There’s a wonderful song by the Moody Blues named Land of Make-Believe. Been there plenty of times. Everyone needs a little make-believe now and then to keep the sanity going and for most people there’s a lot of sanity going off the rails. That bit of make-believe is what brings us back to a more child-like attitude and helps to ease the pain of being pushed about by the world at large.
But there is danger, too, in the land of make-believe. We can wish for something so hard that it hurts our growth. We can believe something so completely that it supplants the reality we were trying to escape and that wish in your head becomes a ‘fact’.
That’s called delusion. Belief in a lie. A belief that could become zealotry. An ultimately damaging and even deadly belief.
And there are so many people who suffer the consequences. Zealotry can be deadly. When you’re so certain that a lie is truth, you might do anything to substantiate that lie. You might do anything to ensure that other people believe your story and support your view, even if that view is completely off the tracks. Take a look at almost every single religion and you scratch the surface of a lie and its ultimate consequence: millions dead at the point of a sword because zealots can’t tolerate others who point out their error in thinking.
There’s every kind of zealot imaginable. Name an institution that fosters a belief and you see zealotry behind that belief. Religions have zealots and so do charities, political parties, art communities, even food critics. Some zealotry (the kind that supports real care for others and the society in which we live, for example) has a positive net effect on the world. But just as there are positive zealots, there are negative ones, too: the Khmer Rouge, the Crusades and countless other examples found in our history.
“The world is indeed a mixture of truth and make-believe. Discard the make-believe and take the truth.”
I, too, am a zealot. I have a belief that is founded on a hope. And hopes, as we know, are make-believe. That belief is that those of us who have any form of mental illness or challenge rise above it and become recognized for our humanity, our ability and our contributions. One might ask, ‘Why do you want this? We do love and care for those with mental illness’.
Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. But I’m here, zealot that I am, to do what all good zealots do, and that is to force you to accept my opinion and observation based on my personal belief, whether you like it or not. I believe that the majority of us with mental illness are maligned in ways people cannot imagine. For example, the mother of a special-needs child will often become angry at what she perceives as a slight against her child. She’s protective and with good reason: her child being misunderstood. The mother is then forced into a role that she should not have to do and that is to teach the uneducated that do not understand the term ‘special needs’. To teach tolerance and understanding.
“The highest result of education is tolerance.”
– Helen Keller
No one wants to be forced into being a teacher of the uninformed when they have their hands full just to get through a dignified life. But I have often seen mothers inform the misinformed, loudly and vociferously if the moment requires it. This is unfortunately an uphill battle but then again, most battles are.
I’ve been in the position of having to persuade others to read more about mental illness, to read my own story, to talk about the results of a diagnosis. And all too often it is just as misunderstood after my persuasions as before. People believe what they want to believe. Or make-believe.
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a true zealot in the war against those who refuse to understand the effects of mental illness, I’m going to keep it up. I’m going to set it right where I see it wrong. I’m going to make other people see my point of view and think about what people who are ill have to deal with, and why they need a little more understanding and a little less ignorance from others. Of course, I won’t carry a sword to make my point, but I have a way to persuade them: I will show them their ignorance by living my life with dignity, by learning everything I can about mental illness and by keeping up the fight as long as it takes.
With zeal enriched by knowledge and love.
“Zeal without knowledge is fire without light.”
– Thomas Fuller