Milestones. Coming back from mental illness has its milestones. I have met many of these along the way and have touched them as I have gone past. Most say that I’m pointing in the right direction. They pat me on the back as reassurance that I am on the right road and, indeed, I am on that right road.
I am becoming more and more normal everyday, in many ways.
And…I am scared.
I liked being ‘unnormal’. Although it was a desperate situation for a time, it freed me from false gods.
I stopped praying at their temples and took to wandering through the days on a quest to find the grails that I had left behind. I realised that I was not normal. My brain worked differently. My outlooks were different. My goals were not the same. And there I found myself, after a year-long odyssey, thinking that I had made it back, thinking that I had regained my sanity.
I was becoming normal once again.
One thing about having a breakdown is that you throw away the old. Not so much that you throw it away, rather that the old has been thrown for you. You wake up one morning and the world has turned without you onboard. You are floating somewhere in a drug-filled space; keeping quiet, watching, writing.
The writing keeps a record, the watching keeps ones distance, the quiet gives you time to think. The thinking feeds one’s belief that the world is not a sane place and that everyone in it is normal; and the norm is madness.
The problem with welcoming back normality is similar to the problem of welcoming displaced people into the security of western democracies. I am a liberal do-gooder and would welcome all and sundry, but I am now aware that amongst the sundries are unwanted agents. These agents have returned, not to ask for forgiveness but to help to create mayhem and chaos. My problem is that I am aware that some of the norms that are creeping back over the borders are non-friendlies. I want to keep myself safe and I can’t have radical agents sabotaging the infrastructure that I have built; or terrifying the crap out of those areas that I have only recently regained.
The other thing is that I cannot, simply cannot, give into the fear of ‘what might’, censor thoughts for the potentially harmful. Or build a bloody Great Wall.
It is the norm that is doing this to me. It is the acceptable face of everyday madness that almost all of us are being coaxed into accepting in exchange for normal life expectations. Most of us stop every now and again and see the madness for what it is. It’s a fairground wheel that everyone is queuing up to climb aboard. It takes its passengers above the ground level of life and shows them what they may be missing. It’s a huge panorama of the possible and it costs an arm and a leg, and a soul, to pay for the ride.
So, we go on the ride. We hold hands with the one that we love and we marvel at the world that suddenly becomes smaller and less threatening. We are above it, like gods, and we can see it for what it is, a canvas of earth that is there for our conquest.
Then there is a crunching noise. Metal on metal, in a squeal of dismay. The circle that we were travelling on screams to a stop. The Wheel of Fortune halts in its sky-stride and rattles its deception. The cold wind arises and worries the hands that are holding now more tightly. The earth is still below, but it is no longer smaller. It leers up at you and reasserts its dominance.
After an eternity, the ride begins again. This is the downward part of the cycle and it is welcome. Soon the ground will be there to greet you and you feel comforted. It will sit as sure as gravity and make a dull promise that this is it, no more fear, no more false fancies, no more madness.
“I will shackle your dreams to the earth and they will never tempt you again just as long as you follow me.”
And, for a while the reassurance of this promise is wonderful. No more dreams. No more seeing the world from different perspectives. No more rides towards heaven. The Wheel of Fortune has turned full circle and has brought you back to where you were, at the beginning of all that, before it happened.
No more will you venture out into places that belong to others. You will keep close to the ground and closer to the coastline. You will keep even closer to the little world that existed before the dawn of understanding. You will live a life more ordinary and die a normal death having pledged yourself to the God of Norm.
Life will begin at the sound of the alarm clock. It will continue on its journey through a brief breakfast, the pinching of time over tea, and the goodbyes and the ‘have a good day’ until the blankness of the business day is bankrupt and the home waits for a few hours of respite.
Fin du travail (The End of the Working Day)
Then, the next day, in all its lack of hope, will suffuse into the world and pretend it is new.