Symptom or Experience:
Does Language Matter?

Rai Waddingham
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Whenever we talk about ourselves we tell stories. Without these stories, our experiences would sit – unconnected – like a thousand tiny beads.  Telling our story helps us to weave connections between these beads, linking them together with different threads to create a tapestry full of meaning.  This is a fluid and continually evolving process.  Each new experience, interaction or connection reveals new aspects of the picture we are continually creating.  It shifts and changes as we, ourselves, shift and change.

Reflecting our experience of the world, this process can be terrifying and confusing as well as beautiful and rewarding.  In psychiatry, something profound happens to these stories.  It’s as if someone takes your tapestry, labels it as defective and gives you the pattern you need to rectify your mistakes.  Unquestioningly, you unpick your tapestry and – instead – weave the beads together to form a picture of symptoms, diagnosis, illness, genetic vulnerabilities and pathological responses to stress.  With each stitch, those around you nod and praise your keen insight.  After a while you forget that you ever had a story of your own. In this way, a ‘schizophrenic’ is born.

When I first started to see visions, I believed that they were monsters.  More than that, I believed that I was a monster.  Aged 7, I was sure that buried deep inside me was a monster that only revealed itself when I glanced towards a mirror.  By wearing a ‘little-girl-suit’ and walking amongst the real humans I felt like a fraud.  Unable to find words to express this, my distress was communicated through stomach aches and the need to repeat things again and again until I got them ‘right’.  By the time I was a teenager I no longer believed in the monsters.  Instead, I was convinced that it was an alien that was slowly and inexorably growing inside me, waiting to take control.  I had no idea why this alien had chosen me, but I knew that it was going to make me do something terrible – something inhuman.  Again, as with the monster, I carried around a deep sense of badness and guilt for my future crimes.  Again, as with the monster, I told no-one.

It was at university that my inner world first began to seep out through the cracks and show itself to others.  By the time I entered psychiatry I believed that I was being watched by cameras, that I was the subject of an alien/government experiment and that my life was in danger.  I was terrorized by three male voices who talked about me, narrating my movements and picking fault in everything I did.  At the time, I thought these voices belonged to the men whose job it was to monitor me through the cameras.  After my first admission to a mental health unit, the alien began to speak to me itself.  It told me it was going to make me kill people and, to torment me, it showed me visions of the people it said I had already killed.  It controlled my body, making me walk up and down the corridors to demonstrate its power over me.  It turned my food into spiders and bugs, making me afraid to eat.

It was at this point in my journey that the story I had been weaving for my entire life overwhelmed me.  It was at this point that I was given an alternative – a new pattern to help impose some order on the chaos.  It was at this point that I became a ‘schizophrenic’.  In the hospital I met many kind mental health professionals who gently reassured me that I was psychotic – that my complex and frightening beliefs about my experiences were ‘primary delusions’ and that the alien and the bugs were simply ‘hallucinations’, products of my unbalanced brain chemistry and my intolerance to stress.  On adopting this new perspective I felt relief – the medical lexicon stripped my experiences of their power and removed any need to further explore their meaning.  Content that my tapestry was complete I put down my needle and focused on living with the illness I now knew I had.

Years later, officially disabled and dubbed a ‘revolving door’, it was clear that I was stuck.  After more than 20 admissions to the unit, the illness I believed I had periodically beat down the medication I was taking to keep it under control. Without meeting the Hearing Voices Network I believe I would still be sitting there – accepting my fate as a severely and enduringly mentally ill young woman.  The peer support group I attended gave me something truly precious – a safe space to begin to find my own way of describing, and making sense of, my experiences.  After years of parroting the biomedical picture I’d been given (‘Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m a schizophrenic’), I met people who wanted to know more.  Slowly and tentatively, I began to unpick the medical tapestry and began to weave my own story once more.

The story I now tell about my experience is constantly evolving as I learn more about myself and my life.  It reflects the connections I make with other people and the new experiences I am lucky enough to have.  My voices, visions and beliefs are not symptoms of a mental illness, they are meaningful reactions to the trauma I survived as a child.  They are no longer a burden that I bear, they are opportunities to understand and integrate different aspects of my life story and my self.  The voices carry feelings and memories that I was once unable to bear, using metaphors when the content is too painful to speak directly.  My overwhelming beliefs were meaningful, too.  Built with the feelings born of trauma and vulnerability, they allowed me to express painful truths without needing to confront a reality I was not yet safe to explore.  They hid the trauma in plain sight and, once I had the support to explore it, gave me a starting place to work from.  I see my experiences are a creative adaptation, not a symbol of pathology.  The pathology is in a society that is so afraid of hearing painful stories that it labels them as ‘delusional’ rather than witnessing the personal truth contained within.

Of all the beliefs that I have had about my experiences, the belief that I was ‘schizophrenic’ was the most damaging.  In adopting the story that others told about me, and abandoning my own sense-making process, I held on to a belief that both hid my traumatic life experiences and rendered them irrelevant.  I can imagine that, as a reader, you may feel that the ‘schizophrenia’ belief was the lesser of two evils.  After all, feeling trapped in a conspiracy was extremely frightening and it overwhelmed me to the extent of being unable to go to class, eat regularly or wash.  I even harmed myself in vain attempts to get the alien out of me.  Still, this belief was woven from the beads of my experience and – as such – contained the truths I was unable to face.  It was something that, with the right support, I could work through and understand.  Schizophrenia, however, led to a dead end.

I sometimes reflect on what it was that allowed the story of illness to replace my story of aliens and conspiracies.  Childhood abuse teaches you that you’re evil, bad, and that there is something deeply wrong with you to cause upstanding members of the community to become monsters.  You learn that you are the monster, not them.  Imagine meeting a doctor who says ‘It’s OK, we know what’s wrong with you’ and, best of all, ‘we have medication that can keep it under control’.  Finally you have met someone who can both see the monster hiding beneath your human façade and has a magic pill that can cage it.  Every person that spoke about my symptoms, delusion or illness merely served to reinforce that which I was already primed to accept – I was flawed, vulnerable and my experience of the world (and the abuse) was mistaken.  It was all in my head.  The biomedical model offered me both condemnation and salvation.  It validated my inner badness and gave me the gift of living among the humans as long as my inner monster – the schizophrenia – was contained. It’s a powerful and seductive story, and one that has taken me years to untangle.

