Psychic Gardening and Walking the Sensitive Path


I had researched a great deal on the origins of psychosis, in a need to understand my own, but the majority of what I came across in the mainstream was all theory-based via invisible writers, many long dead. A lot of what was written was by men, and the language quite intellectual and dry.

I wanted to hear from people with experiences not theories. I knew of someone who worked in the local mental health system. We often bumped into each other on the street. One day I asked him if I could interview the clients that he was managing through a non-government-funded housing and mental health support team. He was happy to welcome me as he felt personal interaction was important for those living with mental health issues.

We discussed safety guidelines and then he put the offer out to them. They were free to say yes or no. Many surprisingly said yes.

What I found after many cups of tea and conversation was that everyone I spoke to had one thing in common, and that was that none of them had ever had any counselling.

They had all been diagnosed, assessed and medicated but none of them felt that anyone, other than perhaps other diagnosed people, was interested in hearing their story due to the risk of exacerbating the inner torment as they had been told by psychiatrists or causing their medication to go up. There was no one that they felt safe to share the deep stuff with.

I, however, was interested. I was fascinated because learning about their experiences offered more insight into my own journey. The experience of being invaded by sounds, voices, horrible beings, things that you could not explain to a so-called ‘normal person’ without getting that worried are you okay look.

My next step was to go further into the system as a working volunteer, which began by putting in an application to run drama games for a group of inpatients at a live-in mental health clinic.

I was admittedly quite nervous walking in, being early as always. The room slowly began to fill up. More men than women but that was fine with me as I grew up with big brothers.

I was there to meet the head psychiatrist who ran the activity group. One of the guys pushed a button on the portable stereo, not too loud, and not unpleasant as many in their medicated states shuffled to find their seating.

Introducing myself, I felt at ease with most of them. I always have with those that sit outside the norm.

The door swung open and a partially balding man in a suit, the head psychiatrist, walked in and turned off the stereo. I could feel the previous sense of ease in the room instantly disappear. He was energetically intimidating. The head disciplinarian of a prison. I felt it as much as they did.

He instructed them to do a drawing your feelings task which they all obeyed.

This gave he and I time to have a little chat. It may have started as a chat but it soon turned into an interrogation.

He asked me about my past. Coming from a military background I had moved a lot and growing up in Asia was a big part of my childhood. He responded with Oh dear.

He asked me about my career. I told him I was a theatre actress and now a drama teacher. I had done a lot of improvisation and Shakespeare and I mentioned that I had won an award for it, trying to show I was not a flake. Again, he said Oh dear.

He would ask another question with the same response to my answer: Oh dear.

It came to the point where I just could not help myself. I said, Im sorry, but I just need to mention something. Maybe you don’t realise it, but you have said ‘Oh dear’ repeatedly to me in response to my answers. He snapped, No, I haven’t! with an air of authority and pursed lips. I relented and slightly shrank back until, dare I say, he said it again. Aha! There, see, you just said it! I cooed triumphantly.

Not surprisingly, I was rejected. I remember thinking to myself: well, if that was how he treated me, then maybe that’s why patients are afraid to tell their stories, if this is how their life choices/experiences are judged.

I didn’t give up though and went on to work within the system, starting as a volunteer at the place I had first connected with, then as a support worker to a case manager and program manager. Did I like what I saw within the system? On the whole, no, but it gave me great insight into what it doesn’t offer. I needed to see from the other side, how sensitive people under the mental health act were treated, judged, managed.

There were often times when I questioned if some of the burnt out psych nurses would be better off as clients, or at the very least change jobs. I witnessed time and time again psychiatrists talking about the unwell person in front of them as if they didn’t exist. I saw bigger corporations disguised as NGO’s put money before peoples well-being and downsize the support structures and sense of belonging that were desperately needed.

You see, out of my own time of unwellness or what I prefer to call Acute Sensitivity there was no support system that wasn’t linked up to a mental health body that answered to the psychiatric medical association. I couldn’t trust anyone enough to share the ‘craziness’ I was experiencing. There was no one I could trust that wouldn’t look at me with worry, fear, judgement or a need to section me. There was no one who I felt was safe to talk to.

