Madness runs in my blood.
This is the only thing I inherited from my family. No fortune or business or even a damn field. Others have inherited a name and a legacy. Exiles and homelands not to be forgotten, a man of letters or at least an eponymous ancestor who participated in history, someone you can refer to during a conversation.
I only have a lengthy family record of mental illness, as if I was born with distorted glasses, so I see and inhabit the world looking through them.
At the beginning of my adolescence, when hormones affected my brain, I experienced incidents that could have led me down troublesome paths.
It was some weird dreams which were not confined to dreamland. I dreamt that I had to arrange some numbers, add them, subtract them, put them in order. But when I was done with the first and the second, I perceived that there were infinite numbers waiting for me.
I woke up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night feeling my limbs atrophied, and I wouldn’t sleep in order to keep the numbers at bay. I never told anyone, it was something I had to fight on my own, being secretive from birth. I drank some water, I walked around the sleeping house like a ghost condemned to insomnia and when I regained a bit of reality, I read a book.
The books, literature, were my sole companion, my imaginary friend and redeemer; something like a prayer or maybe a dreamcatcher. I continued to read, I began to write, still a child wet behind the ears and terrified.
My father was alarmed to see me buried in books all the time.
“Don’t read so much” he told me “you’ll lose your mind”.
He didn’t know that reading was the antidote to madness.
I spent the best summer of my life with the mad blood in my veins and two books permanently under my arm, and I reached what seemed to be the beginning of the autumn.
I wasn’t cured, but things could be worse. After all I didn’t want to be cured, since it would transform me into something I was not, it wouldn’t be me anymore – even though I can’t tell for sure who I am.
My madness can’t be classified into any category of a mental disorders’ manual and to some extent I am a functional individual, despite the fact I can’t accept the world – even if this world is meant to accept me.
Perhaps the term that describes me best is dialectal misfit. Just like a dialect, I adapt myself anywhere but I don’t lose myself in there, it doesn’t absorb me, I always remain a stranger, a foreigner, something like a tourist, a passer-by.
Above all, I can’t value anything as absolutely important and essential. I can see as such only life itself, everything else is hallucinations.
Even life, our existence, is weird. If you observe your feet, your hands, your face, you realize how strange it is that they exist, how strange they are the way they are. They seem natural to us because we are used to them but they are strange assemblies of cells and circumstances.
As I was passing through life (because it’s nothing else than a passage and we are travellers with a one-way ticket) I met many other people who were as mad as I am. Birds of a feather flock together. None of them could ever be a member of parliament or, at least, a club president.
Of their own free will, they detach themselves from every-day life, as if they are part of an already completed jigsaw puzzle, a spare piece, unfitting, useless.
Society puts the blame on them for their weirdness, to justify the existence of its cruelty.
Some can accept it, others are opposed. The second (those who oppose) can’t figure out why the madness that runs in their blood can’t fit in an irrational world. They simply don’t understand that they are neither mad enough to be put on the sidelines, nor irrational enough to be accepted.
Just like the war between animals and birds, where the bat was a common enemy to all and an outcast, therefore it was forced to live in the dark, hidden. That’s the way they live, too.
I’d like to write that mad people bring changes to the world, it would suit me fine, by reeling off a few names of such great and “damned” people. But this is yet another myth, sloppy and fascinating, that sometimes I resort to in order to back up my thoughts.
The World changes one way or another, there is no other way, change is an ingredient of existence. Even the dead change as their body decomposes. It is turned into fertilizer, food, the structural material for new forms of life, that will die too when their time comes. Only in an utterly cold Universe would nothing change.
People who carry the madness in their blood suffer very often. Because they are not accepted by others, they are weird, eccentric, erratic, secluded – and they throw pearls before swine, at the bus stations and the queues outside unemployment offices.
What saves them is that sometimes they can see things that others can’t. It’s not a virtue, it’s not superiority, it’s just personal redemption – and nothing else.
If some of them are finally accepted, it’s just because coincidentally their madness is in accord with the times and the mainstream. These lucky guys are few. Most of them die smashed by the dictatorship of normality, they are drowned swimming against the current – or downwards.
As the years pass by and I gather material, I see that this madness which is so romanticized or criticized, is usual, common, almost a certainty. But the best part of people suppresses it to the subconscious or buries it too deep in the pocket of social norms to remain secret, like a weakness you are not allowed to confess or admit to.
And when it bursts forth, unconsciously and like a flood, it is disastrous both for the bearer and those who are around.
Perhaps man’s irrationality, as a social being, is that they will never admit their madness. As they strive to be normal, acceptable, successful and likeable, they commit crimes against others and themselves.
Mainly against themselves. And when, some day, they realize how many pieces of them they have left behind somewhere along the way, because their parents, their teachers, their friends, their lovers, their partners, their bosses, the advertisers, the psychiatrists and the wise men told them so, when they realize that along with these pieces, they have left their own self, then –sometimes – they get mad in the real sense of the word and they grab a gun and take revenge for the wasted madness, the wasted life.
The only way to live – or at least the most genuine – is to accept your madness. Don’t take off your own special, characteristic, weird glasses you have been wearing since the day you were born that make you see differently – and make you look weird.
You will be accepted, understood, befriended, loved, only by those who have loved their own madness. You need no more of them.
And – above all – you’ll never take a look in the mirror and wonder who this stranger that is looking back at you is.
It’s you. Mad, maybe. But it’s you.
And there are plenty like you.
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Translated by Alexandros Mantas
Edited by Jackie Pert