Madness and the Loss of Dignity

Manishka Gunasekara
4 min readMay 20, 2020

Three mad people walk into a bar. There is no punchline because they are the joke.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

“What’s the worst part about being mad?” People don’t actually ask, but they probably want to.

Well, honestly, it’s not just the symptoms. Sure, they are rough, but what’s left after they subside is a sterile stench of pity and people tip-toeing around your sanity. The worst part is the loss of your carefully guarded dignity.

Sure, the symptoms don’t help. The madness tries to swallow you whole, doesn’t it? If your mind had a gear shift, the crazy would take control. Soon you are driving beyond the sanity- speed limits and cruising ahead in all your ludicrous efforts. The feeling is a monotony-breaking-soul-shattering — euphoric high…only to be met by a throttling, choking low. Gutted. But all this we know of madness…

How exactly did I lose my dignity? Partially because of my own actions. It’s like saying, “why were you drunk driving?” I was too inebriated to know better. It is, in a way, a sort of influence, except you never asked to take all those tequila shots. Madness comes most uninvited. So yes, in part because of my actions, which in the sane world, would be deemed inappropriate.

No, I never tore my clothes off and ran around naked, ate my feces or killed geckos with my bare hands! Those are extreme cases and/or only in movies- a fantastic madness. I had a kind of ordinary madness. Yet, it still managed to unhinge me and take away my dignity.

My sanity was compromised, and with it, my autonomy and judgement. But the tragedy of it was that people around me suddenly started seeing me, not only as mad, which would have been understood, but also as stupid. And this is what hurt me the most.

It’s a tricky place to be in for everyone involved. On the one hand, your loved ones are going through so much, worrying about your state, feeling helpless and hopeless because you won’t give in to reason, you won’t listen, you won’t take your medicines. You. Just. Won’t. Listen — it is wholly consuming and frustrating, I get it. They too must preserve their tolerance while reeling you back into sanity. But here’s the harsh truth, no one but you, and possibly some chemical help, can bring you back to your senses, to this shared delusion we call…