Every last Saturday of the month, my writing group gathers at a quiet suburban library to read out loud a small piece, written on a prompt set-out at the previous meeting. The prompt, suggested by me at the end of October 2023, was Insanity.

This is what I read:

Mental health plan

“In the past 4 weeks how often did you feel nervous?” asks my GP.

“Is every minute an acceptable answer?” I think.

“On a scale of ‘Not at all’ to ‘All the time'”, she adds.

“Most of the time.”

“In the past 4 weeks how often did you feel restless of fidgety?”

“Most of the time,” I say, digging my fingers into my thighs to keep my legs from twitching.

“In the past 4 weeks how often did you feel hopeless?”

I feel hopeless now. “Sorry, all of the time.”

“In the past 4 weeks how often did you feel worthless?”

“All of the time.”

In the past 4 weeks how often did you feel insane? Is not one of the questions, at least not in the mental health plan.

“What happened in the past 4 weeks?” asks my GP.

She’s is of a middle-eastern appearance and I’m a little apprehensive. “I’m Jewish,” I say, which is really the only answer one needs these days.

“Ahh,” says my GP, “I’m from Iran. My family have escaped our own terrible government.” Then she launches into a familiar lecture of ‘it’s not the Jewish people, it’s Israel’s policy…’ and I zone out wondering if insanity is trying to justify my existence to people who don’t care, or worse, convinced that my existence is an abomination.

No, I’m not pointing any fingers. Mostly because they’re fidgety and shaking and might accidentally point at a wrong person. On the other hand, I have several fewer friends now, and some of unknown status because they never said a word to me since the conflict started and I’m afraid to ask.

Insanity is that after escaping one place where I was officially a secondhand citizen and unofficially despised, to this wonderful country, where I only occasionally felt as ‘other’, I’m scared. Not for my life but that people in response will turn their kindly, all-knowing faces to me and pat me on the head and say ‘Don’t worry little confused one, nobody is going to hurt you, because in this country we don’t really care one way or another.’

Insanity is looking forward to the impending apocalypse—taking bets on what will kill us first: AI, climate disaster, WWIII, another Holocaust, another pandemic—as a release from the pain and confusion I feel every day.

Insanity is being glad of not bringing children into this world.

Insanity is reading this in front of kind Australian people who, after witnessing my sudden onset sobbing half way through, apologise for the human race.

Article by Author/s
Sanna Breytberg
Sanna Breytberg came to Australia as a refugee from a former Soviet-Ukrainian city of Odessa in 1990. Since then she's been living in Melbourne, enjoying her fully-assimilated life, never having to explain what it means to be Jewish. Until October 2023 Sanna wrote escapist fantasy fiction in English, some of which can be found at elthamwriters.org.

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