As a mental health worker, I am often called on to attend mental health conferences and train professionals in ways of working with people who have distressing voices and beliefs.  Given my own experience, I am acutely aware of the power of language and the importance of providing space for people to tell their own stories.  I work alongside professionals who, with the best of intentions, still describe the people they work with as ‘psychotics’ or the ‘mentally ill’.  It’s still commonplace to talk of delusions and symptoms, even in the most enlightened circles.  My focus on language is, sometimes, seen as an irritation to allies.  I can be accused of being pedantic and missing the point.  Does it matter if we sometimes slip into the language of illness when we all agree that these experiences are meaningful, personal and have value?  Yes.  It does.  The language of illness was the language used by the thief who first stole a person’s experience and replaced it with ‘schizophrenia’.  Every time we use words from this language we inadvertently add our seal of approval to this thievery and make it that much harder for people to reclaim their experience as their own.  Words have power.

What would happen if we found a way of talking about extreme experiences that left medical terminology at the door?  What if we spoke descriptively of confusion, voices, visions, altered states, loss, sadness, elation, fear and disconnection?  What if we left space for people to find their own stories and saw our role as a ‘sounding board’, ‘guide’ or ‘fellow traveller’?  In the western world, each of us has grown up hearing the story of illness and it’s easy to underestimate the impact this has on our ability to move beyond it.  Perhaps a good starting point is acknowledging how easy it is for this story to seep into our conversations and thoughts when we’re not paying attention.  Finding new ways of talking about experiences requires us to firmly set aside the old ones.  It feels awkward and clumsy to experiment with new words and phrases, but then the journey of recovery is rarely straightforward.  Perhaps a degree of uncertainty is a good thing.  We should never mistake the map we are using for the territory itself.

Interview – Rachel Waddingham from Mad in America on Vimeo.

44 COMMENTS

  1. You have such a wonderful way with words and such a powerful story. I am still so moved by hearing your story via skype during my hearing voices facilitator’s training. Thank-you for sharing your story and for your openness and your intense bravery. I felt (and still feel) very honored to have heard it.

  2. “Perhaps a degree of uncertainty is a good thing. We should never mistake the map we are using for the territory itself.”

    Yes!

    Rachel – thank you for sharing your story and for reminding folks that language and stories matter. Like Wyatt, I met you via Skype at the Western MA RLC Hearing Voices Facilitator Training. You were/are an inspiration!

    Vanessa

  3. “Imagine meeting a doctor who says ‘It’s OK, we know what’s wrong with you’ and, best of all, ‘we have medication that can keep it under control’. Finally you have met someone who can both see the monster hiding beneath your human façade and has a magic pill that can cage it. Every person that spoke about my symptoms, delusion or illness merely served to reinforce that which I was already primed to accept – I was flawed, vulnerable and my experience of the world (and the abuse) was mistaken. It was all in my head. The biomedical model offered me both condemnation and salvation. It validated my inner badness and gave me the gift of living among the humans as long as my inner monster – the schizophrenia – was contained. It’s a powerful and seductive story, and one that has taken me years to untangle.”

    Imagine meeting Jesus! (at simple mention of Jesus Christ, if people roll their eyes, huff and puff, get annoyed, disgusted, upset – you have got a demon. ALL demons react to Jesus Christ in a DEMONSTRATIVE (demon, monster) manner).

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+12&version=MSG
    Luke 12:1-3

    By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.

    This is ANY mask that people wear. I’ve just unmasked demons (which are people, human beings). Unmasking is one of “psychiatry’s” words. WHY that word, psychiatry? Because they know demons – they just use alternate language (and recommend behavioral therapy treatment, for some – in addition to chemical modification).

  4. It does come down to abuse of power, it seems. I’m sorry, Rachel, you were abused by a religious leader. My child being abused by the best friend of a pastor, and the subsequent cover up of such child abuse, and my need to come to grips with it, was what resulted in my being labeled “bipolar.”

    And, of course, labeling a person with a mental illness and making her ungodly sick with drugs, thus preventing, rather than helping her deal with her real life problems, does not benefit the mother, her child, her family, or society as a whole.

    All it does is end up keeping child molesters on the streets, and in my neighborhood, seven suicides by children who were likely misdiagnosed as mentally ill, due to child abuse. I completely agree, having an erroneous “map” of “mental illnesses” to explain away all human troubles, causes more harm, than good.

  5. Rachel,

    This was an amazing, enlightening and powerful article that has great insights about so called schizophrenia/psychosis coping mechanisms to deal with abuse related trauma that applies to everyone in my opinion in many ways.

    That’s not to try to negate or downplay your own experience in any way, but rather, to express my amazement at the brilliance of your ideas and writing with which I could so totally relate and extract lessons for my own life experiences that are quite different than yours.

    I have studied a great deal about all types of abuse including verbal and psychological terror tactics as well as other forms, which many abusers have refined to a high art form to get away with their many crimes by scapegoating and vilifying their victims. It would be the rare person who hasn’t dealt with somebody like that in families, school, work or society at large who does all in their evil power to fill them with self doubt/blame to brainwash their victims to believe they deserve it until/unless the targets finally see threw it.

    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing this great article.

  6. Thank you for this enlightening and very well-written article. I’ve gone through some horrible experiences as a child myself with psychiatry, but not like yours, and haven’t dealt with it psychologically the same way you did. So you’re given me a new insight into someone else’s experience.

  7. Dear Rachel,

    Thank you so much for this article which, to me, is written in humane and lived experience words.

    The following is rather an ‘essay’ than a post.

    To me, it is compassionate to read that you felt and saw yourself as a monster, also in the mirror, and were persuaded to hide a dangerous alien inside when you created, in my words, ‘mythic’ and ‘animated’ image-creature-meaning of your identity.
    This seems very close to the lived drama meaning-making which resonates from the soul AND animated suffering flesh, may be a drama genre familiar with Grimm’s Fairy (and Monster) Tales. I emphasize this ‘genre’ because it is important to me that this vivid ‘mythic’ meaning-making is closely connected to the experience, thus dramatic, and not yet part of an ‘authored story’ – in which the me-authour would designate the monster as such. To me in a diffrent modality of meaning making the monster has rather overtaken the abused ‘one’, the me having no socially acceptable language as a human being ?!

