This note won’t be skinny, just so’s you know. But I needed to report to some of my gaggle (my gaggle of crows). Jim Dewell, a respectable White shaman in a respectable White office by White, semi-respectable Lake Avenue, told me you all were flying black and wise around my healing ritual yesterday. So how can I thank you, and what else do I have to send along to you but a bag of hot roasted syllables? It ain’t like I could pay you. And, man, the syllable crop this year has been stupendous!
I consider you my friends. My observers, the black crows from whom I take my wisdom. Don’t read more if you’re tired. I love you and know you are giddy loving me even if you happen to be allergic to nuts. And please don’t let on you got a bag. I got a whole mesa of trees to shake down, but people find out the free ‘ppinions this year are sweet and fat, and then weird things start to happen. Strangers bring in pickups for the harvest, they don’t stay on the track and they get mean. I don’t own the mountain, I know, but I know how to get up here; it’s hard to get to, windy and quiet, people not fighting or sobbing or crowding all the time. I’ll let you come up on your own whenever you want, but don’t piss on the trees. You know this gift is partly the syllables, but it’s also the needles, the rattley snakes, the giant buzzy itch of flies and the sand.
So my report: I am still deadly sick and too deadly sick to come down. You know I got that thick clay in the carburetor and can’t get the motor turned over. And it’s gotten so I don’t try anymore. And it’s okay. I’m packing the nuts on herds of sheep and sending the dogs down with them. You’ll hear the bell; I guess ‘Ol Grimmy used to hate that thing; it ain’t a sheep bell, it’s a cowbell, but I can find that ewe easy a mile away and she’s got used to it, the sheep always right there following her. I am so weary, but the spring is cold, the garden is chock full, hams and yams in the cellar and enough firewood for the winter.
Oh, the report: Mr. Dewell is the deal, my shaman. How do you know a shaman is legit? It ain’t a credential so much (he’s got an MD from Stanford and a long time with condors) but you stumble around the wilderness long enough you get to know the sweet water in the seeps in warm round spaces that aren’t haunted. As I lay on the operating table awaiting the scalpel, surrounded by his white walls and jaguars and rattles and medicine and his teachers, and in the Space of Christ and Thich Nhat Han, with my personal Angel and guardians, my poets and my crows, I merged with my tortured mother to be healed of our shame and unforgiveness.
Some might wonder why I’m still stumbling in the desert when there are cars and jobs and museums downtown, but really, the turquoise dawn is in the canyons. Fred asked me Tuesday what my gifts might be, and I guess they are just these syllable bundles and dawn. I hear the vowel sound and the mist come before the expression… so if you can use them, dew so, and if you can’t, I know they ain’t much, but they are genuine. The thing is, my people seem to need this nutrition, the rarified medicine of this particular cactus and that specific root that I haven’t found anywhere else. Jim Dewell gave me a whole pouch; I can’t get down to my people anymore, so I’m hoping they can send somebody up to me.
Oh, I was getting to the reportage: I have asked that Jesus repeatedly for a good brainwashing, and He don’t seem to want to do it. Says I work better slow, in a fog. Have to pay attention to the sparks and the fingers. And He seems to want me staying put, not running around a lot. So my only function seems to be shaking down syllable trees and collecting roots, although I do write a lot of invitations to performances that I send by pigeon.
Performances and Gatherings were always the dream. I identify so much with the personal struggles of Nikola Tesla, his frustrated insanity of a wifi tower before wifi was a Thing, his loneliness, and his curious obsession with a flock of pigeons. I understand there is a turning back to a public hope in free energy, with a rethinking of the free electromagnetism of pyramids they used to sniff were tombs. So the working isn’t in us, is it? It isn’t in the gas or powerlines or what we perceived as sarcophagi. Thank God; I don’t have any more inclination for towers and lumbering. Sometimes I sit and sip the end of a desert honeysuckle all day long. I am so tired.
But I want to tell you, AGAIN, where the medicine needs to go. My people are, like me, giving up and dying in a joke of systemic Google docs. If you have any curiosity about mental health, read Mad in America daily. Talk to Doctors Silvia Toscano and Brinell Andersen, two professionals raising ethnocentric nescience in Los Angeles mental health treatment. Care for the traumatized who have been educated out of their hope and their humanity by funding, lazy incompetence, disability to get out of a desk chair, and reliance on German eugenics. Throw your taxes to those soldiers fighting domestic government terrorism on their own time and dime.
For myself, the intention of having been alive is clear, after twenty-five years lost in belief in a community mental health clinic. The following are the two architectural plans I want to leave in passing. There must be, FIRST, two-year residential training centers for survivors of prolonged early violence and social-cultural oppression. These must be drug-free and focused on training. Their staffs must be teams of psychiatric survivors, practical indigenous healers, grandparents, coaches, artists, occupational therapists, retired executives, and Jungian psychotherapists. They might include meditation, third-grade arithmetic and writing, sculpture, tiny houses, choirs, large and little animals, and gardens for food and therapy.
