Q: “This medication is making me feel really weird, Doctor, a bit vague, plus I have an insatiable hunger. How long will I need to stay on them?”
A: “You’ll have to stay on them for the rest of your life.”
This was my psychiatrist’s categorical response back in early 2010. I’ll never forget the intensity of the sinking feeling I had when he said it. Luckily for me, it is just the shadow of a memory now, one that causes me to shudder nonetheless as I think of how my life, my precious life, would have looked had I listened only to my psychiatrist.
A Strange Euphoria
Several weeks before, at the age of 32, I’d been voluntarily admitted to hospital and diagnosed with an “acute psychotic episode.” I had spent the weeks prior to that acting out of a newfound and totally unfamiliar feeling of love, which became so intense that by the time I was hospitalised, I concluded that I must have died and gone to heaven.
A few months earlier, in September 2009, I had graduated from college on a high—ironically, with a first-class degree in psychology. This accomplishment brought about feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, hope, and happiness. My naive self, true to a deep-rooted personality trait, had pinned all hopes of being and finally staying happy to completing this degree. As I came to realise, this externally-induced euphoria was no different than any of the others before, and by November, I’d fallen back into the depths of an equally familiar grey and hopeless depressive mood.
By Christmas Eve, however, I had gone from that grey state to an increasingly potent state of wonder, awe, and magic. A qualitatively different kind of high, one akin to the emotions felt by my young-child self, unable to sleep in the magical anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus. For the first time ever, these feelings had come from within. On the outside, nothing and no one had changed, but on the inside, everything was different. Everything.
Totally captivated and inspired by the messages and principles within a powerful book I had flippantly picked up in mid-November, I’d begun to feel like I was being born anew. The book was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and, in every sense of the word, I devoured it. It felt like cognitive behavioral therapy for the soul.
I had studied CBT at college and learned coping tools to manage my “stinking thinking,” a.k.a. cognitive distortions. But Tolle’s teachings introduced me to the “pain body” –the unresolved emotional pain we carry around with us—and invited me to stretch my understanding of this concept to incorporate a universal and intergenerational perspective that took me beyond my wee self toward something more expansive.
I immediately applied Tolle’s principles to my everyday life and thought processes, and very soon I began to feel their incredible effects on my day-to-day experiences.
My mood-ometer went from 0 to 60 in just a few weeks. I began to understand what freedom and forgiveness felt like. Thoughts I’d obsessed over before just came and went like a passing breeze. I saw such beauty in everyone and everything—even people I didn’t like and things I’d never noticed before. I felt open and connected to the universe. My sense of curiosity about life, people, and nature soared. I became aware of the many times in my life where I had acted out of fear and hurt others. New feelings of forgiveness fueled my ability, in many cases, to go and say sorry.
Perhaps most important of all, I began to feel the grief of realising that I had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
I now recognized that I had spent years pushing this truth down so hard that I’d convinced myself that my experience of abuse wasn’t significant, that I wasn’t really a victim. Now, however, my heart had burst open and been purged of all the repressed and suppressed memories and emotions I had not fully felt nor expressed before. At one point, I remember looking in the mirror and being helplessly struck by simultaneous feelings of deep loss and profound joy. Loss, because the intense feeling of pure and almost overwhelming love I saw reflected back to me had never been there before, and joy because now that it was back, I could barely contain my sense that this love was washing everything clean from the inside out.
A Divine Mission
By December 26, these feelings and experiences had become so intense that I began to feel boundless. My thinking mind was flooded with unlimited possibilities for experiencing life from this place. The visceral, loving energy I felt was immense. Having zero knowledge and understanding and no frame of reference whatsoever with which to interpret my state other than my Catholic upbringing, these escalating feelings segued into thoughts that I must be the Second Coming. Now, feeling that I had been gifted with the ultimate elixir of life, I interpreted this experience as an initiation into a divine alliance with God. My mission was to spread the word and the way to this gift for all.
This alliance with God manifested as the voice of Mother Nature. She and I entered into a kind of inner conversation, in which we negotiated my every action toward what I believed was deliverance. Central to this process was my task: to write a book. The book would be the “new” Bible, outlining the same freedoms I had been gifted in the weeks before so that we’d all be delivered. So I wrote and wrote; the finished product was entitled She Has Spoken – At Last. Next up, I was to give the book to Father Joe—our local parish priest, who would see to its publication in all the local newspapers on New Years’ Day 2010. I remember thinking how right and good it was that the Second Coming would be a woman!
I met with Fr. Joe and, although I felt the fear in almost everyone else around me, in him I felt only compassion and understanding. He took the book, thanked me for writing it, and said he would take good care of it until I was ready to take it back. Needless to say, Fr. Joe didn’t get the book published. Years later, I found out that after our meeting, he’d spoken with my mother, a retired psychiatric nurse already on high alert due to the sudden change in her daughter, and advised her that I be sent to the hospital immediately.