    There is a moving reason (Beweggrund) for me to make the difference between genres as between being subjected in a soul’s mythic drama of lived experience of abuse, feeling a monster as a kid/teen, being made feel a monster and an alien, and the notion of ‘story stelling’. I myself was told by my psychological abusers that I was a subhuman without no real human feelings, plus, that I could not recognize that what I took for my intentions and for my feelings and my beliefs was part of my self-delusion. As my psychological abusers were my parents, they were certainly right, morally and humanely, as they knew me since my birth and thus had the longer and superior knowledge about the truly bad seed of evil intention in me. After having, in the flesh and in the mind, lost interactive agency and contact with my feelings, I then started believing that ‘a monstreous witch’ was hidden in me, as my true self my parents could see had evolved inside me from my birth.
    However, this was no story I told… instead, in the nights, I disappeared into the woods, curled onto the earth, and hurled to the superior being God behind the moon, why HE had made me a monstreous witch inside without me knowing why and how ?

    As a teenager I was not able to tell ‘a story’ about this tortureous frightening intermingledness of an evil witch charecter in my ‘infected’ true/deep self I had never chosen to become.
    Instead, I ran in the woods in the night. Instead, no longer knowing who ‘me’ was, I started living on a sliding egg-shell… Instead I was nothing but a good scholar whose intellectual rage was rejected by most of my classmates, the boring, avid, ever-questioning learner, no grades good enough. The only currency I had to pay for my childhood were grades, that was the rule ‘at home’.

    At the A level graduation party I painted a huge black hand in my face… at the A level graduation ceremony I appeared fully costumed like a japanese-chinese geisha mix-creature… at Uni I clothed in my real greek dress and painted my eyes and face in persian flowers… Never, in these years of having no clue who I was, apart of being frightened of the ‘monstreous witch inside me’ (age 17 – 20), did I have no story to tell from or about me.
    To me, it is very important that the emotional-psychological traumata inflicted ‘through’ my heart, flesh and soul, had ripped my me out of any ‘tellable’ story, in which I would still have been related as a human young ‘girl’ to other people – nonono, that was not possible (possible in the sense of a conditio humana).

    When have I been able to ‘tell’ my story?
    Neither live nor tell any story was my noman’s land. Later, for many years, I switched between submission in some short-time job and the desire to start my life in exhilirating and courageous new projects including what I had once loved, horses, good people, from before the traumata and the shattering…

    … but no escape from my guilt – the answer to my vivid resistance at age 17 to the brake of contract in selling my horse had been that I needed to be wiped out as a horse-lover in this childish, egocentric, subhuman-horse-madness to be terminated! by my own parents… yes, they succeeded: my tears for not wanting to loose my horse were making me and the whole family suffer… me being sad was inflicting a terrible destiny on the whole family… – thus I turned into a ghost and would never be able to love and grief again… for approx 25 years.

    No story I had to live, no story I had to tell… poems at age 19-23 seem to have been my ‘last true words’… poems, some desired fruits of life torn open and swollowed, some wars of the soul scattering onto roads untravelled…

    No, the psychological trauma of being judged subhuman, heartless, without compassion for my family, childish, reckless, at age 17teen had not been the only disruption and punishment of flesh, heart, soul… my horse, however, had been the one living creature which I had loved with all my kid-to-teen love in soul and flesh. For earlier ‘not normal’ child behaviour, which I had related to my first therapist, I was told to have been severely emotionally neglected. Means no genuine loving relations where lived in our family, each parent emotional-mentally allied to one of the two kids, in order to maintain a marriage none of the parents had the wish to really leave, a family secret, I was told to be a ‘crazy lier’ when I challenged the same at age 18. (After the dead of both parents, 17 years ago, my sister found letters addressing a possible seperation written by my mother, when my sis and I had been kindergarden-kids.)

    Only in the lights and torrents of passionate real life drama could I later, so much later, write in and about my exploding desires to crush into life: ‘volcano lover’ and ‘horse-rider-actress’ and ‘creative writer’ … in life experiences which psychiatry then labelled ‘bipolar disorder’ or ‘schizo-affective disorder’. At that time I was to experienced to believe the psychiatrists in the hospitals, the same who had not paid attention to the few utterences of lost love with animals after weeks of darkness following a suicide attempt, instead they had convicted me to end my psychology studies and take a job I did not feel anything about but distrust. It took me a year after dismissal into the job to be carried into a flaming effort to start my life in a foreign country… later labelled a manic episode. The psychiatrists and nurses again lost my little trust in their possible competency and knowledge when all members in the team insisted that ‘the issues in my manias were irreal and had nothing to do with my true identity nor real life’ with the power of psychiatric disease knowledge. My gut and intellectual reaction was instantanous: WHAT ???? I KNEW that ONE ESSENTIAL LIVED TRAUMA OF MY LIFE was part of the issues in my desire to make a life as a LADY-ME, ACTRESS-DANCER, HORSE-LOVER and CREATIVE WRITER in the volcanic eruptions into fuelled creative life-projects THEY called manic states. My conclusion came in no time: IF THEY, MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE TRAUMA DYNAMICS BEHIND THIS VOLCANO ERUPTION INTO MY DESIRED LIFE … and THE ABYSS I WAS FALLING IN ALL THE SAME … THEN THESE PSYCHIATRISTS AND THEIR DISEASE MODELS WERE NOT TRUSTWORTHY!

    Thus, after my terrified experiences in psychiatric wards, being aggressed of having a degrading brain disease and menaced into having to take medication to get out and survive, thus, once I was ‘outside’, I started to connect in writing my explosive and shattering quests for a ‘My life with love and love lost’. La trame des mes voyages volcaniques et des mes chutes en les tenebres. Mes desirs de (entre)prendre une vie a moi, m'(r)amenaient en France, pays des mes etudes et (de)bout d’une vie que j’avais choisie en equipe anthropologique… pas bete donc, ce desir profond rallie a d’autres passions de ma vie perdue en mes quetes volcaniques ulterieures.

