“It’s OK to Leave” – Living with a Mental Health Challenge Vignette

“It’s Okay to Leave” written by John Oxenford with Illustrations Designed by Alison Sabean


The following vignette is about a person who is experiencing symptoms from their mental illness, but is nevertheless able to persist, and manage their mental health challenges. Voice 1 represents the character’s fears that limit them from being able to accomplish their goals that day. Feelings and struggles, similar to those that this person is experiencing from their mental illness (Voice 1), can drive someone towards suicidal thinking. Thoughts like these can inhibit a person from being able to live a stable life, due to their consistent fears and repetitive irrational thoughts. The thoughts that this character is experiencing stem from a reasonable place, such as, wanting to ensure everything is set in a person’s home before they face the day, however, in this character’s case the thoughts are exaggerated out of proportion, and thus become invasive and limiting. Even though this person has checked all of the things that they needed to check, thoroughly and efficiently, in order to be able to start their day, their fear is still there and thus creating an intrusive barrier, causing them to assume that for some reason what they have done is not enough. Voice 2 represents the part of the protagonist’s mind that is uninhibited by their unsubstantiated fears and doubts, in other words their rational mind. The conversations happening between the protagonist and their voices represent an internal struggle many people with mental health face on a regular basis, as they work to manage their mental health. I hope this scene gives hope to people who are going through similar struggles – and might even be experiencing suicidal thoughts. This scene was created to give hope, and the understanding that struggles can be overcome. 

It’s OK to Leave

Characters: 

Girl, early 20s

Voice 1 representing Girl’s negative thoughts

Voice2 representing Girl’s positive thoughts 

 

Scene: 

A small apartment. It is simply furnished but immaculate. Everything in its place, not a speck of dust. Music plays through stereo speakers mounted on the bookcase.

 

Girl is packing her backpack for the gym. She puts a water bottle in the outside pocket, then checks each pocket. She puts the pack down and goes into the kitchen. She walks slowly round inspecting all the appliances—toaster, fridge, microwave. Stops at the stove, checks that each dial is set to off, checks each burner to make sure it’s cold. She does this several times, then stops, takes a breath.

 

Girl [as if about to do a parachute jump]: OK, ready to go.

 

She walks to the door. Her hand is on the knob. She’s about to turn it when–

 

Voice 1 (offstage): Haven’t you forgotten something?  

 

Girl: Um . . . No?

 

Voice 1: What about the stove? You forgot to check the stove.

 

Girl [less certain]: No, I’m pretty sure I checked it all.

 

Voice 1 enters upstage right. The stage lights begin to dim. 

 

Voice 1[sinister, slightly threatening]: Well I’m pretty sure you missed something. Check again!

 

Girl [moving toward the kitchen]: I—I thought I checked it. I thought I checked it really well.

 

Voice 1: You thought? But you’re not sure. What if there’s a fire. Do you want to take that risk? They’d evict you. People could be killed. Check again. Properly this time.

Illustration designed by Alison Sabean

Girl goes over to the stove, repeats the checks she did before but takes much longer. Visibly nervous.

This interchange is repeated several times, until the girl, now very stressed, runs to the door, grabs the knob, turns it.

 

Voice 1: Are you really going? You’re willing to take the risk? What if—

The lights flicker. Sound of glass shattering, a siren, people running and shouting. 

 

Girl: [screams] Stop! Stop! Leave me alone!

Voice 1 disappears. She drops onto the couch, head in hands. 

 

Voice 2 enters upstage left. A faint light shows. 

 

Voice2: Why are you sitting there? I thought you were going to the gym today.

 

Girl: I can’t.

 

Voice 2: Why not?

 

Girl: Because—I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel . . . safe.

 

Voice2: Safe? How do you mean?

 

Girl: What if I went out and I’d left a burner on and there was a fire? They’d evict me. People could be killed. 

 

Voice2: But how could there be a fire? You checked the stove. Every burner. Lots of times. The stove is fine.

Illustration designed by Alison Sabean

Lights begin to come up. Girl sits up, looks around her, as if seeing her apartment for the first time. Takes a breath. Laughs. 

 

Girl: The stove is fine! I checked it! Lots of times!

 

She gets her backpack, walks straight to the door, leaves without a backward glance.

 

Voice1 enters.

Voice1: Have you checked the—

Sees there’s no one there 

Lights out.

 

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