Ode #4

Our human mirror is smudged by your false promises,
your stories sold to us in bright, shiny bottles and
neat, crisp labels pulled from
your Bible of Dehumanization.

You’ve covered our glass with a thick coat of deception,
your intoxicating fumes distorting what we look like,
what we think it means to be human.

Beneath this dense coat of your greed,
(for your pockets are lined with the exploited tears and fears and unchecked joys of those of us who feel and think too much for your liking),
our patient, human Truth awaits us, a nation of patients.

To struggle, to suffer, to yearn, to seek: this is the Truth of why we’re human.

Psychiatry, I have scraped you from my mirror, and
I have wiped the glass clean to see a stranger looking back,
this human being I’m only now beginning to know, to love, to trust.

I have peacefully buried your remains in an
ever-growing graveyard of labels and pills, for
I must tell you, Psychiatry, that
I am
but one of many
who’ve wiped the mirror clean of you
to see a new face looking back,
beautiful and human and free.

It’s Time for a Revolution… Our Founding Fathers Called for It.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness have become illusory fantasies of the American Dream. Yes, Industry (Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical, Food, Media, Education, etc.) sells us false promises of high productivity, bright smiles, perfect bodies, and social acceptability (for this is what America calls “happiness”), but beneath this façade is a society rife with disempowerment, disillusionment, hopelessness, isolation, and marginalization. We are taught to surrender our most basic freedoms and rights as citizens in the name of “normal”, often without even realizing it. And those of us who’ve been deemed “abnormal”, or who’ve pathologized ourselves… there isn’t even the pretense of liberty and justice.

Indeed, to be a free-feeling, free-thinking, free-acting human being today—to stand in defiance of “normal”—is to put oneself at risk of segregation via psychiatric label, silencing via psychiatric drug, incarceration via psychiatric “hospital”, and existential enslavement via the imposition of a “mentally ill” identity.

Our Founding Fathers urged us to take action should the government become destructive of our right to Life and Liberty. Indeed, it is our duty as American citizens to reclaim our most basic rights and to take a stand against the government-sanctioned oppression of our nation by the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex. Successful revolutions begin with the cultivation of a collective consciousness attuned to its oppression, and while there are many of us who’ve awoken to and freed—or are working to free—ourselves from the various multi-layered forms of oppression we’ve faced as mental patients, there are many millions who still believe the powerful story of the medical model of “mental illness” and psychiatric “treatment”. One need only look at the story of Justina Pelletier, or the Murphy Bill, to see how powerful this narrative is.  We must find ways to reach those who don’t yet know they’re oppressed, who don’t yet see that there is life beyond Psychiatry. If we are to effectively transform our government and reclaim the right to own ourselves, we must start by dismantling the throne upon which the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industry sits, our government at its feet. The revolution begins by asking our fellow brothers and sisters the simple question, “Are you really, truly free?”

Embracing Resistance to the Message of Psychiatric Liberation

I remind myself daily that the anger, insult, indignation, and defensiveness I receive from people as they react to what I have to say about Psychiatry and all things “mental health” are, in fact, evidence that I’m doing something right, that my message is being heard. Indeed, movement only happens with friction. Change must follow tension of some kind. If we are to transform the way the world understands and addresses suffering and other socially deemed “abnormal” and “unacceptable” human experiences, we must be ready to face continual conflict, rage, and pushback. In fact, we must expect it, and welcome it, for it’s a necessary part of revolution.

I remind myself daily that I must not take an ounce of it personally—it’s hard as hell not to, of course—for at the root of the cruel words and slammed doors and closed minds is fear. Yes, there’s the obvious selfish fear of the “Mental Health” Industry, itself—its fear of the loss of power and control and influence and livelihood and income and professional identity. But deeper than this is the fear that rests in the heart of the people, themselves. It is the fear of who we are beyond “mental illness” and “mental health”; of what our suffering and perceived “abnormalities” mean beyond DSM diagnoses and prescription pads, beyond locked wards and outpatient clinics and psychiatrists’ offices and emergency rooms and the entire infrastructure of “mental health”, beyond the story we’ve been told about who we are by the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex itself. This is a fear I can relate to, for letting go of my “Bipolar” narrative and forging a new path towards the unknown—my Self, free from labels—has been the scariest, most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. And indeed, my journey began with resistance, refusal, and denial. When I first heard the message I now carry daily, I simply couldn’t believe that the “mental illness” I’d “had” for thirteen years was nothing more than a social construct—that my ceaseless suffering and sleepless nights and racing thoughts and scars on my arms and self-destructive behaviors were not, in fact, “symptomatic” of a “life-long condition”. I simply couldn’t accept that the “treatment” I’d turned to through all those years was in fact leading me further and further away from a life of health, connection, and purpose, and closer to my death. I shook my head and said NO! to all of this, but I’d heard it… the seed of psychiatric liberation had been planted… and in time, I began to wake up.

And so, when people call me names and tell me how “invalidating” I am to those who are “mentally ill” and insist that I stop spreading lies, I can’t help but feel reassured that what I’m doing is right, because perhaps within these people are now the very same seeds of awakening that were implanted within me only four years ago. And perhaps, in time, they’ll be fighting this fight by our side as comrades, and standing with us as we watch the fortress of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industry begin its collapse to the ground, into a dark chapter of human history.

Acceptance is the Gateway to Freedom

Acceptance is the gateway to freedom. It doesn’t mean complacency, surrender, or defeat, but rather, quite the opposite: to accept life on life’s terms—even in its most confusing and agonizing states—is an act of liberation. The chains of resistance, denial, and repression make for a brutal prison, one whose bars are built with our deepest fears. To allow my life to be exactly what it is in the moment—pain and anxiety and insecurity and fear and all—is to say, “You, suffering, may be here, but you will no longer own me as my master.” And in doing so, I turn my pain from commander to companion, a dark friend by my side as my feet and heart begin to move again. And that’s the beauty of acceptance: to allow the circumstances of my life to be what they are in this very moment is to become free to walk forward in the present, the invisible bars of fear now crumbled at my feet, dark shadow of suffering now quieter by my side.

There is nothing more radical in today’s escapist, psychiatrized society than to be present with oneself in the moment, suffering and all.