    Thus, after aggression in and escape from psychiatric wards, I started with collecting fragments of scenes… damaging scenes with my real father, I had ever banned as disguised, him being the good family father. Before I could find a voice I had to find the courage and vulnerability to admit what had been done to me… fragments, scenes of aggression and feelings of fear, hurt, destruction came in images, in few words, not yet a story. The beginning of me telling and re-telling scenes of my life came with the acceptance of the aggression and destruction done in/to me. Only at the age of fortyandsome… I was able to cry for the very first time from the deepest recedes in my flesh (!) and heart (!) and soul (!) … this was when I could begin to tell and re-tell what is my re-writeable and ‘shareable’ life-story… a story?! A story?! filled with emotions and inspirations in sharing ‘broken wings’ and ‘unbroken desires’ with other trauma-survivors. At least for me, there would be no ‘lived living story’ had the desires of ‘soul-heart-flesh’, had the killings in soul-heart-flesh… not first found expression and acceptance in poetic, dramatic, animated scenery-language, the languague filled with tears of blood from the soul’s feeling eyes.

    Perhaps, may some suggest, that I am wandering to close to ‘psychotic-near processes’ with my relation to the poetic-dramatic-mystique imaginative language, a language which resists to be ‘ordered in re-writeable life stories’, cause I feel threatened by the bony fingers of death of life, toujours apres, in having to tell ‘my story’.

    Perhaps I have to reign in myself! The death, the murdering, the killing of live is done in the categorial reifications of disorders and symptoms, in the dehumanizing production of the marketable slave ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘bipolar’. Medically informed and legally bound to be trained as a disease controlling puppet through psychoeducation and auto-surveillance of that dangerous evil inside, this ominous monster hiding in a diseased brain and which shall show itself in early warning signs to be closely monitored, all one’s patient life not to be lived any more. Sounds like some computer game, doesn’t it?!

    Rachel describes in a honest words the dehumanizing ideology and ‘brain wash’ procedures of psychiatric diagnosing and disease terminology as modern inquisition propaganda and practices in ‘mental health services’ (double speech). This medico-technical ‘abuse’ of human beings suffering in the flesh, heart, soul and mind, that uses objectifying scientistic terminology plus harmful neuroleptic medication (instead of Benzos to relief cruesome agonies as terrifying persecutions) is exposed as ‘false knowledge’ by Joanna Moncrieff, as technological paradigm in mental health by Patrick Bracken to name but two of many critical psychiatrits/psychologists.

    My contribution adresses an issue which is heavy on my soul and mind: do people having suffered trauma and betrayal with the inherent exclusion from society as the ‘evil culprits’ who took part in the abusive relations, with the inherent exclusion from socially and morally accepted language, with the inherent loss of being acceptable me-for-a-you… find compassion and understanding when they can not, or wish not, tell ‘stories’. I felt like an idiot for years for not being able to have a clue about me and far from being capable to author something like the smallest beginning story. This is why I welcome the language of the soul in the body, the language of pieces garbage or of a leaf in the street, the language of voices or visions who are, perhaps, like ‘sei personaggi in cerca d’autore’ (Luigi Pirandello)… voices and pieces of the drama of shattered lifes who are searching for broken dialogues … on the difficult journey to find trustable listeners who may inspire the longing to adventure into the sharing of lived fragments and the renaissance of a me-voice. Stories for many of us … seem to be far far away, like an oeuvre for the ‘good people’, the ones’ whose wings were never broken, or the ones’ whose wings have regrown and who can fly on a sunny day accompanied by the smiles of friends.

    My wish is to welcome the pieces of broken and bleeding poetry, the eyes or fingers of magical objects, the shameful and burning me-voices sharing a painful memory or a crazy desire with ‘soulmates’ or trustworthy humans. My wish is to welcome the seeds of potential stories, even if the single seed my not break through, even if some seeds may need to crack open in ‘poetic gestures and images’… on their jounery to become, eventually, one day a story of a survivor, an individual who has found his or her story co-authored in years of holding to newly woven ribbons of friendship and to sharing fragments of their lifes in mutual support groups or collectives like the hearing voices movement.

    With warm wishes
    Ute Maria

    • Wow. That was awesome.

      In reading, I thought of this and it seems fitting:

      Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.

      John Lennon

      • Real good one mjk! Thanks. Lennon was always ahead of his times, which brought him much nasty government attention. Ironic that those Lennon labeled as maniacs projected their “maniacal ends” on huge numbers of people from cradle to grave with their latest fad fraud bipolar stigma to disempower and poison them into oblivion, so they’d be less able to see the real insane maniacs in power.

        • Such as why I will not be hypocritical. How can anyone point at psychiatry and call them and what they do evil, but who ever identifies with any evil qualities? I’m very open and honest in identifying as insane (since childhood) and I know there is an aspect of me that is now demonic (the root of my recently cultivated nihilistic, nuke-loving hate and fury).

          I wish it wasn’t this way and it’s more of a collective condition that MANY people share (no scapegoating ME, thanks).

          • mjk,

            Yes, what you refer to is what Jung called our “shadow side.” We all have our dark sides for sure and by acknowledging them and bringing them into the light, we can focus on our higher, better selves while not continuing to feed that mad dog within all of us.

            Have you heard of the story of the man who told his son that we all have a good dog and bad dog inside us fighting all the time? The boy asked, “which one will win?” And the man said, “The one you feed.”

            Thus, we all struggle with our dark side as such movies like Star Wars demonstrate even to the youngest viewers.

            You don’t seem demonic or insane to me or at least no more than the rest of humanity. Don’t flatter yourself that you are more evil than the rest of us! Ha Ha Just joking to add some lightness to this thread.

            I will say that I think the most evil people deliberately and knowingly harm people for their own greed, sadism, power and other nefarious goals, but that’s my opinion.

        • “You don’t seem demonic or insane to me or at least no more than the rest of humanity.”

          I live in P.T. Barnum’s clown town – I wear an amusing mask lol.

