This woman was sitting in a spacious bamboo gazebo, on the pleasant grounds of the local mental hospital in Talay. I observed her there for an hour or so. Other people came, and went, and chatted with each other; but this woman never changed her posture, her position, or the expression on her face. I could have taken this picture at any moment during that hour and it would have looked exactly the same.
She was there, physically, along with the rest of us. But her real self was somewhere else, in a world of her own. To her, we were only shadows, unreal ghosts at the edge of her vision.
When people become so removed from the ordinary world the rest of us live in- we call them “crazy”, and send them away to stay in places like this.
“Mental Illness” is not well understood. No one knows why it happens to some people, but it does: for days, for years, for life. It’s no one’s fault.
Most people, like it or not, share with each other, a common world. They see and hear the same things, and agree on what is real and what is not. They may dream at night, but their dreams disappear when they wake up. They understand that a dream is not part of the world they share with other people.
But what if, when you woke in the morning, your dream did not disappear- but stayed solid, real, though unseen by others? What if the landscape of that dream slowly became more solid, more real than the world you shared with everyone else? You would find yourself on the other side of a wall, in another country- a place unknown, unseen by your family and friends.
At first you might be angry, not believing that they really couldn’t see the things you see- The floating people, the birds talking to you with secret messages, the blue mountains slowly shifting in the distance like waves. But in time, you would realize- that even your closest friends were blind and deaf to your experience. And they would then begin to become unreal, to fade downward to darkness.
This woman, sitting here motionless, expressionless- she can see you, she can hear you- but to her, you seem dim and far away. She lives beyond the wall, in another country. It’s not a country you can visit.