Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Quest for Wholeness

Cormac, I’m quick off the mark again because I love this week’s story prompt. It’s right up my alley and so the story just wrote itself. A story about madness with a happy outcome.

FridayFlashFiction #39 starting with the prompt: “She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora’s Box all over again.”  Here's mine:


She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora’s Box all over again. What was this door that was so dangerous to open? Or more to the point, where was it? It was inside her own mind, and on the other side lay what people call madness.

She had no choice but to go through it. A person can hear only so much bullshit and so many conflicting messages before cracking, and her time to fracture had come. She didn’t actually walk through that doorway voluntarily. She was pushed. Yes, Pandora’s Box was an apt term for it because, the door having been opened onto that “black hole of chaos”, she couldn’t close it back up again.

It started off dreamily, trippily. It was like living in a state of “grace”, but without the theist connotation. Her daily life took on a sense of “rightness” and she was aware of thoughts and actions flowing from one moment to the next. A “religious” quality took hold of her.

She had read about psychosis, so recognised the signs when they began. But experiencing it from the inside was a completely different matter. It all made perfectly good sense now.

You might think that a “lunatic’s” mind is completely without order. That wasn’t the case for her. Her intelligence and personality remained untouched throughout. When a person has a physical problem, such as a broken arm, the rest of the body can still function. So it was for her. All the time she was experiencing mind states that conventional wisdom might call crazy, she watched the process with cool objectivity and deep interest, just like a scientist.

Not only did she watch herself, she also watched the behaviour of those around her ... like the woman with a psychology masters who asked if she hadn’t drunk the glass of water because she thought it was poisoned. “I’m the mad one here, yet this supposedly well-educated person doesn’t know the first rule for dealing with people in highly suggestible states – don’t put ideas into their heads” she thought, but kept it to herself. "If she's not aware of such basic errors by now, she never will be."

We all experience coincidences in our lives and usually don’t give them a second thought. But her life became nothing but coincidences, like, while walking the dogs, she saw the gravestone of someone called Jane Ann Salmon, and then meeting someone by that name at a dinner party only a few hours later. It was what she called “synchronicity overload” and she became mentally exhausted by it.

It was as if the universe was saying “Hi, I’m real, I’m here”. But what was she to do about it? All she could do was to be swept along by this huge powerful wave. Where it would take her, she did not know. She only knew that there was no escape. The “messages” were everywhere – personally for her and urgent. Just from looking at a pencil she found lying on the road, she “understood” that, if she didn’t find a calm mind soon, the whole world would suffer. The micro is the macro. The inner is the outer.

It was not a thought, but an awareness, that seeped into her consciousness. She was incomplete, the rest of her mind/person/consciousness existing in some other dimension. It was suffering too because they were not together and whole. (She gave this other self the name “Annica”, which is the Buddhist word for impermanence.)  Her quest was therefore to reconnect her divided selves into one whole person. The terror she felt was indescribable when she thought that perhaps this goal was unattainable.

In time, and with some chemical help, the terrors disappeared and “normality” returned. The psychiatrist assured her it would most probably never recur. But she would never be the same again. She had seen and experienced many things, previously unimagined. She had taken a trip to the “other side” where she had journeyed through chaos. But a wonderful thing had happened. A lot of the chaos, having been exposed to the light of day, had now disappeared forever. She was not completely whole, but she was a lot closer than she had ever been before. And she could understand so much more now – about herself, her relationships and the bullshit she would never tolerate again.


  1. As is often the case, pain survived leaves one better prepared for what comes later. Nicely done.

  2. As I said before, that was far, far from shabby, considering it was written on the quick. You must have really been inspired. Well done.

  3. I liked the part about coincidences and synchronicity overload...neat concept.

  4. Wow, Gaye - an amazing tale that makes you ask yourself what exactly constitutes 'normal'.....!

    My favourite line - "You might think that a “lunatic’s” mind is completely without order."

  5. A M A Z I N G! Gaye - you are definitely a keeper! This was a fantastic post and I for one think you could have gone so much more deeper, but at the same time you left me so fulfilled with what was provided. Most excellent.

  6. Thanks for your comments everyone. Yes, you're right Coraline, I could have gone deeper, but restrained myself against my natural impulses. Maybe I didn't need to.

  7. There's a whiff of this character, not "wanting" the madness, nor "needing" it - in the traditional senses - but taking the best parts of it, and discarding the rest, that chaos. The two worlds see things differently. Groovy stuff.

  8. This really struck home for me as I've just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I went through much the same thing. Excellent tale and it was deep enough to hold the reader without bogging them down. Marvelous!


  9. Hi Doc,
    Bipolar - what a bummer!
    My story didn't really qualify as fiction. I wrote from experiences in the early 80s.

  10. Hi Randal,
    Can't imagine anyone actually "wanting" madness, but sometimes we may "need" it ... for a little while at least ... to "clean out the cupboards" so to speak.

  11. "Cleaning out the cupboards" (fantastic)-- just glad they use electricity less often. Very fine piece -- poetic in places.

  12. Excellent write, Gabby. As usual I'm late to the party and everyone has said what I would have. Really glad you decided to join in the fun. Well done.



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