Inevitably, I was admitted and commenced a course of antipsychotic medication on December 27, 2009. I didn’t object. It was all part of God’s plan, I believed, so I settled in to stay as if it were a holiday. In many ways, the hospital stay was the most bizarre and beautiful holiday of my life! For example, because I had come to realise that I really was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I developed an insatiable need to talk about it as never before. The only people inside the hospital able to meet this need were my fellow inmates. One in particular: a young woman who believed she was the reincarnation of Helen Keller. We became close companions and, in a very real sense, our long discussions were therapeutic and helped me to feel whole.
Another time, I found hidden in one of the cupboards a pile of beautiful paintings and drawings. I displayed these on the walls of my room, struck by their sheer beauty. I felt like I was sensing a meaningful communication from the artist; how nourishing it felt to just look and “listen”! I was never able to connect with Art like this before, and yet here I was, in the “mental” ward, awakening to the beauty and meaning of artistic expression.
Along with this, one or two of my fellow inmates and I would engage in thoughtful conversations about our status as the “insane.” We wondered if there was really much difference between “us” and “them,” the “sane.” I found sanctity in my insanity somehow, and in relating to the insanity of others. Years later, I came across a quote by Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’’ It was then I realised that my state of insanity was a perfectly natural response to the insanity called my normal life before psychosis.
Even in the hospital, I strongly sensed this truth. The objective of my hospitalisation and treatment had been to keep me safe, eliminate all “symptoms,” and get me back to “normal.” I understood that keeping me safe was a good and necessary thing. And within two days of taking medication, my “grandiose delusions” had been transformed into the simple realisation that I was my own messiah. Still, during the remainder of my time there, I held on tight to the possibility that what I’d been experiencing might just be the healthiest thing that could ever have happened. Yet it was this very experience, and everything that might come of it, that my safekeepers were—with the best of intentions— focused upon obliterating. In time, as the effects of the medication set in further, I began to lose my felt connection to all the luminous perceptions I have described. A creeping fear set in and I began to wonder: Was my disorientation really just a sickness, or in “treating” it here, was I missing a powerfully swift, psycho-spiritual re-orientation toward healing the wounds of abuse?
By the time I left the hospital almost four weeks later, I had so many questions, all of which stemmed from that one central issue – “What… the f**k…. just happened!?” I found myself on a knife-edge, considering two opposing ways to understand it. On one hand, the Mental Health System was asking me to take on a sickness model—a lifetime commitment to medication and a possible diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. On the other hand, the gravity of the experience itself was pulling me toward understanding, listening to, and valuing its reality and its meaning. Rather than being the indicator of my unwellness, was my psychosis actually a response to an inner calling—some kind of mysterious and yet-to-be-understood psycho-spiritual drive toward healing? No matter which perspective I ultimately committed to, I was certain of one thing: I needed to face up to and deal with the impact of my very real childhood sexual trauma.
What came next was quite possibly the most important part of my journey, carrying me onward like a sturdy boat toward healing through all of the rough and gentle seas I would, and continue to, encounter. One word: VALIDATION. Searching online one day, I Googled “spirituality and psychosis,” which quickly led me to Sean Blackwell’s YouTube channel – Bipolarorwakingup. In his videos, Sean shared his own experience of acute psychosis and recovery and offered a different possibility for understanding my experience, one that I’d so hoped would be true. His videos are teeming with information, understanding, and science, offering a broad and empowering perspective. As with the book before, I devoured these videos and came off the knife-edge and onto a new trajectory. Seeing that another had not only had the same experience as I, but also was able to come to a level of understanding where he could now help others, anchored me into believing my reality. Everything that had just happened to me was totally valid and completely worthwhile.
Sean’s videos led me to the work of many others who’d sought to understand psychosis and related experiences, beyond their labels as mere symptoms of extreme mental ill-health. I read Jungian psychiatrist John Weir Perry, transpersonal psychology co-founder Stan Groff, David Lukoff, and Richard Bentall, to name a few. One piece of research led me on to another until, moved to continue learning, I returned to university in September 2010 to complete my M.A. in applied psychology. My thesis focused on the link between trauma and psychosis. I was surprised to learn that there is a well-established and ever-expanding body of research in this “genre” of psychology. The scientific literature points to a significant relationship between childhood trauma, particularly sexual abuse, and the development of what’s called a “schizotypal personality”—a set of traits and behaviors closely related to psychosis.
It took me two years to complete my studies, mostly because the deep wounds I carried made the reality of all I was learning very difficult. Most significantly, I tried to answer the question of why the understanding of the relationship between trauma and psychosis was almost completely absent from mainstream mental health practice. How could something as significant as this have been completely ignored? And what if, in the midst of my psychosis, it had been placed front and centre? The sad truth is that the medical model holds a position of unjust dominion as the explanation for, and therefore treatment of, such complex psychological states. The result is a knee-jerk consensus on the chemical imbalance theory as the one and only cause of madness, where the only option for treatment is a disempowering label along with brain-altering drugs—often for life.
