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A Measure of Madness

Updated: Apr 15, 2022

Memory Cards (Detail)

Heidi Sincuba




Having been diagnosed with this that and the other at various points in my life, I am growing comfortable with mental illness. Yes, there is a stigma. 'Normal' people either misunderstand or avoid the topic altogether. And, unlike other illnesses, mental illness appears invisible therefore its victims are often robbed of the same support and care given to those with physical ailments.

This does however leave ample room for those afflicted to explore their derangement on their own terms. Particularly for those who are critical of Western medicine, the mind can be a frightening yet fruitful abyss. The oldest English definition of the mind or gemynd merely encompassed memory. It was only after the 14th and 15th centuries that the mind was thought of as the capacity for judgment, imagination, memory, emotion, and insight.

We could perceive these as building blocks contributing to the construction of a personality. Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time (1913) demonstrates such an idea. Throughout the seven volumes, the author recounts events that formed the narrator, including childhood memories, societal participation, and falling in love. It shows how unwanted memories are as persistent as fond ones.

It is these fuzzy bits that fascinate me and compel me to invent substitutions. The selective memories and blackouts caused by trauma create a third world that does not exist according to so-called reality. To be sure, lunacy is imagination. My creativity relies on this surreal world that no other can access and that can never be accurately articulated. Perhaps it is inherent in the human experience that we all have something in the mind which can never be shared.

Though I am often disgruntled by how vacillating the mind is, often ostracized for my odd behavior, I am learning to lean into it. Instead of trying to tame my mind, I am learning to harvest each encounter and its potential to ‘change my mind’ so to speak. I am of the opinion that it is rather the mind itself that is in control and those who purport to control it are the ones who are truly insane.


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