True confession: I don’t see dead people, and I don’t hear audible voices, but I do “hear voices” in the sense of thoughts that are not mine, that suddenly appear like a dream in my mind. A lot of people will say that I am crazy and nuts. There are drugs and treatments for people like me, treatments to make the delusions stop. Back in the day, before we stopped believing in God or gods or the spirits of our ancestors, I might have been a martyr or a saint. Instead, I’ve spent much of life dismissing myself as probably crazy.
Maybe some people actually *see* and *hear* things (or think they do.) Let those of us who have not at some point been *absolutely* sure we saw something only to find out later that we were wrong. Let those of us who have not ever made a single error in judgment be the one to throw the first stone here.
There’s this one line from the Harry Potter series that often makes me cry when I think of it. If you’ve never read The Deathly Hallows, then stop now because Major Spoiler.
Dumbledore is wrapping up his conversation with Harry Potter. In the story, Dumbledore has died, Harry has just risked his life for the sake of friends, and they are at this crossroads. Dumbledore’s ghost is basically telling Harry “you got this.”
At the tail end of the conversation, Harry says, “Tell me one last thing. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore responds by saying, “Of course, it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
When I think of my “relationships” with “dead people,” I feel like it works much the same way. Conversations range from Just because we are all human and all loved to Look, here is some life-changing revelation that no one alive on earth could possibly tell you right now – but you need to know it.
For example, my latest invisible friend is someone I feel unworthy to claim as a friend. I was looking at my Facebook page, where I saw that a young woman named Valentina Blackhorse of the Navajo Nation had passed away as a result of the novel coronavirus. Her death comes as a terrible loss to the native people of the United States, native people who have already lost far too much as a result of the sudden influx of colonists they certainly never asked for. This terrible loss struck me down to my very soul.
I paused to read her story, to look in the eyes of her photograph, and to think – no one can ever replace such a person. Not now and not ever. But someone like her, she would not want to be honored with a polite nod. No, look at her. She wanted to be a leader among her people. She was beloved.
To be honest, I write reflections like this all the time – and then I throw them away or file them under well, that was weird. Because I want to pass for normal.
I’ve had someone close to me try to have me committed to a mental hospital – only to be told by the emergency intake workers that I seemed okay, just creative. Also, that I should probably get some sleep. But still. Being called crazy is not fun, especially when you’re still dealing with various kinds of childhood trauma.
Anyway, returning to the subject of Valentina Blackhorse. This precious soul, this young Navajo woman, should be allowed to keep her private thoughts private, now and forever – sharing them with whoever she chooses to share them with whenever she chooses to share them. I do want to point to a few truths that she’s helped light within my soul.
The real truths, the real important ones, you don’t get out of a book or because you “magically” discover them from someone else. The real truths are the ones you live, the ones you shed blood and tears for. These are the truths of the mourning parent, the child left behind too soon, the entire civilization snuffed out so colonists could grab some “easy” gold (easy for them perhaps.)
I originally started out writing this blog to be about mental illness, but maybe blogging is like therapy, because I’m starting to feel better already. Talking about things really does help. Click here for the next in the series, Secrets That We Keep.