My commitment to another perspective secured my decision, a few months after my discharge, to wean off the medication safely and slowly. This was difficult. Intermittently in the years that followed, I spent many, many months in so much psychological and emotional pain I could barely move. There were times when I revisited the counter-perspective and reconsidered the option of medication. I wasn’t able to drop the longing to heal, though. That longing fortified a kind of endurance to weather and work through the pain. Just as I had bathed in the lightness I describe above, I learned that, in the presence of profound meaning, bearing the darkness is also valid and worthwhile.
Truth Telling – and Forgiveness
Ten years down the line, I remain medication free. Most significantly, I completely broke the silence surrounding my childhood sexual abuse. This process took a few years, as I had first needed to reach certain landmarks on my healing journey–my responsibility. I came to realize that I, too, had colluded in hiding our dark family secret. Facing this sore truth, along with cultivating a healthy dose of forgiveness, somehow gave me the strength to speak out.
So in October 2013, after a painful separation from the father of my two children, I realized that the next logical and right step was to report the crime to police. I told my father, who contacted the inspector in charge of retrospective abuse cases. My uncle was prosecuted, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
I have also forgiven Fr. Joe, who was, in a sense, a major factor in my hospitalisation. Throughout the years, I have recalled this piece of information with an ever-changing and mixed bag of emotions. Betrayal, anger, a sense of being manipulated— at one point I even felt that he was a fraud. Now I have come to know that he, like everyone else around me, did the best he could with what he had.
Coming to realise this was another landmark on my healing journey, bringing with it an increased capacity to offer myself the same concession. I was able to reconnect to the sincere compassion and understanding I felt in Fr. Joe’s presence on the day he’d met with me. He was simply a kind, wise, compassionate, and sincerely spiritual human. His ability to meet me from a place of fearlessness engendered a feeling of safety and trust amidst my own spiritual crisis. Resisting nothing of every inconceivable thing I was saying, and willing to acquiesce to the value of my experience, he simply listened.
Many Modes of Healing
Since grappling with my abuse, I continue to find many new medicines in the form of the arts, meditation, yoga, exercise, good food, singing, making music, and cultivating a curious, open, and resilient mind. Most important of all, I bask in an appreciation for the nourishment of loving family and friends. I found a really good therapist who helped me begin to work through the effects of my trauma and I continue to engage with non-mainstream therapeutic modalities. Things like body work and breathwork, plant medicines, emotional-release therapies, and indigenous healing and ceremonial practices have catapulted my healing ahead thanks to the inherent opportunity they offer to go deeper. Deeper into learning from, understanding, and releasing the complex effects of the many vicissitudes of a developing mind insulted by childhood sexual abuse.
I’ve also come to see that, just as any healing modality has the potential to support recovery, the opposite is also true. It is crucial to apply discernment when choosing your modalities, especially if they’re going to take you on a deep dive into the non-ordinary. Perhaps best are those that seek to combine the best elements of many approaches in a holistic and balanced way, such as the revolutionary healing retreats developed by Sean Blackwell.
I aspire someday to experience Sean’s Bipolar Awakenings healing retreat, as I know I have much more to heal. For certain, engaging with the many different standard and non-mainstream modalities is powerful; they continue to help me tremendously in building an ever deeper and nourishing relationship with myself. Bearing the deep-rooted effects of my childhood sexual trauma, however, continues to interrupt my life more than I believe is necessary.
Healing may be a lifelong journey, but what if living life fully free from trauma’s effects is possible? A question worth holding onto, alongside gratitude for my brush with insanity, the first major landmark on my healing journey. Today, where grey once set the tone for my personal “normal,” now—after my beautiful gift of psychosis—it is just one colour in a dynamic, ever-expanding spectrum of real, honest human emotion.
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.
Your experience must have been full of great suffering but as a Psychologist you’ve gone through the eye of the needle and come out the other side. How many so called experts can claim this?
I’m a bit of a fan of Eckhart Tolles myself. Though, I’m still trying to see exactly what he’s got.
I hope to come across more of you on Mad in America!
Thanks Fiachra and your welcome. I hope, like me you’ll someday see, the much that I saw in E.T – so definitely worth the looking..
And I love writing so maybe you will..
Thank you for sharing your story, Sinead. And yes, our “mental health” workers have a problem comprehending child abuse happens, since NO “mental health” worker today can EVER bill ANY insurance company for EVER helping ANY child abuse survivor EVER.
As a matter of fact, misdiagnosing child abuse survivors is the number one actual societal function of both psychologists and psychiatrists, historically and today.
I’m the mother of a child abuse survivor, who was attacked by child abuse covering up psychologists and psychiatrists decades ago, prior to my even knowing my child had been abused. And because my childhood religion has turned itself into a systemic child abuse covering up religion, in partnership with the “mental health” industry. I’d be one of the many “widows” mentioned in the Preface of this book.
