A journey through madness, mania and healing.
Heavy Light is an incredibly brave, and I would say important book. It details author and journalist Horatio Clare’s descent into madness; his temporary detainment under section 2 of the Mental Health Act (1985); and his gradual return to the world of reality.
The first part of the book describes, from a psychotic perspective, the elaborate fantasy world Clare concocted, filled with British and foreign agents, observed by controlling alien intelligences, and with Clare at the very centre of the action. It’s portrays Clare’s complex delusions as entirely logical—which, from his point of view at the time, they were. It’s a compelling read. Clare lives in the same town as me, and I will never see certain local locations in quite the same light again.
Eventually, Clare’s long-suffering, highly intelligent wife manages to have him sectioned for his own good, and for that of his family. Then begins the healing process.
Once released, and on the road to recovery, Clare puts on his journalist’s hat and interviews nurses, mental health practitioners, commissioners, and friends and family who dealt with him during his delusions. Most of these people come across as utter heroes.
Clare is outspoken about what he sees as the over-use of drugs to treat mental conditions such as his, advocating far wider access to counselling. At times, like his wife by Clare’s account, I wished he hadn’t been quite so anti-medication. What he believes worked and didn’t work form him might not be true for other patients. But I was left agreeing wholeheartedly that patients need to be treated as individuals, rather than simply according to what it says in the text-books.
Heavy Light needs to be read by anyone with influence over mental health policies. It also deserves to be read by the wider public, portraying mental illness, as it does, in such a sympathetic light.