Inside the mind of mental illness

Mental Illness, as described to me by my son…

Imagine you’re on a train, like an old-fashioned passenger train. It’s comfortable and you’re sitting in a seat, with people in almost all of the other seats. A lot of the people you know and you’re friends with but there are also lots of people you don’t know. They’re walking around too and going from train car to train car, just doing what they do. There’s people talking and laughing, some just reading or being quiet. You’ve just been having a fun conversation with some of your friends but now you look out the window and there’s scenery going by; fields and lakes and mountains… and it’s pretty and you’re having a good time looking at what goes by.

You’re not sure how long you were looking out the window and you think maybe you fell asleep because things look different a little now. It’s not sunny anymore – kind of grey and cold looking now. The lakes are gone and the trees and grasses aren’t green anymore. You figure that you must have gone a really long way and you miss the way the scenery was. All this time, you’re not really sure where you’re going anyways.

You realize that it’s really quiet around you so you stop looking out the window and notice that the train is empty. Everyone is gone and you don’t know where they went or when they left. You don’t remember the train stopping or anyone getting off or even any of your friends saying goodbye to you – but they’re all gone now and you’re alone.

The train is cold now and you look back outside and it’s almost dark now. It’s all rocks and cold outside now and nothing is growing. You get out of your seat and walk up and down the train car alone. The doors at the end that led to the other cars are still there but they don’t lead anywhere now. You go to the window at the end that looks back on where you’ve come from and can see a faint light way back in the distance but the train car is speeding away from it so fast it’s almost gone.

You go to the window at the front of the train car that looks forward to where you’re going and it’s pitch black and ice is starting to form on the window because it’s getting so cold outside.

You know that you can’t stop the train car or make it go back to where you were. You know that the only way to not go where you’re heading – which looks horrible – is to get off the train… and that means jumping and that you’ll die. So you make the choice to do that … because you can’t go back and you don’t want to end up where you’re going.

This was how Willie described it to me one day when he was trying to explain what it was like inside his head… and why he wanted to kill himself. I haven’t shared this before as it was very private to me but I hope this helps people understand as much as it did for me when he explained it this way.

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