          Underneath (my interconnected inner world) is Hell – horror, terror, violence and insanity (insanity is sexual immorality, and satan is the god of). I call it Red Realm.

          Want some truth about the root and core of psychiatry?
          http://pbfcomics.com/233/
          (thanks to anonymous .. no, delorean for reminding me about xkcd)

  8. This is one of the most enlightening and paradigm-shifting things I have read regarding mental and emotional “illness” (aka turmoil). It very elegantly describes similar things I have learned through my life while trying for years and years to “cure” or “fix” myself and “let go”of of my “issues”. I have managed to steer clear of psychatry throughout my path, though I have come close to admitting myself a few times, so I am not sure what my official label would have been. Probably some kind of severe depressive and bi-polar disorder with lots of suicidal tendencies.

    I now see the “issues” as dashboard indicators for my bodily vehicle that are natural for a human being to experience after trauma that has not been appropriately processed, in my case largely due to a highly damaging personal belief system and intense, often self inflicted isolation.

    The real “cure” is a system that provides support, safety, and resources geared toward helping the bodily, mental, and emotional vehicles of a person experiencing the turmoil address those dashboard indicators at their source and reach homeostasis

    • My phone cut me off from finishing….

      At first I had to address my indicators out of survival, but the more I did the more I discovered how important personal power and nurturing are to the weaving of the tapestry you describe.

      Thank you so much. It would be very interesting to read a book by you describing your theory of how mental and emotional “illness” should most accurately be viewed in a way that grants each their personal power of their own story.

  9. Of all the beliefs that I have had about my experiences, the belief that I was ‘schizophrenic’ was the most damaging.

    Rachel,

    Great blog post! Wow.

    I fully presume that others have already told you that it’s a winner…

    After all, there are apparently twenty-one comments preceding mine, here [“…21 thoughts on “Symptom or Experience:
    Does Language Matter?”…” says the blue line directly above the first comment.]

    By now, I presume you’ve received much critical praise for this post; and, it is so personal, I doubt that anyone shall attempt, on this page, to argue against your thesis; no one would have the gall to defend the “schizophrenia” label, as being supposedly useful and positively meaningful.

    (Of course, it would be interesting if anyone did do that; I have occasionally, informally debated people who apparently find that ‘diagnosis’ to be quite valuable.)

    Like you, I aim to be careful with my words — especially, when it comes to how I define my experiences that were once “medically treated,” by psychiatrists, as “mental illness”.

    And, I tend to be careful when reading.

    Typically, I read all comments before posting any comment of my own.

    However, for now, I am ignoring all the comments on this page; I’ve scrolled to the bottom of it, to write and post this comment, of mine, without reading any of the comments, as I want to let you know how I feel, in this moment, having come to the end of your blog.

    I feel deeply moved (my eyes welling up, with tears), for your story makes such perfect sense, to me, and you have chosen your words so very beautifully.

    Having myself wrestled with labeling that psychiatry forced upon me, at age twenty-one (I am now just turned forty-nine), for years, I struggle now to convey, with words, how much I appreciate your blog post.

    (By the way, to this point, I do not ever mention, in my own writing, online, exactly how I was tagged, by psychiatry, but, yes, I have condemned that “schizophrenia” label for years — including online), my words have never been so well chosen as yours.

    You are such a tremendous writer.

    This is a great blog post.

    Thank you for sharing it with us!

    Respectfully,

    ~Jonah

    • P.S — Matthew, please read this…

      After my writing, in my comment, above, about how I am careful with my words, I went and posted too soon…

      Reading over it, I’m conscious that my comment was not well written, needs editing.

      Somehow, I had forgotten that the comment-editing feature is gone now.

      MATTHEW, my good man, wherever you are, please, please, help us.

      As soon as you can, please, we need you to, please, please restore the edit-post feature, to this website!

      Respectfully,

      ~J.

  10. See, this is what I don’t get (understand).

    I see a great many people explaining themselves, their lives, experiences and suffering as TRAUMA based and I think, what – in effort to battle off psychiatry’s medical based explanations?

    I don’t know about anybody else but I’m BORN with psychic (which means spiritual) tendencies and abilities that DO include the supernatural and paranormal. For me, even though those things can be, and were, traumatic – when I take the trauma out, those supernatural and paranormal things STILL OCCURRED. Being traumatized by something is SECONDARY to the primary instance of a thing. I have evolved to the point where trauma does NOT wholly explain me; who, how and what I am and what I’ve lived.

    I’m not “schizophrenic” – I AM SPIRIT. I know, I know – what a “crazy” thing to say!!

    I have NO PROBLEM with the fact that I AM a GENETIC being. And YES, I do truly think and believe that there is genetic information for those of us who have specific functions, abilities and gifts (we ARE genetically different).

    I’ve said it so many times: schizophrenia is an erroneous term that needs to evolve. What “schizophrenia” IS, is misunderstood.

    We’re capable of Astral Travel, Out of Body Experiences, accessing other Planes / Dimensions / Realms (these things can and do occasionally BLEND with the ground-level reality). Shifting out of psychiatric mind (and language, vocabulary) and into the “spiritual” (which has it’s own language, vocabulary) – one’s understanding improves by leaps and bounds.

    For me, there is a need to separate and weed out the differences between I was neglected and abused and I was experiencing life on a whole other level. In other words, I could have been born to a healthy, functional family (and the greater community; culture & society), having been nurtured and protected, and I STILL would be an individual who is prone to mental / psychic / spiritual / supernatural / paranormal.

    • Look, Deepak Chopra is my FAVORITE example.

      Deepak Chopra wrote a book for teenagers about a manifest spirit that he called “Baba”. Deepak spent four days with “Baba”.

      Either HE ALSO is schizophrenic or all “schizophrenics” are NOT.

      What’s the difference? Baba was a NICE entity that didn’t tell Deepak to kill himself or somebody else. Really makes one THINK, does it not?

      • Either HE ALSO is schizophrenic or all “schizophrenics” are NOT.

        mjk,

        IMO, all “schizophrenics” are NOT.

        (That is to say, in my opinion: No one is well described as “schizophrenic”.)

