One day when I was about 12 I had a panic attack that I might be losing my mind. Before that moment I had perceived my mind as a reliable source of somewhat clear thoughts in accord with what other people like my Mom, Dad and a history teacher I respected thought of reality outside my mind. But suddenly I became aware that the clarity of my thoughts was only a thin veneer covering up the other side of my Mind that was dark, sinister and capable to spin out of control.
- I will go mad if I don't watch out, - I thought. The only way I knew to watch out was to watch my mind. So I started to scrutinize my mind and it's products. Between pretty keen observations (the neighbor's jacket is thorn, he must had a fight with his other neighbor again) and rational learning (the Thirty Years War took place from 1618 to 1648) it managed to mix in some thoughts that were a bit off and needed an additional attention:
- How valid is this thought about running away from home and living in a forest eating moss?
- How about this thought to continue swimming away from the beech until I reach Sweden?
- Should I follow this thought of jumping from the roof of a building to see if I can fly?
Somehow in the light of my examination the thought of swimming 150 km from Kurzeme to Swedish Island Gotland (150 km) lost it's appeal. Of course, swimming in cold water made me feel invigorated and powerful, and Sweden had always emitted irresistible glow of a forbidden fruit, but the rational part of my mind reminded me that the Baltic Sea was filled with Soviet military boats looking for potential defectors swimming to the West. Any defector would be shot, then fished out, identified, and then whole family plus the dead defector would be shipped to Siberia to be eaten by swarms of mosquitoes and bears. The thought of harming my family sent me back to the sandy beach of Kurzeme.
Turning lights on to my mind has been my strategy of staying sane. Talking to other people about my thoughts and feelings has been very helpful, too, to identify the ones that are perceived as scary and irrational by other people.
I am happy that we are celebrating World's Mental Health Day on October 10th! It helps us all to understand better mental illness and helps to erase stigma attached to it. If we were not afraid to be stigmatized for speaking about our condition we would be more open about it and seek help before it is too late.
Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival is screening my feature film "Rocks In My Pockets" as part of their Mental Health Day program on Monday, October 10th at 2 PM, at AK Bell Library Theatre in Perth.
MK Gallery is also screening "Rocks In My Pockets" on October 10th, at 7 PM in Milton Kaynes, UK, to celebrate the Mental Health Day and to incite a conversation around genetics, stigma and hope in the face of mental illness.
If you are curious about the film, please take a look at the trailer:
Happy Mental Health Day!