Monday, April 24, 2017

Comments by LavenderSage

Showing 97 of 97 comments.

  • I’m not good at attributing quotes, so I’m not sure who said this, but it was something like:
    “if you see me struggle, and want to help me, no. But if you see that your struggle and mine are bound together, we should join forces.”
    Whatever the exact wording was, the message speaks to the fact that too many “helpers” are on an ego trip that makes them think they are better, smarter, more evolved than those poor unfortunate souls they are “helping.” This mindset puts everyone on an equal footing, instead of one-up, one-down. You should find the quote, and put it in your lecture.

  • Personally, I just find it appalling that it is anyone other than the PATIENT making their OWN life-and-death decisions based on their OWN values, regardless of which way that pendulum swings. That anybody would ever feel so entitled to impose their own ethical values on another’s Most Fundamental Choice (to live or to die) just offends me to the core!
    I am very different from the mainstream, in many fundamental ways, and I never want anybody assuming anything about what it is I want. They’d almost always get it wrong. If you assume I’d want mustard on my sandwich or peppers on my pizza, I live with a temporary condition of discomfort: I go without a meal, I get hungry, maybe grumpy. No big deal in the long run. But if you assume that I’d want to fight through terrible pain/trauma/debilitation and keep on living, you’d be Dead Wrong, but I’d be the one stuck with the consequences. If you assume I’d be okay sacrificing my ability to sing in order to keep on breathing (or breathing via machine, for even one minute), you’d be Dead Wrong. If you assume I’d accept a transfusion of someone else’s blood in my veins for any reason, you’d be Dead Wrong.
    Now, turn the tables: think about how you would feel if I were an MD and felt entitled to decide YOUR care based upon MY personal values. Really sit with that scenario.

  • To me, the scary thing about all these Catholic hospital buys (6 in 10 hospital beds in the US!) is the fact that the healthcare you will receive can go directly against your own values because it is the Bishops’ Directives making the choices. There’s lots of talk about sex (contraception, abortion) but what about death? Advance directives don’t mean shit to the bishops making your decisions once you are in their beds.

  • Sharing LSD stories? I only have one, but it’s a good one. Was 1990-ish and I was at my favorite dance club with friends. I knew it was coming on when the neon flamingo hanging on the wall started dancing too! We went back to my house, laughter sitting on the porch roof, hilarity when somebody came with pizza dough they had dumpster-dived and we played with it like pulling taffy. Very good times. At some point though I decide that it’s time to get some sleep. I lay down and close my eyes but sleep will not come, so I gaze out the window and the street light captures my attention- so beautiful, the rainbow halo effect that surrounds the glowing source. And the motion of the bugs around it is mesmerizing, and they get bigger, become butterflies, and one especially gets bigger and more majestic in its winged beauty as it flies away from the light. I am transfixed, even as I watch it changing, growing darker and larger the closer it gets. It is the grim reaper by the time it approaches the window, and it taps on the glass with the tip of its scythe. And I laugh, wag my finger and say something to the effect of “go back to the light, you silly butterfly!” It made me laugh, and I shifted into this dual-perspective place where I was able to have the experience and be in it, but also aware of it being a chemically-induced thing, and thinking observational thoughts. And I think I might have been coming down a bit by then because sleep came maybe an hour after. I really enjoyed it, all of it. Next time I would have better snacks around (we had potato chips and cream soda), and art supplies on hand, tactile stuff and colors and glue. When the cream soda spilled up on the roof, I remember tracing patterns in it with my fingers, watching the light play off the wetness.

    For me, there is important transformative work in those places, that is best done when I have something I can destroy and then create from. I didn’t know that at the time. I was 20-something; I thought I was just taking drugs. Now I know there’s no such thing.

  • I don’t have any answers for you, Robert, wish I did. But I couldn’t have the only response to your plea be a scam pitch (why do those keep popping up here?!) and just wanted to say stuff you already know, I’m sure: you are not alone, so many of us doing better but not doing okay enough. I feel you. Me too. And anybody who wants you to shell out $300/mo on supplements through them, that screams of exploitation of your vulnerable state and desire to heal, and I find that repugnant. I wish you healing, with plenty of discernment along the way, same wish I have for me.

  • Alex- I did as you suggested and emailed Hana asking her to forward my info to you, but have not heard anything back. I, too, value my privacy, and don’t have any contact info that’s for public consumption I could just post here. But it has taken me quite awhile to take this step of reaching out to you, time to ride the seesaw of need vs. risk (heart-trust being the fulcrum it balances upon), and then once decided, time to gather my courage to actually express that need. And now that I’ve done so I’m eager-bordering-anxious to get on with the process and communicate directly with you.
    I’m wondering whether it would get a quicker response if I hit the “Report comment” button for this comment, just to get the attention of any MiA moderator with the ability to help me with this? They can reply to this comment and let me know to email my info to them, perhaps be on the lookout for it.

  • Alex, can I please reach out to you to converse privately? You’ve put your heart energy out often here in these pages, and I feel a level of trust and understanding with you. I am very vulnerable and do not trust easily, but I need to trust someone and my heart feels you are trustworthy enough to take the risk.

  • Wow! Is that all in the court transcript? Because it seems like there ought to be some way to appeal this. It’s just so Wrong. Have you contacted Tina Minkowitz (one of the authors here)? She has a law degree- I just have empathy.

  • That’s the first time anyone’s asked me that! Lavender is my color- I experience my personal aura field that way, and unless I am experiencing distress that changes it, that is the color others (who can sense these energy fields) perceive my aura as well. Sage is my favorite smudge for clearing and aligning energy, the scent of burning white sage is always significant for me in dreams– it feels like an ancestral connection, a way of my own ancestors getting my attention, the ancestors who were herbalist/shamans. So I guess LavenderSage represents the me I can stand in when I am healthy, balanced, confidently walking my path. LavenderSage is she who I am and yet aspire to be, me without the clutter of ego-struggles and pity parties.

  • I wish there had been someone there at the time that she would have allowed to “interview” her about it! I wanted to hear all about it! But from the very beginning she was not apt to entertain others’ curiosity, not a people-pleaser type, so there was no pumping her for info! She was invested in a shared memory, and once she realized I could not give her that, the experience was over for her– kaput!– despite my piqued curiosity. “Move along, nothing more to see here…” became her position.

  • Oh, I’ve never felt punished by this hard life. Frankly, no child could do anything to deserve what I endured. I got sent to a Baptist private school in 3rd grade to avoid being bussed across town when desegregation was imposed. I was being raised by racists grandparents at the time, racial tensions were high and they said they feared for my safety. Hellfire and brimstone, and the God described in the Bible, always felt incongruous with anything I experienced as divine. I find my spiritual connection in the heart of nature, the awe I feel in the presence of the ocean, the greensong heartbeat of the forests. I’ve no use for an adolescent “God” who keeps score.

    No, I was just making a karma joke. See, I’m the kind of person who, when I feel “thumped” by the Universe, will do a u-turn and pick up the hitch-hiking hippie couple with the rambunctious dog. And when the couple was unable to reach the family member they were heading to stay with and said we could drop them off just anywhere in Berkeley, same “thump” says they’d be in mortal danger if we did that, and we took them home and put them up in our spare bedroom for the night. Sent them on their way in the morning, well-fed. I just mean I’ve answered the call so many times, I’ve banked a lot of good credit, I can afford to deduct some of the interest! 🙂

  • Thank you! I have many stories that I rarely tell because they are likely to be judged as weird or impossible. I cherish those memories and only share them when I feel safe to do so. I’ve been letting some of them trickle out here, because I feel connections here, I feel received and honored by particular folks here (hugs to Alex, for instance), and as I do so I feel a surging desire to share more. Pacing myself is a good thing, I have to remind myself, because it feels so good to be my authentic self. I have much to offer, but also much to learn and digest from these kindred spirits, and am trying to leave space in me to do both, if that makes sense.

  • Getting vulnerable here: I think it also made me cry because I had never realized there were old souls here for that purpose– helpers to those of us who took the heat this time ’round. It hit me hard that I need those helpers in my life; this past year-ish has been particularly hard. I am open and ready to receive that kind of support in my life. I’ve certainly racked up the karma points to deserve it!

  • Another past-life story, this one from my daughter.

    When she was about 2 or 3 years old, she was trying to get me to recollect an incident she remembered very vividly. It was a visit to the state fair and she described seeing livestock and riding rides, and insisted that we had gone to the fair with my brother when she was a baby. I wracked my brain trying to think of a time that this might even have been possible, because there had been very little contact with my brother, who lived far away. He had stayed with us when she was a baby, but only for a month or two, and it wasn’t during the summer when fairs take place. She was getting pretty frustrated with me for not recalling it, and I apologized to her “I’m sorry, C, but mommy just doesn’t remember that.” And then her exasperated reply: “Not when I was C! When I was a baby before.” And then it dawned on me, and I asked “Before you were C? Did you have a different name before? (she nods hard, like I’m finally understanding) I bet you had a different mommy then too, maybe that’s why I don’t remember?” And she says “Oh! Yeah! That’s why you don’t remember it. You weren’t there.” And now she had me so freakin’ curious! I wanted to know more! But once she realized that there was no way I was gonna remember she completely dismissed me and went back to playing with her toys.

