I’ve received emails from people, responding to posts about my recent psychotic breakdown. Some of them are friends who ask: 1. If I’m okay and 2. Do I really want to do this? Write about my mental illness? They’re concerned that it will set off another episode. They might have a point.
Then there are individuals who’ve told me about their own mental illness struggles, as well as the stigma that goes along with it. We trade notes.
A psychotic break is chaos. I, in writing about it, try to shape the chaos into a narrative. Some of the details I’ve written in the recent blogs are disturbing, especially when I write about cutting, suicide, and childhood trauma. But I’m not just hurling words at the page.
If you look at the essays closely, how they’re written, you’ll see that there’s shape to them. Even while insane, I rely on aesthetics to get me through. The blogs passed through a few drafts before I posted them. Not that I rewrote in pure objectivity. The wrath of madness shaped the essays, as much as did all the other tools writers use to create a scene.
I write this with a particular audience in mind: my students. I’ve known too many young people who have suffered these things in silence. I want them to know that, even in the midst of the chaos, one can choose to live and even live happily.
I’ll continue to write about brutal moments. I’ll write about the good people who have helped. And I will write about evil. Human-born, psychologically damaging evil. What happens when individuals are driven by hate, and what they do, to try to destroy others’ lives.
Most people have no vocabulary for madness (or evil, for that matter). They have not seen it up close. They need to. But there’s fear involved. As one friend said to me, “You seem like you always have your shit together. But if you’re nuts, what does that say about me?”
There it is: the fear of going insane. Because life is crazy. You, sometimes, feel crazy. Desperate. Abandoned. Alone. Maybe you don’t take medications, or you don’t have to watch your moods every hour. But you know it, don’t you? Those moments that prick and sting, the silent pangs that you don’t want to share because people will think you’re not right in the head. We all live our private torments, our own personal Infernos. Anyone who says he doesn’t is lying to himself.
Here’s something to chew on, by cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker: “To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.”
This is my goal, with these essays: to be aware of the rumble of terror in all our lives as a way of achieving happiness. With this in mind, next week, I will write about the significance of cutting yourself.
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