In New Zealand, it's already the new year, and shortly it will be the new year for all of us, perhaps with one exception, the mentally ill.
I've been working with the mentally ill for 26 years. I myself am mentally ill.
And for us, there is no new year, only a long continuum of tedious attempts to cope with who we are, with our dysfunctions, with our mishaps, with the sad turns of events in our lives.
Because you see, we, the mentally ill, are like astronauts stranded on some alien planet.
It is total disorientation. The landscape seems foreign. We don't know where to turn. We don't know what to do. We don't even know why should we do anything.
Mental illness is a state of disconnect, a state of discontinuity and disjointedness.
There's no gyroscope. There is no core identity, no guiding light, no northern star, no caressing hand, no embrace and no hugs and no warmth and no acceptance and no love.
Mental illness is a cancer of the soul. It's allconsuming. It's alldevouring. It's merciless. And its advance is unhindered by any external intervention.
What happens to us, the mentally ill, internally, is equally puzzling and bewildering.
We are at a loss as to why we feel the way we do, why the ups and downs, why the confusion, what is external and what is inside us. Who did what to whom and why always remains a whodunit never to be resolved by a miraculous Agatha Christie.
It's a perpetual mystery, first and foremost, to us, the mentally ill.
There are goodwilling people out there, therapists, social workers, life coaches and academic lecturers such as myself.
And we try to make sense of the insensible and the senseless. We try to imbue meaning into that which is random and chancy and haphazard. We try to provide structure with us only chaos.
And we try to extract and extricate people from the maelstrom of their own agony and the vortex of their own decomposition and disintegration because mental illness is inexorable in many cases.
And the mentally ill are heartbreaking. There's such a sad sight.
Some of them are beautiful, goodlooking, super intelligent, amazingly insightful when it comes to others. Some of them are goodhearted. Some of them just want to survive like all of us.
And yet they can't. There's an enemy from within, a Trojan horse, a fifth column, a gurnika of the mind, a constant bombardment of introjects and voices and delinquent constructs, all conspiring to unsettle, unravel and devastate the inner landscape of the mentally ill.
There's no reality. There are only cognitive distortions. Everyone around the mentally ill is but a shadow, a penumbral apparition.
Mental ill cannot grasp objects of any kind, human and non-human. They cannot really tackle the flow and ebb of cause and effect to them, to the mentally ill.
Identity is a kind of theater of the absurd, a stream of consciousness uninterrupted by any Marcel Proust, a remembrance of things past that had never existed and a dissociation of memories that should have been there and should have provided the foundation for an identity because forgetting is the core strategy of the mentally ill.
Depersonalization, autopilot, derealization, the feeling that you're in a movie, a mere spectator or observer obeying some script written not by you, colluding and collaborating with actors, not of your own making and unknown to you.
It is a disheartening nightmarish prospects. It's surrealistic and it is buffeted by emotional tsunamis, dysregulated forces that, like tectonic shifts, unravel and destroy whatever structure you manage to put over decades of desperate attempts to reconstruct and reinvent yourself.
There's an all-consuming anxiety catastrophizing in a hostile world, hopelessness as to the outcomes of your own existence and the helplessness to change them.
It's like a permanent infantile state being dependent upon forces which have no name and no description and no vector and no momentum and no direction, forces which are impersonal, forces which are pitiless, forces which are there ultimately to decimate you, the mentally ill.
It means all-consuming.
You try to make sense of the world by splitting it into good and bad, right and wrong, victim and perpetrator.
But the world is made of gray shades.
It's never black and white.
And so you miss out on social cues and sexual cues.
You fail to understand body language and the messaging and signaling of other people.
You wander utterly, utterly befuddled, dazzled, bedazzled by the blows of a harsh life.
And finally, you fade into the long night of your own demise.
This is what it means to be mentally ill.
This new year, let your thoughts and hopes, for those of you who are delusionally religious, your great prayers be with these people, some of whom are homeless, some of whom are poor, and all of them unhappy, wallowing in their misery, looking forward to nothing, realizing that their entire lives are already behind them.
The children of the fog, the children of the mist, those who have emerged scathed and wounded and scarred from the vagaries of childhood abuse, the wrong genetics, some brain abnormality, the mentally ill amongst you.
Do not cast them out or away.
Help them as far as you can.
Do not sacrifice yourself for them.
But do not be heartless and harsh and merciless when you countenance them and encounter them, because they know not what they are doing and they can do no better.
It is never your job to save anyone, to rescue anyone. It is never your task to make someone happy.
You are not responsible for anyone's emotions and states of mind.
Do not let the mentally ill drag you down into their abyss.
But do not be callous.
Do not stand aside if there is anything you can do with minimal sacrifice to help, because the mentally ill are you.
You can become mentally ill in due time.
It is an affliction.
Some of it is contagious.
Be careful lest you find yourself among those you have castigated and chastised in better times.