Category Archives: Recovering from Psychiatry

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.
*Not*
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,
too,
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.

The Subtleties of Being

Turning an airport delay into an opportunity to feel my feet on the ground and my butt on the seat and the breath in my lungs and the beat of my heart as I write and reflect and sit and listen, over and over, to my friend Hannah Epperson‘s beautiful song ‘Story (Amelia)’ from her new and absolutely amazing album UPSWEEP… and feel.
 
Fuckin’ feel.
 
Feel: the tips of my fingers on the keys… The way the air caresses my forearms and cheeks every time fellow journeyers breeze by on their way to somewhere… The fatigue at the backs of my eyes from my early AM flight and not-enough sleep… The flutter of excitement as I think about where I’m going, not just in a few hours’ time but tomorrow and the next day and all the days to follow. Because I’m here… not simply in this encasing of skin, but in the world.
 
I savor these subtleties of being today, for they were once so lost to me I forgot they’d ever existed. That I ever existed. That I was a human being, built to feel and yearn and desire and believe and strive and hope and hold onto and thrive. What They stripped me down to, literally, were a series of slow, dying wheezes of breath and a barely-there heartbeat. They almost put me to sleep forever.
 
These subtleties of being are my most profound reminders of my aliveness today. Of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Of who and what and why I am. Of what it means to be– to simply be, deeper than anything possibly captured by the written or spoken word. Of what I never was, despite all the things They once tricked me into believing about myself.
 
I’m now closing my eyes and feeling this beautiful, haunting song and taking Hannah’s words and bringing them into my own internal expanse of selfscape. I am feeling overwhelmed by gratitude in the midst of a lot of pain. I am feeling my heart against my ribs and this fire in my gut, this sacred fire, this fire of spirit They nearly extinguished.
 
Man, this life thing. These feelings. Every day, at least once, I’ll feel the urge to pinch myself to see if this is all just a dream… To ask, “Is this real? Are these really my hands? Is this really my consciousness? Am I really here?”
 
I am. I fuckin’ am. And you are, too. We are, together.
 
“When the walls caved in and the light shone through
There were spaces in between the things you thought you knew…”
–Story (Amelia)

What might really be going on when you’re labeled “Mentally ill”?

If you (or someone you love) has been labeled “mentally ill”, odds are one or more of the following is true:

1. You aren’t getting what you need or are getting a hell of a lot of what you *don’t* need (be it emotional, physical, mental, social, environmental, sensory, spiritual, etc.).

2. Something big and painful has happened to you– or slowly, over time, a series of seemingly small “somethings” have accumulated to such a degree that you’ve crossed the tipping point.

3. ‘Boxes’, ‘labels’, ‘definition’, ‘rules’, ‘authority’, ‘convention’, ‘compliance’, and ‘normal’ are all words that make you cringe. You find yourself wanting to shout out “NO!” pretty much every day.

4. You are trapped in a life situation or circumstance that doesn’t feel authentic, meaningful, or purposeful to you, or aligned with who you really are.

5. You don’t know who you really are, and feel hopelessly lost.

6(a). You are awake to the reality of the current social, economic, and political order, but it seems like everyone else around you is fast asleep.

6(b). You see or feel unjust, corrupt, greedy power in seemingly every direction you turn, and don’t know how the hell you can possibly survive participating in it, or where else you could go.

7. You feel lonely, disconnected, or alienated from your fellows.

8. You feel– fuckin’ FEEL– the world and everything in it and it is so much, so big, so overwhelmingly, acutely raw all or much of the time that you don’t know what to do with the experience…

Far from signs of “sickness”, these are manifestations of being fully alive and in touch with oneself and with the state of the world.

It’s time we reclaim our pain and struggle and anger and alienation and fear and loss and despair, and transform the society we live in.

Who’s with me?