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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