The Bliss of Madness RICHARD JAMESON Most people think of mental illness terrible, destructive experience, filled with doubt and gloom. Sadly, in many cases, it is but, strangely, superlative happiness can be diagas a
illness too, and, when this 'madness' can be bliss for the person concerned. as an
When anyone says
'I hear you were in a mental I tend to wince. I maintain
that is why I'm writing this) that it was fun to be mad?in fact, a good deal more fun than being sane. At the moment I am positively bored by my own I before was normality: sensually liberated and had a glorious time. Don't think that I'm not grateful to be thoroughly normal again: it's just that life is so predictable. I Pop along to work every day, get through the office routine and then thankfully hit the pillow at night. I'm humble. One of the world's workers. A little grey man.
Contrast this with life when
I was off my rocker! I world where miracles were possible. Everybody I met was somebody famous in disguise. I was part of an enormous Plan which was unfolding daily and bringing happiness undreamed of to the was
human race. My condition
was diagnosed as being 'too high'. It clinical fact that what seems to you superstrange lative happiness is, in fact, an illness. In this ecstatic state I was talking freely to people in a way that I find difficult now. I wouldn't have the nerve. And I was doing things which my natural caution would now rule
For instance, I
once jumped on a train in London where it was going and landed up in a knowing very posh police station halfway across England, where I was treated to a cup of coffee in an elegant lounge before being transferred to the local loony bin. not
All I wanted, I said, was to meet the Queen and shake by the hand! I look back with nostalgia to those days of absolute liberation. None of the conventions mattered. None of the scruples. Life was a glittering ball to play with? not a drab lane to follow day by day. People were extraordinarily kind; but they realised by talking to me that I was unhinged and this usually led me back into hospital. My problem was to calm down and lose these delusions. Nobody came up to me and said 'You're not God. Life is not an ecstatic dream. And incidentally, I'm not Annigoni!' I wonder whether it would have made a difference if they had? Anyway, I was left to calm down on my own and pretty well work it out for myself. There is nothing more alarming than having to convince doctors that you are well. Of course it depends on the doctor, but I spent months of patient discussion before I could convince anyone that I was sane. In the end I was set free and sent to live in a hostel with a lovely, kind housemother in Abbey Wood. I was so deliriously happy to be free that I stayed up all night one night, bought practical jokes for the home (including an exploding mustard pot) and had a high old time. Within five days I was back in hospital. They didn't think I was 'ready for society yet'. It was heartbreaking, but it had to be. Eventually I was transferred to another hospital and from there I went out to earn my living. I don't know how long I've had in hospitals, but it's a good slice of my life. And I look back with joy at the fascinating people I met, the good treatment and the wonderful staff. Now I'm out in society again. No delusions. No fantastic dreams. Just a desire to keep my head above water in the rat-race of living. But I've learned something from my past experiences?that extreme joy is possible, that there is room for romance and pure poetry in everyday life. And if I can achieve my old happiness with none of the delusions, then my life really will have been worthwhile.