  • Thank you, Kjetil, for an awesome article! The thoughts you enumerated rang true for me, as well. All except one, and it made me cry:

    Sometimes mature souls come back in relatively easy lives in order to be helpers for the souls who take the hard ones.

    I am one of those old souls, lived countless lives. I remember several past lives, some in great detail and some just vague snippets of memories and whiffs of who I was in that time. I have encountered people I knew before, and shared a mutual sense of recognition. Sometimes those shared experiences help clarify the knowledge of who I was but what is more helpful is when I gain an understanding of the why, the purpose of that lifetime. I can tell you that past life traumas carry over, and it is important to understand when something in the here/now is triggering past life issues. I know, for instance, that my complete intolerance for what I call “intentional mis-understanding” (someone twisting my words and using them against me for their own agenda) stems from my death as a lawyer in the French Revolution. I was beheaded by the very people I had been advocating for, and the betrayal I experienced still stings to this day when I am in a situation that evokes those feelings. I know I am still working on healing his wounds.

    But the reason your words made me cry was that although I have known and accepted that I’ve chosen hard lives, I don’t think I ever realized that I could choose this: Sometimes mature souls come back in relatively easy lives in order to be helpers for the souls who take the hard ones. I’ve never considered that, never felt permission to approach a lifetime in that way. That insight was such a profound gift, Kjetil. Thank you.

  • I *do* actually! But not as much as when I was younger, when I was much more open just in general than I am now. Before I learned to shield and discern, I would sometimes feel “overtaken” (maybe not the right word, a little too strong a word, but close) by the experience. And my life was not what it is now, not so many petty details constraining me to this consensual reality. But I still channel very easily when reading Tarot, as I’ve trained my psyche that that’s the appropriate environment to flow free in that way (not unlike the way our bodies are primed to open and release when we sit on the potty, all the cues are there). I also do get messages from ancestors, and they tend to be very insistent until the message is delivered. I am one of those old souls, and definitely chose a service path for this lifetime, and not an easy one. But I truly have no regrets about that. It’s not a lifetime of ease that puts one in the shaman’s cave, dancing the energy between the worlds. I heed the call; I deliver the messages. I’ve never feared doing so in this lifetime.

  • Okay, I will.

    I grew up in the way back, LOL, before cell phones and GPS and whatnot. When I was 14, living with my mother and younger siblings, my sister got sick and spiked a dangerously high fever. Picture of poverty: living very rural in a house with running water and electric but no phone and no neighbors near enough help. Tylenol didn’t touch it, and what ice we had on hand went very quickly. I could see by the look in my mother’s eyes that she was very scared (this from a woman who is very hard to shake) and I knew it was getting dire. I have no idea to this day what came over me, but I rushed into the kitchen, grabbed several large onions and gave them a quick rough-chop, not even bothering to peel the skins. Found a plastic bag and dumped them in, brought it back to the couch where my sister was laid out, my mother cooling her head as much as possible with wet cloths. I got very directive: “Quick now! Get those shoes and socks off her and get her feet in the onions! Get that fire outta the child’s head!” Her fever was 104? 105 by that time, and she was very close to febrile seizure. But, miraculously?, those onions did the trick– pulled that fever right out of her head, and down into her feet, the onions sweated and limp, her feet afire but her forehead cooled almost immediately once her feet were smothered in onions. After the danger had passed and we had a moment to reflect, my mother told me she heard her grandmother’s voice telling her through me what to do when I got all directive with the onions. They tell me I met her once, as an infant, but I have no recollection of her whatsoever.

    That’s one story. I’ll leave others, one per comment per your request so as not to extend into “read more…” territory 🙂

  • Yup. I too have stories from my MSW training that made me really hope these folks don’t get the credentials that will allow them to harm the vulnerable people desperate for help. And horror stories of my own as a client. And then I had my perfect therapy support, Catherine. 17 years she was the person I could tell anything, show everything, without being pathologized. But she closed her practice last year, and I told her when she did that there wouldn’t be a next one so keep the referrals. It took me years to really trust her and be completely vulnerable. Years of her proving consistently that she was worthy of hearing the stories at the core of the damage, of her letting me read my file whenever I asked, years of dwelling in her unconditional positive regard for me 2 hours a week, is the path it took to get to where the healing could begin. Because my trust had been so very damaged, first by my family and the family doctor, then by teachers and classmates and religion, then by men, and then by the “mental health” system.

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head right there, madmom. They’ve got the monopoly. There are some caring and competent therapists out there, but they either get paid by you out-of-pocket, or they assign you a billing code (i.e. dx) in order to get paid through the system. Some check out of the economics of it completely by offering a sliding scale or barter, but they are such rare gems to find. And the support they can offer doing that tends to be inadequate to meet the needs of people who are actively in crisis. We have to divert the funding streams away from what harms, and find a way to channel it to those who do the real healing, or to improving the conditions in our society that are intolerable and drive us mad.

  • Thank you! I was thinking the same thing about that phrase “While medication may have role to play in alleviation of symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity”

    Why do so many of the articles I read here, that are otherwise hopeful, include concession language about the drugs? Why do the authors feel the need to give the drugs a nod at all? I really don’t understand this.

  • There is a really excellent book I read awhile back: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. She lists many physical ailments/symptoms along with attitudes and personal outlooks they seem correlated with. Often (though not always) when I am experiencing something physically, and look it up, the corresponding attitude rings true. When that’s the case, changing my attitude/outlook often clears up the issue significantly. Sometimes pain and ailments are happening for you, not just to you.

  • About loss of boundaries, taking on others’ energies: I experienced this as a side effect (somebody suggest a better term- oldhead? Frank? help me out here) of the drug Effexor. I basically could not maintain energy shields that, as an energy empath, I rely on. Without that drug in my system, energy maintenance was something I kind of just did throughout the day without really thinking about it. But under influence of Effexor, I constantly felt misunderstood by and in conflict with the people in my life. I did not recognize that my ability to shield had been compromised to the point of not being able to distinguish my own emotions and energies from those of people around me. It was only after withdrawal (vertigo from hell!) that I came to understand what I had been experiencing.

  • When I have a lot to say on a subject, I sometimes mull it over for a bit before expressing myself. I do have a lot of thoughts on the topic of forgiveness. Alex mentioned something about people having different internal definitions of words, and I know for me the visceral reaction to “forgive” has changed (somewhat, but it really depends on the context). Children are taught very early to rotely offer apologies they don’t mean– you can almost hear an echo of “say you’re sorry!” right now, I bet. Even as a kid, I thought that was a crock, and refused to accept bogus apologies. It’s either sincere, or it’s an insult, frankly. So my first concept of forgiveness sprung from that, and was something I wanted no part in. Later down the line, I encountered a different concept of forgiveness. It goes something like this: Somebody has wronged you, and this act has created emotional baggage. You can carry it around with you, dwelling on it, essentially dragging it around with you, or you can drop it off in their corner and let the consequences be theirs. But here’s the catch- you have to walk away and not look back to check and see how the consequences play out for them; you have to quit being emotionally invested in any particular outcome. For me, that still feels like relinquishing my claim on some justice for the one wronged. The wronged deserve justice! So, yeah, if that is what forgiveness is, it’s still not my cup of tea. Accountability is.