My own unwellness began in my late twenties. I knew I was deeply sensitive and with the little bit of insight I had, I was just able to stay free of the psychiatric medication model. It was not an easy ride, it was more of a living hell and I was constantly terrified I would lose myself. I felt invaded by horrible malevolent spirits who like hungry ghosts fed off my fear. The only way I knew to survive and not be sectioned was to cut myself off from all the people that would not understand me, which meant everyone I knew at the time: my family, my friends, everyone.

My parents worrying just added to the intensity of my unwellness. I kept up the bare minimum of acting for them when they called. I was glad to not live in the same city. Added to that I was also physically very unwell and in hindsight was suffering from terrible IBS and chronic fatigue. My cousin was diagnosed with schizophrenia and an older cousin further back in the matriarchal side suffered from it as well, hence I was sure I was doomed to the same fate and I could not stop my legs from shaking as if they were running in terror.

I feel that what got me through was my insatiable interest in what this experience of being invaded by such horrors could really be. Was I truly mentally disturbed? Or was this sense of being invaded due to something else that was, in kind, disturbing my thinking?

There was a lot of hospitalisation in my childhood due to a failing kidney so the western system did not hold great favour for me. I found a master of acupuncture to work on my body’s imbalances and I went hunting to see if there was any language or way of thinking that I could relate to regarding my invading experiences.

I landed on Carl Jung’s relationship with the shadow archetypes a man who did not run away from the terrifying shadows but faced them which then lead me onto Shamanism.

Boom! I found my language, the understanding and the how-to of navigating the unseen beings within the multidimensional landscape. I read and wrote notes like someone obsessed. Well, I was obsessed but the difference was that I was integrating the information that resonated. It was as if I was remembering what I had forgotten.

As a kid I always felt spirits around me, was interested in graveyards and stories of hauntings or strange spiritual abilities, etc. This way of understanding how to work with the unseen in a shamanic way was like drinking clear water after sipping mud through a straw. It had no god or goddess, no hierarchy, and whatever your particular talent was, you honed it into your original signature. I was spiritually inclined but not religious, and this fit me like a glove.

How could I apply what I was learning to my own circumstances?

The seed of what I do today and what I offer my clients was planted when I moved from the city to a seaside country town, knowing I needed space. It was noisy enough in my head, I no longer wanted to be crammed like sardines into a city space. I wanted to be able to walk in nature and not hear anything but nature.

Noise within and without was a huge issue for me. What I didn’t know then is that the house I would move into… was haunted. And I chose the worst room to be harassed in.

Part of me knew my mind wasn’t the primary issue; I felt that there was something off in my psyche and I was being attacked. I saw an ad in a local paper about a man who had just returned from Holland and was doing energy healings of some sort. A little nudge came from within to make an appointment. The so-called healing in itself made little impact but what the nudge was about was the two pieces of paper he handed me. He was told to give them to me via his own guidance. This was channelled by a seer in Holland and I had told this man nothing about what was going on inside me. I was just hoping the energy clearing might give me a bit of a break.

The channelled information shared that the mental health system will need to go through big changes as it is not meeting the peoples needs. That mental health issues will be seen in a broader, more spiritual, holistic light and there will be wayseers and pioneers who will help to change that. That was the seed planted within me that took root and still holds strong to this day.

I began by creating a meditation called ‘The Meditation for Sensitives’ in order to deal with all that was coming at me in the haunted house, and any entity or thought form that manifested as one. I learned that trying to fight, ignore, push away what I was dealing with was not working. I had to face it, accept it, work out what it had come to teach me and then work out how to set it free.

Was it easy, hell no. I fell asleep a lot, and encountered some really heavy stuff but I did not give up and that set me on the course for the rest of my life’s purpose. I had the attitude of no matter how tired I am I will come back tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that, till you get that I am not giving up on ‘me’.

A few years later I flew to England, not having any real idea why, to find out after a month of terrifying nightmares of witches being burned, hung, drowned (I was in Norwich, notorious for the early burning times) where the next step in my learning would be.

