Reason #41 to Keep Living: Understanding


This photo was taken during a transition period: in the space of an hour before sundown. The world was not yet dark, but I could sense the shadows settling in. I couldn’t see the darkness, but I could feel it.

I am now sitting within my own transition period, and this moment before sundown has made me realize a number of things. It has made me realize I have been happy for a very long time now. That I have been very lucky. Through these bi-weekly blog posts I have been trying to be openly grateful for all of the minuscule, beautiful things in my life, but the words are not enough. I cannot express my gratitude for the health I have experienced, in body and mind, for the past eight months or so.

This moment before sunset, this dusk, has made me realize that mental illness has the tendency to be like the pain of giving birth. I have been told — because I myself have not had the experience — that labour pains are terrible, but after they are finished, they are finished. The memories fade. The scars don’t weigh deep in the brain. The same has held true for me and my mental illness. While I am sick, I am flabbergasted that many people don’t understand psychological sickness, that they think it a weakness and something to just “get over.” When I am not sick, when I am able to move through my days with ease and not much struggle at all, the darkness of mental illness lightens until I can see clearly again — or so I think.

This clearness of sight is perhaps not clear at all. It is a facade, a green screen projecting the world around me. I start to wonder how I could ever be sick when things are consistently so good. I start to wonder what my problem was in the past when I had trouble controlling my emotions and mind. Worst of all, I start to wonder why so many people around me are struggling with mental illness while I was able to defeat it.

First of all, the word “defeat” is a false one. No one defeats mental illness, as far as I know, and I’m not entirely sure that the struggle against it should be viewed as a battle. A battle necessitates a winner. I’ve never liked to entertain the possibility that I could lose to my own mind.

Second of all, this “clearness of sight” is not only ridiculous, but incredibly harmful. Harmful to my past self, my future self, and the people around me. Harmful to the memories of those I know who have committed suicide…

Third of all, and lastly, grasping the genesis of this “clearness of mind,” discovering where it comes from, leads to a better understanding of all the issues surrounding mental illness. If I can separate myself for a moment from my own thoughts, I can know how a person suffering from mental illness thinks, and also how a person free from mental illness thinks.

How can they, the healthy, not understand the impossibility of my pain? 

How can they, the sufferers, not understand how to heal?

Both of these points of view are deadly. Both are closed and contained within one mind, one heart. Only when we step into the twilight, the dusk, or the dawn — the moment between light and darkness — can we come to understand ourselves as a collective, as a mind that moves and warps and always changes.

The question I am left with is, Is there a way to enter into this twilight without venturing toward illness and suffering? Can we gain an understanding without the impending pressure of those two worlds, light and darkness, colliding?

I don’t know, but I hope so. I really, really hope so.

Read the original post of 101 Reasons to Keep Living to discover the genesis of this project, or catch up on any posts you might have missed here


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