        IMO, everyone has the capacity to develop certain, seemingly extraordinary ‘psychic’ powers.

        While some people develop those powers at a very young age, as a direct result of trauma (which may or may not include abuse), and some people develop them as a result of neglect (i.e., via an unusual lack of positive attention), others develop them for reasons that are not clear.

        Does anyone come to experience berating and/or belligerent ‘voices’ without ever having been abused, bullied, etc.?

        I really wonder.

        Respectfully,

        ~Jonah

        P.S. —

        By the way, I am very familiar with Deepak Chopra’s views on presumed “mental illness.” They are not at all ultimately enlightened.

        When I get some free time, I will blog on Deepak’s views (not only his views on supposed “mental illness”), because he’s a very interesting character, I feel. (Really, very interesting, IMO.)

        Actually, I consider him an online ‘friend’ — in a positive sense. (I had some extended philosophical conversations with him, via Twitter, a couple of years ago. They did include certain disagreements, to be sure; but, he left an impression of being quite well-intentioned.)

        He demonstrates considerable genius, in many ways, IMO — but not pertaining to presumed ‘psychiatric’ matters.

        Though he’s properly skeptical of “antidepressant” drugs, he, nonetheless, strongly promotes drugging people who’ve been labeled by psychiatry with supposed “serious” conditions; when it comes to speaking of any presumed “mental illness” and/or supposed “mental disorder” that could possibly pose risks of self-harm and/or homelessness, etc., he is always one to strongly recommend, first and foremost, the prescribing of psychiatric drugs (which implies a considerable faith in so-called “antipsychotic” drugs and “mood stablizers,” etc., if not “antidepressants”).

        To me, it is quite fascinating that, Deepak Chopra, a very highly imaginative man, who, as a physician, is trained in endocrinology, does not see the limitations of his own thinking, on these matters; after all, in many ways, he really is a free-thinker.

        Soon, I’ll write about this. I’ve been meaning to do so for many, many months now.

        Respectfully,

        ~J.

        • P.P.S. —

          In my comment, above, I posed the following question:

          Does anyone come to experience berating and/or belligerent ‘voices’ without ever having been abused, bullied, etc.?

          I really should have added these following thoughts:

          Considering all the endless horrible baggage attached to it, certainly, that “schizophrenia” label provides its own abuse, in spades.

          Hence, being officially called “schizophrenic,” in and of itself, is a most horrible kind of abuse.

          Many (countless) people have realized that, of course; yet, most psychiatrists continue to tag ‘voice hearers’ with that label.

          Some, more relatively caring psychiatrists, choose, if at all possible, to find a way to tag them, instead, with the “bipolar” label — as that’s seemingly less abusive.

          What an absurdity is the psychiatric labeling system!

          And, yet, truly, if one, indeed, feels that s/he must ‘accept’ one of these horribly lame psychiatric labels, then “bipolar” is the far better choice.

          It’s the relatively less socially crippling label, of the two (undoubtedly).

          The “schizophrenia” label is a most horrible scourge.

          From that point of view, I feel most sorry for anyone who gets caught up in psychiatry, via a supposed ‘psychosis,’ who has not somehow manage to develop a seeming ‘manic episode’; really, I’m not kidding there, as I say, to people who are labeled with “schizophrenia,” that, if they feel a strong attachment to psychiatry, then they should seriously consider ways of developing a seeming ‘manic psychosis,’ so they can be “re-diagnosed” with supposed “bipolar disorder” (or, maybe, if the psychiatrist will not go for “bipolar,” then supposed “schizoaffective disorder”).

          Insofar as ‘diagnosing’ supposed “mental illness’ goes, psychiatry presents its “patients” with an ongoing game (albeit a terribly dangerous one).

          Respectfully,

          ~J.

          • Jonah, I must respectfully disagree with you greatly that the bipolar fad fraud exposed by Dr. David Healy in his great book, Mania, is any improvement over the bogus schizophrenia stigma.

            Please see the following experts about the fact that bipolar was invented to push the latest lethal drugs on patent to expand and replace the schizophrenia stigma. This was so just about everyone on the planet could be falsely accused of being “severely mentally ill,” which is the mental death profession’s despicable signal that these supposed dangerous, violent mental cases deserve their abusive lies, bullying, perversions, forced commitment, drugging, ECT, lobotomies to be used as fodder to make their global billions while silencing and discrediting anyone who protests.

            Note the orange box a short way down the page on the right that exposes that the “new” bipolar death sentence has been substituted for bogus schizophrenia with all the supposed same symptoms that include all abuse related and other trauma symptoms including combat and rape. This bipolar agenda includes most normal human behaviors that in the least bit deviate from total robotic behavior with no great happiness or sadness allowed by these psychopaths inflicting their own evil and deficits on normal humans:

            http://www.yoism.org/?q=node/401

            Bob Whitaker and the great psychiatrist Dr. Loren Mosher are included on this web site in videos along with many other great exposures of biopsychiatry’s many crimes against humanity including those of “Dr.” Joseph (Mengele) Biederman, who almost single handedly created the evil child ADHD and bipolar epidemics to make millions on the sly with his fellow criminals from the monstrous Johnson & Johnson. This horrible company did the same for adults with “Dr.” Allen Francis, ed. of DSM IV and one of the perpetrators of the despicable marketing plan for new atypical antipsychotics passed off as the Texas Medical Algorithms to prey on the poor in Community Mental Health Centers. This was exposed by a whistle blower that led to many state lawsuits with much of it documented on the web that I posted on MIA before. “Dr.” Francis escaped relatively unscathed for serving as the role model for Joseph Biederman by promoting the new lethal atypical “antipsychotics” for adults that paved the way for Biederman to destroy countless lives to make these frauds wealthy and earning billions for Big Pharma making us all their powerless slaves.

            So, please do not wish the bipolar death sentence that gets the same and worse treatment and stigma as the life destroying schizophrenia stigma, but is so much easier to impose on anyone who has the deadly misfortune to cross paths with the mental death profession. I have seen that biopsychiatrists are very good at lying and falsely accusing their victims that they have symptoms they do not in league with their fellow abusers with the most power in each situation. And gradually the mental death profession has added psychosis along with so called mania to the bogus bipolar stigma to further justify their lethal neuroleptic poisons.