    So here’s how I define accountability: you must account for your actions and your intentions, up to the limits of your ability. So in these instances where folks committed crimes because they were placed on an Rx that created a situation beyond their control, in my view they should not be held to account for that. Behaving better in that situation was beyond their ability. Each person is operating out of their own set of resources and challenges, which fluctuate for everyone but more so for some of us. I will not be held to account for what is beyond my ability, and I cannot hold others to account for what is beyond theirs. And often, the more you know, the picture of the situation changes. So add Understanding to the list next to Accountability.
    I have a personal example. About a month before I turned 12, I found myself living in a new family: my mother, her boyfriend of 3 years, and my younger half-siblings (brother, sister). How this came about is a different tale for a different time. These were not his children, but he was Dad to them and shortly to me as well, a welcome change for me since I had never bonded with my own father. Picture family life: county fair, swap meets, demolition derby (nosebleed seats but who cares?!), backyard garden and BBQs. Then one night, a few months before my 13th birthday, my mother walks into my bedroom late at night to find her boyfriend naked in my bed and touching me. I remember her turning on the light, and then almost immediately turning it off and walking out of the room. He followed her, grabbing clothes on the way out and trying to say something to her, I don’t know what. Memory of that night gets hazy after that flash of light, but I remember very well up to that point. Nothing in his demeanor had been predatory. No, he was being like a trusted friend, a confidante, a mentor. He expressed interest in my life, my friendships; he listened. He was being very open, very real, no canned adult responses. We were talking about school, boys. He asked if there was anything I wanted to know about guys, about sex. He said that in a family, mothers teach sons and fathers teach daughters. That made sense to me. I didn’t even question it. (I would come to understand why decades later in a conversation with my aunt, who confirmed a pattern of intergenerational incest in my father’s family, and disclosed that I had been molested as an infant by his parents. Again, another tale for another time.) My mother grilled me the next day about what had happened and I told her what he had said. She twisted things into some weird Freudian knot, pathologizing my reaction of trusting him. Something along the lines of “If he’s like a father to you, you must be really fucked up to want to fuck your own father.” Her story was that I seduced him. She was awful to me, psychologically cruel and physically abusive, for the next to years, until I escaped the situation. But an interesting thing happened when I was 14: my mother’s parents drove out to visit. They didn’t stay long, and she had not one good thing to say about me to them, but their visit stirred memories in her that she had long buried and I became her confidante. Horrible, horrible memories of things her father had done to her, her sister, her brothers. She told of being raped at age 4, and being blamed, and how the beating that followed almost killed her. And that story of hers changed the picture of my story, of why she reacted the way she did. Having the context did not change how wrong she was in treating me the way she did, but it explained the why of it, and that made it easier to bear. Given her history, she could not fathom that it could be his fault. The man was never to blame, the woman/girl always was. And somehow, she had never challenged that. She was operating out of her own trauma, creating trauma for me. But having the fuller picture helped me understand the limits of her accountability for reacting that way.

  • I still feel angry sometimes. Sometimes it’s debilitating. Sometimes it fuels me.

    I have learned that in my own emotional world, the purpose of anger is action. That’s why my anger feels like fire- because its purpose is to fuel change. I get angry because something is wrong and needs to be changed. When I feel my anger instead of trying to tamp it down, I have clarity about what I need to address and change in my interaction with my world, and the physical experience of the anger fuels my ability to take action. Anger demands action, in fact, and if the changes needed are physical (re-arranging a room so that the processes that happen there can flow more functionally, for example), that’s great! But often the changes are to do with interpersonal relations, I still have to use up the energy or I experience a crash (that can easily and erroneously get labeled “depression”) and feel the need to retreat from the situation instead of dealing with it, which takes guts. Same thing happens if I subvert the anger experience entirely by tamping it down in the first place. I try to remind myself of this essential truth in the moment, and at least use the energy to scrub something that needs it– bathtub, oven, kitchen floor, whatever– even if I know I don’t have the guts to take on the big life changes that I know the anger is trying to demand. But that’s still only a temporary fix, until the situation shows its imbalance and creates more anger for me to change it!

    Anyway, that’s how anger works in my world, in case anyone finds that perspective useful.

  • I just love you, madmom. You are very wise, you measure your words carefully. I hate that you have to tiptoe through the system, but I’m glad you’ve educated yourself and are able to balance your emotions (for having your loved one be caught up in, and at the mercy of the system certainly engenders a whole rainbow of lovely emotions like fear, frustration, anger/rage, injustice, helplessness…) with your knowledge of how the system operates to prevent bad from getting worse. You are right; they would use it against you. They twist and pathologize; it’s what they do, and you are wise to acknowledge and remember that.

  • I’m so sorry you went through that. Trauma, particularly sexual trauma, is so often the root of emotional distress that sends people to seek help. You can’t expect a child who has been raped repeatedly to not suffer injuries to their sense of self, to their ability to trust and feel a basic sense of safety. That’d be like dunking a book repeatedly in a pot of soup and expect the pages to remain flat, readable. Books should not be subjected to dunking, and dunked books sustain water damage. Why people cannot see that it’s the trauma that’s the source of the damage is beyond me. It’s still your book, still your story to write. Just know you aren’t alone. There’s a whole library of smeared and ruffled pages out here.

  • That’s why I have never conceded to anyone else the power of defining my experience, my truth. People should have an understanding of the power differential they are expected to buy into when they “seek help,” and be very clear within themselves what is helpful and what is decidedly unhelpful for them in their situation. A pregnant woman who wants a natural birth should avoid an obstetrician with a high c-rate, for instance, and consider turning to a midwife.

    Surgeons cut, the lens they see you through casts the shadow of a scalpel. Psychiatrists pathologize and prescribe, and everything you tell them will be viewed through that particular warped/dirty lens. Understand that.

    I, personally, accept that a certain degree of interdependence is simply part of the human equation: there are things that an individual cannot accomplish for themselves, by themselves. Humans need one another, and there is no shame to being in need of help. But it has been my experience too often in seeking emotional help, that simply by virtue of needing help with emotional/interpersonal issues, my ability to define what help is best for me, i.e. my basic right to self-determination, can be called into question. Those in “helping professions” assume an entitlement to be the one who defines what help is needed. It is inherent in the relationship, and is one of the most toxic “flies in the ointment.” You can’t even trust me to know what I need, but you expect me to entrust you with my vulnerable, emotionally injured self? No way.

    I’m reminded of a quote (I might have read it here) that goes something like, “If you are here to help me, I have no use for that. But if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together.” I might have mangled that; if so, feel free to correct me/it.

  • I found myself reflecting on several things as I read this post, so I’m going to remark on them before I read the comment section, which will certainly inspire other thoughts/reflections.

    About the antidote being inclusion: I’m reminded of 2 elementary schoolteachers in the ’70s who decided to do a bit of social engineering for the common good. I don’t remember their names, but will never forget the lessons. One taught her class (2nd graders, maybe 3rd?) about discrimination by segregating the class according to eye color Brown eyes vs. Blue/Green/Hazel. The first day, one group was made to wear a felt collar indicator (more visible) and told that people with that color eyes were inferior (less smart, less moral, less worthy, etc.) and they would not be permitted the privileges that the other eye group received. The teacher reinforced these notions throughout the day, and the othered eye group was miserable. The next day, they changed places. So every single child had their turn at experiencing what it was like to be subjected to institutional and personal discrimination. The next day was spent with the whole class discussing how silly and arbitrary it was to attribute characteristics to a group of people based on their eye color, and the feelings it engendered for the children as they were subjected to it, and how it felt to reinforce superiority when they were the ones “on top.” All the children decided it was just as wrong to judge people based on skin color, and they delighted in throwing the felt collars into the trash bin. The other incident wasn’t laid out like an experiment, but was an edict instead: you can’t say “You can’t play.” Nobody is allowed to exclude anyone else.

    About Fear: it is the currency of authoritarians. I’m reminded of a documentary I recently saw called The Brainwashing of My Dad, about Fox News’ use of fear and flashing visuals.

    About being an “expert by experience,” we are in excellent company. I was reminded of Jane Goodall, and of Temple Grandin. I echo your wish “for lived experience to be valued as a credential.” I know many here at MiA feel a yearning for that validation as well, by sentiments expressed in the comments.

    About the “hidden recovered” and the need to be Exceptionally Okay and Thriving: I know I experience a sense of having to always put my best foot forward. I cannot trust others to adjust their assessment of my capability as my resources and challenges wax and wane. I do not want to be dismissed, discounted, diminished by the limitations of someone else’s ability to see beyond their own issues. I’m talking about the kind of people who take issue with Sera Davidow’s barefooted-ness, that type. I truly think they are jealous of the freedom we express when we dare to be our true selves; when who we are will not fit the box those folks have defined as “societal norms,” and we dare to be okay with that. We are brazen enough to challenge the notion that we are what is unacceptable in the scenario; we see that it is the box that has limitations, not us. How dare we be free when they keep re-inventing one-size-fits-all! I, personally, have always felt pride in the ability to challenge the norms. Powers-that-be can get very threatened by that, depending in part on their personal sense of insecurity, which underlies their desperate need to be recognized as an authority. There simply is no more legitimate an authority than one’s own personal experience. Ask Jane; ask Temple.

    About coming out of the closet: I’ve done that, a lot. I’m Bisexual; I’m Polyamorous; I’m Pagan. And just to look at me, I pass as just another default. I’ve learned that unless I declare otherwise, people assume about me what most people assume about most people. Until they see me with my wife; then they assume I’m Lesbian instead of assuming I’m straight. I am one of those people, though, who’s magnetic– in the sense that people tend to be pretty immediately either attracted/repelled by me. Or, another apt description: I’m like cilantro; people either love me or hate me. I get that, and it weeds out some folks right away (good riddance to ya!) but from there it is a choice of how much real me I reveal. I learned in college that it can be fun to wait awhile before challenging their assumptions. If someone has assumed about my spirituality, for instance, it might not come up for awhile, long enough for a comfortable rapport/friendship to have developed between us. So then when they ask what I’m doing for Halloween and I answer that I’m a Witch and I will be hosting the Circle for my coven and all our ancestors, that’s a conversation where they get the chance to be curious & ask questions, and I get the chance to disabuse them of erroneous notions about what Witches are and what we do.

