To Feel It All

If you communicate in tears and grief and anger and despair and joy like I do, hold these expressions as sacred, because they are. Know that these emotions are your wisdom, not a flaw. Don’t believe Them when They say that how you feel is a sign that something’s wrong with you.

I cried twice today– the second time, just thirty minutes ago– and as the tears slipped down my cheeks a vision came to me.

In it, I was sitting before an ex-shrink of mine. Heavy tears streamed down my face like waterfalls after winter’s thaw. Now, this was a man whose labeling eyes once penetrated my skin in diagnostic desecration. But in this vision, all I felt for him was compassion. For in meeting his eyes with mine, I could feel so clearly how they emanated the very same fear I once felt, myself:

of all the waves
and storms and
freezes and melts and
fires and rains of my being.

Fear of who I really was– and of who I had the power to be.

In this vision, he was so afraid of himself.

As I kept looking into his eyes, I could see as clear as day how lost and disconnected he was from himself, his emotions, his authentic state of being. I could see how this had thrown him into a deep state of mourning he wasn’t yet aware of.

And I could see how all of this–
his loss, his disconnection, his mourning and his lack of awareness of it all–
had eventually led him to believe that
answers are best found through
the act of labeling another,
an other.

For it keeps you safe from having to acknowledge that you’re really just an other to yourself.

As his steel blue eyes and my crying ones began to commune with one other, I felt my compassion for him deepen. Because I now saw him for who he really was: a scared, wounded child. A child who, like me, had gotten swept up in the false promises of what our culture teaches us it means to be human, to be worthy, to belong… We were the same, this shrink and I, and we always had been. It’s just that he’d somehow ended up with the swipe card to the double-locked doors.

In this moment of realization I knew in a deep-down way that it was my human responsibility to keep crying– to keep my cheeks good and wet so that he might eventually see his own reflection in my skin. To show him what it looks like to cry from a place of fully human power… That it’s safe there… That there is nothing to be afraid of.

If you feel big feelings like I do, remember this: they are a sign of your aliveness. They are your sacred human power. And they are a gift you are meant to bring forth into the world. Use them as a light and a guide and a mirror and an open hand for those who may still be too afraid to feel it all.

Power is

Power is: Knowing that
when you’re having
“one of those days”—
(of staccato incoherence coming out of your mouth when you speak—your head a sizzling egg in a frying pan—your thoughts, man, they’re straight-up pinballs in a machine)—
it’s because you’re alive, my friend.
because there’s anything wrong with you.

It’s because you’re breathing
all that you are into the world,
your fingertips on fire like you never
knew possible before.

Now, what this means, is this:
when you’re lit up and so full of heartbeat,
there may be times when you forget to breathe.
When you forget
to get out for fresh air,
or eat lunch, for suddenly night’s fallen
on shoulders that are locked to your earlobes.
Hell, you may sometimes forget for hours at a stretch
that you’re human.
Because all of this ignition,
it still feels so fuckin’ new.

I’m watching these sensitive strands of energy
billow out like golden hairs from you,
out into every nook and cranny
of the world. So sensitive they are,
you are,
sensitive enough that it means
you’ll get a little frayed sometimes.
But you’re alive.
You’re fuckin’ alive and awake and tuned in
to this channel called Life
that may sometimes feel wholly dark
and foreboding…
but that you’ve now learned,
is full of color.
And possibility.
And beating hearts,
your own included.

Letting Go of the Mental Health System’s False, Imprisoning Stories and Remembering Who You Are

I remember watching this video in early psychiatric drug withdrawal and feeling baffled at their joie de vivre, wondering how the hell a person could access such a state and what the hell it felt like. I remember how utterly perplexed I was by the comfort they felt in their naked skin, their bodies gently around them like soft cloaks while I sat there trapped in this mound of psychiatrized flesh, screaming in desperation, literally pulling and scratching at the smothering skin-prison until it reddened and bled but still wouldn’t break open…

That was only four, five, six years ago.

Now, when I watch, I smile and nod in solidarity, because I know. I know what it feels like to be at home in one’s body. I know this joy they’re beaming out into the world, for it’s back alive in my heart, casting its beautiful shadow that I know today as my life-long traveling companion, darkness.

I know all of this not because I learned about it in a self-help book or because anyone taught it to me or because I got therapeuticized into it… but rather because I decided to let go of all of that searching and turning over of my own power. To let go of the false, imprisoning stories I’d been taught about myself by the “Mental Health” Industry and all its purported “experts”– that I was so-called “mentally ill”, that I needed so-called “professional help”, that pill bottles and “therapeutic interventions” were my answer. I even, eventually, let go of the story that I was a “victim of the mental health system”, after realizing it was a prison unto itself.

After all that letting go, there I stood, towering over these massive piles of crumpled layers of false stories and life-sentences. And stripped down into this existential nakedness, I was finally able to start remembering who I really was– (not in a thinking way, but rather feeling, feeeeeeeeling, right down into the marrow of my bones)– and how unbelievably exquisite it feels to be fully human, darkness, pain, despair, joie de vivre and all.

Sigur Rós – Gobbledigook from sigur rós on Vimeo.

