Pick Up a Pen, I Dare You

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I recently felt healed by someone close to me writing and owning their own story. I felt energy in my body come back and start moving.

Not writing and owning our own story in some way wreaks havoc on those around us. We are silently killing ourselves and them, too – the part of them that is awake and listening and wants to hear from our hidden parts. This silent killing is akin to what happens when taking psychiatric drugs.

Divulging is a gift; hiding is thievery and holding back oxygen. When I am hiding or sense someone close to me is hiding, it can be hard to even breathe.

Psychiatric drugs are tools for hiding – they inhibit our breath and rob us of our healing potential and power to heal others. Any wound or darkness gives us that much more power to witness and assist in healing others. Perhaps I needed to be wounded by psychiatric pharmaceuticals, enter that darkness, in order to greater witness others.

Writing and reading are witnessing practices. I knew so when I read my friend’s story at 2am and felt like a master witness. Witnessing myself so much through writing so much makes it possible to witness others when they bring forth secrets from their places of fear. I know what that’s like – I recognize it. I feel the importance of liberating one’s self through words, through telling, through recreating life story.

Recreating life story is so necessary as the original story we tell ourselves has to be incomplete. It has to be influenced heavily by corporate media and advertising unless we and all of our ancestors have lived under a rock. It is the story we made up based on the limitations in the minds of our family, friends and society. It is not ours until we make it ours by retelling it. Any holes we leave in our own storytelling are holes in which industries such as the mental health system can enter. Telling our own story protects us from that invasion, making it easier to see clearly when someone tries to make up a story to sell us something (i.e. a pill).

Even those with a story that looks powerful and free because they have a high social status (or for whatever reason) are bound by their untold story if they haven’t recreated it, or simply told it in their own words. High status stories and low status stories are two sides of the same coin. The real story we need to tell can only be told by us. We can liberate ourselves from being status pawns in a game we imagine really exists, but doesn’t except in our collective imagination.

Someone I work with once asked me, “Who am I to write/put myself out there?”  At first I was stumped as to the nature of the question.  In retrospect, it sounds like internalized oppression (when societal oppression enters our psyche and we use it against ourselves, sometimes without realizing it).  Imagine asking a child, “Who do you think you are to sing/play/draw a picture/speak?”  This would be emotionally abusive, if asked the way she asked this of herself.  It makes me wonder who asked her, directly or indirectly, “Who do you think you are?”  Who implied she should have to justify her existence and right to expression?  Who did they think THEY were?  If someone silenced you, it’s time to interrogate them.  We are living in a lot of fear that is keeping our mouths shut, many of us.

I for one, have a lot to say.  I’ve written and published a lot, but the amount I have to express and share feels endless.  In my blood and veins and arteries, I hold eons of silenced women, ostracized mystics and “crazy folk.”  They all want to speak too.  Most of us have less overt excuses than ever to write and publish and be heard.  In a sense, the world wide web is at our disposal 24/7.  In another sense, we may have more fear than ever, not only our own fear, but all those eons of fear, others’ fear we are holding for them.  I hold my parents fear, and probably their parents fear etc.

When I pick up a pen, I put down my fear.  Sorry, they don’t both fit into my hand at once.  Meditation teachers often say the hardest part is getting to the cushion.  The hardest part of writing is probably picking up the pen.  So, pick up a pen, I dare you.  Write even if you think no one will read it, even if you don’t want anyone to read it.

Recently a woman expressed ambivalence to me about sharing her personal story of successfully coming off of benzos after being on them for about 40 years.  “Who will listen?”  she asked.  “No one listens to me,” she said.  “No one listens to me either,” I said and laughed because I feel truly desperate to be heard.  “That’s why I write.”

It may seem redundant to tell one’s story. We may ask ourselves, “Why bother?” or “Who will listen/read it?” It is important to make a choice – a conscious choice – about what story to tell. The mental health care crisis (and the whole health care crisis for that matter) is in large part due to lack of creativity and suppression of voice. Only suppressed creativity and a morbidly silenced voice would “choose” by default to listen to the stories of the psycho-pharmaceutical industry. This is sad. You can do your part in recreating our collective fantasy by retelling the story of your very own life. The story your soul came to tell, knowing it would liberate others.

18 COMMENTS

  1. How Writing Can Protect You From Psychiatry

    The time in the hospital when they called my horrific anxiety attack filled Zyprexa withdrawals “my illness” (an illness I never ever had before) I wrote a note for the doctor who came in for the $100 handshake, I just handed it to him and said “you can put it in my chart, it explains why I’m here” and said no more about it.

    Very effective. Back then I could only find one thread about zyprexa withdrawal on the net. Today there is tons of them.

    Those *******’s thought withdrawal syndrome was impossible cause Zyprexa is ‘non addictive’.

  2. While I do respect reluctance or hesitance to disclose when it is too triggering or when it doesn’t feel safe in a particular environment (I’ve had to discern this a lot for myself), I really like this article, Chaya, because I agree that telling one’s story with a sense of ownership is inevitably healing and enlightening for all concerned–at least, for those that can take it in. I am aware that some have resistance to even hearing about these things, but then again, I, personally, wouldn’t impose my story on an audience with resistance. When I’ve tried, it has proven to be more regressive than helpful and healing.

    But when I find an audience (of 1 or more) that can appreciate what my story tells and can listen openly to what I learned on this wild journey of healing, and who can even just merely appreciate and respect that I’m willing to share my intimate journey, then nothing really beats this feeling. It relieves so much burden from the heart, I’ve found.

    Over the last several years, I’ve told my story publically many times, and in detail in the film I made, also on blogs and short vids that are posted publically on YouTube and other websites. Each time I tell my story, it is with a new and more neutral, compassionate perspective, which, in and of itself, has released my own burden tremendously, to the point where I feel complete with it all. I’m really satisfied with the perspective that developed, as a result of continually amending the perspective from which I reflected on and told my story. Hearing my own voice was vital to my own awareness.

    In short, this kind of conscious truth-telling was the best healing agent I had. I’m discovering a whole new life now, on neutral terms, creating freely.

    I just wanted to join you in encouraging others, as well. I’m a real enthusiast of speaking our heart’s truth and owning our stories in this movement. Takes a lot of courage and trust, and we learn so much from this. Thanks for writing about it!

  3. I read here a lot but only recently started to comment. This piece is very powerful and beautiful and something I really needed to hear. Thank you. I am a survivor and I’ve been struggling for over a year to write out what the psychiatric system did to me. I continue to encounter problems, one of the biggest being the presumed need to censor the story…but if I keep doing that there isn’t going to be anything left to tell. Reading this I’m suddenly a bit more hopeful that maybe someone would listen.

  4. If I wrote about all the ways psychiatry nearly destroyed my life, it would be a pretty big book.

    And, Chaya, I love your “Praise Biederman.” I’m guessing that’s a reference to his response “God” to being asked something like “What’s higher than a Harvard department head?”

    Am currently reading Greenberg’s The Book of Woe and he refers to this exchange with his usual dry wit. He notes it’s an odd response from a man who has devoted his career to diagnosing a disease which includes grandiosity as a symptom. Greenberg makes a good point, me thinks.

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