    About the APA: Was it the late ’60s? early ’70s maybe? where the gay psychiatrist came to the convention wearing a paper bag over his face because he needed to keep his anonymity while challenging the designation of homosexuality as a mental disorder? I’m reminded of that. We need a whole panel of APA members with bags on their heads so they are free to reveal their madness journeys to the entire body of members at the convention. And NASW members at their convention too, for that matter. In the meantime, please post a link to your study/article when it is published because I’d love to read it.

    So those are my ponderings for now.

  • Daisy Valley,

    Sarah is suggesting that people who are experiencing crises should not be forced against their will into a setting where they would feel more threatened than whatever their present situation (not necessarily “on the streets,” as you assume). Did you read her blog? Have you read the responses by people who were subjected to the dehumanizing experiences that are inherent in forced incarceration? What makes you think someone experiencing “psychotic mania” is less vulnerable in that setting than wherever they’d choose to be? How safe is it to be locked in with people who have total control of you, refuse to recognize — let alone respect– your basic human rights, violate your bodily autonomy at will, for as long as they say so? Do you have the capacity to empathize with those who’ve had exactly that experience? Walk a mile in those moccasins and see how quick you are to advocate “forced incarceration.”

  • I concur with your assessment, oldhead, which is why I have kept silent as the level of provocation continues to rise, the idea being that engagement feeds the trolls. But I think that was the wrong stance for me to take on this. I won’t be engaging that troll, but I shall be engaging the MiA staff to step up and enforce so that those of us who treasure this community as a safe haven can continue to do so. Thank you for saying things here that made me challenge my reaction to this provocateur.

  • I doubt it. They put him on this crap when he was FIVE, for behavior control, and he apparently started growing breasts a year later. So yeah, they took him off this particular toxin. But the parents, and doctor, that thought it was a good idea to put a five-year-old on an antipsychotic are not likely to scrap their notion that “medicating” his behavior is the appropriate reaction to it. Usually, they tell themselves that though that particular drug had a bad “side effect” they should stay the course and keep trying different psych drugs until they find the “right one.”

  • May the surgery have the desired effect (or better than!) and may you heal well and quickly!

    Also, I checked out your page about creative maladjustment week and I love it! I want to celebrate, probably in small ways, hopefully with friends! An excuse to celebrate embracing the different, the quirky, the tellers of the twisted truths? Sign me up! Perhaps I will spend a day wearing a pair of fairy wings (I make those) while I run errands. I love the idea of guerilla kindness (and gorilla kindness, why not?), leaving handmade notes to uplift, inspire, or ‘make you go hmm’ in places for strangers — and also myself, and my wife — to find. Maybe I will host a Mad Hatter Tea potluck, and serve tie-dye cake! Ah, the possibilities!

  • Thank you for posting this on MiA.

    Please everyone, contact your “representative” (why the quotes? Because I’ve never once had a “representative” in government who even comes close to representing me) and urge them to reject this dangerous attack on our civil rights!

    We can gripe to each other until we are blue in the face, but that doesn’t accomplish anything. We don’t get a vote on this, we have to rely on these elected officials to vote on our behalf (ugh!) so let’s make sure they understand how we feel, and what is at stake.

  • Upon re-reading, I realized this sounds perhaps judgemental: “That uneasy feeling is something we used to call “women’s intuition” and if it got the respect it deserves, instead of being brushed aside as dumb or crazy, she would have had the sense to act on it.”

    That was not my intention, so please allow me to clarify:
    Ever since the Enlightenment, we have been taught to elevate Science (that which can be observed and measured with the physical senses) far above Mysticism (that which cannot be observed and measured). We’ve been taught that knowledge is solely the monopoly of Science. Any claim of knowing that is based on the unseen is scoffed at as superstition, or pathologized as madness. Only with the advent of technology that allowed for observations at the quantum level did scientists begin to question this basic underlying assumption, and we now know, for instance, that the mere attention we pay in the act of observing changes the outcome. But we have all bought into this idea that scientific knowledge, gained by controlling the variables and testing the hypotheses, is inherently valid whereas other ways of knowing are inherently dubious.

    Now, my dear mother started out with such a lot in life that she did not have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being deemed as an average, normal person. Being on the fringe of society was where she would always reside, unless she was willing to completely subsume/sacrifice so much of herself that she would have little to no authenticity left. She was always unable and/or unwilling to do that. (For that alone, she is my hero!) She accepted her role as Other, embraced it even. She scoffs at Normal, sees through the saran wrap the emperor calls clothes in a lot of ways, and refuses to abandon or adjust those parts of her that mark her as an outcast.

    I’ve read quite a few of your posts (you being one of my favorite authors on this site, I’ve gone back into the archives to read more) and your mother sounds pretty normal. Our society, the way girls are trained to be gracious, makes it a rare exception that a woman would pay any attention to the things that give her “that uneasy feeling” let alone know how to open that channel to inner knowledge, and interpret the feeling and act on it. Left-brain, rational thinking rules supreme. But to negate the other ways of knowing sets us up for such dysfunctional imbalance, and denies us the benefit of our intuition, which I believe is our birthright as women.

  • Your mother knew, Sera. Not cognitively, perhaps. But on a gut level, she knew. The way he touched your hair made her uneasy.

    That uneasy feeling is something we used to call “women’s intuition” and if it got the respect it deserves, instead of being brushed aside as dumb or crazy, she would have had the sense to act on it. My own mother is such a mixed bag– she did a lot of damage to her children, given the upbringing she’d had to work with, but she never let *anyone* dismiss her intuitions and she never dismissed ours, either. Some of the things she taught me about being a woman were really messed up (!!) but she made certain I understood my intuition, how to recognize its messages, and most important, to ALWAYS respect it. She explained that it is encoded in our earliest DNA, from the time before our lunking brains created societies that told us to disregard/conquer our baser instincts, when we knew we were part of the food chain, and had to be keenly aware of danger. That first whiff of danger doesn’t come from the nose, it comes from within– that uneasy feeling– that makes us pay closer attention to what is going on around us. She didn’t discount my brother’s intuition, either. But she felt women have a stronger innate sense of it, likely due to the increased danger pregnancy presents. She taught us to use our intuition, to respect it, and to not be dissuaded by others who don’t have respect for theirs. I wish all mothers did this– planted a seed of confidence in the innate ways of knowing that we all possess but have been talked out of by ‘authorities’ who assure us we are wrong and they are right.

    Please, mothers, teach your daughters to truly value themselves as women, not just their women’s bodies, but their women’s wisdom too!

  • “It is truly unfortunate that this thread has taken over a blog about something else entirely that I feel is valid and important.

    Exactly!

    You wrote a blog that spoke to the silencing of rape victims, and get your voice drowned out by guys who should have just gone off and wrote their own piece about psychiatry and slavery instead of having their discussion overtop yours!

  • Thank you for writing this, Sera. It’s personal for a lot of us.
    You ask whether there was a “vibe” being sensed. Oh, yeah. Just like sharks can smell a drop of blood from miles away and zero in on the source, sexual predators seem to have a very sensitive meter to detect the vulnerability of injured selves. They don’t choose their victims at random, they look for an easy in. How many stories of early sexual violation have you heard where there is no subsequent perpetrator? That’s not the pattern. The early violation paves the way, and subsequent predators recognize the trail blazed.

    Sera (4-year-old Sera, and 15-year-old Sera, and 16-year-old Sera, and 17-year-old Sera):
    I hear you and resonate your truth. I believe you. I stand in solidarity with you.

  • After seeing so many headlines using the phrase “former Stanford swimmer” to identify/define Brock Turner, I finally just yesterday saw one that got it right: Convicted rapist Brock Turner. And this one had his mugshot, unlike all the others that show the suit & tie yearbook smile.

    Reminds me of the language contortions that Big Pharma uses in their commercials, using soft-spoken (boring, soothing even) voices reciting watered-down terms to describe their side effects, while using the most alarmist voices, tone and words to name/describe the “condition” they are trying to scare you into thinking you need to “ask your doctor” about.

    THE SHINGLES VIRUS COULD ALREADY BE INSIDE YOU!!!

  • I hear you. I’ve experienced both sides of that equation, I feel.

    My mother has an extensive and horrific trauma history, starting from infancy. And I’ve witnessed many instances of her bearing up under way more than most anyone could handle; I’ve witnessed several instances of her breaking and unable to cope, and get by as best she can– and in those times, her best looks atrocious. I’ve also witnessed several instances where my mother “turned on the crazy” willfully, in order to manipulate. The differences between these states of hers became unmistakable to me, though others often got snowed. So I get that feeling that your spouse uses past trauma as a tool; my mother certainly did.