At the last minute, freaking out with no direction, it came. I was flipping through a well-known spiritual magazine at the time, feeling quite desperate as I knew I had to leave the house where the nightmares were so bad, when I saw a small, unpretentious ad in the bottom corner of a page. The college of contemporary shamanism and past life therapy. I rang and a synchronicity kicked in that led to me packing my bags. Some synchronicities are helpful, others not so much and can be distractions. This one was the former.

I took to the training like a duck to water. The landscape around the old converted mill in Devon was everything I desired. The teacher was a hard taskmaster but expert in their knowledge and ability. I lived there and became their apprentice. I had found my language.

I was taught to be an impeccable psychic gardener as well as a well-trained shamanic practitioner. I came to find that my sensitivity was my gift and I just had to work out how to manage it.

I did a lot of energetic retrieval, built up my core and found the depth of understanding that I needed to then carve my own path. My teacher, just before passing, handed over the teachings to me as she knew I would continue the path of service in my own way.

My credo as a practitioner with lived experience has always been ‘Safe Practices’ because to me that’s what was and is missing both in the psychiatric model and many of the alternative models of care that I tried.

My clients are sensitive people who have experienced abuse through both western modalities and alternative modalities and they need someone they can feel safe with. Someone who is interested in their story and is not seeking to inflame it, rather I help interpret it.

I have healthy boundaries now, in comparison to when I was young. My boundaries are no longer walls to keep people out. They are to contain my core and keep me safe so I can be a lighthouse for others walking that same sensitive path. As my teacher once said: You being a sensitive soul by nature may always find a challenge in protecting yourself, but I can teach you to be an impeccable cleaner of debris.

I have seen through the eyes of madness, as well as the mental health systems lack and I found a gap I wanted to fill, to be of service to. My dark night of the soul, my fragmentation, changed the course of my life, and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Imbalance is a formidable teacher in showing us where we can create balance.


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.


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Odette Nightsky
Author and therapist with lived experience. Graduate and teacher of Contemporary Shamanic Studies, UK. Seeking to support others in finding and navigating their way to wellness with 'safety' and practical tools at whatever level of understanding. Qualified, wholehearted healing therapist trained in cellular trauma. Specialising in mental health issues, child abuse, trauma, psychopomp psychosis and acute sensitivity.


  1. Dear Author, I am curious as to whether you were actually really ever personally diagnosed with schizophrenia? I ask because my schizophrenia is very different in quality and intensity to the not uncommon feeling most people have of being demonized. There are many reasons why people might feel demonized, from old memories of trauma being processed in that way, to routine drug partaking, to just having a very rich inner psyche that does spectacular astral things much like shamans do.

    I spent ten years living in the guidance of spiritual mediums. They were not quack magicians or tea leaf readers but were formally and professionally screened to maintain a standard of excellence. I must have met over a thousand mediums in that time. I know that many worked with spirit and channelled spirit on a continuous basis. Many went through a long learning that you need to develop strategies and boundaries when communicating with spirits. Things can be very frightening in the years before you accept having a gift for channelling. I studied under a Jungian therapist long before my union with spiritualism. What I suppose I want to say is that actual schizophrenia is not, in my own opinion, anything to do with spirits. I am both spiritual most of the day AND I also have symptoms of schizophrenia. I see them as different. To me the schizophrenia is like a brain sensitivity on a par with an LSD trip interference. Anyone in a trip will feel that their hallucinations are not hallucinations. The spooks and weird stuff the LSD tripper encounters can be shouted at and interacted with and bannished, but they are not real spirit,as in a long deceased grandfather. To tell an LSD sufferer to have a discussion with a hallucinated spectre to ask them to leave usually does not work. That is because LSD taking reduces the brain to confusion. I feel the same way about my schizophrenia. I have spent twenty years of interacting with my hallucinated nonsense and it never goes away. There are various schools of thought about what might help actual schizophrenia and yes some of them do like to delve into the relational toing and froing that goes on, in the dialogue, within. But just having an inner dialogue with possibly split off parts of the self is what most people experience. Making that inner dialogue more tidy or understandable does not stop the more LSD type confusions that go on all day and night for decades evaporate.