I’m glad your faith in God directed you away from the child abuse covering up “mental health” industry. It was my faith in God that also helped save me from the systemic child abuse covering up “mental health” and “religious” criminals, with whom my family has had the misfortune of dealing. I agree, Shaun’s work is interesting, I’m glad it helped you.
Steve McCrea, what percent of the personal stories on this website are by artists?
I am not able to answer that question, as I don’t meet or talk to most of the authors personally. My guess would be that the percentage is considerably higher than the general population, but that’s just my educated guess.
Thanks for your comment someone else and all I can say is that’s its shit you had to go through all that. No words sometimes for the shitstorm so many must endure. I truly wish you peace.
This is wonderful.
In my book Madness and Genetic Determinism: Is Mental Illness in Our Genes?, I examine the evidence and conclude that a century of psychiatric genetics research has failed to produce any credible evidence of a strong genetic component to so-called “mental illness.” On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence that the complaints that fall under the diagnostic rubric of “schizophrenia” are caused (not “triggered”) by child sexual abuse and every other form of adverse childhood experience.
https://www.amazon.com/Madness-Genetic-Determinism-Mental-Illness/dp/3030218651/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4ENFO53A7A5G&dchild=1&keywords=madness and genetic determinism&qid=1594074380&s=books&sprefix=madness and gene,stripbooks,141&sr=1-1
Thanks for writing this.
Yes, but be cautious of claiming child abuse causes the “invalid” DSM disorders.
Since it is likely that many of the religions entered in a faustian, child abuse profiteering, deal with the “mental health” professions, as was confessed to me by an ethical pastor. He called my former religion’s child abuse covering up crimes “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” A name which does not imply it is just my former religion.
And those of us here at MiA do know that the ADHD drugs and antidepressants can create the “bipolar” symptoms. As well as that the antipsychotics/neuroleptics can create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome and anticholinergic toxidrome.
Which does mean it is the psychiatric drugs that can create the two most serious “mental illnesses,” not child abuse.
The problem actually is that the “mental health” system targets child abuse survivors, and they are misdiagnosing child abuse survivors on a massive societal scale, because they can’t bill to help them without misdiagnosing them, as I pointed out above. For goodness sakes today, “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”
We need the pastors to stop sicking their “mental health” workers on the child abuse survivors, and their legitimately concerned parents. It’s happened to me twice now, by systemic child abuse covering up ELCA pastors. And I pointed out a link above which does point out this is a systemic problem, that stems from the top of that religion.
Both Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, and her predecessor Bishop Mark Hanson, are systemic child abuse deniers and cover uppers. Not to mention profiteers, since their ELCA hospitals make billions off of their “mental health” and “social” workers’ systemic child abuse covering up, iatrogenic illness creating, crimes.
Please do not go down the slippery slope of claiming the DSM disorders are created by child abuse. Since we’ve already medically proven that the symptoms of the two “most serious DSM disorders” are, at least often, created with the psychiatric drugs themselves.
I had no idea my medical research into the fraud of the genetics deluded “mental health” industry, to protect my own children, would be needed to protect millions of child abuse survivors. But apparently that is the case.
Patrick thanks for your comment and for your book AND research!
Thank you for sharing your story. Our society has so much difficulty facing its victims. It seems like so much of the psychiatric industrial complex is about blaming victims and hiding them away (and monetizing our suffering of course) rather than dealing with problems openly and honestly so that victims can heal.
Nothing you wrote sounds “crazy,” and I think it’s great how you’ve gained insight into your psychosis, insanity, or however you choose to call it. Were you ever actually a danger to yourself before you were hospitalized?
Everybody experiences the world differently, and I think when people impose a single worldview on others and force people to conform is when suffering occurs. I think about how just now, people are waking up to the realities of systemic discrimination and violence that black people have experienced in America for too long. For decades, they were silenced, gaslighted, and not believed until the advent of camera phones forced the rest of America to reckon with the truth of their experiences. Feeling listened to and validated is so important to healing.
I am glad you’ve found peace and acceptance in life without medication.
“Were you ever actually a danger to yourself before you were hospitalized?”
I’m just wondering what this question means. Also I’m not sure a psych ward is “hospitalized”
Perhaps it could be called a “safe house” IF it’s used specifically to keep people safe and comfy.
Bowen, I agree, as you know. Its possibly the most important thing – to be seen and heard in ones experience. For me most importantly – by myself, all else came and comes from there. and no, as far as I can tell and recall, I was not a danger to myself before being admitted. That’s not an absolute answer though.
Hi Sinead, thank you for your story.
I think often the “healing” people look for can be it’s own driver. After all, “healing” suggests illness and I very much doubt that people in trials and crisis are ill. Often we might not feel good physically but the doctor cannot find disease or illness.
We might not feel good “emotionally”, but they fail to find illness or disease.
