An angel sang

I heard an angel sing last night. That was the thought that came into my head (and what a childish thought too!) when the tenor stepped forward to sing his pieces. My great-uncle conducts the Messiah every year, and every year the church pews are packed to bursting with amateur singers who form the chorus, while professional singers are hired as soloists: tenor, soprano, alto, bass. The tenor this year made my skin vibrate like my nerves were guitar strings being plucked (I do not mean metaphorically–I quite literally could feel my arms humming and trembling like live wires, so quickly it was unnoticeable), and I instantly thought of how angels would sound. His name was depressingly dude-like. Think “Josh”. But anyway. This is what mania feels like to me. You watch a man sing in a church and you are caught in a moment from Anna Karenina or Camelot (the musical version, of course, where everyone’s angst is so beautifully drawn out in perfect harmonies). An hour later you come down and you realize, again, that he is a complete stranger and you know nothing about him and all your conjurings and fantasies and ideas are based on the mania’s rich, delicious imagination and not his own character. And then you feel sort of disappointed in him for being so ordinary. (Which is not his fault, I would like to emphasize. His real self is not even involved in this process.)

I am thinking this is why mental illness is often linked to artists. It’s like never having tasted chocolate but having a perfect idea of how it would melt on your tongue. It makes everything that is imagined present, sharp, detailed–not just images, but sensations, sounds, touch in particular being an element my brain likes to actualize perfectly like a flawless braid.

Really, nothing happened yesterday. The narrative is actually: I went to a concert. All the rest I only felt, but did not tangibly or objectively experience. Humans are naturally imaginative and interior-focused creatures, so I wonder often if I am just a slight exaggeration of the natural model: most of what we are is what we cannot explain or communicate, a state of heightened emotion that language fails to capture and reason fails to explain.

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I'm a former student of English literature, an editor and a creative writer who has been attempting to live with body dysmorphic disorder as well as severe anxiety and a recent diagnosis of Bipolar II. I believe that struggles with mental health are often lifelong and people in these situations need comfort, support and occasional moments of peace granted to them in order to survive.

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