I will warn you now that this is a very controversial topic… But from the start, my psychiatrist has talked to me about the development of my imagination. How it developed from being so wild and creative, to pretty much ceasing to exist in the tradition manner; when my voices and hallucinations came through, to now where part of my recovery is through the use of my imagination…
As a child I had a very active imagination, having a zoo in my bedroom, hunting monsters at play time, and always writing stories. But all that was reined in at junior school, and pulled to a grinding halt at Secondary school; and all that imagination was trapped within my head. In class I was always told to focus on the facts, stick to the hard evidence and don’t worry about the rest. In literature, you had to focus of ‘what the author meant’ in the story rather than the story itself. This was hard, I always wanted to know about the characters, I wanted to analyse them, not the author and history context.
Nowadays it’s a habit of life that from three to eighteen you go to school; go from class to class, normally with much reluctance- spending the majority of your waking hours there, or doing yet more work away. Plus the constant nag of, ‘help with this open day’, ‘join this team’, ‘do this extra qualification’. This leaves little time to create, whether that be on paper or in your head. You’re probably thinking that surely you could imagine in-between, just within your head- but when you are studying 11+ subjects, having test after test, pressure after pressure; how can your mind focus on anything else, especially when you want to achieve.
I started getting voices during this time of my life, I can’t remember the exact moment, but I can remember snippits throughout secondary school when I had them. After my break down, when I started seeing a psychiatrist, I was told to start doing some of the things I had loved as a child again; drawing, writing, baking; different things but all using the imagination. I didn’t complain, I was happy to bake each week, and found adult colouring books, but also rediscovered reading. Oddly enough, even when I was on my highest dose of anti-psychotics, my voices didn’t go away; it wasn’t until they dropped the dose, and I started doing even more of these creative things, including writing by this time, that my voices dimmed. I was able to focus easier, go out more, and my imagination started flowing a whole lot more freely. I’m not going to say I’m a creative genius, I still have my days with writers-block, but creating things became easier.
From talking to my psychiatrist it does show that there is a link between the suppression of the imagination with mental illness; in the case of Schizophrenia, my Doc says that he believes my voices are my brains way of showing my imagination when it had no other outlet. I’m by no means saying that school is the cause, or that children shouldn’t go, as school is an amazing opportunity in itself. But rather that maybe school needs to be less facts based. That sounds stupid, I know, but with the recent news stories about creative subjects being taken out of the curriculum I felt it needed saying.
Physical education is made such a big deal of, that children should be made sure to have enough exercise; then if you purely drill facts into students, 7 hours a day, 5 days a week (and that’s not including the huge pile of homework that is expected) how are their imaginations meant to have exercise?