Chaya- Thanks for this thoughtful piece provoking thoughts into this very crucial topic. I’m a perfect example of someone like this that has been labeled disabled and got onto disability. For years I struggled to make ends meet dealing with PTSD and sever depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease 3 years ago and I’ve been dealing with that ever since. For the longest time I refused to go on disability. My counselor recommended it seeing the conditions I was struggling with she thought that I needed a rest from having to face the daily stresses of trying to pay rent. I never had a stable home because I couldn’t deal with people very well and I had super sensitivities to certain things and situations. I felt like I was fighting for my very life. When I was younger I was much more resilient to the stress but when I hit my forties I couldn’t cope as well and I got physically ill. I never did take drugs but for a few short times. I took anti-depressants for almost 3 months but I felt worse than ever. For some reason I never believed that drugs could help me, so even though I tried anti-depressants a few times I never saw any change. I just felt toxic and found that my moods were still as disturbed as ever. It does take time to heal but for me one of the factors has been exactly as you describe in your article. Perception. While disability is barely enough to survive on it covered my rent and I’ve never been in one place as long as I’ve been here. It has offered me a stabilizing factor I could not give myself any more….I too feel some shame and embarrassment being of white male privilege, but what I came to realize is people like me do not choose to be in this position. Sure there are those who face life’s challenges by using drugs or alcohol or psych meds and getting on disability benefits and this is truly taking advantage of the system to sustain a deep pattern or habit of destructive behavior for oneself. Then there are those who would attempt to recover and get trained or go to school drug and med free. Both are, in my opinion, very similar at their core, but one might be more aware of the possibilities and options they have for healing and recovery. I believe there are fewer of us who choose to suffer than of those who would step toward healing. Some folks may have chosen to never move beyond what they know but I believe most would given the chance. What is this chance? This is where the construct of our social service structure and our communities play a role. What we lack in these areas is apparent to me but also what help is offered is apparent at some level, so I believe I can get the support I need in the end. Not everyone sees it or experiences it this way and the demographic we are focusing on with these questions has a large impact. Again I become aware of my privileged status, but so many people come from much more challenged upbringings than I do and are faced with adversities I can only imagine. With that being said then I question the core of the issue. I think your article touches into that Chaya. At the core of this issue is how we perceive ourselves and how we have been trained to see our world and our situation. Artists and healers live in every one of us and while some of us are more tuned into that aspect of ourselves I believe no one is more special than anyone else. We are all capable of these sensitivities if we allow ourselves to wake up to them. These traits are quite human and they do make it challenging to show up at a desk forty hours per week for a paycheck, or labor in the trades as I’ve done. I’ve had tremendous difficulty in the work world and I associate that with the core of this issue again, being that our families and communities are severed lifelines. Sure some of us have community, but mostly those people are set up to fit into “acceptable” social parameters of enjoying communities and they are often not focused on healing for an individual. Indigenous cultures have had ritual and ceremony addressing illnesses in their communities, seeing them as part of the whole and as a necessary piece for the community and it’s ability to thrive. Modern culture shuns people who are not in the position to fit into these frail structures and attempts at community structure. Don’t get me wrong, I commend all attempts at bettering people’s lives and situations but it’s such a vast ocean, how do we begin? I agree with the notion that we are not ill when we struggle in these ways but we are severed from our connection to ourselves, other human beings, and our communities, and therefore we may also suffer from deep imbalances that come with the results of said severance. Eventually we become ill. Some become ill very young and will need much more to step up and out into health again. But again is this an illness or just a series of mechanistic reactive protections that human beings are so very good at entrenching their psyches into? If so can love heal all wounds and where can we find such love? Is that even appropriate? It would seem that the kind of love and nurturing human beings need after traumatic living is the very kind that cannot be offered to them through modern medicine and its approaches. The sterility there can often be as traumatizing as ones sordid past. There is an barely perceptible air of a client being less than healthy, or functional, that one must succumb to if one would like to get help or services, but it is there. We are asked to embody a state of victimization or “woundedness” when we are in the mainstream health cycle, and this may not always be the case but in my experience the more wounded and crazy I seemed the more help I was offered. If I was self empowered, and centered in my being then I’d be sent on my way with a prescription for paxil and a diagnosis of mild depression. So its much easier to get into the role of mentally ill than to face what I’ve spent my whole life trying to face with minor success wouldn’t you say? I do not see one single need for psychiatric drugs if we begin to look at the root and core of theses issues and how they evolved and came to be in the first place. More importantly I think beginning to see the issues at the core and find new ways to focus the mental health system on supporting those who need a helping hand. There are no simple solutions and I have no answers here, but I do believe that family and community are at the foundation of the problem and the kind of help that is available is frozen by bureaucracy and red tape. We need to be pretty “mentally ill” if we are even accepted onto the disability status and having that title does not help to shift our health and self image to one of power. Those who suffer physical, emotional, spiritual imbalances can become stronger for them and they are certainly not weak. Those who have recovered show us the potentials in their actions. Thanks again for this great post and apologies for a long winded response but this resonates very potently for me and some of what I’ve had to face in finding my way. Thanks everyone and may we all find balance and peace in the present and may our actions benefit all living things.