    But I also know how it feels to be accused of slacking when it takes every ounce of everything you are just to be okay enough to get yourself fed once today, and maybe cleaned since it’s been almost a week since you were last able to get yourself into the shower. I also know how humiliating it feels to be told by your spouse that he’s “not doing you any good enabling your depression” (according to the family therapist) so the dishes are gonna stack there in the sink until you do them because it’s your turn to do that chore. No energy to be pissed about that, you just crumple into a bit tighter ball to hold yourself together at the seams and hate yourself a little harder for not being even close to good enough. Vicious, the words you use to describe yourself in this condition, and maybe you can be stern enough to slap yourself out of this pit you tell yourself is self-pity, because if it is, maybe you can drill-sergeant yourself out of it. So much pain, so much harm in the blame of it, the shame of it.

    I feel much compassion for you; I feel much compassion for your spouse too, and hope each of you can find the healthiest way for your family to weather all the emotions inherent in these situations of trauma aftermath. I truly do. Deep hugs to you.

  • So the other day I read where Swiss voters decided to reject a proposal to guarantee all citizens a minimal monthly income, and there was a quote, the jist of which was that people will just be lazy and do nothing if they did not have to worry about earning enough money to live, if it was just provided. And I thought the exact opposite: without the worry of having enough money for a decent living, what amazing endeavors would people be able to achieve?

    Okay, let’s get real radical and expand that: What if every person was provided all the essentials for a fully-realized, healthy, robust life, just because they exist? Just because they are part of humanity? What if there was a universal acknowledgement of the capacity of the human spirit, and the wisdom to invest in it, as a society? What if there was no need to dull the existential pain, because there was plenty of opportunity to experience the full range of emotions- plenty of joy, contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction to look forward to during the darker moments? What if each person’s “job” was to plunge into their passion and bring forth their inherent talents and gifts. We could all share in each other’s because with everyone enjoying full support, there would be no need for stinginess.

    I want to live in that world.

  • Hmm… how does this relate?

    I took an acting class once with a really cool teacher who used a lot of different kinds of exercises to help us connect to genuine emotional states that were called for in the script. I was pretty amazed at how easy it was to create an intense emotional state by simply engaging in the behaviors associated with that emotion. For instance, he had us stomp, and clench our fists and tighten our faces– anger wells up, and now the line you said less than one minute ago that rang hollow is rich with emotion.

  • Hi knaps,

    I don’t know if the author or any of the commenters will see your reply, but I did. 🙂 I have also commented on older posts/articles, usually they pop up in the “Best of MIA” section, and wondered whether they’d be seen. I noticed yours in the “Recent Comments” section and intend to read the article above, but had to chuckle seeing my own reflection in “if you ever read this,” and “this feels like home.”

    -LavenderSage

  • I’m not going to rely on the law and the government to give me rights which I should already have, including how to treat my pain or how to die.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I believe that each of us, if we are truly being honest with ourselves, has a Fates Worse Than Death List: those circumstances/situations we would rather die than life through, or life in the aftermath of. Think about it (something people often try hard to avoid doing)- have you ever read the classic Poe stories? Ever seen the film Open Water? or Boxing Helena? What exactly your list consists of, and why, depends on a lot of things. Mine is based on my own personal values, and what gives my life meaning. I learned long ago that I am, in many ways, essentially different from most people, and this definitely includes my beliefs and values regarding death. I do not belief anyone should ever be asked to suffer that which they find intolerable. Most especially if the person is suffering with no end in sight. And here’s the thing: NOBODY BUT YOU can assess what is tolerable, or for how long, or what circumstances you’d list as a fate worse than death. Because NOBODY BUT YOU experiences your life: your joys, your pain, your sources of meaning and belonging. Nobody can even begin to map that terrain but you. I know that I do not deserve to wither away institutionalized because my body, mind, or both, no longer support me living the life I choose. I will either die by the hand of fate before that time, or by my own hand when I’ve determined my life has reached that crossroads. I’ve stated this to those I love, and let them know that though I do have advance directives, my Prime Directive (to borrow from Star Trek) is: Do Not Call 911, because frankly a DNR is about as much protection as an Order of Protection. Both get routinely discarded. And now that 1 in 6 hospital beds is under the Catholic Bishops’ Directives, they state right in those that their religion trumps the patient’s. No CPR, No Blood, No Intubation, No Meds, just a whole lotta Leave Me Be, Let Me Go, and Do Not Interfere.

    I had the natural birth I chose, and did not get bullied into unnecessary interventions during that vulnerable time, by refusing the very first one: the IV the nurse wanted to place “just in case.” Um, no. I am not going to consent to something that makes it easier to disregard my right to informed consent. No nausea, no dehydration, so no IV.
    By the same token, no 911 means no opportunity for anyone to decide otherwise once I (or fate) have decided it’s my last day.

    I think we all should have the right to die when/how we choose, but I also think it’s shameful of policymakers to force people’s hands who’d much rather have access to whatever works to help them find relief enough that makes their life a Life Worth Living rather than a Fate Worse Than Death.

  • There are people finding cannabis very helpful in breaking free of opiates. And smoking it is not the only option. There are cannabis mints and hard candies, and now even melt-away strips, that begin to take effect as you suck on them, entering your system sublingually and through the cheek/gums. Inhalation brings the quickest pain relief, but we also have endo-cannabinoid receptors in the gut. Lots of people find that eating cannabis-infused food relieves their pain long enough to get a full night’s sleep. The indica strains with a good ratio of CBD to THC are particularly effective for this purpose.

    There are also topical cannabis preparations (balms, salves, lotions and liniments) that are applied directly to the painful area instead of being taken systemically. Just like rubbing alcohol doesn’t get you drunk, topical cannabis doesn’t get you high. Depending on the type and source of the pain, these can be very effective, though the relief is not as long-lasting as eating cannabis edibles. Topicals usually need to be re-applied every couple/few hours.

    The safety and efficacy of cannabis seem pretty well proven, since it’s been used medicinally by so many cultures for centuries– the ancient Egyptians used it! And the side effects are predictable and manageable. I’ve known people who use it for chronic pain, and others who’ve used cannabis to ease the withdrawal from psychopharms, and from opiates.

  • Hi madmom,

    I know this is from awhile ago- this article popped up on the Best of MiA section of the main page; I didn’t catch it fresh. I’ve been reading here, a lurker, for many months and only just recently logged in and started commenting. So though I’m a new voice here, there are many of the frequent commenters I feel allied with, and you are one. I feel hugs for you and your daughter, in my heart, as I read your heart’s struggle and hope and pain and passion and anger and love. I hope along with you for her freedom, and her eventual healing from all the trauma they have put her through, and for understanding of the personal meaning behind the initiation of her altered state that was so terrifying and confusing it sent her and you to seek the help of the wolves in sheep’s clothing. May you both see the day where she is whole and well.

    My mother is one of those martyrs you speak of in your last sentence– though never silent! She is one who has chosen homelessness as a way of life. I want to share some of her story with you here. Her childhood was a horrific one. I know the details, but suffice it to say that she was subjected to neglect (from both poverty and alcoholic parents) and to physical and emotional abuse from infancy. The incest began at age 4; the psychiatrist and his pills, shortly after she started kindergarten. At 15, she suddenly became head of household (in charge of the house, the bills, the younger siblings) when her father was jailed for shooting her brother and her mother had a nervous breakdown. She didn’t know what the pills she took were for– I think she initially was told they were vitamins, and just never questioned swallowing her pills as a child. But she began to question everything she had ever been told, and more importantly not been told, when she got her first period at 16 and thought she was dying. Getting the real truth about that made her start asking questions. And when she started getting answers, she quit the pills cold-turkey. Or her self-medicating version of cold-turkey. But she never got okay; sometimes okay enough, but never for long. And she gets pulled through the revolving door whenever she stars in this play: go to an agency that is supposed to provide a basic human need, like food or shelter, and encounter a series of convoluted hoops to jump through (always) presented in a condescending way by a frontline worker who is burned-out and projecting (often); get legitimately frustrated and pissed-off in public; interact with the management in a loud, obnoxious way using excellent vocabulary they don’t understand, making demands that come off as threats; someone calls the authorities, and off she goes to jail or psych hold.

    My mother is amazing and wise and intuitive beyond belief, and she is feisty and belligerent and dangerous to my emotional well-being; so though I love and admire her, I’ve had to have lots of boundaries with her. When the economy tanked, so did my household finances and we had to cancel redundant bills like cable and home phone (the number she knew by heart), now there’s no way anyone could contact me as her next-of-kin; it’s a situational estrangement. I hope that she is okay, but I will never know if/when she becomes one of those statistics. Thank you for acknowledging her, and the countless others like her. And thank you for being vocal, and involved, and advocating for change.

