. The Wall completely blew my mind. Though I didn’t recognize it as such, it was probably my first encounter with the toxic combination of success and mental illness. The idea that life can be so ugly. The psychedelic mix of animation and real-life made it seem like a movie for kids, and yet, the images were raw, disturbing, erotic, terrifying, enchanting. The music was just transcendental. The whole of it accessed a deep part of me that felt like truth even though it wasn’t mine. It was deeply emotional, soul-penetrating, stripping me and filling me up, simultaneously.
I later watched the movie in high school at a local film festival. I went with two casual friends from school. They didn’t get it and laughed the whole time. It hurt me.
Many gorgeous college memories include Wish You Were Here, laser light shows, On the Turning Away, teaching me about the inner world, the bigger planet, and humanity outside my own experiences. Syd Barrett, an original member of the band, had his own struggles with mental illness and schizophrenia, exacerbated by drug use. The song Shine on You Crazy Diamond and much of the Wish You Were Here album are dedicated to him and his extraordinary talent.
And so it goes, many of the world’s most talented contributors are tortured souls.
I saw Pink Floyd in a huge outdoor football stadium 25 years ago. All the fans, the magical imagery projected around the stands and huge inflatables, actually were larger than life.
Three summers ago, my then 75-year-old dad came to visit me. We went to see a Floyd laser light show together in 3D. It was one of my greatest lifetime memories to share that experience with him, wearing our silly glasses.
Our minds are dark and fascinating, scary and ethereal, horrifying, and mesmerizing. They hold us captive and set us free.
May World Mental Health Day be a reminder of the richness and wonder of our minds in the absence of judgment, a free ticket out of the ordinary.
Despite struggles with my own mental health, I’d never exchange them for an ordinary existence.
Tracey O’Connell is a radiologist and physician coach. She can be reached at her self-titled site, Tracey O’Connell, M.D.
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