From Burning Man to Bellevue Hospital

Sascha Altman DuBrul
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Every year around this time my thoughts turn to my friends participating in Burning Man. Although I have never personally attended, as someone who lived in San Francisco for over a decade and who travels through the communities I inhabit, I have crossed paths with many “burners.” The politics of Burning Man are complex, and there is surely room for criticism, but it’s way more than just a party for the privileged.  For those who don’t know, Burning Man is founded on these 10 principles, and has developed a very special culture and ethos that resonates strongly with much of the organizing I’m involved in.  Radical inclusion, self-reliance, self-expression and decommodification are values I can certainly relate to.

While Burning Man is often associated with hallucinogenic drugs, stories I have heard over the years have often made me wonder when and how society condones public displays of madness. Stories from burners have often reminded me of some of my own emotional crises, and I wonder about expeditioning to places where what would be called madness by a psychiatrist may be completely normal, acceptable, and encouraged.

I just read a powerful piece written by a friend of mine that relates his personal journey from Burning Man to Bellevue Hospital.

The piece reminded me of my own story (Bipolar World) that I first published in the San Francisco Guardian back in ’02. It’s raw, personal, emotional and insightful. The piece is very timely, as folks are just now returning from Burning Man, and many of them could probably use your support. I encourage everyone in this community to consider sharing a personal story like this, under your real name or a pseudonym, since it really helps people out there understand that they’re not alone.

By the way, if you’ve never heard of Blunderbuss Magazine, it’s an edgy online magazine of “of arts, culture, and politics, an ordnance of fire and improvisation.” They publish poems, literature, comics and photos and are a great bunch. Last year they published an excerpt of my book Maps to the Other Side: The Adventures of a Bipolar Cartographer.

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(Editorial note: More about Sascha Dubrul.)

Interview – Sascha Dubrul from Mad in America on Vimeo.

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