Last night was Earth Hour. We turned our lights off for one hour and I wrote with a flashlight propped up on the headboard above my head.
I started to write about my cousin, who also has a mental illness, and has been in the hospital since September. I want her to feel the comfort of her own bed, and be able to snuggle up with her favorite blanket like I am now. I want her to have the freedom of a stable mind, one that doesn’t betray her at every turn. I don’t know what she likes to do, but if it is to eat ice cream, go to the park and pet dogs, or go shopping for shoes, I want her to be able to do those things and smile. I want her to smile, and laugh, and get well. I want her to be free from hallucinations, free from invasive thoughts, free from whatever her symptoms are that keep her from enjoying life in the community.
Then I realized my words were such a small thing to give to such a big situation. I stopped writing about my cousin.
I started to write about the people with schizophrenia that live on the streets and that my husband volunteers to feed. I want those people to have a warm shower, a clean bed, clean clothes, and someone to care for the wounds they have developed from years of neglect. They have everything from sores on their feet, to untreated diabetes. I want them to be treated with concern and respect, and have their needs met, and more. I want them to thrive. Again, I want them to smile, and have the joy of lounging on a soft bed, or on a couch, writing down their thoughts or memories.
Again, I realized my words were too small. The page was big and white, and I couldn’t find the vocabulary for the concern I have for the needs of all the mentally ill and homeless people in my city. I stopped writing about schizophrenia on the streets.
I turned the page in my notebook and started to write about my husband, who was curled up beside me. I threw the pen and paper on the floor and curled up in his arms. I couldn’t write about how fortunate I am. I could easily have these other people’s experiences. I could be in an institution battling my symptoms, and I could be on the street struggling not only with symptoms but with survival. I could be them, and they could be me.
It’s all too big for me to try and write right now. They are all in my heart, they are all in my mind, and they are all in my pen. I hope that my pen will someday be powerful enough to make their lives better. I want magic ink; ink and words that have the capacity to go viral, to get attention, to make people act. I have pen, paper, and hope, let’s pray that is enough.