It is a not so well known fact that people who suffer from mental illness are often stigmatized by society. As a result of this, the mentally ill find themselves fighting a war on two fronts. Not only living with the illness itself, but also living with the discrimination cast on them by society.
However, the fact that I suffer from schizophrenia, and have held down a job for six years proves it can be done. Recently I have also had a book of poetry published called, Where there's Light, there's Shadow. Without the lessons taught to me by mental illness this would not have been possible. Considering the torment inflicted by schizophrenia, however, I find myself asking whether it was worth it.
I originally started writing poetry at the age of 16 as a way of expressing my feelings. These feelings were not exactly positive, as I had just suffered a kind of mental breakdown. It was a couple of years later that I became attracted to the darkness in certain types of horror fiction. This mixed with watching horror movies helped my depression progress into schizophrenia.
Where there's Light, there's Shadow is a collection of more recent poetry, but it does contain a couple of poems from those dark days. The poem Dreaming on the Edge of Darkness won first place in a year 11 poetry competition, and was one of the first poems I wrote. It is said that art imitates life and it has been a rather gruesome tuition, would I do it all again? I am not so sure.
There are other influences present in the book, as in my reading I also developed an interest in science fiction. This along with the fact that I suffer from shyness would normally get me called a nerd, more discrimination. TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory put a human face on this condition. A great many people who suffer from severe forms of shyness also suffer from mental illness, and live with an even greater stigma.
The Big Bang Theory shows that there can be a good deal of humour involved in being a nerd, but also shows the rejection and sadness suffered by these people. There are times when this rejection is simply not funny at all. If my book is ever read by some suffering from mental illness and it inspires them in some way, I guess it would have been worth it.
Where there's Light, there's Shadow has been useful in other ways, as it has given me an opportunity to showcase some of my art work. The cover of the book was taken from a painting of a dragon that I did. There were also two promotional posters made from my art work.
Writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker all write about the darker side of life that this article has referred to so often. Stephen King was even once quoted as saying, "There has to be something wrong with you to want to do this sort of thing." Where there's Light, there's Shadow has been a small light in the darkness. The experience has taught me a lot about those who walk in the moonlight, rather than those who dance in the sunshine. Whether there is something wrong with me, I will leave that up to society to judge.
Finding out more about Chris Jones
Chris Jones is the Canberra-based author of the new poetry anthology Where There's Light There's Shadow (Sid Harta Publishing $19.95), now available at good book stores and online at www.sidharta.com
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