            “Dr.” Nassir Ghaemi is a supposed great “mood disorders” expert, who claims there is nothing wrong with taking drug company money and Biederman’s invention of child bipolar along with every other Big Pharma fad fraud are fair game for him to try to stigmatize just about everyone on the planet with the deadly bipolar stigma. He advocates the bogus claim that SSRI’s “uncover” bipolar by blaming the iatrogenic effects of these and other toxic drugs on so called hidden bipolar for the perfect crime. Like DSM III & IV whereby bipolar was created and voted in and then expanded to cover every possible human behavior or symptom, there has been an even greater, absurd expansion in DSM 5.

            By DSM 5’s criteria, nobody better get at all enthused about anything or fall in love or any other such “extreme states” of highs and lows or “grandiosity, less they be bipolared into hell by the mental death profession with “Dr. Ghaemi seemingly their great guru and spokesperson.

            With all due respect, your suggestion is like telling a victim of cancer to wish for a heart attack instead while failing to see they are both fairly deadly.

            Please reconsider.

          • Jonah, I actually have experienced a sort of reverberation of held beliefs that can materialize as a sort of “voice” or “voices” except it’s just unconscious reflexes that my mind is intelligent enough to bring to my attention.

            And so when I hear those things (and thanks to the excellent exposing of what hearing voices is on this site, and the encouragement you can do something with it) I now know I need to, for example, not worry about what people are thinking about me, or compromise my approach to fit into what people are going to accept or not (or statistical based norms or salience with consensual reality deportment).

            So I can not say anything rather than trying to be accepted, or I can say it nevertheless and allow their offended responses join the voice telling me not to offend them, which I’m already ignoring: or I can find out that it is accepted.

            And actually I move to an area where it is accepted, that way. I don’t hang around with the offended voices; or stay somewhere where I can’t say what I think.

            I think I started doing this a while back. Not holding back, that is. I’d been aware of these “voices” or “reverberations” before; but now I understand them more, in retrospect.

        • I didn’t know this about Deepak.

          Makes no sense.

          What I heard was this whole talk about how we’re all energy. We replace all of the atoms in our body every 7 years. Nothing it stagnant. And then yet….

          To have the energy to understand your own spirit (without psychiatric drugs) isn’t good….

          Well, he’s made a lot of money, anyhow….

        • “Does anyone come to experience berating and/or belligerent ‘voices’ without ever having been abused, bullied, etc.?”

          There is no person whatsoever on this planet who has not been exposed to violence (in any of it’s multitude of forms).

          One example, of the instance you provided, could be that somebody was a *witness* of the cruel bullying of another and *in empathy*, took it on themselves in order to know and understand what the bullied person went through. To solve a problem, we take on a problem. Since berating and belligerent voices are ACTUAL human behaviors (therefore, they have a basis in reality), the reasons, how and why, a person who has not been directly bullied or abused would experience the internal condition can be known, understood and communicated. The chances that you’re dealing with a very sensitive empathic is, in my opinion, greater than the chances of some bad brain conspiracy.

          It isn’t news: human beings ARE verbally abusive, emotionally abusive and mentally (intellectually & psychologically) abusive. Who has never, ever been affected / effected?

          Another aspect of human mind and behavior: people DO enact on the inside of all the things they don’t do externally – whether good or bad. Just as some people fantasize and daydream about being a famous star or some other positive role, some people fantasize and daydream about torturing, raping and killing – or being tortured, raped and murdered (all of which is Red Realm) – but they would never actually do those things in reality (and of course, there are those who DO live it out all of the above!).

          More mildly, a person might imagine the things they’d love to say to somebody’s face but never would (they only THINK IT on the inside). Somebody who does this might beat themselves up, because they are aware of what they’re doing, and then tortured by self-awareness, they’ll judge and punish themselves for being dishonest, cowardly, etc.

          We have inner lives and outer lives. Some people DO live their daily life / ground-level reality in a way that completely matches and reflects their internal conditions. Others do not. Christ said, make the inside like the outside and make the outside like the inside.

          ” ‘psychic’ powers”

          For me, personally – I never call them “powers”. Ever.

  11. Jonah,

    I have been exposed to Deepak Chopra through books, DVD’s and online. He can be inspiring on a superficial level, but many see him as a quack, scam artist to just make money in the so called “enlightenment” or “spiritual” awakening movement. I had the feeling one suffers when indulging in too much candy or other junk food with the initial quick high followed by a fairly long low when exposed to Chopra’s “quick fixes.”

    I ultimately more or less subscribed to the latter view of his being a quack along with many others and you sure just validated it by exposing his views on bogus psych labels given to push toxic drugs. What is also amazing is that someone claiming to be such a spiritual guru would not have explored the fact that many see the so called psychosis labeled as schizophrenia and now bipolar as a process of spiritual awakening as discussed by Seth Farber, Michael Cornwall, Paul Levy and many others here and elsewhere.

    I admit I’m going by what you say on his attitudes about main stream psychiatry and if that’s true, in my opinion, this just confirms he is one of many so called spiritual leaders or shysters just out to make money. Since you have been so strict about careful reporting in the past, I am taking your word that what you say is true. Of course, one can always change their minds, so do you know that Chopra still believes the main stream psychiatry agenda?

    I think Eckhart Tolle gives a great description of his own meltdown that led to a spiritual awakening and enlightenment in the great book, The Power of Now. He gives many great spiritual insights in this book while being fairly strict about having any delusions of grandeur on the great enlightenment path, which can also be more about one’s ego than true progress for many as he says.

    I really hope you do share more about Deepak Chopra as you indicate and I look forward to hearing your views on your exposure to him, both positive and negative.

    I suppose in fairness to all, it is very hard for the uninformed to conceive of the massive fraud and brainwashing of all perpetrated by the nefarious biopsychiatry/Big Pharma/Corrupt Government Hacks Cartel for greed, profit, power and scapegoating to cover up massive destruction of our planet, food supply, medicine, education, work, monetary system, etc.

