The Church Bells

church bells

We live in New Orleans proper.  There are many churches that surround our home, as well as the river and the street car line.  We also have a police station near by, therefore it creates a cacophony of sounds at any given time during the day.  We hear boats, sirens, trains, and of course, church bells.  They chime every half hour and hour and chime hymns on the hour, every hour.  It is a comforting sound and I love the location in which we live.

After I was released from the mental hospital, these church bells took a dire turn for me.  They seemed overly loud and would stop me in my tracks every time I heard them.  It was overwhelming and I had no way of hiding away from them, as we have thin walls.  The thing that had given me solace and pride were turning into an obstacle in my recovery.

There was one particular hymn that the bells would play, I don’t know the actual name of the hymn, but it sounded like a demented version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.  It sounded like it was in the minor key and it was following me everywhere and at every hour of the day.  I couldn’t stand it.  It made me paranoid and scared.

As I wasn’t out of my psychosis upon being released from the mental hospital, this was particularly hard.  I was surrounded by this sound and it felt like the song was mocking me.  I couldn’t get away from it and it became one of the major things I focused on – the playing of this particular hymn.

It brought me back to my childhood in a weird way.  It sounded like Tim Burton had written the tune and was taking every chance he got to make my life miserable.  I would hear the church bells and announce, “They are playing ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ again.”  I know it drove my husband crazy, the constant reminder that I was not well.

It is amusing looking back, but at the time the fear was real.  It felt like the church was mocking me for not being a more devout Christian and I simply did not have the capacity to deal with the noise.  Nothing could be loud at that particular time and the bells of the church hadn’t heeded that warning from my camp.  They simply chimed away each hour, chiming the same hymn over and over again.

I am not sure when it happened, but eventually, through much time and respite away, I got over the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” hymn.  I even started to joke about it being played, which made my family and friends question whether I was bothered or making light of what had once bothered me.  Many a time I received a raised eyebrow for making that statement.  My sanity was still not trusted.  I reassured them that I wasn’t still reading into the church bells, that I was only observing the sounds that had caused me such offense.  .

The church doesn’t play that hymn any more on the hour, perhaps because the season changed.  Sometimes I try and listen for it, but I am met with a new, non-threatening hymn.  Maybe part of me is trying to hold onto some of my psychosis, to reassure myself that I am not in that same frame of mind.  But, I am glad the church and I have moved on.  That was a scary time, indeed.