  • I agree with you Nomadic. I think the grass-roots revolution starts with small acts of rebellion that challenge the paradigm, and the direction this is taking politically, policy-wise. Here is a real-life example: the other day, I went to a dental clinic to have a tooth pulled. After the dental assistant takes my vitals, she starts to ask her list of “routine questions.” First one was whether I felt safe at home. I saw no reason not to support this broad level of assessment for domestic violence, so I responded that yes, I do. However, the next “routine question” was clearly the beginning of a depression screening. This got a very different response: “You are a dental assistant, not my therapist, or my spiritual advisor, or even my hairdresser; you have no business asking about my feelings.” When she replied that she “has to ask,” my response was, “No, you don’t actually; it’s intrusive and inappropriate, and I decline to answer. If you need to fill in a blank, write: MYOB.”

  • Thank you! Being an intern, I was expecting to have to defend that choice when I discussed the session in supervision, but she had the same feedback. It used to bother me to hear that word used: having a “gift,” being a “gifted therapist,” was something I struggled with because it felt like an obligation. It chafed, I think, because it highlighted the dilemma: how to use (and thereby be worthy of) that gift, without absorbing the toxicity of the framework of psychology? Every time I was on the receiving end of that wording (and this was by no means the first person who’d said that, nor was it the last) I felt like the fruit suspended in the jello-o: you can see through it, but you can’t escape the matrix. Have not puzzled that out yet- the MSW sits dusty on a shelf, unused for many years now, but the calling remains. And yet the need for those gifts just keeps growing… I have felt for awhile now that my path is spiraling back to a place where I find a healthy matrix wherein I can truly surrender to those gifts.
    Thank you, Stephen, for providing an opportunity for me to check-in with that word; it does not chafe anymore, it fits comfortably like a shawl around my shoulders.

  • Thank you! It breaks my heart that so many women are cheated out of their birthing rite-of-passage by doctors and nurses who instill the fear and guilt that makes them hand over their power and submit to unnecessary interventions!

    I have also used that homebirth moment, going back to the memory of being the gateway of creation, in times of existential crisis- the times when I feel insufficient. And I loved that experience of surrender- I managed the pain by diving underneath its waves, my consciousness safely in the stillness beneath all that activity, encouraging the tight spiral passage within me to unfurl like a blossoming flower.

    I have never yet reclaimed my body’s strength- was sheltered from any activity that was remotely dangerous as a child, ever-scolded for climbing trees!- but during pregnancy and birthing, I did. I’ve recently discovered that I need to be doing yoga, and never thought of it as a way to create the same surrender conditions and psychic empowerment, as birthing! Thank you for this insight.

  • Oh, Alex, thank you! Such gratitude to you, to the All-That-Is (that healing light you spoke of in another thread) moving through you into this sacred moment! Let me explain:

    So I’ve been sharing very openly here, which has been healing and necessary for me but not comfortable (though Elizabeth’s responses are comforting- you noticed) so I’ve been brave, after lurking here on MiA for months. But I recognize that sometimes I share a bit overmuch overquick. I have come to understand it as a litmus test to see whether someone new is solid ground or quicksand- you gotta discern that quick when you are on a journey and feel you’ve spotted a fellow traveler!
    Okay, so I saw Elizabeth’s last reply and was gonna reply something nod-like, but there was no button for that this time. And I wondered whether that was a superpower she has as an official MiA author, to turn off the button as a kind of a “it’s been great talking with you but I gotta go now” sort of cue. Hear them monsters rustling under the bed? 🙂

    So then I see the email that alerts me there’s more on the thread. Lo and behold, it’s from another fellow traveler I been really jiving on, whose comments in other threads been opening up wonderful avenues of possibility in my awareness! Blowing my mind in the best way, the past few days, been letting it all simmer and steep in me before it settled into words, but knowing I’d approach connecting with you soon.

    So even if I was doing my thing that I do, it was worth every ounce of self-doubt, embarrassment, and awkwardness I felt. Sometimes that is the risk, so worth it, this being the outcome!

    I’d like to share another story, about taking risk, being seen, being of service. Many years ago we had neighbors that we became close with- 2 siblings from a large Polynesian family, and when one of them married we were invited. At the reception, some of their family members (sisters? nieces?) performed amazing hula, and I was mesmerized by one of the women- the energy coming out of her hands, her feet, every nuanced movement of her torso. She was transcendent! She was their sister that I had met once before, at a New Year’s party, and I knew little about her except that she’d had some substance-abuse issues. The performance ended, the drummers stopped and the DJ took over, the party continued on. But after we left, I could not shake the memory of her dance- it was her prayer, it was so much more for her. Did she know? Did she see the power there? This is her healing place, the beat of her dancing heart! Does she know? I saw. I had to tell her! Urgency gripped the pen as soon as I found paper, and I found myself opening to these messages for her, messages from her ancestors. Telling her to dance her way back when she loses her way in the darkness. Telling her these dances are as old as the waves of the sea, that they are the prayers that beckon the ancestors to her call.

    Even as I wrote, I understood the risk that I was taking, risking being mis-understood. By that I do not mean the innocuous “misunderstanding” of the oh-that’s-what-you-meant variety. No, I mean the way the landlord was certain he had a complete understanding of Linda, when he had not the first inkling of her. But transcribing the letter for her (for I was not the author, merely the messenger) was something I felt called to do, having agreed to live a meaningful life, one of service to the highest possible good. And I gave it to the neighbors, who looked at me a bit askance as skeptics do, but they understood about the role of ancestors, and had already had enough experience of me to know that I was coming from a good place, and promised to deliver it. I;m sure their ancestors made sure they followed through on that promise, as much they were “thumping” me to write the letter for them!

  • It was constructed that way! There is a book called The Assault on Truth (here’s the link about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Assault_on_Truth)
    that lays out Freud’s early training experiences, theories, and profession’s reaction to them. It was clear from the very start of the foundations of psychiatry that trauma is at the root of the problems, and Freud sacrificed his patients to his career!

    This is NOT the author’s opinion, by the way. No, this comes direct from Freud‘s own private papers and writings and correspondence! Psychiatry has been a self-serving sham from its very inception!

  • I think you’re onto something there, Nomadic. When I was a kid, one of the biggest reasons I felt profoundly sad and lonely around the winter holidays was this constant stream of Norman Rockwell happy family imagery that the advertisers bombard us with, and how my own family did not measure up. The ramped-up nostalgia caused a deep longing to recapture a family dynamic that had never been real in my family in the first place.

    I love how you envision an inclusive community at the end, where no group is “othered.” Count me in.
    Blessed Be the Revolution!

  • All the things Steve McCrea said below, I echo.

    Liz, I understand that midwifery is afforded the respect it deserves in other countries. Unfortunately, it is quite different here in the US. Each state sets its own laws and regulations. In some states, it is highly regulated; in others, less so. My midwife had no formal medical degree, but extensive training via experience (assisting more senior birth attendants), and had a longstanding transfer agreement with a local OB who would take over my care in the event of an emergency. I trusted her, based on her level of expertise, yes, but also based on my own gut instincts. We lived in a state where it was legal for her, a “lay midwife” to be my birth attendant. In other states, it would not have been, because they have laws that require all birth attendants to have a nurse-midwife degree at minimum.

    My point is: Who should choose how much training is sufficient, and what that training must include? The individual in need of service? Or the bureaucracies (government, professional societies, etc.)?

  • Hi Frank, I think Gary may have omitted a necessary piece of punctuation. It takes on a very different meaning if you add a comma:

    “the large majority of people receiving core psychiatric services are not under section, yet still seek the help”

    Kinda like the difference between:
    “It’s dinnertime. Let’s go eat, Grandma!” (Grandma’s been invited to dinner) vs. “It’s dinnertime. Let’s go eat Grandma!” (Grandma is the dinner)
    Grammar saves lives 😀

  • Yes! Healing is found in genuine, open human connection. In one of my MSW internships, one of my roles was doing weekly in-home counseling sessions with seniors who had health issues that mostly kept them home-bound. One of my clients had a stretch of almost two months where every single week a new tragic and overwhelming event had happened in her immediate family: husband in ICU with a health crisis; sibling died suddenly from cancer; one of her grown children suffered a near-fatal heart attack, another a debilitating stroke. Blow after blow. And when, after she had endured all that, the next week brought her a fresh tragedy, I decided that the very best thing I could do for her was to sit with her and hold her hand and cry with her. My heart was breaking for her losses, and I did not attempt to close my heart to her so that I could maintain some sort of professional distance. She needed the opposite: my presence, steadfastly with her in the moment of her deepest grief. And because I did not close, she did not have to either. She was able to release emotions in my presence (being so present there for her), emotions that she felt the need to hide the depth of from her friends and family, to protect them. Just being present with her, remaining open to her amid the enormity of her pain, was the most emotionally healing experience I could provide.

