Validating Psychosis: The Missing Narrative  

Audrey Dimola
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“If you bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will be your salvation. If you do not bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will destroy you.”

—The Gnostic Gospels

Rain is beginning to fall softly outside my second-floor window— a sound like the ocean, which I haven’t seen in months. I live alone as a “mentally ill” person during this pandemic, and more than any other time in my life, literally— I am okay. I am so, so, so fucking okay.

I am lucky to be alive. But in fact, luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. I had a choice, and I made that choice— in accordance with the Truth of my Spirit. A choice that, for some, was paradoxically more dangerous than accepting the narrative of my genetically inherited broken brain, and taking the pill.

I am not anti-medication. I am anti-lack of choices. Lack of options, alternatives, education. I am anti-lack of self-trust and self-worth. I am anti- “the experts always know better, and this is why.”

The rain is gathering strength. It sounds beautiful from up here, the chill in the wind slipping through my cracked window. I have this feeling like, There are people who would want to stop the rain. Because it’s inconvenient. Because it interrupts our errands or our commutes or our plans. Because it makes us gloomy, it makes us cold and wet. But what about standing in it? Feeling it? Being with it? Knowing that even as a storm begins to rage there is nourishment that is sinking down into the dark earth. There is purpose. There is a cycle. A Necessity and a Rhythm of Nature.

I learned a beautiful Buddhist phrase when I was in undergrad, Pratityasamutpada, which can be translated as “interdependent co-arising.” Why is this inherent interrelatedness of the earth and its creatures, cycles, processes not applied to the realm of mental health and its narratives? Why, as in myth, or more specifically in The Hero’s Journey, are we not presented the possibility that there is an overworld and an underworld and that BOTH are necessary? Why are we striving only for the sunniest days? What about the rain?

I would actually be dead without the storms of my psyche. Without the wind and the sound of the sea falling heavy from the sky. The protective greenery that has grown up around me, lush and verdant, smelling rich of humus and fecundity, would not exist without acceptance of what was arising within me. Standing in the rain. No umbrella. No cover. Just the feeding of that which needed to be fed.

Thunder rumbles low in the distance. Just like at the beginning of the Story. My Story. The one that Saved My Life. On a day just like this, I found my Self standing on a bridge. There was a light wolf and a dark wolf, and I understood this Legend as if it rolled out from my own blood— because it did.

There was a Law I was circumscribed to. I had walked with the white wolf for a while—in the topside world, the overworld, in the light. But now the black wolf had arrived to escort me into the underworld. Into the darkness. Not because I was mentally ill. But because there was information meant for me to receive.

On the internet right now, “psychosis” is described as follows:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): “Disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t. These disruptions are often experienced as seeing, hearing, and believing things that aren’t real.”

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): “A person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not.”

Good ol’ WebMD: “It causes you to lose touch with reality. You might see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real.”

And of course, the Oxford English Dictionary: “A severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.”

Psychosis is a side-effect of my own 2018 diagnosis, Bipolar II. It was the diagnosis my immigrant Southern Italian paternal grandmother received in the 1970s in America when no one could make sense of her manic swings and erratic behavior. And it was what they eventually settled on for my beloved father— the strongest man I knew and our sole provider— whom I powerlessly watched as he soared and plummeted in the grips of rage, fear, and deep, blank, despairing sorrow. He was unjustly fired from the high-stress job he’d stoically held for over a decade because of this perceived sudden descent of mental illness. Because he was the one sibling out of six who was just like their mother— dealt the tragic card of a “broken brain.”

At 31 years old, my own behavior presented perfectly as “Bipolar,” and furthermore it fit snugly into the familial narrative. Right? So instead of charging up my new credit card with bottles of wine and then jumping off the Triboro Bridge, I went to a psychiatrist. I went because the swings were becoming increasingly rapid. Because I would sit at my desk at work and try so desperately “TO APPEAR NORMAL,” while the lightning crackled merciless on the inside and I couldn’t string sentences together. Because I didn’t have weeks or months of respite— I had hours. Moments.

Yet even as I was analyzed and categorized—precious attention was not pointed to the path that led me there. No one looked at the trauma. Just like I’m sure no one looked at the trauma inside my similarly diagnosed family members. Perhaps my grandmother knew. She’s long dead now, but they told me she used to throw her meds behind the couch. They found the pills only after she was gone. Maybe she knew, in her own way. What was being forced upon her.

