‘Insanity and depression are universally illegal.’ [Universal Law, The City]

As I wrote ‘The Line, the City’s sectors became complex worlds of social codes and laws. The characters accept the barriers, working around them whenever possible and submitting when it’s unavoidable. F Sector has the authority to alter any law it sees fit, though it rarely meddles in another sector’s values.

But there are also universal laws—the rules no sector can adjust or ignore.

As Daryl, the main character, navigates each sector, the ex-convict is in constant violation of one of these laws: no matter when you live, insanity and depression are illegal.

The City has made seeking help impossible. Silence is the only option for anyone suffering from mental illness. And the sad reality is this story is not uncommon, neither in The Line nor in our own society.

I was struggling with depression when I wrote this story. The ominous Prison, a place people disappeared into only to return haunted and broken, was a symbol of my mental illness. But the universal law criminalizing insanity reflected the stigma people suffering from mental illness endure. The shame and embarrassment is the reason I chose silence rather than seek help.

Going out in public, when I could muster the strength, meant plastering on a smile so others wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Yet I knew people could see through my flimsy mask. Feelings of isolation and emptiness dominated my life, and they came with the certainty I was a lost cause. There was nothing worth saving; it was best to fade away so I wouldn’t burden others with my psychological pain.

It took years to learn there was no shame in having a mental illness. I wasn’t alone. But still there were people who judged me as weak and damaged when I admitted to the struggle. Confronting this stigma is exhausting. Sometimes, I want to sink back into silence, but it’s important to keep talking. It’s the best way to build a world where we are safe to admit we aren’t holding up, that we need help.

In recent years, there has been an inspiring push to break the silence. More and more people are speaking out about their pain, making the world mindful to the problem so others can admit to needing help. Men and women alike are finding they aren’t alone. Society is encouraging those who know someone suffering from mental illness to seek support and educate themselves. The voices are growing louder and the stigma is losing its power.

The same can’t be said for The City. It’s rigid system is fully committed to isolating and destroying those who suffer from mental illness. Yet not everyone believes what they have been told. The main character is unhinged but some people reach out to help.

But after a degrading two years in the Prison, there’s no guarantee Daryl will reach back.

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