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Mental Illness

  • As an experience, madness is terrific ... and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • 1930, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume IV: 1929-1931 ()
  • When mental sickness increases until it reaches the danger point, do not exhaust yourself by efforts to trace back to original causes. Better accept them as inevitable and save your strength to fight against the effects.

    • George Sand,
    • 1837, in Marie Jenney Howe, ed., The Intimate Journal of George Sand ()
  • Much of me was twisted and buried, and turned in upon itself, as a tangled skein of wool, to which the end had been lost.

    • Mary Barnes,
    • in Mary Barnes and Joseph Berke, Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness ()
  • Madness to us means reversion; to such people as Una and Lena it meant progression. Now their uncle had entered into a land beyond them, the land of fancy. For fifty years he had been as they were, silent, hard-working, unimaginative. Then all of a sudden, like a scholar passing his degree, he had gone up into another form ...

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "The Earth," (1916), Smoke and Other Early Stories ()
  • ... I finally reconciled myself to the fact that she had partly lost her reason. ... The death of the mind is infinitely more terrible than the death of the body and I mourned my mother that day as I was never to mourn afterwards.

  • My mom had the breakdown for the family, and I went into therapy for all of us.

    • Carrie Fisher,
    • in Carl Wayne Arrington, "Carrie Fisher: A Spy In Her Own House," Time ()
  • I get lots of awards for being mentally ill. Apparently, I am better at being mentally ill than almost anything else I've ever done. Seriously — I have a shelf of awards for being bipolar.

  • Nothing defines the quality of life in a community more clearly than people who regard themselves, or whom the consensus chooses to regard, as mentally unwell.

  • By the threat of example as effective over the general population as detention centers in dictatorships, the image of the madhouse floats through every mind for the course of its lifetime.

  • ... it was accepted by those around me that I was 'crazy,' so I might just as well be.

  • Mystical state, madness, how it frightens people. How utterly crazy they become, remote, rude, peculiar, cruel, taunting, farouche as wild beasts who have smelled danger, the unthinkable.

  • How crazy craziness makes everyone, how irrationally afraid. The madness hidden in each of us, called to, identified, aroused like a lust. And against that the jaw sets. The more I fear my own insanity the more I must punish yours ...

  • If only no one had told them I was mad. Then I wouldn't be.

  • My father, who suffered from hardening of the arteries, was diagnosed as having that tragic thief of the mind, Alzheimer's.

  • ... 'the sooner you "settle" the sooner you'll be allowed home' was the ruling logic; and 'if you can't adapt yourself to living in a mental hospital how do you expect to be able to live "out in the world"?' How indeed?

  • Every morning I woke in dread, waiting for the day nurse to go on her rounds and announce from the list of names in her hand whether or not I was for shock treatment, the new and fashionable means of quieting people and of making them realize that orders are to be obeyed and floors are to be polished without anyone protesting and faces are made to be fixed into smiles and weeping is a crime.

  • Of all the calamities to which humanity is subject, none is so dreadful as insanity. ... All experience shows that insanity seasonably treated is as certainly curable as a cold or a fever.

    • Dorothea Dix,
    • speech (1846), in Judith Anderson, ed., Outspoken Women ()
  • I have come to present to you the strong claims of suffering humanity. I come as the advocate of the helpless, forgotten, insane men and women held in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens; chained, naked, beaten with rods and lashed into obedience.

  • My mother's illness made a huge lunge at her mind in the fall of 1983, and after that, abilities slid from her without a struggle. Even the slightest inklings would extinguish themselves as quickly as tiny firecrackers directed right into a pond ...

  • [On her mother, who had Alzheimer's:] She is losing her mind in handfuls.

  • The one who knows best — the victim — about what is happening, loses the ability to tell us, the family, how to help. The ability to panic leaves the victim; it swarms over the family. As the victim forgets what is wrong, the family sees how it is, all very wrong.

  • This disease is a maniac. It goes through the life of the victim, ransacking the order of learning — dropping precious things it took years to acquire, forcing horrible new habits on its way.

  • [Incarcerated in an asylum by her family for thirty years:] I don't belong in the midst of all this, you must get me out of this place; after fourteen years, today, of such a life, I cry out for freedom.

  • Everything previously moving with the grain is now against — you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.

  • Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. ... You're frightened, and you're frightening, and you're 'not at all like yourself but will be soon,' but you know you won't.

  • Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can't go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside.

  • Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast. I'm not talking about onset or duration. I mean the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts.

  • Did the hospital specialize in poets and singers, or was it that poets and singers specialized in madness? ... What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?

  • I saw this thing turn, like a flower, once picked, turning petals into bright knives in your hand. And it was so much desired, so lovely, that your fingers will not loosen, and you have only disbelief that this, of all you have ever known, should have the possibility of pain. All the time you are seeing the blood trickling a red answer slowly down your hand.

  • When my mood was high, I seemed normal, even buoyant. I felt smarter. I had secrets. I saw things no one else could see. I could see evil in a toothbrush. I could see God in a light bulb.

  • Nervous breakdowns can be highly underrated methods of spiritual transformation.

  • The very worst thing that can happen to anyone, I am convinced, is any form of brain disease. Physical problems pilfer from the body, but mental problems are identity thieves. Intractable mental illness sucks the personality — the very soul — from human beings as tornadoes suck air from buildings, causing them to implode.