  • I agree with: The real question is “Should people who help other people with their emotional and psychological problems be paid?” but I see another question being raised here: “Should people who help other people with their emotional and psychological problems be under some official authority?”

    I’m reminded of the debate about midwifery. Many birthing women are mistreated in the same way as “mental patients,” subjected to drugs and other interventions despite their objections/refusals. Some women have responded to this situation by refusing to turn to traditional OB care and arrange to have their birth at home or an alternative birthing center, with a birth attendant that they are most trusting of and comfortable with. Should a pregnant woman be “allowed” to choose a homebirth? Should she be “allowed” to choose a layperson whose experience and judgement she trusts, to be her birth attendant? Or must the state protect her from that choice by prohibiting anyone without official medical training from providing that service?

  • Thanks for having this conversation, Elizabeth! I gotta confess to feeling a bit like Linda, in the sense of being a tad overwhelmed by your warm reception to my responses, and your genuine interest. Our interaction is being very good for me- really making me miss Catherine, waves of grief crashing on my shore, opportunities to work that. So, deep thanks!

    You are right- been feisty all my life (and many of the past lives I remember too; it’s a constant); and you’re right that I’ve been through a lot. If all the traumas in my life were a buffet, that story would probably rank with the jello: mild, easy to take in. Not that I’m trying to medal in the Trauma Olympics or anything 🙂 just being real.

    I, too, am glad I have been able to claim a healthy sexuality. Actually, the discovery that I was bi came right on the heels of my first time having sex with a woman, which was not exactly consensual. I had a boyfriend who plied me with alcohol and heavily coerced me to have sex with our friend Karen so he could watch (a fantasy of his). And though that emotional experience with him was rape-slimy, the experience I had with her left me with a lot to think about because I really enjoyed it. Separating those two aspects of the experience was not at all difficult, which surprises me because I was really drunk; I have a low tolerance since I rarely drink. But I went out with my best friend the next night, to our favorite dance club- which was also the town’s coolest gay bar- and talked to her a bit about it all on the drive, my confidante. And I’m out on the dance floor, and out of nowhere I’m hit with this poem about my high school best friend. For me, I get inspired and the words wanna come out in a rush, grabbed napkins off the bar and dug a pen out of my purse, and the words fly out. And when I read it the next day, really read it, I realized I’d had feelings for her that were much more than I had felt safe at the time to admit to anyone, myself included. That poem was my coming out, to myself. (It’s in a journal of mine; if I come across it, I might share it here.)

    It’s kind of a miracle that instead of damaging my sexuality, that experience actually clarified it. Despite what instigated it, my experience with Karen opened the door to a path of self-discovery that allowed me to fall in love with my wife. And for that I am grateful. We have had a real path together- often it’s been beautiful, but sometimes really messy, and on rare occasion downright ugly! Whoever it was that said “Marriage ain’t for sissies!” was not lying! But I suspect you know that 🙂 I read your story Passage, and am so glad that you also found your Person- the one who gets you, and always genuinely wants to and tries to, even when they can’t. I do have that in my wife. But she’s no Catherine.

    Can I just take a minute and talk about that loss? I got Catherine when we were both in grad school- her pursuing her counseling degree, me my MSW. I sought therapy as it was highly suggested by my Family Therapy professor, because the coursework included constructing our own genogram, and as you begin looking at your own family in that context, issues often come up so it’s good self-care to have that support on-board. I concurred, and contacted Catherine to set up an interview-, not an appointment, but an initial consult wherein I would lay out my conditions, and determine by her reactions whether this would be a good fit. I explained that I’d had negative experiences with the “mental health” field before, and knew quite well what I needed as well as what would be harmful. She had to agree to view herself as my witness on my journey, not an expert. She had to be willing to earn my trust by pulling out my file without hesitation if I asked to review it. She had to be very self-aware and not allow vicarious traumatization to occur for her, and never ever expect me to take care of her emotionally. She had to agree to never pathologize me or assign a dx; I paid her out-of-pocket, sliding scale. Most important, she had to accept that I was the only author of my story, the only one able to know what rings true for me. That’s not to say she was not allowed to challenge me to look deeper, or consider a different perspective; I’m more than willing to do that. But when I say what rings true and doesn’t, my inner wisdom will always trump another’s learned knowledge. She was good with all that. Never once did she disrespect me, or judge me, or make any attempt to subjugate me, or “water-down” anything I expressed. Irreplaceable.

    Thank you for listening, Elizabeth. I miss Catherine a lot. Losing her is so very hard. This helps.

  • I so totally agree with you Alex. Being a support to someone in distress or experiencing an extreme state shouldn’t be considered the purview of any particular profession. I heard a definition of a shaman once (don’t know where; attribution is not my strong suit) as someone who has been through hell and out the other side, so has a map. I trust “Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.” way more than “Went to school to study that. Wrote a paper on it. So I’m an expert.” every day of the week. Doctors as a category, but psychiatrists in particular, in my experience, demand a level of trust they have not earned.

  • “People generally do not want to see they are being/have been abusive; that can be a hard truth to own and the guilt from awakening to that can be overwhelming.”

    Everyone who enters a “mental health” profession has the duty to be able to handle deep self-examination. If they can’t handle that heat, they’ve got no business near other peoples’ kitchens! Psychiatrists cannot be afforded the luxury of lacking insight into their own motivations, or the consequences of their behaviors. If they can’t take a good hard look inward, go into another line of work. (Lay tile, mix grout, prune bonsai trees, but don’t go near vulnerable hearts and minds!) They have not earned the right to guide others on a journey they can’t handle themselves!

  • Thank you J! If we had a time machine, I’d loan you the set of brass balls I acquired in that time of my life!

    Like I said, this was on the heels of almost back-to-back births. I was very in touch with my body’s wisdom at this point, because I’d had experiences around pregnancy/birth that made it impossible not to be. When I first got pregnant, I kept having periods for like 3 months, so had no physical signs to suspect pregnancy. But my body knew, and my psyche knew too- I kept having two very distressing thoughts/gut feelings: that someone was stealing my stuff; and that I could never get even a moment alone to myself. Newly-married, we were sharing an apartment with my best friend to split the rent, and I’d come home from work and literally check that my belongings were exactly where I left them. Nothing was ever amiss, and I thought I was going bonkers, until my body caught up and stopped the monthly and my boobs got suddenly very sore which prompted peeing on a stick. I was immediately relieved because both those pervasive thoughts make total sense in the context of getting pregnant! And as soon as I knew I was pregnant, I knew a couple other things: baby was a girl, and she was gonna be big, 9 or 10 lbs. So then came the due date dilemma: usually, they calculate this based on last menstruation, but that was obviously unreliable so they estimated based on her femur length from ultrasound images. And their calculations were based on the average birth weight, not the big baby I was carrying, so they were convinced she was due about 3 weeks earlier than the date she finally decided to arrive. So the pressure to induce. Nope, not based on your guesstimate, that’s not a good enough reason to risk the complications. Then the concerns that the baby is getting big (I knew that going in, so this was a non-concern for me) and that that could be an indicator of gestational diabetes. Okay, so then we test to rule-out that problem. Glucose tolerance test was negative, and I made it clear that unless there was evidence of a problem, no more talk of inducing. When active labor finally hit and I went to the hospital, I refused the IV they wanted to put in “just in case.” I had the unmedicated birth I had planned; the baby was a few ounces shy of 10 pounds, just as I’d known she’d be.

    We got pregnant again right away (an oops!) and the doctor I ended up with for this one seemed okay at first, but over time it became clear that he was pushing for a C-section. I was 7 1/2 months along when he made it clear he felt entitled to override my decisions if he decided that to do so was in my best interest. I fired him on the spot, got dressed without even waiting for him to exit the room, and politely requested my medical file from the receptionist (she gave me a form for that) and left without a second thought.

    Nobody challenges my right to bodily autonomy. And I will never cede to anyone else the right to determine what is in my best interest because it is me and mine that will be stuck with the consequences!

    So yeah, I was already a veteran of firing uppity doctors who don’t know their place! 🙂

    – and in case you’re curious, I found a midwife a few days after firing the OB, had the baby perfectly healthy at home. Baby #2 was still over 9 pounds, but I had not one tear, not one stitch.

