Friday, February 5, 2016

Bipolar Disorder and Dante's Inferno

                                   “Abandon all hope you who enter here.” ~Dante Alighieri

I have always been fascinated with reading, watching and studying religion, mythology and ancient history. Lately I have been drawn to Dante Alighieri’s poem The Divine Comedy and in particular the first part Inferno.
If you’ve never read the poem please let me give you a little background.
In the 14th century not long before he died, Dante Alighieri wrote an epic three part allegorical poem titled The Divine Comedy.  In Dante’s time you either wrote dramas or comedies. If you wrote them in Latin they were for the upper class. Those written in Italian were written for the lower class. Dante chose to write his poem in Italian so all those that could read would understand. The three parts were called Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paridisio (Paradise or Heaven).  The poem tells of the human spiritual journey through hopelessness in order to find the grace of God.
I was most intrigued by Inferno. I was fascinated by the 9 levels of hell that Dante described. Each level covers a wide range of sins and the worse your sin the lower you are in hell. Dante categorized his personal opinion of the rank of sins based on how he perceived them in his life. Each sin is punished based on the influence it had on others causing them to sin as well. For example, Psychics and Fortune tellers were destined to walk naked with their heads turned backwards representing their backwards thinking and how they mislead people in their lives.
What spoke to me most about the poem was the thought that in order to find peace sometimes you have to hit rock bottom or lose all hope. This sounds strange but to lose all hope and to hit the lowest point in your life can lead you to finally search for or journey toward a better life. It is said that it takes hitting rock bottom before a person can truly see their plight and decide to change things.
Dante’s Inferno to me shows that losing all hope and starting the journey to betterment can be dangerous and not all will succeed or survive. That is why it was at his own peril that he chose to journey to hell. Like many others in mythology, when a living soul travels to hell you run the risk of never returning. However it was the only way. His journey through hell showed him that things in his life could be worse.
I suffer from Bipolar disorder. For most of my life I had no clue that I had this disorder. It took me hitting a very low point before I chose to start my journey to a better tomorrow. I felt hopeless and unsure of my future. My disorder was pushing those that I love away and I had no tools of improving.
It was hell getting a therapist and uncovering all my deepest and darkest secrets. I had to talk about my childhood and things I never wanted to tell anyone. It ripped me apart uncovering each level of hell I had endured.
Yet it was the only way to maneuver my way through the Inferno that was my life.
Though I do not interpret sins the same way that Dante did, I understand what he must have been feeling or going through when he wrote the poem.  
Abandon all hope you who enter here…the only way to begin the journey.

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