Why I prefer reality

    Sanity is a precious bloom worth cultivating. For 15 years my
    senses were invaded by a reality that could not be real but
    demanded my attention – voices, sights and sounds. But don’t weep
    for me: I was having a ball.

    Just as a bright light may not have much effect against a white
    background, so the sane may not notice sanity too much. Many take
    it for granted. I have known the shadow that gives sanity its
    substance and I find sanity something to crow about. You are in
    touch with the world again with all its gorgeous complexity. Not
    only that, but you can make a contribution.

    In a mild form of insanity, people may act a part throughout their
    lives, hiding their real light behind a bushel. They are to be
    forgiven; artificiality is a part of nature. For years I strutted
    the stage and now I really don’t know who I am. But I cling on to
    sanity as a climber clings on to his crampon. I’m delighted that I
    can see sense and make sense.

    The secret of sanity is regular habits, plenty of sleep and a
    cheerful outlook. Then everything is crystal clear and nobody is
    going to wrench you from your bed and take you to the funny farm.
    But beware if you live exclusively in a dream world. You may be
    mouthing someone else’s lines, having seen too much television.
    Real life is so much richer than the richest drama. Switch off the
    telly, examine your room and yourself and await the inspiration
    that time will certainly bring. To be a citizen of this world you
    have to be sane. To cut yourself off from the world behind lace
    curtains is to court disaster.

    When I was nuts my reality was so convincing that I didn’t doubt it
    for a moment. I really believed my mother and the Queen were on
    trial for crimes against the state. I heard the buzz of the
    electrodes as they tortured my mother. And 40 years later I can
    still recall them.

    The worst thing was being cut off from everyone else. My best
    moments were fantastic, hypomanic ecstasy. But none was sweeter
    than when I regained my sanity.

    I seem to be defending madness and certainly it has a place in this
    world: the madness of creativity, of exploring every avenue and
    coming up with every conceivable conclusion. Art depends on
    insanity, just as life depends on sanity. And the result? A
    glorious mixture.

    The unpleasant side of insanity is worse than any physical illness.
    I have lived with chronic manic-depressives and know what they go
    through; it is worse than hell. My disorder was quite the opposite.
    Not that I prefer it to sanity; confinement far from anywhere is
    not fun. But once you come back to the world, you realise the
    poetry of being sane, the sunshine, the sweet smells and the chance
    to start your whole career again.

    Richard Jameson is a mental health service user and a
    retired playwright.

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