Esme Lennox has got me thinking about madness.
We may not be able to lock people up as easily as we could 60 years ago, but the debate around power and freedom and what happens when you’re declared “unstable” still has currency.
I can kind of relate to Esme’s vanishing act.
It is hard to feel like a half person. When the discussion’s going on around – and about – you; you’re not always sure that you’re there and you’re certainly not sure that your contribution would count.
There’s something about mental illness that disempowers you in a way that no other illness can –
Something pervasive and unsettling that, in the attacking of your core and the questioning of your voice and the uncertainty over whether it’s you who’s speaking – or just the illness? – makes you wonder whether you are really there.
And, would you believe yourself, if you were?
Because, there’s the opportunity, in the diagnosis, for “it’s not you, dear; it’s your illness”; and there’s an ambivalence, in the location, that makes it harder to determine the bits that are me from the bits that are not very well –
And so you end up feeling like “damaged goods” (as my head used to call me), or “mental”, or “a bit of a liability”; and you end up concurring with the notion that “you’re not always there” and “you can’t always be trusted”; and, you end up kind of believing that you’re a half person who isn’t quite the same as everybody else –
I can understand Esme’s desire to disappear.
We might not be able to lock people up as easily as we could 60 years ago, but we can still make them feel like they’re trapped in stigma and ostracised from society.
And, we might be a little more empathetic and equal minded now, but the temptation to put it all down the illness, dear, is only one step along from negating the person –
Which happens, anyway, when you’re referred to as an illness, rather than a name –
And feels like its already started when you’re struggling to determine the bits that are me – from the bits that are not well -