Myself: reflections of a silent woman
follows the inner life of a
woman tormented by voices; voices
within and voices without, voices from the hills and voices from the
mountains, and other sharper sounds that will not be ignored;
voices that say she's mad, or she's lost her memory, or she's only
pretending; voices that read to her, or talk about her as
if she were deaf. She knows she is not mad, only secretive,
but she has no wish to
disabuse the world of its prejudices. She feels trapped and
desperate, an imposter locked-in to a world where
she does not belong.
Being mad myself,
how on earth can I explain
my madness to the hoards of sane?
The voices will not leave her alone, but bombard her with the never-ending sounds of readings and rhymes from her own 'diaries', as well as streams of repetitive ABC verses from an old Alphabet quilt which Maisie has found and which she is working on obsessively, in a desperate attempt to jog her mother's memory,
her own mind slips into verse... Let it vanish!
Like things I thought were wonderful,
when I was just a child,
like things I cast aside;
I took my scissors in my hand,
and savaged them.
When I saw them through their eyes,
I tore my treasures from my heart,
and savaged them.
Then took the scissors to my mind
Snipped it! Clean in half!
Afterwards I could not read;
not that I'd forgotten how,
but when I found the envelopes
of all the letters Papa sent,
and all the verses Mama wrote;
all the words I'd never read
and all the things I'd never seen,
strewn like rubbish on the ground,
I needed something to hold on to;
everything was slipping from my grasp...
Afterwards I could not dream;
for afterwards I never knew
which was false or which was true...
Through all the noise, she also hears the 'faintest far off whisper blowing through the leaves, like a faded echo from the edges of another world', an echo that recalls a buried past that must never be revealed, lest her fragile hold on it be lost. Her one desire is to escape, but how can slip away without being discovered? Eventually, among all the words and images and musings and memories, she hears her own mother's poems and catches glimpses of light among the tangled threads that bind her.
It began as a joke with a mischievous cross
between fungus and knotweed and elderly moss
that grew upside-down and caused a disaster
for, when it was cut, it grew even faster
and spread like a fungus deep underground...
As she remembers her own buried roots, she begins to see her way ahead...
Seeing they are mad,
I can safely tell the truth,
knowing that they cannot hear...
The process of writing Being Mad Myself...
The story first came into my mind as images of a woman locked-in somewhere. Whether she was literally, or only figuratively locked-in, I did not know. Gradually I came to see that she could be both. Then trails of words began running through my mind. I understood them to be a mixture of the many different voices she was overhearing (or perhaps only remembering) while she was thus locked-in, as well as her own thoughts and memories. The trails of words haunted me for a long time before I began to write them down.
After I had written down large chunks of them I tried to make sense of her predicament by adding to her words and re-arranging them, only to discover that nothing I added or changed helped in any way at all. At this point I stopped writing it for a while, but the words went on haunting me and I could not get them out of my head.
Eventually I realised that I could not influence her experience, I could only record it, so I gave in and just listened and followed. Then I spent a long time removing all the so-called 'sense' I had unwisely attempted to add, until I was left with more or less what I had in the beginning, that is, just her thoughts and the words she overhears.
© Yvonne Jerrold 2005