I have written elsewhere on the subject of listening to those afflicted with mental illness, especially to those diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder without the assumption that they do not or cannot make sense. In his own account of his psychosis, treatment, and recovery, John Perceval, an English gentleman who became psychotic in 1830 puts the case more clearly than I can:
That need to be understood, or at least for someone to be willing to listen and to try to understand is universal. Someone in the throes of psychosis, or depression, or anxiety, or flashback of PTSD, or mania is no different. Another thing which Mr. Perceval makes clear in his account in his very detailed telling of his hallucinations and delusions, and how he was dealt with by others, is that he remembered all of it. I think that too often when someone is seen as not making sense, it is assumed they will not remember when they are in some less disturbed frame of mind. He shows us that it ain’t necessarily so.
He has little good to say about the “lunatic doctors” who tried to treat him. From his pen that term seems to carry more than one meaning.
I have found among the various blogs and posts only a few writers from the lands of schizophrenia and schizo-affective. From knowing those I worked with who had these labels, I can see how that would be very difficult for many. But, I hope that more of those who can, even with help, even poorly will try. We, who have been fortunate enough not to have experienced such states of mind can only do no more than guess (often badly) what it is if the stories are not told. If a first draft comes out like what is popularly called a “psychotogram,” that’s ok. You can edit and rework it if need be. If it comes as poetry, or with drawings (like a graphic novel, perhaps), or a vlog, that’s great. There are eyes ready to read and ears ready to hear.
And to those who know such folk as family, friends, peers, and care givers, listen. If you don’t understand, still do not dismiss. However strange the story, see the person before the “disease.” They really are there.
Since first writing this I’ve realized that the end of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is also significant in this context:
So, he who has heard the Mariner’s tale is also changed. We are not told what he has learned or what he makes of it, but changed he is. We are told only that he is wiser. In the end, this is why such tales as Percival’s need to be told and heard, that both the teller and the hearer may find wisdom and, in the Mariner’s words, “loveth well.”