Bipolar II is an adaptive and completely logical result, for me, of nearly two decades of nearly non-stop interpersonal trauma— beginning with betrayal and an abortion at 18 and extending into years of multiplicitous co-dependency, marred by compulsive lying to partners, calling off an engagement, having no permanent housing since I left my childhood home, keeping complicated ex-boyfriends as my closest friends and saviors, and an obsessive relationship with a hard-drug addict I was determined to save. This is not even considering childhood family dynamics, a learned absence of healthy boundaries, the hypervigilant states that were internalized as my norm, and the natural coping mechanisms that developed as a result. I hadn’t been guided to embrace the realities of my own experience without rigorously blaming MYSELF for everything that had happened. In my own eyes, it was simple. I was a pathetic, stone-cold love junkie; a horrible daughter, girlfriend, and employee; a hurricane of a person: insane, destructive, maladjusted, destined for… exactly the constant chaos that was transpiring.

Despite traversing this mental health landscape since 2015 and being diagnosed with  Bipolar II in 2018, I wasn’t introduced to the idea of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) until literally earlier this year— thanks to a comment thread in an Icarus Project-affiliated Facebook group. I was still asking about “rapid cycling bipolar” but was instead directed to take a loving and honest look at my own trauma history. When I read those words, I had instant affirmation. PTSD is not something reserved exclusively for war vets or sexual assault survivors. Trauma is trauma, and years of uninterrupted trauma will— quite naturally, yes— pitch you into the internal saving graces found in altered states.

Alarm bells rang out in my head and my body and I began to recontextualize my mental storms. I can’t blame myself for the rain, for the downpour— it’s just happening— but I DO need to decide how I interact with it. And that is my choice. The trauma is not my fault, but healing it is MY responsibility.

We have an aversion in our society to taking responsibility for what is ours. We have been trained by big pharma and big biz and mass media to look outside of ourselves for help. To drastically self-doubt our own contexts and narratives. To need the experts. To “other” and be “othered.” To be devastatingly and paralyzingly afraid— often, of our own Selves.

I am here today because I didn’t take the psychotropic medication I was prescribed. Because I didn’t accept someone else’s narrative about MY story. Because I listened to my voices. Because I let them guide me— into the underworld, and back. Into the underworld, and back. I now have a family that extends beyond blood to a powerful and spiritual inheritance, a family of plants and animals: stones and trees and deer and birds, but also many beings I cannot see with my naked eye.

The clear droplets of rain are clinging to my window-screen, slowly slinking down the pane. In faded green marker there is written on the glass: WHATEVER IT IS, YOU CAN DO IT. We can’t see the underground roots that the rain is nourishing. Who are we to say that they aren’t there? And who are we to assume what can or can’t grow up from the vital darkness of that fertile place?

 

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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.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Another artist attacked, the “mental health” industry does like to target us artists. I have a somewhat similar story, except I used to think doctors were worthy of trust. I’m glad you avoided the drugs.

    “If you bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will be your salvation. If you do not bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will destroy you.”

    Great quote, it was during my drug withdrawal induced manic psychosis that I was awakened to the story of my dreams, learned about who my subconscious self is, learned about the theorized ‘collective unconscious,’ and was ‘born again.’ And no doubt the inner strength of my subconscious self did help to save me, and allow me to escape the insanity that is our “mental health” industry. The truth did set me free.

    And a modified The Hero’s Journey outline is the way I plan to organize my story. One cannot prove there is a conscious and subconscious / “overworld and an underworld and that BOTH are necessary.” But there are many people who do now believe we are in a spiritual battle of good vs. evil, as my tale implies.

    But, of course, it was not worth discussing these concepts with those who believe only in the material world, those who apparently believed distress caused by 09/11/2001 was “distress caused by a chemical imbalance” in my brain alone, those who blasphemed the Holy Spirit within their medical records, my “mental health” unprofessionals.

    The child abuse covering up “holistic Christian talk therapists” and psychiatrists really should stop drugging Christians up for belief in God, since that’s technically illegal in the USA. But then again, so is covering up child abuse, defamation of character, poisoning people, attempted murder, thievery, and attempted thievery.

    But, hey, at least I found the iatrogenic etiology of the “mental health” industry’s “sacred symbol of psychiatry” in real life. The antipsychotics can make people psychotic, via anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning, and they can create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome. And Bob Whitaker found compelling evidence that the ADHD drugs and antidepressants create the symptoms of “bipolar.” The “elixirs” were the problem.