Perhaps we don’t need to feel a “certain” way. I have found that very often if someone has gone through something and found “healing”, they like to apply that to others.
For instance, I have bumped into “healers”, that try and apply their new news and suggest “trauma”, when in fact I know for myself, that is NOT the direction I need at this point.
So not only can we be manipulated by shrinks, and clergy, but many, MANY people hold the answers to our issues. Many of them not even close to the target.
So yes, if you go to help others, please don’t make their journey about yours. It’s universal yes, yet wholly individual.
Mostly, everyone is completely off base about the reality of the other person.
Sam thanks for this, this is 100% the truth – sure there are common & important threads that connect us but still, the complexity of human life emerges from the sheer complexity of how each individually unique human connects to self and other. I REALLY appreciate you said this – we would do well to tattoo this reminder onto our consciousness..
“I realized that the next logical and right step was to report the crime to police. I told my father, who contacted the inspector in charge of retrospective abuse cases. My uncle was prosecuted, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to three years in prison.”
I knew there were places in the world where you could go to the police with proof of crimes and they wouldn’t arrest you and hand you back to your abusers for having the proof of the crimes. This is the major problem with police being so under resourced in my community that they don’t have a copy of the Criminal Code, and complaining about being ‘spiked’ with benzos when you have the documented proof is a “hallucination” that you need treated for because police want to be able to interrogate people whilst they have been stupefied/intoxicated without their knowledge. And then they slander you as a paranoid delusional for claiming you were drugged without your knowledge, even when they know your speaking the truth.
Glad your speaking out about you experiences Sinead. And even better that you have police who will actually do something for the victims of crimes. Not where I live, the whole justice system has been perverted beyond recognition, and the recent marriage between mental health services and police is going to make matters a whole lot worse for some people. Being able to conceal torture and kidnappings for doctors by the acquiescence of police is in my opinion not going to work out well. Add to that the unintended negative outcomes they are turning a blind eye to and Houston we got a problem. Not one anyone is going to hear a lot about though, given that lawyers are acting as early warning systems for complaints of torture by the State, who are then responding by refoulment of the victims.
I even saw this documentary about a person in the UK who had the very same thing done to them as me, but very different outcome.
Imagine if police had made the victim here into a “mental patient” so they could conceal the crimes for the criminals, and then ensured the hospital ‘fuking destroyed’ her for complaining about being handed back to the people who drugged and kidnapped her?
I guess I was just unlucky to live in a country that enables such vile conduct. And has a Minister for Health who says complaining about such conduct is an illness.
WTF!!! Boans – you are right I know how lucky I am and have been in many many ways. Honestly, sometimes I have no words for when I hear what others have gone and come through. It does sincerely AMAZE me how some stand given what they have come and are walking through. Keep walking, keep talking, keep everything, keep going…
Great article, Sinead. A third of the way through the article, I thought, “This is an awakening.” And then I read of your coming across Sean’s work. I only recently heard of his work. I too was misdiagnosed as bipolar when it was much more of a spiritual awakening. In my case, it was waking up to my toxic codependency in abusive systems.
In addition to the concept of awakening, the concept of becoming a mystic also comes into play — which is probably why Eckart Tolle’s book had such resonance with you. Earlier this year, I re-read M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled” and also “God” by Reza Aslan, both of which touch on mysticism.
I commented earlier today in a private group this content:
One thing that would have helped me quite a bit was an exposure to Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey. I don’t look at all of the different “gates” he mentioned, but the idea that a “hero” goes from the known world into the unknown world and faces a series of trials and tribulations and then returns to the known world — from what I can tell, that describes at a high level many peoples journeys with mental and spiritual crises.
Another quote by Campbell that I found interesting is the one “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”
Note that I don’t care for the word “psychotic” — but that quote goes to the idea that people with mental and spiritual crises — often brought on by a compilation of various traumas — reach similar levels of consciousness that a mystic seeks.
So my question to the mystics are “Hey — where are the flippin’ life vests???”
Ironically, my passion growing up was synchronized swimming. It sounds like you learned to swim through those difficult currents as well. Best wishes to you for your future.
John Weir Perry, Stan Groff, David Lukoff, Richard Bentall, Sinead Gallagher.
“….The problems we think of as ‘psychosis’ – hearing voices, believing things that others find strange, or appearing out of touch with reality – can be understood in the same way as other psychological problems such as anxiety or shyness…”
I love when the topic of “reality” comes up. When I was in high school, a young woman and her young children lived with my family for several months due to lack of mental health resources in her rural community. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. That was something that no one in my family was familiar with. It came out later that the woman had been sexually abused as a young girl and in addition was teased and tormented a lot in school.
My mom told me the phase “split from reality” as it related to schizophrenia and psychotic experiences. Frankly, I think both of those words need to be retired.
It was through my 1998 awakening 15 years later that I again thought of the phrase “split from reality” and the years of resulting trauma that I witnessed as the woman’s family fell apart with young children involved.