    I know that many mediums tell clients with schizophrenia to not confuse themselves more by introducing fairies and fantoms and long deceased grandparents because to do so would be just too dangerously confusing.

    I agree with you that the dazzling inner goings on of the psyche seldom get validated or appreciated. And spiritualism and shamanism seldom get validated or appreciated. But when the human brain is confused already to the extent living with schizophrenia causes, I think the person with that horrible disturbance needs a break from unreality and needs more of a relaxed feet on the ground way of life. An anchoring in the humdrum ordinary delights of simple existence. Robert Whitaker pointed out the simplicity of care offered by Bretheren.

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    • Odette writes in her first paragraph that she undertook the journey of understanding psychosis as to understand also her own. She had never have to take drugs however! And that is why she was able to maintain her clear and deep thinking to help us all with her insights.

      In your last paragraph you write “the person with that horrible disturbance needs a break from unreality” – I am sure you will still learn on your path to distinguish between reality and unreality, I personally learned from Odette a lot about how to do that and now, two decades after my first diagnosis I am nearly drug-free and certainly psychosis-free and lead a happy and little-troubled life.

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      • I was actually speaking to the author herself. I was asking if she has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Psychosis is not schizophrenia. An alcoholic or a feverish child can have brief spells of psychosis. A brief occurance of hallucinations is not twenty years of nightmare hallucinations every day. Just like how a heart flutter for one week or month is not the same as cardiac disease and ventricular failure. Absolutely anyone can experience psychosis. But only around one in one hundred experience the round the clock hallucinations of schizophrenia. You misinterpret me on a few points [removed for moderation].

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    • This is such an important point! I remember when I was in grad school for social work, one of my professors said that what mainstream psychiatry now calls “schizophrenia” is most likely several different conditions/experiences with totally different etiologies and mechanisms of action, which are just lumped together under a single term right now because we don’t really understand any of them.

      Pushing back against the oppressive and overly simplistic medical model is so important, and it’s also important to not try to replace it with another overly simplistic model, even a much more positive one!

      I’m curious if Diaphanous Weeping has ever tried IFS therapy? I would be very interested to hear whether engaging with split off parts in that kind of systematic way would worsen the experience of confusion in the same way as spiritual/shamanic approaches, or whether it would be sufficiently grounded to actually be helpful?

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      • What do you mean when you say its important to “push back” at what “you” consider simplistic or oppressive? Is it like pushing back at Mormons or Jesuits or Hippies or the Amish? Why not just leave my ‘difference’ up to me? I am suspicious of the global thrust to force everyone to “change” who they are and “change” what they desire to believe. Difference is deemed threatening and so pushing back is deemed a defensive excuse to lob an attack. My schizophrenia is a disease.

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  2. “…Maybe you don’t realise it, but you have said ‘Oh dear’ repeatedly to me in response to my answers.”

    I am not an expert in human comunication, but, respectfully you seem to assume that “Oh Dear” was a response to your anwers.

    That is incorrent, what is the proof if was an answer to them?.

    His responses might have been the next question. “Oh dear” like a tik, or a whatever. No relationship strictly speaking to your expectation of a “sort of acceptable” response IN someone else’s behaviour.

    And the “Maybe you don’t realise it…” is a biasing statement, then your interlocutor needed to consider if he missed something or not, when in fact it could be the one misinterpreting his “OH dear” was you. Double bind, a sort of “now I am confused, and I, I, need to give an explanation”. Like a you misbehaved and I am the one at fault.

    You seem to have asumed his behaviour was somehow innapropiate and missed, respectfully, the chance for acceptance without judgement, without inquiry.

    That might explain the “air of authority and pursed lips”, it might not have even been in his face, but on your expectation, you could have projected to him. Or he reflected you a look like a sarg, to show you how YOU were behaving to him, and you might have missed that, apparently.

    In short, that gesticulating might have reflected back to you his perceptions of YOUR behaviour, which is actually THE most kind way of saying: “This is how YOU are behaving to me, how do YOU think I, I, am feeling?”.

    And if that reflection does not work, people usually know they are taking to an insensitive person.