    As to the “quest” of my subconscious self, who knows if the story of my dreams will ever come true, only time will tell. But since the story of my dreams gives me hope, I will continue to hope and pray that my beautiful dreams, of God bringing about justice and His will on this planet some day, will come true.

    “Who are we to say that they aren’t there?” Who are the “mental health” workers to say the spiritual realm and God do not exist? They don’t even have any proof that their DSM theology has any scientific validity, or relationship to reality, at all.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Audrey.

  2. Audrey, I regret you saw a shrink first, but perhaps in that twisted chaotic perfect way, it
    brought you to question further, which is ultimately what gave you life.
    I think it’s a bonus if we get a glimpse at what psychiatry does. It’s the informed, vs, the non informed. I think it’s always better to be informed. After all, we need to know more about politicians that their paid for sales pitches.

  3. Thank you for sharing, Audrey. Failure to include the impacts of trauma is something I’ve experienced too, from services & supports I was trying to access – so frustrating!

    I wanted to ask, have you ever come aross Matt Ball’s Dissociachotic model before? If not, search for it on YouTube – it aligns very well with your assertion that psychosis is often a valid effective response to trauma, & explains why this could be happening.

  4. “I am lucky to be alive.”

    Me too.

    “But in fact, luck had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

    Same, it was someone noticing what a criminal who was being allowed to operate in our hospital was going to do about his wifes problem of conspiring to torture and kidnap a citizen and call it ‘medicine’ by procuring police services and obtaining a referral. No luck involved at all, it just might have appeared that way to the people who thought they were in control, and who were being frustrated in their attempt to unintentionally negatively outcome a “patient” whose truth was inconvenient. Yosemite Sam kepta shootin, and found himself a wonderin why the bullets ended up in his foot lol.

    Still, i’m sure there are police who find the use of mental health services to deal with any complaints regarding their corruption convenient. And if they do ever find their copy of the Criminal Code and realise that they have been providing material support to organised criminals ….. no, sorry, that can’t be the truth, and they have distributed fraudulent documents to ensure that it isn’t the truth, and the Attorney General is referring inconvenient truths to the Minister for Mental Health these days. The person who accused the previous Premier of being the “Premier of Cover ups” now covering up for the Premier of Cover Ups by making questions of law, questions of medicine. (No it’s not genocide, it’s delousing with serious side effects, though it is being done with the minimum use of coercion.)

    My State so wealthy they can throw unlimited resources and fuking destroy anyone who has a valid complaint regarding public sector misconduct, even to the point of killing people in Emergency Depts and claiming it was a death as a result of ‘morphine from an unknown source’.

    I stand by MY truth, and despite the unwillingness of those with a duty to examine my claim refusing to do so (“we don’t have a copy of the Criminal Code in this police station and will call them to come pick you up for ‘treatment’ for providing police with the proof of public sector misconduct. “It might be best I don’t know about that” attitude of police and a refusal to take a complaint regarding the procuring of their services to torture and kidnap citizens and conceal it as being lawful because police provided a ‘referral’. How embarrassing, and is it any wonder they turn a blind eye while doctor ensures the complaint is silenced?)

    Even these so called “advocates” turning a blind eye when requested by the criminals. And in 40 years the claim will be “oh my goodness, we had no idea”. The Mental Health Law Centre advocates? Co conspirators on the State sanctioned ‘cover up’ of acts of torture and kidnapping, and people actually trust them to assist their loved ones ‘navigate’ the system of abuses. trust in haste, regret at leisure where these abusers are concerned. Quite prepared to assist in the concealment of serious criminal matters for the right price. See their funding arrangement with the State. Not prepared to recognise the protections of the law, when requested by the Chief Psychiatrist to look the other way. Still, who would believe a person who has been slandered by a psychiatrist, even one with a motive to kill?

    Be true to yourself, despite the actions of the Hypocrites. They claim to not support acts of torture, until confronted with it and then all of a sudden it depends on who it is doing the torture, and who it is being tortured. Going to the trouble of procuring police referrals must mean they had a reason to feel the need to torture someone? These good people obviously of the belief that planting items on a citizen for police to find necessary, and well difficult of they have the right to not have those items planted so I’m certain a doctor would authorise a ‘spiking’ with benzos, but lets not ask until AFTER we do it. Very understanding people these colleagues in the medical field. Especially when it comes to conspiring to torture and kidnap and conceal it by using police as your justification. Suckers lol

    I do hope that the ‘investigation’ into the suicide of a 13 year old girl is conducted with a little more due diligence than the investigation into my torture and kidnapping was. Retrieve any proof of the crimes, provide fraudulent documents to legal representatives, murder the victim and then silence anyone who asks any questions (eg The Council of Official Visitors who ‘unlooked’ when requested by the Chief Psychiatrist. Though I’m sure like the Q.C. they have taken out ‘insurance’. In fact, I have the emails where they ‘unlooked’ after looking) The whole aim to give the appearance that they are doing their duty (and that there are legal protections’ which are ignored, and of course once the victims are dead well, what good would come of holding people to account publicly? We are, after all, all in it together. These people were, of course elected to represent our interests, and if that means enabling acts of torture and kidnapping disguised as medicine, you voted for it.

