Category Archives: Alternatives to Psychiatry and the Medical Model

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.

The Source of Suffering

If you’re out there and your mind is on fire, or your heart is aching, or you’re desperate and isolated and numb and hopeless and feeling totally paralyzed by life, there’s a reason for your suffering.  It may be a visible, tangible reason—one that can be easily named and pinpointed and located in your history or your now—or it may be invisible, intangible, amorphous, a reason lying in many years of subtle moments of life lived (for this is often the nature of oppression and trauma).  While I’d never pretend to have your answers—for you, your gut, your heart are your only experts—I know this to be true: the source of your suffering is not your “imbalanced”, “faulty” brain.  In fact, if you’re suffering, it’s likely because your brain is responding naturally—healthily—to something unhealthy in your environment.  Nor is the source of this suffering in your mind, though this may be where you feel it the most.  The source is most often to be found in your relationship to the surrounding world, and in the various webs of oppressive and repressive social structures within which all of us are entangled, often times unbeknownst to us.  The more we target the problem in our brains, our minds, ourselves as individuals, the further we fall from the truth of the matter: that the world is an incredibly difficult place to live in, rife with fear and greed and intolerance and pressure and control, and that our struggles are a response to all of this.  Our struggles are a sacred, albeit painful manifestation of the beautiful, confusing journey of being human in this dark and brilliantly light world.

Going Crazy is Evidence Not of “Illness”, but of Aliveness

There is nothing crazy about feeling—or going—crazy. It is a healthy response to the often times fucked up, confusing, lonely, marginalizing, oppressive, cutthroat, and angst-ridden world in which we live.

If you’re out there feeling desperately sad, or fearful, or so-called “manic”, or you’re wondering if death is a better option than living another day, or you’re hearing voices that others can’t hear, or you’re convinced no one around you can be trusted, know that all of this is a natural response to life, and not something pathological in your brain. Know that this is evidence not of “illness”, but of aliveness. Know that this means you are sensitive and attuned to something out of alignment in your life, or perhaps in the world more generally, that needs tending to. Know that there is deep meaning in craziness. And know that no one out there has your answers, for you are the only expert on yourself.

Going crazy is an inextricable part of being human. Those who claim to be perpetually sane and “with it”, in my opinion, are either in denial, compartmentalized and locked away into disconnected sections of self, or simply successful actors who are far from put-together beneath their bright, shiny façades.  (I tried, for twenty-seven years, to be one of those people, and boy, did it hurt.  Boy, did it lead me to hopelessness and desperation.)

To feel—or go—crazy, be it for an hour, or a month, or a year, is to be a healthy human. We must let go of the fear we collectively feel towards these experiences Psychiatry calls “mental illness”, and instead open up our minds, our hearts, and our arms to each other in times of struggle, rather than enslave each other with psychiatric labels and lock each other away on forgotten, invisible psych wards.