    Without me calling you that, this is not a diagnosis nor an offense, it’s my experiential analysis.

    The rest of your post I didn’t read, that was enough for me too…

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      • I apologize if I caused you wrong.

        I was trying to point out that was not a propicious start for helping anyone: apparent insensitivity and at least velied imputations unelaborated about innapropiate behaviour on someone else.

        There’s more than one way to interpret, not understand behaviour.

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      • I admit I was not fully aware, didn’t realize my intentions behind my tirade.

        But maybe as mere justification there might have been an opportunity there.

        The “Maybe you don’t realise it” might sound formulaic to most anglospeakers.

        To me being a hispanic one and victim of verbal abuse it is not.

        The association of ideas in that piece of phrase, a doubt, a need, a questioning of one’s competence at interaction could trigger auditory hallucinations in a victim of “just” verbal abuse and prone to them.

        And from a caring person on the other end. It might be confusing too. Confusion is a tool of verbal abuse.

        An overly analytical stance for such phrases, a punctilious one even, might be an outcome of verbal abuse alone, specially if it leads to auditory hallucinations. Specially if an apology and an explanation is not provided. And no apparent awareness on the other end.

        I tried to bring awareness to that, perhaps in a crude and insensitive manner, I admit. I apologize for my inabiity.

        And perhaps bring awareness the response by the “patient” might have actually being mature and appropiate: this is how I feel. But in the narrative to that point was apparently not considered such.

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  3. “Never do human beings speculate more, or have more opinions, than about things which they do not understand.” – Carl Jung, C.W. Vol.14: Mysterium Coniunctionis

    “[Synchronicity] A peculiar principle active in the world so that things happen together somehow and behave as if they were the same, yet for us they are not.” – Carl Jung, Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice (Tavistock Lectures)

    “For more than thirty years I have interested myself in this oracle technique, or method of exploring the unconscious, for it has seemed to me of uncommon significance… [It relates to] a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance.” – Carl Jung, Forward to the I Ching

    “I have often found that synchronistic experiences were interpreted by schizophrenics as delusions. Since archetypal situations are not uncommon in schizophrenia, we must also suppose that corresponding synchronistic phenomena will occur which follow exactly the same course as with so-called normal persons…The schizophrenics interpretation is morbidly narrow because it is mostly restricted to the intentions of other people and to his own ego-importance… [W]e must endeavor to find out what the unconscious thinks and adjust our attitude accordingly… Thus, the synchronistic effect should be understood not as psychotic but as a normal phenomenon.” – Letters of C.G. Jung Vol. II (1951 – 1961)

    “Synchronicity is an ever-present reality for those who have eyes to see.” – Carl Jung

    All quotes are from the YouTube video “Synchronicity: Meaningful Patterns in Life”, courtesy Eternalised

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    • Synchronicity: “…to describe circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection.”

      They might have a causal connection to the past. And the circumstances might be in part the looking, manufacturing of such circumstances, even if mere ideas.

      What if that meaning, and that sense, interpretation of simultaneity is something we inhereted from the ideas of the past?.

      I’ve been turning around that idea: inheriting ideas from the past in a not fully aware way that somehow made me look at my ideas, the content of my mind as something unaceptable because it makes matches, otherwise coincidences, a sort of synchronicity “event”.

      Like somehow the idea that there is a perfect partner for me, a soul mate, and the ideas I imbibed from my past in non-obvious ways can even make me dream and/or imagine that perfect partner. Even spiritually talk to her with many matches, many pressumed synchronicity events, even if they didn’t happen on the other end.

      And although soothing, there is hope and there “was” love, that curtails my freedom to appreciate the partner in front of me. And might give my partner in subtle and unclear ways an obligation to behave like if. And the same for me.

      Add to that the idea that couples could or should be intimate in the sense of knowing, feeling the other without being explicit enough, and I can imagine that could lead to all sort of wrong ideas: I wasn’t thinking that, but I will try to approximate that sense of intimacy. Without ever saying a word, not even thinking one… an obligation inherited from the past…

      And instead of looking for explanations, behaviours, even reasons, that lead to intimacy, I might get caught in behavious based on false ideas. Even it could lead me to interpret and admit something that never was thought nor said, to think something I never thought and would not have, ever!. I could become delusional and hallucinatory, in my memories and the behavior steming from them.

