There's alot of stories out now, about dealing and living with bipoloar syndrome, and schizophrenia. When it first hits most people, it is like the bottom falls out of what you know is real, and this yawning abyss beckons, calls to you, drags you down.
I've never been severely either way; while I do get depressed (more like dramatically stressed) I haven't WANTED to take my life since my youngest was born. I did have the whole post partum blues though - that's kinda normal. What I have been is insanely manic - while not diagnosed, I'm pretty much poster Adult ADD. I think it's a fun ride, personally.
However, while I've never really suffered some of the really terrible things featured in books, I do have this: I hear voices. They don't always make sense. I see things. I've learned to distinguish. I get the wierd thoughts, like ghost insects that bite me constantly, or the sense that things are moving in the dark and they touch me. The world can get a little wierd for people without the dramatic manifestations of schizophrenia but who are still clinically so.
Last night I could feel the fire on and under my skin, and the bubbles in the water from washing my hands were myriads of eyes watching me, telling me things. The feel of the toothbrush in my mouth was intense; the toothpaste shocking and overwhelmingly mint and sharp. How horrifying could this be to someone who's experiencing this for the first time, or realizing that this is the underlying noise of the life they've led? It is not easily understood.
I've had this all my life, as far as I know. I don't have lots of memories of my childhood, but I do remember the weird things, the slowing down of time, the echo factor, the voices, the wierd beliefs, the odd physical sensations - cloth on my skin was sometimes unbearable, and even today I dont' like anything snug around my actual waist - the wall crawling and the wierd things happening, and the ease in which I was taken advantage of - because I didn't live in the world everyone else did. I lived somewhere else.
So I'm brushing my teeth last night, dispassionately cataloging the sensations and impressions my wierdly wired brain was giving me, knowing that the bubbles were only bubbles but still seeing them watch me and talk to me. Theyw ere alive, and I was reminded of Lovecraftian novels - the reading of which to my incredibly suggestible mind might not have been the best thing to do - and chuckled to myself, wondering if it was mad Azathoth - but no, he's blind..
and just like that, it turned off, as I turned off the lights, and returned to my computer to finish chatting with my beau. As I got older, it was easier to engage the madness without causing it to collapse my reality.
It wasn't that easy when I was younger, but at least, I never lost complete connection. I am very lucky that it is so mild with me. I've had my moments, really bad, but today I can at least identify the manic moments, and work out the bad times and episodes, and laugh at the madness inside.
But schizophrenia and all the other mental illnesses - these aren't laughing matters. I believe that many more people experience the milder forms, and take it in stride, but it may just be that instead of an illness, it is something we have to learn to live with as a societal whole. I don't think it will get better; I suspect future generations of the human race are in for a wierd, bumpy ride.