A.C. Benson, Cambridge academic, author and essayist died in 1925. In one of his letters he tells of another period of deep dissatisfaction and depression that began to tell on him. During those periods he said,
“I grow nervous and strained; I am often sleepless, or my sleep is filled by vivid, horrible, intolerable dreams. I wake early in the clutch of fear. I wrestle at times with intolerable irritability; social gatherings become unbearable; I have all sorts of unmanning sensations, dizziness, tremors; I have that dreadful sensation that my consciousness of things and people around me is slipping away from me, and that only by a strong effort can one retain one’s hold upon them. I fall into a sort of dull reverie, and come back to the real world with a shock of surprise and almost horror.
I went the other day to consult a great doctor about this. He reassured me; he laughed at my fears; he told me that it was a kind of neurasthenia, not fanciful but real; that my brain had been overworked, and was taking its revenge; that it was insufficiently nourished, and so forth. He knew who I was, and treated me with a respectful sympathy. I told him I had taken a prolonged holiday since my last book, and he replied that it had not been long enough. “You must take it easy,” he said. “Don’t do anything you don’t like.” I replied that the difficulty was to find anything I did like. He smiled at this, and said that I need not be afraid of breaking down; he sounded me, and said that I was perfectly strong. “Indeed,” he added, “you might go to a dozen doctors to be examined for an insurance policy, and you would be returned as absolutely robust.”
In the course of his investigations, he applied a test, quite casually and as if he were hardly interested, the point of which he thought (I suppose) that I should not divine. Unfortunately I knew it, and I need only say that it was a test for something very bad indeed. That was rather a horrible moment, when a grim thing out of the shadow slipped forward for a moment, and looked me in the face. But it was over in an instant, and he went on to other things. He ended by saying:
“Mr. ——, you are not as bad as you feel, or even as you think. Just take it quietly; don’t overdo it, but don’t be bored. You say that you can’t write to please yourself at present. Well, this experience is partly the cause, and partly the result of your condition. You have used one particular part of your brain too much, and you must give it time to recover. My impression is that you will get better very gradually, and I can only repeat that there is no sort of cause for anxiety. I can’t help you more than that, and I am saying exactly what I feel.”
(But the above is not what I really meant to share with you though it is not without value. I think what Benson went on to say is priceless—an education really, and something I think God would be pleased if we could take to heart. It reminds me of God who showed Himself in and as Jesus of Nazareth–see Mark 7:24 and maybe 5:30. jmcg) Benson continues:
“I looked at the worn face and kind eyes of the man whose whole life is spent in plumbing abysses of human suffering. What a terrible life, and yet what a noble one! He spoke as though he had no other case in the world to consider except my own; yet when I went back to the waiting-room to get my hat, and looked round on the anxious-looking crowd of patients waiting there, each with a secret burden, I felt how heavy a load he must be carrying.”