In addition, my mom also read and studied the Course in Miracles. One of the tenets of that is that this realm is the illusion.
And in that 1998 experience, I came across the Einstein’s quote – “Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”
And that got me to thinking — We call this realm “reality” yet others (including Einstein) call this realm “illusion”, if a person splits from this “reality”, what does that person split towards? That is, they are splitting away from this realm, but what are they splitting to?
Earlier this year, I was talking with a relatively new friend I met via social media. She is a mental health counselor. She mentioned someone she was working with who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He told her that what he was experiencing is “more real than real”.
This also reminds me of a question I asked Neale Donald Walsch when I heard him speak in late 2000. He (and presumably God) wrote the book “Conversations with God” which became a best-seller. During his talk, he made the somewhat common anecdote “If you talk to God, you are religious. If God talks to you, you are schizophrenic.”
During the question session, I asked him, “You mentioned that if God talks to you, you are schizophrenic.” As you know, many people dealing with mental health crises talk about God talking to them, what do you make of that?”
He said that though he didn’t know for sure, he thought that they were trying to tell us something. He respected that there was something of potential value that people going through such experiences have something to say.
Pkolpin ahh yes!! I am learning to swim in these mighty waves!! Thanks for your comment and yes – there is so much more to know and understand.
thank you Sinead for this great piece glad to hear you are doing well. One of my vision board dreams is to once again visit Ireland and walk in fields of gold.. Seems a long way away but i will keep holding onto that !much love
madmother13 – come to Ireland – Its really a magical place – where I live in Donegal, the older I get the better I see it! Maybe someday we will sing together in The Song House – imagine…who knows whats next..
wow the song house looks amazing !
Sinead, I was profoundly moved by your experience. In tears, in fact. Mine mirrors many of yours, except for childhood sexual abuse: I did witness my father’s frequent scapegoating of my younger brother, which I found deeply upsetting and his similar treatment of my mother. He was what we’d call a ‘narcissist’ today. (Never diagnosed in the 1950s.)
I will follow the Sean Blackwell Youtube and perhaps get in touch. I too had deep experienes of the divine at its most intense over Easter 2003, but which remained with me until autumn 2006. I was glad to come off that cloud though, as it was too intense. The inevitable (in my view) descent into darkness followed, during which Eric, my younger brother, committed suicide: something I’d dreamt of 2 years earlier.
In the midst of all of this, I also wrote a book “An Ethiopian Odyssey” about my former classmates from my schooldays there (1960s) and a very lucid dream which inspired the search. I met priests who were taken aback by my visions, although my parish priest at the time, Kevin Ashby, was totally supportive (now Anglican vicar in Melton Mowbray, Leics.) I’m profoundly grateful to him for his acceptance and support. I included my dreams and visions in the book, and readers largely accepted them, or contacted me about their own experiences, which I was delighted about.
Like you I decided to follow the road to Meaning, rather than medication, or labelling. I was curious about it all, like a young kid. What did it all mean? During my entire life, I was on medication for 4 months – I found it disconnected me from the part(s) that needed to heal. I decided to tolerate the pain to get to where I felt WHOLE: soul, mind and body aligned.
Later on, I became very depressed and a series of coincidences resulted in me reading Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up” (I recommend it!) I was very fortunate, two years later, to have him as the lead clinician in Open Dialogue therapy, of which many people speak very highly – they are profound and sensitive listeners, enabling patients to weave together a new story from shattered and shattering events and people My life journey finally makes sense. I was on a panel at one of their conferences (2017) and discovered that some ‘experts’ viewed me with great suspicion – I think because I was out of the other side……..
Are we healers? We give others a glimpse into the Deep Unknown, but each of us has our own unique and sacred path, finding the healers and leaders for each stage of the journey when we open our hearts. This 3D world is real, but subsisting with a grace-filled and extraordinary connected universe. That is my experience, anyway. (I will follow the Sean Blackwell Youtube and perhaps get in touch.) Our experiences are absolutely real, of that I have no doubt.
Sending peace from my heart to yours. Annette
Annette, I love that phrase “follow the road to Meaning” rather than medication. I’m going to have to remember that. It goes to the saying, “Go where there is no path and leave a trail.”
A couple months ago, I re-read M. Scott Peck’s “A Road Less Traveled”. A few weeks after that, I was in a thrift store. I was perusing the book section and my eye caught the binder to that book. Then my gaze changed direction and went directly to the binder of a book entitled, “The Road to Armageddon”. That made me chuckle because there were certainly times where my journey felt like that second book.
Congratulations on your journey. It sounds like your path led you to a good place. Penni
Thanks so much for your gracious comment, Penni. I;ve had so many wise and lovely teachers on this journey, it’s extraordinary. Our heart knows which energy to follow: your browsing in a thrift store made me smile. A good friend in the early days (2003) recommended “Synchronicity” by Joseph Jaworski to me. Of course, he was super-successful both before and after his inner journey. I read the “Celestine Prophecy” later. More recently, the wonderful “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Mate, as I worked through my own addictions and “It didn’t start with you” by Mark Wolynn. The latter helped me unpick my family genomes.