  • In the late 80s I turned to a psychiatrist for help because I was having a very hard time dealing with life, having the will or the energy to do even the most basic self-care tasks, and had 2 babies barely a year apart to care for on my own. He diagnosed depression, prescribed prozac, and scheduled a follow-up appt for a month later. I tried the pills but quickly found the effects intolerable (a sense of being inside a bubble of not-feeling) and quit taking them. When he asks at the next appt how the pills are working and I tell him I’d quit taking them, he demands to know who told me I could stop. As if I needed anyone’s permission! I disabused him of the notion that he was in charge: “I am the only one living my life, feeling my body, thinking my thoughts. I am the expert on my experience; you aren’t. Your role here is as a consultant, not an authority. But your ego seems to require a power differential in this relationship, which is the opposite of therapeutic, so you’re fired.”

  • Hi Elizabeth! Thanks so much for replying to my response!
    I learned pretty early that I had to hold tight o my authentic self or risk losing annihilation of it. From before birth, my purpose in my family was set out for me as fulfilling others’ needs and agendas. Conceiving me provided my teenage mother an escape from her horrific home life when she came to live with my father’s parents- my grandparents were thrilled to have a baby girl in their home that they could pretend was theirs (this grandmother had longer for a little girl to dress pretty ever since she was a little girl herself, but only ever had boys). But I was often at odds with her: I was not quiet, I did not “go along” and I insisted on my point of view being heard even before I had the words to articulate it. I was feisty, like my mother, which Mammaw hated. I was that kid in Sunday school who insisted on knowing how Adam and Eve’s kids had kids, not the kid who would drop the subject because it flustered the adults. And I was stubborn, in the sense that I refuse to cede to someone simply on the basis of their authority. So she quit acknowledging my existence when, at age 7, I refused to sign up for another year of tap dancing and insisted on baton twirling instead. Being alone with her was awful, but school was no refuge either- I had no friends, and had been the object of torment, ridicule, and well-declared ostracism since kindergarten. That’s the first existential crisis I recall, wondering whether (like that tree falling in the forest) you cease to exist when there is no one to acknowledge the fact that you do. Profound loneliness, and the first deep spelunking ensued.

    For me, the need to be known, to be understood (or, at the very least, not mis-understood) is primal, vital as breathing, and as impossible to repress as the need to pee!

    Claiming my authentic self has not been easy, because so much of my identity goes against the grain: at 8, I knew I was a Feminist (capital F) though I may not have known the word. I knew that it wasn’t fair that boys got things girls didn’t (like early dismissal to be a crossing guard) so I told the school principal what I thought of that and became the first girl crossing guard. This was at a Baptist school, same school where 2 years later I kissed a girl under the mistletoe, and was confounded by the ensuing uproar. I grew up in the 70s in the Midwest, though, so the notion of bisexuality didn’t even really occur to me until my early 20s, so I was a bit late coming out of that closet. I discovered Wicca as a teenager, though, and came out of the broom closet as a Witch. After 2 short marriages, I realized that though my sexual orientation (who I’m happy sharing a bed with) was bi, my relational orientation (who I’m happy sharing a home/life with) was not, and my wife and I celebrated 20 years together last month. Our vows did not include fidelity, though, because I had discovered another facet of my identity is that I am polyamorous, not monogamous. What we promised is to each walk our path with integrity and support the other in doing the same. And we mostly have.

    But now I’m standing in the threshold of another closet, about to declare my identity as one of the Mad, and make a wider reveal than I’ve had to do. In December, I lost my therapist of 17 years. This is what I wrote in my journal a few weeks later:

    i never understood until just recently how much it meant to have someone in my corner who understood the entire ball of wax- catherine knew all the challenges i face, all the time, all the things you just dont sport around, what nobody sees because it’s just too much, and too ugly in places and too sad, and too likely to get you judged. catherine was already with me on the journey when a whole lotta shit surfaced for me and the picture of this life started to make sense. she was my witness, she never flinched from even the hardest doscoveries, she earned the trust to hold it all with me.
    and now catherine is gone.
    i feel this loss, of her as someone who was an unblemished mirror- could see me, all of me, take me in and reflect me back, warts and all as they say, no warp in the reflection. i had no idea how much i needed her for this- to be known by someone I could always count on to know what it takes for me to live my life, to know the scope of the energy it takes sometimes just to be ok enough to get by,

  • I’m also reminded of an experience I had in my junior year of college, which for me didn’t happen until my mid-20s. I had decided to add Social Work as a double major (was already getting BS in Clinical Psych, which I later came to realize was my way of knowing the enemy, learning the tools/lingo of their oppression so it could not be turned on me, but that’s another post) because I preferred the systems approach: that asks not “what is wrong with you?,” but rather, “What has happened to you?” and “What is wrong with the systems you are immersed in, or their point of contact with you?” as the starting point to address distress. And I had had a lot of distress, definitely falling into that Wounded Healer category. So one of the classes I added had a community-service component and I decided to do my hours at the local state hospital, but their regular volunteer activities did not fit my crowded schedule so other arrangements were made for me, and I got to do my service hours in activities that other volunteers had rarely participated in. But it took awhile to arrange so I started late. So when I accompanied a group into the gym for volleyball and a long-time patient introduced himself by name and dx, and asked essentially “so what’re you in here for?” and I grinned and stuck out my hand and said “volleyball- I’m a volunteer, and this is my first week. It’s good to meet you!” and the guy was so embarrassed, like he had offended me by assuming I was a patient (not at all!) and tried to explain: “You don’t act like a volunteer! They all act real scared and keep checking where the door is and if anyone gets close they really get nervous! But you didn’t act like a Staff either, you know, all in-charge, looking-down-your-nose. Your smile was too real to be a Staff. So, yeah, I assumed you were one of us. I’m real sorry!” I told him, sincerely, “Not at all; in fact, I take it as a high compliment. I believe people ought to treat people like they are people too, no matter what, so thank you very much for letting me know I’m doing okay with that!”
    I was the only one in the room who knew that about a year and a half prior, I’d spent a couple weeks in a Respite Center deciding whether and how to live on after swallowing plenty enough sleeping pills to die. Somebody called an ambulance and ER docs pumped my stomach, but I’d ingested a lot and was unable to carry on a conversation (high as a kite!) so they let me sleep it off but insisted I talk to a social worker before I checked myself out AMA. I agreed to that, and the guy was very real with me, somebody I felt I could be a bit real with too. They had just opened the Respite Center- was out in nature, very tranquil, private rooms. I read the rules of the place and their mission statement, and there were no contradictions in the two. So I checked myself in there. The staff were ever-present, available, supportive but not intrusive. I did a lot of reading, and writing, and sitting out on the back patio that faced a forest. I was there almost a week and still pretty angry at having had my plan to be free of all that tremendous pain I was in be thwarted. It was night, and I shook my fist at the sky full of stars and issued my ultimatum to the All-That-Is (what some would call “God” but I do not) that if I would not be supported in pursuing death, I’d damn well better be supported in living because this half-assed life of barely surviving the emotional blows that just kept coming too hard and too fast was not acceptable! I set out my conditions for continuing: that each next step in my path be illuminated, recognizable, and that everything I’d need to take that next step would always be provided. I demanded that my life from there on out had to be meaningful, and do-able. “You do that,” I said, “and I will live on faith. But you gotta provide, or I am outta here!” After about a week of inhabiting that mind-space, the staff and I both agreed that I was strong enough to leave and be okay. And I pretty much was. I found new sources of strength, some that had been there awhile and just needed to know I was needing it, but also places within that really only get spelunked in the depths of existential crisis.

    Nobody but me knew that even though I was playing volleyball as a volunteer that day, it was not long before that I’d had my turn serving from the other side of the net, so to speak. But it showed, and I was glad to have been seen.

  • Thank you so much for writing this, Elizabeth!
    And thank you for seeing Linda- in another time/place/culture, she would have been recognized as a shaman, someone who has placed herself in the deepest part of the river of consciousness in order to serve her community and bring them the wisdom. Her community would have graciously received her gifts, demonstrating their appreciation for her service by seeing to her physical needs in this world while she is Otherworldly, and address her as Wise Teacher upon her return.

    So many of us hide in plain sight! You inspired me to write this poem:

    Playing in the Shards

    The sign says: I Make Jewelry from Recycled Stained Glass!

    It does not say that I play in the shards to create beauty from brokenness, but that is what I do. It does not convey the sacred healing wisdom that is enacted each time I transform a pattern that was fused in the flame, the power I reclaim as I crack the patterns I want to re-form, re-arrange, into a new creation of my own design. The sign does not betray the kinship I feel to these broken bits, because I have been shattered, so many times; and though some would look at these sharp, jagged edges and feel they aren’t safe to hold, or look at, or gaze through– indeed, most would insist they be swept up and tossed in the trash (carefully wrapped in newspapers first!)– I see their inherent value, their remaining beauty, their potential to be more. My shards are never discarded- they tell the stories; yes, of the blows that shattered, of the pressure that caused the cracks, yes, but also the tale from there. Of how even the smallest sliver has its place, that even the tiniest chip of mirror has something to reflect.

    No, the sign simply says : I Make Jewelry from Recycled Stained Glass!