The Red Door begun as a platform for me to personally connect with others who were sensitive to the issues around mental illness. It was a private, personal space yet being open to anyone who wanted to question. It grew very fast into friends being able to identify with it, and not necessarily with mental illness or mental health but just a space to share and discuss. It grew into a space encompassing people from all over the globe, different backgrounds, different experiences, different cultures, different identities, different worldviews, and just differences.
Members are allowed to leave whenever they felt like and return when they wanted. The reason I always thought this as being okay is because of my own experiences with support groups or any other group for that matter. In fact I still believe that joining a group is a lot easier. Knowing that you have an option to leave it without being obliged to anything that suffocates you to return is a lot more important. I am glad when I see people leaving and newer members joining in before they leave too. It means that they know what it means to be and let be – the philosophy of The Red Door.
The Red Door became a spirit by itself which included everyone who came and left leaving their mark somewhere on this invisible door. Their discussions, thoughts, sharing, knowledge, experience have all contributed to someone, including me. But I was being a pulled by my own creation and this is not a good thing for any artist. It became such a comfort for me to wake up and have conversations with everyone because I knew I could. Of course it is a good thing to have a good reason to wake up to something every morning when you are often tricked into instances of turmoil.
3 years might be a very short time for some people and very long for others. For me it is the longest relationship I’ve ever had. In my experience of other support groups I couldn’t bear to stick around as long as they wanted me to because the truth is they wanted me to. Groups can be very suffocating indirectly. This was not something explained to someone like me before. One group I had left had a huge issue over my decision. No one will ever tell a ‘mentally ill’ – “You are free to go” / “It’s okay that you stop coming” / “You are not obliged to be here” . I understood this from my own speech on World Mental Health Day: “Society will have a problem with you when you have a mental illness. And they will still have a problem with you after you recover. It’s almost as if they want to be right that you can never recover, make your own decisions and have independent choices”
We fail to see how we limit ourselves to the ways of one group especially if it is comforting to our existence – and this is dangerous because we actually lose touch to the discomforting things that still go on in the real world. If we don’t build our own understanding of the discomforts then we’ll never move beyond our four walls. This is a very real existence for many like us. As a person with mental illness, we are not allowed to ever leave our support groups or even have the thought of it. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand this irony in comfort when one lives with a label of mental illness. There are so many tug of wars at many levels. I’ve been told before that my leaving is showing how unreliable or fickle I am. If that is the interpretation of it then its certainly not me being unreliable but the other person having this need to latch on to someone for their own purposes. This too is very dangerous, because it stopped me from even reconsidering if I could ever just let go and follow what I believed in. Was society again trying to put its hold on me even at the very comfort of something I created?
We live in a society that has a huge inability in letting go – however the madness of our experiences have been telling us otherwise. It has been telling us that our minds are able to let go but some folks choose to give that a label too and we resume the vicious cycle of self-doubt.
This is not what The Red Door is about. It should be okay for even me to leave. I have not left the work around it but just the online presence. There is unseen dependency that arises in comforting groups that eventually turns into an unhealthy addiction. But isn’t this where we look at the depths of how this so called mental illness/health/conditions are not really illnesses but something that calls for an existential query? What is this repetitive oppression? Where is it coming from? It can’t just be all in our minds.
A neighbour walked by one day and passed a remark about another neighbour being crazy. The judgement made was harmless but it reminded me that the world outside of the group still needs a lot of work. I needed work on myself because I’ve been noticing these constructions on me that I thought went away when recovery stepped in. But they didn’t prepare me for this.
I had to ask myself ‘How did I let this happen?’ But more than just me asking this question, the real question is ‘How did society let this happen and create such a strong sense of alienation in many alike that it is still a challenge to just hear what people have to say. Recovery is not just about getting medical treatment. It is not just about functioning ‘normally’. It is not just about rights. It is not just about choices and decisions. It is not just about existing. There is a lot more to it that meets the eye and it will be life long. It’s not a simple cold that comes and goes. It is not true that individuals like me give up easily. It is true that the world around makes it easier for us to give up just too often. It is also true that we are still standing and living because even giving up is exhausting.