“Many of the reviews of Hannah’s Child commend the candour they think characterizes the way I have told my story. I hope they are right that I have written honestly about my life, but in truth honesty demands the acknowledgment that any attempt to write truthfully can be misleading. God knows we are subtle creatures who are more than able to use candour to avoid acknowledging our deceptions of others and ourselves.
How would I be able to know, for example, whether I have told the truth about my marriage to Anne? I tried very hard to write sympathetically about her. I wanted those who knew her, as well as those who would know her only through what I had written, to recognize the pain of her life. Part of the terror of being mentally ill is how the very qualifier, “mental,” makes it difficult to recognize that someone suffering from bi-polar illness is in pain. Put differently, “pain” does not seem an adequate description for the kind of suffering those with mental illness must endure. But they do suffer.
At least one aspect of their suffering is the result of our inability to comprehend their suffering. In The Claim of Reason, Stanley Cavell observes, “Part of the difficulty in treating psychotics is the inability one has in appreciating their world, and hence in honouring them as persons; the other part of the difficulty comes in facing how close our world is (at times; in dreams) to theirs.” A remark that reminds us how fragile the world we call “sane” may be. A fragility, moreover, that makes us all the more determined to distance ourselves from those who suffer from mental illness.”