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?
labels, these arrangements of letters put upon us by oppressors of all kinds– especially ourselves. “happy”. “sad”. “manic”. “balanced”. “sick”. “well”. “functioning”. “unproductive”. “mentally ill”. “mentally healthy”. “acceptable”. “normal”, or otherwise.
a word, today, i see as nothing more than a cloak: one thrown over the mind, the identity, eventually the soul. some are deceptively well-meaning– word-cloaks that imply you’ve “made it”, that you’re properly “fitting in”, “acting acceptably”, “being appropriate”. others, of course, are so thick and heavy that they smother, in the snap of a finger, the very essence of your being: “bipolar”. “depressed”. “schizophrenic”. “borderline”, to name a few.
these words i’m using to write these very sentences– it must be said they barely touch the essence of what i really, truly, feel about this matter. for all words make sentences, sometimes lifelong ones.
becoming an ex-mental patient is about far more than shedding the psychiatric labels that have come to define our lives and determine what psychoactive chemicals may be circulating in our bloodstreams, electrical currents through our brains, restraints around our ankles or wrists, plastic mattresses beneath our backs.
it’s also about shedding the labels on the flip side, the ones that arise out of the Myth of Normality, this false prophet we’ve come to worship as though it’s only before its knees and in its phantom mold that we might feel like we’ve finally “arrived”. for it’s there– beyond not just the dark prison bars of the so-called “mental health system”, but also the bright, glistening, well-manicured lawns of the put-together-high-functioning-smiling-with it-successful-accomplished-perfect-happy American Dream– that we become truly free. free to feel it all– all that comes with being alive in this world, especially the agony and despair and angst. free to simply be. not to Be Something. just to be, whether that being agonizingly hurts or feels entirely peaceful or quietly aches or sends surges of pleasure through every cell.
freedom is when you have no words that follow your being, for those lettered cloaks that once covered the indefinable essence of what it is to be alive have been shed in your wake.
i am grateful that i’m free to yearn and struggle and suffer and feel peace and joy and purpose and passion and cry and scream and ache in those fields beyond all words. if we’re to build a future beyond the Mental Health Industry, it’s there. and they run on and on and on, unendingly. there’s space for all of us there, to be indefinable.