Mental illness, weightlessness in the field of information. You don’t talk about it or you don’t want to talk about it, and whoever was born there is hiding. The World Mental Health Day, the day dedicated to Fools, has just passed and has not opened debates. As I write, next to me are boxes on boxes: antidepressants, sedatives, sleeping pills, antipsychotics, my daily therapy. But friends eclipse, they never ask me anything. Respect? Fear? Pride and dignity, as in the famous scene of the mental health center of Massimo Troisi? Instead the advice, never requested, floccano: but a herbal tea with Linden would not help? A walk downtown, maybe?
Maybe ice cream with a friend? I imagine that the good Franco Basaglia did not sedate his patients with Bonomelli filtrofiore, but strangers feel obliged to say their own, making us look like genuine fools. Why poison yourself with dozens of pills when half an hour of morning yoga or a celery centrifuge can cure any harm? Shampists and beauticians, complicating the long laying time of many beauty treatments, have a remedy for everything. I speak as little as possible, avoiding the issue. Ignorance and arrogance begin to weigh. Depression is known, but what is mania?
The article will remind you of my editorial on forty years of the abolition of asylums in Italy. I will talk about us and you generalizing into crazy and normal; readers will understand. And I’ll talk about mania, common to schizoids, schizophrenics, bipolar. A mania that has no shades, is white or black, positive or negative. Paranoia, neurosis, obsession: however it is called it has characteristic traits that many ignore. Most of them mistake their symptoms for a banal temper, isolating us.
Absolute lack of appetite is one of the most bizarre features in mania. When the mind runs to perdifiato and the ideas get thicker and thicker would not even tempt me a slice of chocolate cake, a beautiful true carbonara, the award-winning creation of a star chef. My friends, even those on a diet, confess that a few hours from lunch the stomach grumbles and claims a snack. Something in US madmen keeps us strong, but it’s something that even psychiatrists don’t seem to know how to name. The idea of eating does not touch my mind, on the contrary: the thought of bringing something solid to my mouth gives me a slight agitation. Eating requires patience, lunches and dinners are rituals. When I’m in the company and the manic phase becomes acute, I pretend to have eaten too much for lunch and prefer a hot tea, with enough honey to not make me faint exhausted. In the hope, perhaps now in vain, that no one will catch the embarrassing cause of my inappetence, which as it came goes away in a few days. The big binge is then a must. (As I write it’s dinner time, yet another dinner skipped. Don’t worry about me: I can stand perfectly. For now.)
Uninterrupted flow of thoughts. This trait of mania can deceive: each of you will believe that you have experienced it, perhaps on a sleepless night or for losing your job. But this is different. It is not anguish, it is not happiness: it is games of words, ideas, work notes. We are vigilant, but not agitated. The mind leaps from one thought to another without respite, thoughts that would lull anyone else into a pleasant sleep. We may not sleep for days, dragged by the current of obsession into obsession. What will I wear tomorrow? What time will I call my friend and invite him to the movies? And what movie will we see? Nothing that would keep normal awake.
If what I say in the manic phase is transcribed it would be a stream of consciousness, a wake for Finnegan. The tone becomes stentoreo: begins what my parents, affectionately, call the rally or rant. Freddie Mercury sang Don’t Stop Me Now, and there’s really no risk of anyone stopping me. I don’t listen to anyone, but I talk to death. If the unfortunate by my side shows signs of failure, I do not desist. My voice clear and almost devoid of inflections, as a voice-over makes the speech even weirder. Naive and inexperienced would mark me as a talker among many, but the thread of my monologue, perhaps imperceptible, is indomitable and bizarre. When the antipsychotic acts I turn off, cuddling on the couch and falling asleep blissfully. Those around me breathe a sigh of relief: the break is more than deserved. My favorite topics? Communism, glam rock, made in Italy. Never mention them in my presence or you will be forced to endure an otherwise avoidable sermon.
Misconceptions. The package leaflet of antipsychotics born to sedate bipolar and schizophrenics curiously mentions erroneous beliefs, sometimes unjustified suspiciousness; needless to sweeten the pill: they are delusions of persecution of different intensity. We’re convinced that someone is following us, that our neighbor at the restaurant hates us, that passenger on the train is staring at us. Remind us gracefully that it’s just a twitch of the mind, that no one resents us is worth little or nothing. We return to the point of the crazy and desperate eloquence, this time aimed at the wretch who, we are sure, has targeted us. If it didn’t make her cry, it would be almost fun.