There’s two worlds I’ve lived in over the course of my life. First, I lived in a place called Sanity World. A time long ago, when I was much younger. Sanity World is a place where a lucky few get to live, maybe for their entire lives, maybe not. It’s a world that is untouched by mental illness. You can hear about it, read about it, feel compassion for it and vow to help others who have it. But during the time you spend in this world, you don’t have mental illness, and no one you care about has it either.
It’s a place of innocence; the blissfully ignorant kind. You can be happy here, sad, angry, you can feel all the emotions. You feel them in a healthy way. You feel them when you have reason to. When I lived in Sanity World, I was a normal girl, living a normal life. Everyone around me, as far as I could tell, was pretty normal. I’m sure everyone wasn’t normal, but I couldn’t see it and was still untouched by it if that was the case.
I now live in a new world I like to call Unsound World. It’s a place where people live when they have a mental illness, or someone they care about and usually live with, has mental illness. In Unsound World, you can feel all kinds of emotions; but usually not in a healthy way when you first get there. You can feel resentment, guilt, anxiety, hatred, self-loathing, rage, depression, intrusive thoughts and fear, just for starters. Yes, even if you’re not the one with mental illness. If you’re not mentally ill, you’ll see these emotions in your loved one/s, and down the track, you’ll feel some of these things too. In Unsound World, these emotions are magnified.
There is not always a reason for your feelings. In Unsound World, any feeling or thought could pop up at anytime. You know it’s not healthy or ‘right’, but you have to scramble through them, functioning through your life as if you still lived in Sanity World with an obstacle course crammed onto the top of it. People in Unsound World don’t always realise when they’ve arrived. They think they’re still in Sanity World.
Nobody asks or wants to go to Unsound World. If your loved one goes there, you go there. Nobody asks you. However you got there, when you first arrive, you don’t know how you got there. There’s new rules to be learned in Unsound World. New ways to navigate life. How well you cope with Unsound World and enjoy it is up to the help you receive when you get there. How quickly you get it and how willing or able you are to take it.
Some people get better in Unsound World. Some never do. Some never do but learn how to live a whole, healthy-ish life. No one who visits Unsound World ever returns to Sanity World, no matter how desperately they want to. No matter how sane you are, you never go back. You can never un-see what you’ve seen, un-hear what you’ve heard, un-think what you’ve thought or un-feel what you’ve felt. Those experiences stay with you forever and change the essence of who you are.
If you are willing and able, you can let yourself grow into a more compassionate, empathetic wise person. Even then, you can slip back into resentment and all those other painful emotions at any time. Because these emotions are unpredictable, come at any time, with no rhyme or reason, your ability to grow as a person can take a backward step. Some people in Unsound World become so worn down by the obstacles, the drama, the overwhelming burden of unwanted thoughts and emotions, that they can sometimes seem less compassionate, less wise and empathetic. It doesn’t mean any of these people are ‘bad’, simply struggling.
I am in Unsound World now. Only now am I realising I am a lifetime member. My partner and children are lifetime members, like it or not. Mental illness is a reality we all deal with everyday, be it our own, or our family members’. I sometimes yearn to go back to Sanity World, but then I realise that what I want more than anything in the world, is that my children could’ve lived there longer. Had that innocent childhood they started out with. Two years ago, my children were in Sanity World. They loved it there. They seem happy enough here in Unsound World, but as a mum, to me, it’s just not good enough for them. Not what they deserve. Yet, no one deserves to live in Unsound World. We can’t shield anyone from it.
Which world are you residing in now? If you live in Unsound World, would you ever go back?