Yes, I’m in a good place, as I resist labelling and instead decide on what is helpful, and unhelpful. Peace to you.
Thanks for some additional references. I read the Celestine Prophecy years ago and enjoyed it. I haven’t read the other works you mentioned, so I will check those out!
Annette, I am so glad to read your comment – it brings me right into my heart and makes me want to have a chat with you. Your journey sounds so deep and beautiful, so full of grief and love and art and creation. That you say it mirrors mine gives me that tangy and wide awake head feeling – like my heart is tugging. If you ever would like to zoom room rendezvous – please send an email – [email protected] Please do not feel obligated to send me a mail though, I trust if our paths are to cross again they will as they will and that just is. In any and all cases I wish you so many blessings.
Sinead, thank you! I can see from all your replies what a gracious and heart-filled person you are. I will definitely get in touch. I have had Zoom rendezvous with others so am used to the technology.
What I will say is this: those of us who’ve had to fight our way through the thick and cutting thornbushes to our fragile and authentic souls, must support one another in the midst of a culture which only value things and money. (Prince Charming meeting Sleeping Beauty: the animus and anima of our beings.)
Enlightenment is strange, consisting as it does of symbols, visions, encountering ‘teachers’ with messages for us just when we need them, lucid dreams and a huge magnetic energy which is both beguiiling and threatening. There is no language for it, really, as it’s beyond the conscious mind. Patience is its bedfellow: watching like a doctor as the patient wakes up. It is encouraging to see how very many people are now waking up, in the midst of very authoritarian regimes and the pandemic.
The world needs and craves a compassionate response to things now, more than ever. As we learn to be compassionate and gentle with ourselves, so we can model that with others. I’ll be in touch!
I really enjoyed reading this, how you are following the light toward healing. To forgive betrayal is a huge shift in consciousness, and it takes strength, humility, and complete trust in our own process of personal growth and heart healing. That is core change, very powerful work. Thank you for sharing your experience of this!
Alex, you are welcome and thank you. My instinctive answer is that the path follows me when I am in my heart driven self. Also, I once heard someone say that Forgiveness is something that happens and that has certainly been the case for me. It happened during my ‘psychosis’ and so gave me a frame of reference for what it felt like – which gave me the motivation to engage my attention towards building it bigger within over time and experiencing it more and more along – I hope that makes sense. I still experience days where that feeling of forgiveness is as far as Timbuctoo from me, those days however are fewer are farther between thank fek.
“My instinctive answer is that the path follows me when I am in my heart driven self.”
I love this response, Sinead, it’s right on I believe. When we are in our heart, we are in our true guidance. The heart is what heals.
And indeed, forgiveness is a practice. We have to exercise that “muscle.” Forgiveness was the cornerstone of my healing. Dropping resentment freed up my energy so I could create forward without repeating the past.
Forgiveness, a ‘muscle’ that cramps when anger is present.
I like “It is better to forgive” because I know I don’t have to do it, it’s a choice I make. That way I get to exercise my own ‘muscles’ and am not being forced onto the ‘exercise machine’ lol
Many thanks for this great article, Sinead.
I watched some videos of Sean Blackwell and I have to say he is on the right track. Not only concerning “Bipolar Disorder”, but it concerns all “Mental Illness”. It is so easy and difficult at the same time.
The difficult thing is that unfortunately science cannot follow because it is simply not yet at the point of understanding. So it is a hard work to convey what actually happens in these lucrative and people controlling “mental illneses”. It is impossible for science to acknowledge that people have an energetic system and control themselves through feelings and thoughts and influence the nervous system with them.
Very interesting was his video about Kundalini Energy. Yes, it is this energy that changes the nervous system. I would like to add that the function of this energy is to make the nervous system suggestible. This is the prerequisite to reach altered states of consciousness and to be able to reach them again and again. This is why a Kundalini release is so very exhausting and can lead to despair.
At this point I would like to say that this energy is reality and its effects are manifold. But, as Blackwell also says, it is not measurable, not yet.
My hypothesis is that the change of the nervous system towards suggestibility can take place in very different directions. Through a very spontaneous activity, through meditation, through Kundalini Yoga and through trauma. Western people are now reporting more and more about their Kundalini activity on the Internet. Almost in every case it is a difficult path over years. It is connected with an effort that one could not imagine before. It is not a work in the outside, where you set yourself a goal to achieve it. It is only work on the inner stage and often you think it starts all over again.The outside then changes by itself.