      Particularly if I have to remember a past that was not said, was not clear, was not thought, it was dreamlike, unclear, fuzzy, poorly remembered, and therefore won’t be perceived even unconsciously, and will come from colored thinking of synchronicity, intimacy and meaning. Just looking, creating meaning where there is no clear one seems dangerous for me.

      Even my dreams unremembered might reenact and distort that whisper of a hint of something intimate happening. I would not know about that ever. My unremembered dreams in search of synchronicity might have colored my understanding, my search for meaning in ways I would not know about.

      They might pollute my mind with false ideas that I don’t know where they came from.

      I could not come back from that trippy travel to memoryland.

      We both could instead of broadening our partnership, we might have narrow it in search of matches, in search for meaning, in a way, perhaps, where no real, genuine meaning is available.

      It perhaps never was there, maybe it was inherited from ideas in the past with no meaning to offer in the present nor the future except what I can as freely as possible make out of them, almost right view, my present and my future, with as little hindrance, bias, prejudice and pressure from ideas from the past.

      That, I think is a core element of budhist thinking: be as free from the cravings from your past. Which I extend to ALL ideas from the past, except those, as the Bhudda said: those that are useful, make sense, are meningfull for me, from now on. That could be a partial present liberation from the Samsara.

      Smart fellow the Buddha was, except he suffered I think epistemic injustice: the mind as a collection of ideas, mostly inherited from the past, and some from unremembered dreams, not necessarily connected in the present, but tethered to the past ONLY, asynchronic, might prevent me from reaching Nirvana now.

      Like diverging anchors for my and my, still, “imaginary” partner, curtailing our freedom to find happiness and joy in the present and the future. I tethered perhaps to the past with false ideas, don’t know where I got them from otherwise, certainly as elaborated not the “present”, with no other relationship to the present than just a tether to my past. A link in the chain of the Samsara wheel of my personal suffering.

      Like a leashed puppy to the wills of my past…

      Get your on future past!, this puppy rides solo!. This puppy wants to be free…

      And could explain why liberation is not available unless one get’s free from all atachments from the past, not just cravings.

      And why being reincarnated leads to a sort of me and not me soul/non soul: most of the ideas that made me me in previous lives, were destroyed when I previously died. There was no much me left, they passed in front of me as I died, they might have “blown out”: Nirvana. And there will be no much more left of me afterwards the next time. Mere remnants of who I was, like a blown out star. Everytime…

      Me new reborn, me will be filled with other ideas also inherited, imbibed from the past in my future. A new turn in the wheel of Samsara, a new hope, a new chance to be another me me, free of Samsara.

      I can imagine, synchronice with her saying: what a disapointment you turned out to be, I thought you wanted for us to be together forever.

      Yes beloved one, I chicken out, I am a chicken, but this feathery wants you to be free and happy too…

      Muahahaha, bunny sign to my forehead, cape to my mouth and nose, little bilateral squinting, forehead furrowed, cat hissing sounds…

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  4. Is the painting one of your expression or ??? I am curious about the outward direction from the center and consummate way of seeing outward? The expressions in layers of orientation. A similar facet of the left and right facing was also an expression realized in the t-shirts for one of conferences. The idea: Emerging Freedom.

    When we began to stage our statewide conferences of c/s/x the effort was made to realize an invite for an Art Show, the appeal being Art in contrast to Art Therapy. The words can be harmful, the joy in staging such an event was one of the highlights of the time spent within the umbrella. Though as one might expect, the boundaries of being framed as “the art of the mentally ill” rather than better terminology seems result from the context of the industry?

    At another point I would travel to National Artists for Mental Health in Catskill. The organization would have the Larsens present on Shamanism…. which was another way to experience the colorful mind of being.

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    • I actually chose the image, as the editor that published the story. The feeling it captured for me was the disorientation and overwhelm of a sensitive person besieged by strange forces and judging eyes all around them, so it felt like a fit with the themes in Odette’s story.

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