    I find myself wondering what Jamal Kashoggi would have done if he had been aware of the mental health assessment team that was going to be despatched to deal with his libelous behaviour should he enter a place where he was being lured? Not unlike the citizens being ‘flagged’ on our police system who enter these buildings unaware that they are going to be subjected to ‘treatments’ for having proof of public sector misconduct by the relatives/friends of psychiatrists. Police more than willing to detain and make lawful with a referral because the person fell asleep as a result of being ‘spiked’. (detain and use police powers under MHA to refer to the person wanting the kidnapping done aka doctor. Purely criminal but when the Chief Psychiatrist doesn’t know what the protections afforded by the law are, then we can expect such conduct to go on unnoticed by the public)

    All insane of course, though would anyone like to check what I’m saying by looking at these letters from the Law Centre and the response by our Chief Psychiatrist? Didn’t think so. Best we all look the other way while they ‘sort it’ eh? I’m sure ‘reforms’ will ensure it never gets noticed again.

  5. This is so beautiful: “But what about standing in it? Feeling it? Being with it? Knowing that even as a storm begins to rage there is nourishment that is sinking down into the dark earth. There is a purpose. There is a cycle. A Necessity and a Rhythm of Nature.”
    Like you, I also am very familiar with these storms, can enjoy “standing in the rain”, have also chosen a path without medications, and feel much better since.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s extremely comforting to know, there are people who have chosen a similar path and are also doing well.
    I definitely want to check out your sculpture garden in Queens on my next visit to NYC. Looks wonderful on photos. In 2014/2015 I was involuntarily locked up in a mental ward at East 68th street facing the East River, for dancing in the Carl Schurz Park alone…. so right across the river from your sculpture garden. Most likely you can see the Carl Schurz Park and maybe also the hospital from that sculpture garden?

    Ingrid (presently in Berlin)
    tenderheartedguardians.org

  6. Beautifully written and so important. Thank you from the depths of my soul for sharing this.

    I didn’t hear narratives like your journey soon enough. I had years of additional mental, emotional, and physical trauma from harmful psychiatric treatment that has doubtless left permanent medical trauma throughout my body.

    It lifts my spirit to know you avoided that additional trauma and that you exist as a strong voice to claim space for our people, whatever their assigned diagnonsense, in this Universe.

  7. Audrey, your story moved me so profoundly, thank you for sharing it with us. The family echoes of mental illness and diagnosis and medication and that you didn’t take the psychotropic medication. Bravo! You chose your soul and those whispers and visions rather than a label and drugs.

    I think we are all Persephones, but very few have the courage to step into the underworld, let alone explore it. Many now live quiet, desperate lives – and that was before coronavirus. After my mother’s death (she died 11 years after my father) I felt free to explore my soul, the strange dreams I’d had since I was a child, and the stories my parents either hadn’t told, or left half-told. It was an epic journey of the soul revealing secrets stretching back 4 generations.

    Towards the end of my quest (which began in 1998), I began to feel mentally ill, but the illness was just pointing out how unwell and even psychotic alcohol was making me feel. I took Sertraline for 4 months (50mg) – it stopped the anxiety, but made me feel even more detached than before. After 2 years of Open Dialogue therapy in the UK, I learnt to accept the childhood trauma they unravelled and to accept my whole and imperfect self. Darkness is very illuminating and the place we always find our light, in my experience.

    Wishing you continued peace and joy in the work you do in your storytelling, to bring light to otherx.

  8. Audrey, I am happy for you that you found your way so well without the mental health system. However, I am saddened that you continue to use psychiatric terms like “Bipolar Disorder” and “Complex PTSD” instead of using this essay as a chance to teach others that psychiatric diagnoses have NO scientific basis and cause massive harm of a vast array of types. I guess someone told you that you “have” “Complex PTSD,” but what you really “have” is your own way of having reacted to and tried to cope with the trauma you experienced. You do not need to use such a damaging system’s language to refer to yourself. I urge you to use ordinary words that will help you stop pathologizing yourself and others who have been traumatized. I wish you well.

