I’m Sorry You Have To Go Your Mental Illness Alone, But Can I Come Too?
When you walk or fall or trip or dive or dig your way into the Black Cube of Badness and Bedlam, you’re in there alone. Diagnosed mental illness, addiction, whatever…intention and fault is irrelevant…it was your path in, and it will be your path out. I don’t want to be the dark messenger. I’m just calling it as it’s played out in my tiny world. The black walls will close in on you and there is no guarantee you will find a path out at all. It’s virgin forest after all. Your particular forest has never been traversed by anyone who lives, and the trees have eyes and gnarly arms with blades on their finger-tips. You could come and go like snow. Or you could stay and the black cube could be the last thing you ever see. All by yourself. Alone. Lonely.
I could quote sad statistics, but what’s the point. We all know the undeniable truth.
I’ve always believed firmly that the reckoning path is for the solo traveler. In fact I would dismiss you on site if you started throwing terms like “support network”, “health providers” and “advocacy” around in a conversation about solving the acute ends of an array of mental illnesses.
And I’m talking black room torture chambers, the cliff gazers, those that hold razors, the psychotic breakers, the manic staters and those with the voices and faces that just won’t go away. Because only people who don’t know the difference between monstrous darkness and a bad run of melancholia would say such things and actually believe them to be true.
It smacks of textbooks and popular mental health chat. I mean, there are so many “Ifs” involving these networks and professionals, not the least of which are: “If” you have access to them, “If” you want access to them, and “If” you can get to them.
My point is, it is your path. By definition, no-one can climb inside your mind and hold your figurative hand for you. Even when surrounded by loved ones and professionals, the story still plays out inside of you, inside of your mind. For this reason alone people with serious mental illnesses deserve unconditional respect. But either way, I’ve softened, a little. Because some beautiful people softened me, a little.
I was never a huge fan of social media. Because of my sharp shifts in mood I found it hard to be consistent, and it’s so busy with conversation it makes me manic if I stay on too long and too late. I admit that this time around I rejoined Twitter to pimp myself and the Bipolar Clown out so I could flog copies of my new memoir, Clown & I, to try and get some food and rent. But day by day I found myself liking more and more people. They were funny and irreverent and we had loads in common on account of the fact we’re all way unstable, and many of us have life histories that would make the rowdiest football player blush.
Over two nights I had two stellar conversations with hilarious and brilliant women, one with borderline personality disorder and the other with her brand of bipolar disorder. These women were fast like gazelles, funny like Saturday Night Live and cheeky like…well cheeky just like themselves really. We were giffing and gaffing and guffawing. Both of our conversations ended in DM (Direct Message) chats with more gifs and laughs and I felt like I’d made two lifelong mates. If they didn’t live in London or thereabouts, or I didn’t live in Australia, it probably would have come true and my world, for one, would have been far richer for it.
But then Bang. Or Bang, Bang specifically. Because both of these women went down like Kansas houses in a tornado. But not before they set off the alarm bells with sign off messages and tweets that disturbed us all. What happened next was something to behold.
I limply hit the DMs trying to touch base with both of them. Meanwhile the steadier hands, two men with a long history in mental health on social media, got all street smart and led the way for the rest of us. Twitter was notified twice, full names were uncovered, local authorities were notified and eventually addresses were tracked down. This all happened in the space of a couple of hours but Twitter was notified in minutes.
Both women resurfaced in the following days and the authenticity of their gratitude was plain to see. They were as shocked at the response and the genuine feeling of concern as I was. For me, this was an extraordinarily moving experience involving two women I had made a bond with. Collectively their networks of fellow soldiers, not professionals, put the rescue chopper in gear and took it for a spin themselves, and found their friends in need. They weren’t an official “support network” or “health providers” or “advocates”. They were people who had been there. They’d been in the Black Cube of Badness and Bedlam and they knew the limitations of what they could actually achieve, but they took it to that limit. They took it as far as they possibly could.
It took my breath away. It changed forever and eternity my view of Twitter and social media. These are now spaces I have assigned to giving. There will be no taking. So I stopped pimping myself and the Clown to flog the book immediately, and instead I sent my new friends this poem on their return.
Just As You Are
I can love you, you know,
Just as you are,
Exactly as you are,
Wherever you are,
You needn’t change, you know
I’m frightened you might,
That you will lose flight,
Stand among common men,
That will be your end.
I want to love you, you know
Just as you are,
Precisely as you are,
Whenever you are,
Just as you are.
The scars on your heart,
The wounds to your soul,
They are you truth,
Your majestic truth,
Your only truth
I love you, you know,
Just as you are,
Only you are,
Just as you are.
I still don’t think, as friends, you can climb in the Cube, sadly. It’s not the way the Black Cube of Badness and Bedlam works. But I now know you can stand on the outside and bang on the door. You can kick it, or you can wolf whistle, or slide some pizza under the door, and you can yell out: “Hey Dude, have you considered having a shower, it’s starting to get a bit rank out here. How’s it rolling for you in there today?”
And they can yell back: “Go away shitbag, I’m eating my fist, and I’m grinding my teeth to shreds, and I like the smell of my body odour. It’s homely. The good news is I’ve gotta fist full of pills but I’m throwing them all in the toilet. And where’s that pizza you promised little bitch?”
Whatever. The point is, you can get through to the black cube, just a wee bit, people. But only so long as you have the respect of that kindred spirit trapped in the cube. And it helps if you know what the Black Cube of Badness and Bedlam actually is. If you don’t you’re probably best to keep your distance and lay low.