I think that the direction becomes especially difficult when there is a trauma; not only a childhood trauma, but also in adult life. Kundalini works with the subconscious and at the same time opens the consciousness to higher frequency areas. If this is overshadowed by one or more traumas, it is naturally due to the quality of perception that this energy produces through the changed nervous system. As the ancients said: “You can meet the angels, but also the demons”. To understand this, not intellectually, but in a new consciousness that is much wider, because it has many more aspects, is the great work.
You have dared to do this and you have set out on the path to a new consciousness. As a commentator writes here, you have gone the way of the hero and you are still going it. Congratulations
If we would understand and acknowledge this energetic process in human beings, wie could accompany them in this process and needn´t Psychiatry anymore – a wonderful vision of this world.
Thank you SOO much liberationfromdrugs, you’ve just injected me with another high dose of validation. I appreciate this more than I can say – sincerely. In Irish ‘Go raibh mile maith agat’. Which literally translates to ‘May a million thank yous be upon you’ so Go Raibh mile mile mile maith agat!
Great blog and powerful story of discovery and redemption.
I think history will reveal that most experiences with some form of “psychosis” is connected to childhood trauma, especially sexual abuse.
As you were telling your story of very elevated type feelings when you first began to come to terms with your trauma history (just prior to be hospitalized), you did not mention your sleep pattern. But I would guess that these elevated type feelings were most likely leading to periods of very little sleep. This can become one of the primary reasons for anyone (trauma history or not) to lose touch with consensus reality. And then once in the hands of today’s Medical Model (disease/drug based), things can quickly spin out of control in a very bad direction, and go down rabbit hole of oppressive “treatment.”
And think about this for a moment, is it really that unusual (given the power of religion in society) for someone to believe they may be the New Messiah when coming to terms with profound sexual abuse trauma. In this situation one becomes deeply aware of how they were the focus of such horrible treatment on earth, that perhaps their own suffering might be that which saves others from such treatment – hence the connection to Jesus “dying and being resurrected for all our “sins.”
Interestingly enough, the whole religious concept of “sin” is actually one of society’s deep sources of shame and guilt that creates powerful levels of stress and self hatred in the world. Which actually then becomes an initiating source of a desire to move away from consensus reality for some people being push over the edge by these overwhelming emotional feelings.
And my final thought, is that sometimes analyzing and fighting back against the Medical Model that causes so much harm and pain for people, can also be very therapeutic and rewarding. That personal experience could teach others about the harm done by psychiatry and their whole Medical Model.
Snead, just some thoughts provoked by your wonderful journey and story.
Nicely said Richard! Lovely post
Richard thank you and welcome to your thoughts provoked. they are very interesting and in themselves – thought provoking. Yes your right, sleep was difficult in the early days – mostly because I did not want to miss a beat of the beauty that abounded. I am going to read your comments again and let the thougt provocations percolate – thanking you..
Thanks for the reply. And here is a link to a song I wrote and performed a few years ago. I hope you like it and find some emotional catharsis in hearing it. All the best!
I just came across your article today and thought it was amazing. What a fantastic description of the non-ordinary, deeply spiritual, states of consciouness that psychiatrists call “mania” and “psychosis”. I have had all of the experiences you describe. I was writing a “Bible” too. It ended up 1 million plus words when you add all of my “episodes” together. I posted it all on Facebook for 5000 friends from “spiritual circles”. Most of it was written in full-caps while I was in a dissociative state. Felt like “channelling” at the time.
The big problem I have today is that I am on the meds to keep many of my loved ones happy. They are wholly wedded to the bio-medical model whereas I believe it is a load of shit. But, thus far, I have not been able to “maintain sanity” without them.
I’m looking for suitable therapists/spiritual counsellors but most don’t want to touch me because my challenges are too “complicated” and beyond their expertise. One friend suggested that I have a trauma counsellor and a separate spiritual counsellor but that’s double the cost. Does anyone have any recommendations? I’m in Auckland, New Zealand, but there’s not much specialist help available here. I met a transpersonal psychologist with a great looking website last Monday and didn’t immediately warm to him. He suggested at one stage that I might have narcissistic traits because I have issues with grandiosity when I experience non-ordinary states of consciousness. I’m actually an empath who witnessed my little brother being beaten on a daily basis from babyhood. The TP also held out very little hope for me to ever be able to stabilise/integrate my spiritual experiences because I don’t have a “proper personality”. I said “Do you mean I have a fragmented egoic self?” I can’t remember his response exactly but it wasn’t very reassuring. I don’t have a problem with the idea that I have a fragmented ego. It’s pretty obvious to me that I must have because when it “collapses”, SEVERAL new bullet-proof “Divine” ones immediately rise up to take its place as some sort of defence against Nihilistic Solipsism (due to dissociation/Non-Dual Awareness) and persecutory delusions about my children (that they are the sex slaves of the Illuminati).
Anyway, I hope that wasn’t too heavy for you. Just wanted to say “love your work” and see whether you, and possibly others reading in, know of anyone who might be able to assist.
Many thanks and kind regards