When I was 22, on a diagnostic technicality some psychiatrists labelled me officially bi-polar.
The reason being, around that time, I had a full blown psychotic episode that lasted over a month that was not drug induced. According to the DSM (Diagnostic Statistics Manual of Mental disorders) I technically I had to have either schizophrenia or bipolar for this to happen.
So, bipolar it was.
Thankfully I politely told that doctor to shove his label up his ass and after an extremely epic year escaped the mental health system (relatively) unharmed.
That period in my life was full on, it was an opening and a connection to a spiritual, creative, embodied understanding I had never come into contact with, it was a deep processing of some really dark dirty unconscious shit, it was the byproduct of pumping way too much energy through a tiny little body that had no idea how to hold it all.
I honour that experience for everything it gifted me and one of biggest things that got cemented in that time and I am still extremely passionate about is the danger of labelling our emotional nature as an ‘illness’ or something to ‘fix’ rather than just being with it and learning from it.
Yes under some kind of ‘bible of normal’ I was a fucking lunatic and actually still am.
The difference now though is I can generally fully accept and listen to my depth and recognise the cycles of nature within – of light and dark, happy and sad, horrifying and glorious and honour the gifts that I have to go to the depths of feeling all of it. As i grow and mature my ability to be with and manage the fluctuations of myself becomes so much gentler. But I don’t think I will ever be considered ‘normal’ and I actually think the whole concept is a really dangerous one that disconnects us very early on to the depth of who we really are creativity, spiritually, emotionally and psychically.
Spending time in a mental hospital is basically like swimming in a sea of drugged up undeveloped mystics doing rituals gone wrong. Those places are concentrated proof of the damage done by a society that rejects emotional feeling, the unconscious and non rational ways of being.
These ‘mentally ill’ people had no idea how to manage themselves, their minds, their sensitivity and the depth of their life journey nor did they have the support from others to do so.
I have heard that in some cultures if someone has a psychotic break they are pulled out of society and supported fully to go through their process of death and rebirth by a shaman, trained to navigate between the worlds safely – and return to their community as healers. Whether this is true or not, I deeply resonate with this alternative and understanding of ‘mental illness’ being the emergence of the creative mystic within and have often felt how different my experience could have been if I was provided with something like this.
I watched extremely creative and expressive people come back from electric shock therapy like fucking zombies. I watched people with SO MUCH unconscious material coming up from their psyche be sent to bed with handfuls of pills.
Although in many cultures and schools of thought psychotic breaks are often associated with a spiritual emergence and awakening our current mental health model has absolutely no fucking clue.
In the hospital, whenever I would express any kind of intense emotion – sadness, anger etc when sharing my experience with some other random doctor assigned to me that day. Despite being locked up in a hospital with fluorescent lights, fucking awful food, sirens going off signalling different suicide attempts or emergencies ( I think it was pretty safe to say any normal person would have an emotional response to that) The doctors would nervously shuffle in their seats and take more troubling notes about my condition on their notepads.
I was continually told I needed to take lithium. I was told constantly to up my antipsychotic medication despite getting more and more rational and able to manage my experience. I was repeatedly informed on the likelihood of me relapsing was extremely high and I would need to take medication FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE to manage myself. and thank god I had enough inner strength and rationality within my storm to say Fuck Off to All of that and manoeuvre my way out of that world. Including answering their ‘sanity check’ questions correctly, like whether I “believed I had any special powers?”
HINT : don’t say yes.
Unfortunately many people do not have the soul strength, the spiritual/emotional education or the support to have the same success getting out. Many of those people I met there so long ago I imagine are probably still going in and out.
I remember one very eccentric guy telling me he actually enjoyed being admitted –
“at least it is a place where I can express myself freely”
that sums it up right there.
“boys don’t cry” “don’t be so emotional” “chin up and smile” “have another beer and harden the fuck up” “thats just hocus pocus”
the insidious illusion of normal kills the artist, the revolutionary, the deep feeling, the mystical nature of our soul.
A psych ward harbours the victims of a society that does not honour our full range of expression and doesn’t give a fuck about the unique mystery of the deep unconscious in every being
You can argue about brain chemistry all you want. but it’s the chicken and egg if you ask me and all of our experience is the by product of a very disturbed culture and society of ‘normalcy’
I am so fucking grateful I got through that experience. I feel so fucking passionate about the power of FULL YES spaces and very much for this reason.
if we all had been surrounded by a deep reverence for our unconscious from the beginning and this world was a safe space to fully emotionally and creativity express ALL THAT WE ARE. I am hundred percent certain there would be so need for straight jackets and padded walls.
Tonight I honour the depth of our feeling, our emotions and wide range of expression we are all capable of.