    I had the same experience with Dr. Andrew Weil, a holistic doctor, who refused to consider the harm of the mental death profession when I contacted him initially because he claimed not to be qualified. I was delighted to find a later article by him exposing the fraud of the stigma of depression and the harmful drugs to treat it while he presented holistic, alternative, healthy, truly healing alternatives to alleviate such normal symptoms in such a toxic society. Kermit Cole was kind enough to post the article here that was very well received by MIA members.

    Anyway, thanks for your enlightening posts. I’m eager to hear more.

    • Donna,

      Thank you for those very kind and encouraging words. (You close, “thanks for your enlightening posts. I’m eager to hear more”). Also, thanks for your further comment (on August 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm), wherein you “respectfully disagree” with certain views I expressed in my “P.P.S.” comment (on August 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm). I actually agree with most of what you’re saying there. I.e., your ‘disagreeing’ comment, I like quite a lot. It’s a good comment. I largely concur with most of what you say in it, as I am certainly no fan of the “bipolar” label!

      IMO, that “bipolar” label is an outstanding crock of B.S..

      Therefore, whenever the opportunity is ripe (like now), I offer this following quote (which I found in a Youtube comment, by MIA foreign correspondent, Niall McLaren, M.D.):

      “Criteria in DSM-IV are so sloppy that I often tell people I could diagnose a ham sandwich with bipolar disorder.”

      And, yes, I do know that the “bipolar” label is essentially a dragnet, making countless millions of people seem “mentally ill”; and, I know that label is horribly stigmatizing. (God only knows how many lives have been ruined — or all but ruined — by that label.)

      However, I feel that the “bipolar” label is somewhat less horribly stigmatizing than the “schizophrenia” label; it’s somewhat less damaging, socially.

      (I stand by that point, of mine; it was my main point, at last.)

      Also, please understand, I was indirectly aiming to convey this belief, that: Anyone can become seemingly ‘manic’; anyone can, in a number of ways.

      IMO, various degrees of seeming ‘mania’ can be created, unconsciously or willfully; given only a few tips on how to generate a seeming ‘mania,’ it’s really not terribly difficult to do.

      Hence, I know there’s always this option, for those who’ve been tagged with “schizophrenia,” of coming to generate a seeming ‘mania,’ in order to effectively ‘prove’ to ones current psychiatrist (and/or, to a new psychiatrist), that one should really be tagged instead with the “bipolar” label, not the “schizophrenia” label.

      Shopping for new psychiatric labels is, indeed, a game (though, as I said, above: it is a risky game, even a terribly dangerous game).

      (Hopefully, as I say that, readers of my comments shall well realize: My general recommendation is to eschew any and all psychiatric labels.)

      However, I know that many people grow attached to their psychiatric labels; often, that’s because they’re reliant on insurance payments and/or on government subsidies, which often come with those labels.

      E.g., when tagged with the “schizophrenia” label, that label itself is seemingly needed to survive — often, because it becomes virtually impossible to find decent employment when one has garnered it; the “schizophrenia” label can make one very nearly unemployable.

      Thus, the officially labeled “schizophrenic” person may become entirely dependent on monthly government checks, thus growing attached to the label itself.

      So…

      At last, I’m saying: If I was labeled “schizophrenic” and had become fairly accustomed to living off a monthly SSI check, I might look to, at least, get myself a new ‘diagnosis.’ Bear in mind, the “Bipolar 1” label may serve to earn one ongoing monthly SSI checks; and, if one is looking for a more sure thing than that, the “schizoaffective disorder” label is essentially guaranteed to earn one such subsidies.

      Now, please realize, I do not mean to encourage any sort of dishonesty; and, I don’t mean to encourage needless use of government subsidies.

      So, I must explain this, as well: I deeply believe that the experience, of a bit of seeming ‘mania,’ can be somewhat liberating, at times, for some people; it can incite true creativity; and, so, once someone has been tagged with “schizophrenia” and has been living a while on SSI, I might be inclined to encourage him/her: Go for a bit of ‘mania’ and then look for ‘upgrade’ to a somewhat less horribly stigmatizing label.

      After all, I have observed that some people grow attached to their “schizophrenia” label, even as they are endlessly aware of how it makes them, literally, into social pariahs. They wind up (A) totally, socially crippled by that label and (B) seemingly doomed to be endlessly dependent on government subsidies.

      So, if they are not yet ready to abandon psychiatry (given that they’ve grown dependent on psychiatric drugs), they might consider, at least, seeking to ‘upgrade’ their psychiatric label (to lessen their burden of stigma).

      Arguably, “bipolar disorder” is somewhat less stigmatizing than “schizoaffective disorder”; and, that (“schizoaffective disorder”) is less stigmatizing than “schizophrenia”; and, of course, “paranoid schizophrenia” is the most stigmatizing label of all. (IMO, no one should accept that label for even a minute — not for any reason.)

      These are just my opinions.

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      P.S. —

      Regarding the subject of Deepak Chopra’s views (and, you mentioned Dr. Andrew Weil and Eckhart Tolle): I think all that may be a bit off topic; so, I’m not going to get further, into all that, in this comment. But, I will say that agree with most of what you’re saying, especially as you write, “What is also amazing is that someone claiming to be such a spiritual guru would not have explored the fact that many see the so called psychosis labeled as schizophrenia and now bipolar as a process of spiritual awakening as discussed by Seth Farber, Michael Cornwall, Paul Levy and many others here and elsewhere.” I will blog (soon) about this. Respectfully, ~J.

  12. Hi Rachel, I just wanted to echo what others have said about this powerful and beautifully-written post. I am sure I will be using it in future training sessions on the seductive dangers of diagnosis. Thank you.

    At the risk of boring people with my favourite topic, I do believe that psychological formulation can be one alternative to the narrow, pathologising ‘story’ imposed by psychiatry. I imagine it might have made all the difference if the mental health staff had been able to help you to understand your experiences as a creative attempt to survive overwhelming pain. But to do this, they themselves would have needed the opportunity to undo their own brainwashing (or ‘professional training.’) Fantastic that you found this opportunity through the HVN, but it is tragic that so many people have to escape psychiatry, and unpick the damage it has done, before finding anyone who is able to listen.

    Keep up the excellent work!