Personal Reflections on Stanton Peele’s “Why We’re Losing the War on Addiction”

I quit booze almost 7 years ago and, for a time, bought into the idea that I was a so-called “alcoholic” and would be for the rest of my life, that I “had” a “condition” called “addiction” that lived in my body somewhere– in my genes, in my brain, in my metabolism… (I now see the great irony in this, as during those early years in which I was saying “Hi, I’m Laura and I’m an alcoholic…” on a daily basis, I was simultaneously rejecting all the labels put upon me by psychiatrists and psychologists and social workers under the guise of “mental health care”– those absurd words like “Bipolar” and “Borderline” and “Eating disordered”, which had effectively imprisoned me in a barely-there, hopeless existence of “life-long mental illness requiring life-long treatment”…)

Stanton Peele’s ‘Why We’re Losing the War on Addiction’ is an important, thought-provoking article. If you’ve struggled with booze or coke or pot or binge-eating or food-restricting or sex or shopping or video games or gambling or whatever other escapes you feel entirely enslaved by, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. You are not “sick”. You are not “diseased”. There is nothing “wrong with” you. This is not something you’ll “have” for the rest of your life. It’s about a relationship to something– a substance, an activity, a behavior– that perhaps began as something useful (providing a nice, quick escape? Relief? Respite? A sense of belonging? A sense of self-worth? Confidence? Purpose? Energy? Motivation? Acceptability?) but eventually grew into something else.

For me, booze started out as my anti-suicide strategy: get drunk each night so that you don’t have to face the fact that your pathetic so-called “seriously mentally ill” life has been reduced to pills, shrinks, locked wards, loneliness, alienation, loss of agency, and hopelessness. That everything you once may have had going for you is gone now, and all you are is “sick”. Booze worked for a while… Until it didn’t. Until my relationship to the bottle became just another prison unto itself.

For a time, I thought this meant I had a new “sickness”– “alcoholism”. Now, I see how indoctrinated I still was into the notion that suffering and struggle and self-destruction means there must be something “wrong with” you.

It doesn’t.

It’s really hard to be alive in this world– fucked up things happen to us, we lose meaning and purpose, we’re hurt and lonely and lost and in pain, our bodies feel strange around us, the institutions and systems surrounding us destroy our spirits and make no sense to us, we feel awkward and anxious and insecure, we yearn for all the unmet needs and desperately try to break free from those burdens and chains we wish we didn’t have on our shoulders, we feel stuck, inauthentic, trapped in a life that feels like a stranger’s…

What on earth does this possibly have to do with a “disease”? It’s called being a sensitive, feeling, thinking, being human in an often-times fucked-up world. We end up turning to escape– whatever that may be– because it helps us endure another day. It can keep us alive, at least for a time, until it doesn’t any more, and life begins to fall apart.

Don’t get me wrong– the experiences that get labeled as “addiction” are very real, very debilitating, very frustrating, and very overwhelming. They can lead to prison, psych wards, and even, sometimes, death. However, as long as we think of them as merely “symptoms” of an “illness” or “disease” requiring professional or medical intervention, we are nothing more than powerless prisoners of a reductionist and entirely absurd medicalized ideology of what it means to be human.

I let go of the “alcoholic” label after I realized I’d been running away into the bottle because I had a desperate urge for CHANGE from my miserable, “seriously mentally ill” life. It dawned on me that maybe I had all I needed within me to reclaim my life, my life’s meaning, my life’s purpose, my physical health, my ability to be connected to myself and to the world, and my POWER. My beautiful, human power I’d been separated from the moment I began to think of myself as “sick” and “broken” and “diseased”. I realized I had the POWER to choose to live my life with intention as best I could, to treat my body like a temple, to treat others with respect and dignity, to hold myself accountable for my actions.

The self-destruction that had poured out of me for so many years as I poured psychiatric drugs and eventually gallons upon gallons of booze down my throat was not the byproduct of faulty brain-wiring. Nor was it “my fault”. It was, simply put, my best attempt at surviving the meaninglessness and disconnection that had taken over my life. And when I began to reconnect, to find meaning, to feel “a part of” once again, to re-inhabit my body, to reconnect with my human spirit, to feel my soul ignite once again, free from psychiatric labels, gradually the label “alcoholic” began to make me cringe until I literally couldn’t say it any more. I realized, “I am human”, and I decided then and there that I was done running away from life, from my pain, from myself. And I was done boxing myself into labels of any kind to make sense of who I was and how I fit (or didn’t fit) into society.

I realized, my pain and struggle and darkness are nothing to be afraid of.

I realized that only in learning how to “be with” myself could I truly be free.

I still don’t drink today, but it’s not because I “have an addiction” or even because I’m afraid of booze. I choose not to drink because I have no interest in running away any more– in numbing myself, or in creating a synthetic sense of happiness that’s inevitably going to dissipate by morning. I was labeled “broken” for long enough. I was disconnected long enough by psychoactive chemicals– mostly in the form of so-called “psychiatric medications”, but in the bottle, too– that coursed through my bloodstream day in, day out. I only have one life to live, and I’m finally ready to be with it. To feel it all, to be enveloped by my darkness sometimes, to be overwhelmed by the light, to face fear, to be in pain. I don’t need to run away any more.