  9. Hi Audrey, Your piece is well written and could inspire others to reject psychiatry’s damaging narratives/labels and find a truthful, meaningful path to healing instead. I must agree with Dr. Caplan as noted in her comment above, the only part of your essay that is not so hopeful is to give any credence to any of the damaging faux DSM labels. Best wishes and thanks for your essay.

  10. Good article. This is basically how I feel about medication: “I am not anti-medication. I am anti-lack of choices. Lack of options, alternatives, education. I am anti-lack of self-trust and self-worth. I am anti- “the experts always know better, and this is why.”“

    I do not idealize or ignore experts. The slowness of medical progress, lack of R&D funding, symbiosis of psychiatry and Big Pharma regarding the selling of opioids and anti-psychs is pretty damning. So as Audrey says, I rely on myself for finding answers in and out of the mainstream. That can be difficult.

    For me, everything got worse the more I relied on psychiatric prescriptions. Extreme sleeplessness beyond insomnia was the result. That was a decade ago. Still have voices and tinnitus but nasty delusions are gone. So I stopped all psych prescriptions a decade ago. Even asthma spray prescriptions 3 years ago.

    I don’t agree with most of the articles on this site but some are useful. Eric Coates takes big chances to make the incomprehensible easier to put in context. I found Dr Peter Breggin’s “finest hour” interview with Judy Mikovits on YouTube (not MIA) before it was taken private. It might have been Breggin’s worst hour. Breggin’s great 2020 MIA essay was my intro to this site so it was a big disappointment to see that interview.

    Which means what? The nature of reality and disinformation with or without COVID is nasty. David Icke was kicked off YT which should have happened years ago. As for P-doc and “life coaching” channels on YT? Many build up their views and subscriptions with mostly reasonable information…but when a black swan event like a pandemic comes along they show who and what they are. Then they go back to their brand of outsider but reasonable sounding personality driven word bombs to thousands of subscribers. A big improvement over the tsunami of TI mind control troll content before YT updated their algorithm.

    All of which has nothing to do with Audrey’s article but has much to do with how I see the alt-information landscape.

  11. Great article! You’re right. No one looks at the trauma. And Complex PTSD is all too often overlooked. My hypothesis is, that is because, today’s psychiatrists, at least those with whom I interacted, have only one tool left in their toolbox, meds. Their version of talk therapy, psychoanalysis, having long ago been replaced with cognitive behavioral and other forms of therapy, now the province of therapists, counselors, and psychologists. As Abraham Maslow once cautioned, if the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, it’s no surprise that everything starts to look like a nail.

  12. I was glad to see that someone, in this case Audrey, came close to how I look at meds, psychiatry and experts generally.

    I try not to take on an identity wrapped in victimhood and complaint. I can say that bc I “only” hear voices along with occasional thumping, slamming, closed door effects and mild tinnitus when indoors. I can read anything I want without interference. The fact that my external reality is completely changed is mostly just a footnote at this point. I got off easy even though huge chunks of my life went out the window.

    A decade after stopping anti-psychs and now all prescriptions I don’t even consider going back to see a psychiatrist. And not only bc they default so quickly to their prescription pads. The former head of psychiatry at a large hospital chain was charging me $300 per session a decade ago. After one session he told the simple truth for a change, that there was nothing he could do. He didn’t charge me and gave me printed affirmations that I never used. They’re not all bad guys.

    Per Kristen Freed’s comment:
    psychotherapy is still an alternative. The American Gestalt therapist I saw in 2002 who recommended I see a psychiatrist was pretty good. He was also a Zen teacher who gave me the simple 4 words divided between the inhale and exhale to slow down breathing which interfered with and to a certain extent controls voices. “They”, the auditory hallucinations, mostly imitate and repeat which means repeating in the background the 4 words as I’m saying them for however long. Very simple and direct.

    Mention anything about Zen Gestalt and mainstream eyes roll up in the heads of people who think that anything outside their practice automatically means quackery, anti-vaxx or Health Ranger magic pills to cure viruses etc. Mainstream psychiatrists exaggerate about this stuff for effect, for insurance and for legal reasons. And then prescribe an entire menu of drugs including Provigil for a person who worked 2 jobs and who had, among other things, insomnia. At least one psychiatrist did exactly that. The results were massive and were a massive waste of time and money.

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