The curriculum must be graduated, with a focus on developing finished products and projects. So the attention must turn from paperwork and textbook to physical arts, nature, meditation, sports, spiritual practice, debt-free money management, full computer literacy, indigenous healthcare, and nutrition. I suggest the first six months as a camp with endless recess, daily contact with chickens, horses, paints, goats, games, and ugly mentors. I invite about a week of collage, versus the twenty years now done.
SECOND, there must be termed, graduated urban internship centers with shared housing and transportation for psychiatric survivors. Two years. STOP. These should focus on physical therapies in meditation practice, personal reflection, dating, free contribution, sharing, collaboration, dance, material products, and personal independent study to develop portfolios. These centers must be free, privately funded, with abundant open communication with community centers, nonprofits, research centers, churches, schools, and art centers. The end goal must be the establishment of new families of choice, the hope of children, independent income, or a path toward life-long study and degree. Some of these graduates might be encouraged to return to the County cistern.
You will tell me these are too expensive, too much, that there is no one trained and willing to do the intensive labor. What if folks can’t get jump-started in four years? You will tell me that recovery is a myth. Print that in BOLD on every psychiatric brochure, business plan, and curriculum vitae: RECOVERY IS A MYTH. I am not personally sure if I agree. But if recovery is a myth, if healthy society is a myth, why not put our money into culling? If you believe or do not believe in abortion without caring or feminine wisdom, then you can also believe or not believe in absurd rent increases, prostitution, prison, euthanasia, and gas as social norms. Why pay psychiatrists for decades of morphine drip when you can pay the same number for drones for a day? Think of the quality of the instantaneous residue.
State of Advocacy
I am not yet connected to advocates educated in practical competence in L.A. County. Advocates are trained to sit. By competence, I mean the practice of returning victims of prolonged early trauma to the full humanity of healthy sexuality and community contribution. All people are in pain, the understanding of which we nurture. The hopelessness is not the rot in the hearts of the homeless or the seniors in Section 8 but in those who comply with “standards” and are paid over $2,000 a month to evanesce OUR problem.
As a survivor of the camp, I am a passionate proponent of the increment. You will ask if physical therapy and vocational training can be effective for those with actual physical challenges such as fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, prolonged overdose of psychotropics, illegal drugs, or major brain damage. I cannot detail the American reasons people are abandoned. When you are starving in groups, you start with the rotten potato. Then train the people for whom it matters whether we might have slow brains or quick brains, or excited brains, or brains finally given up after years of spoken words and empty works.
While greater competence in humanity began for the United States in 1963 with the Mental Health Services Act, it was swiftly co-opted by government, academic nepotism, texts indexed to textbooks, single-blind studies, “management” and marketing brochures. We’ve spent fifty-seven years building back the villages that sustained us before Universal Democracy was enforced. The peer movement began in a Marianas Trench, breaking the surface with no strength left to swim to the beach to tackle the mountains.
But there is abundant lived experience of champions with conditions now billed by the DSM, professionals who carry brands of subjective diagnoses. Trained peer professionals are valuable as neurosurgeons, and yet many who choose to live beyond the Department or the arts have learned to keep their mouths shut about our histories. Administrators curious for quality might find coaches in other states or more progressive third-world countries, and not at USC, UCLA, or a “Mental Health Department.”
Check your endless graphs of statistics and print it out as a syllabus for Freshmen: RESILIENCE, ART, COMMUNITY, FREE CHOICE, COMMERCE, COLLABORATION, AND RESISTANCE ARE A MYTH. Speak your truth. Or demonstrate your superior eugenics of “pretend” medicine, paying $500-10,000 a month for gray halls with no windows; “support groups” of people never trained to labor or collaborate; fingerprinting to override an option for a job; medical care only for the healthy and those deemed competent to know where it hurts; mortgages and transportation for “administrators”; battering and ostracism of the young into jails, the street, “board and cares” and “convalescent” “homes”; and the lowest insult: “palliative care” and “social security” after thirty years for survivors in a County which has done everything that is manly possible. This is the Time for the feminine, too.
I might apologize for this letter. But no. I kiss my disabled roommate every morning on the forehead as I leave the house. I can’t know if I’ll be back. The exhaustive fogs are so intense it feels like screams in a tunnel. I intend to write two more books and some gatherings for those who can perform, but am sometimes thinking my most recent book, The Last Run, might be my last. I cannot carry the load, having only been messaged hope in Della Martin “Hospital” in 2013 by an angel in a pirate ship. Ha! Ha! You can dismiss me now. I am crazy.
Still, the blessings and gratitude might still be good, seeing where they come from, from you, my crows of wisdom, from LOVE, even though given free to a sinner and a crazy loser. The bags of nutty roasted syllables are yours. Taste them. I also got a little sage honey and rostros of chili. They can be cooked and shared in your kitchen.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.