Edges of Society

Published on Vibewire Online in 2012

Since being diagnosed within Schizophrenia in 2004, I’ve come realise I live in the shadows of society. I’ve been longing to be accepted into the light, although the attitudes of people can create complications in social circles of people who don’t understand. It results in people hiding, afraid to venture out from the darkness, keeping their illness a secret while waiting for society to change. Finding comfort in those who reside in the darkness at least we are not alone.

The attitudes of people, who dwell in the light, can make those with a mental illness feel like they are living in the darkness of society. Their actions and thoughts can vary from uninformed opinions to extreme points of view resulting in discrimination.

In some cases I’ve experienced off-handed remark towards me: name calling of a freak or weirdo. In other cases I’ve had are teachers standing in front of classrooms stating that ‘people with a mental illness have no rights’. Then having to make the decisions to leave the situation and retreat into the shadows or stay with those who want to form opinions without all the information.

Although not everyone treats people with mental illness as outcasts, when fellow students blindly follow the views of a teacher, the whole situation can end badly.

Sometimes people will hide in society’s shadows, afraid to venture out after a bad experience. With the fear of being discriminated against and having to put up with the remarks like ‘what do you expect? You have a mental illness’

In some cases the people with a mental illness group together within the shadows of society. Making friends of those who have similar experiences and can relate to what they are going through. Some people think it is safer that way, not going past the edges of light where the rest of society dwells.

Acceptance of the shadows is sometimes hard for some to grow accustom to. It can take a long time for people to grow into an understanding that the world they once knew was gone. Especially where people are grouped together because their families have either kicked them out or tormented them so much they don’t want to have their relatives involved.

Sometimes the family still don’t understand what is happening inside the minds of a person with a mental illness. Before diagnoses, they were accepted within the family. But some attitudes can change in an instant after family find out the person has a mental health problem.

Suddenly thrown into the shadows of a family, having their stuff stolen, name calling, and treated unfairly amongst other siblings, all because they have a chemical imbalance in the brain.

It can be hard to come to terms with the changes that have to be made, in order to get away from the stressful situations caused by rejection and a lack of understanding on behalf of the family. Sometimes all they see is a freak or a weirdo, instead of a person with an illness. From this you can see why people keep their illness a secret. Not telling anyone because they can see in society what works and what doesn’t.

Attitudes of people can play a major role in the way people are accepted in the community, although I suppose it’s really not the whole society that is the issue, but people who either cannot understand or don’t want to. But being able to socialise with people who have similar experiences and understanding of what is happening is major part in what they have to do to feel accepted within the edges of society.

Now that I dwell with the people of the shadows I try hard to step past the edge and into the light. Sometimes I get burnt. But at least I am determined not to stay within the darkness, and live with a mental illness in society.


Richard Bell © 21st November 2012