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“I’ll say it loud and I’ll say it clear. I am not mentally ill, never was, never have been, never will be. I am a survivor of abuse and I believe that I have had a perfectly natural human reaction to terrible experiences. And to frame my responses as illness, I think, is offensive. And I think we spend far too long talking about what’s going on in people’s brains, and not enough time talking about what’s happened in people’s lives.”—Jacqui Dillon, The Personal is Political
“In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born. What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.”—The Shamanic View of Mental Illness by Stephanie Marohn (featuring Malidoma Patrice Somé)
Coming Out Crazy zine submission deadline extended to January 31st
call for submissions below (also please remember this is not my zine)
Coming Out Crazy is a zine for self-love, fighting ableism, and breaking the silence around ‘disordered’ minds and mental health issues.
Coming Out Crazy is a zine for self-love, fighting ableism, and breaking the silence around ‘disordered’ minds and mental health issues.
We are seeking written (personal narratives/rants/poetry/etc) submissions about your experiences with mental health issues.
In particular, we are looking for submissions about:
- Personal narratives
- How your mental health affects and/or is affected by other aspects of your identity and social position
- Medicalization of mental health and encounters with health care professionals
- Stigma and silencing
- ‘Coming out’ stories
- Self-love and support
Submissions are due January 31.
Please email submissions to email@example.com
For visual art submissions, please ensure they are no less than 6” at 300dpi.
Please forward widely and invite your friends!
psychology is the worst field, like ever. i’m convinced that it’s more corrupt than finance or banking because it’s violence is usually masqueraded as altruism. it’s fundamentally flawed with it’s methodology & biological / anatomical determinism, and it doesn’t have the language or even the capacity to address it’s own shortcomings. not to mention that the behavioral norms studies in the psych lab have direct impacts on producing cultural norms which marginalize / oppress. or that when folks dont have options about what psych drugs they do or dont want to take with our shitty health care system and all, people fucking die.
i was a psych major at one of the progressive liberal arts programs in the country for the first half of my undergrad, and
even especially archetypical humanisticy psychology pissed me off with it’s nonsensical gestures towards essential notions of soul, character, and being.
all of this factors into my decision to move home & attend community organizing-oriented social work graduate school in new york. i’m legitimately terrified that even one semester of clinically orientated psych stuff at university of maryland will make me homicidal.
i still haven’t made my official decision though. i broke down & got an extension.
Questions on Radical Mental Health (from Readin & Fightin #3)
“The client sitting in front of me is the reality created by oppression. I tell her I’m glad we are in this together. Strength comes because we are involved; we are figuring a way out, she and I. We are not crying helplessly; ours is not a cry in failure.”
―Quoted in “Voices of the Pioneers,” Lakshmy Parameswaran, Shout Out
Last fall I was asked to give a workshop on revolutionary organizing along with two of my friends, all 3 of us women of color. We were supposed to talk about what we’d each worked on in the two years since we graduated college. I sheepishly admitted that in the past year I’d dropped off almost everything I was working on and had been busy instead with therapy, adjusting to psych meds for the first time, learning how to be in a healthy relationship, and sorting out the psych diagnosis no one had told me I had. Most of the people at the workshop were college students, and I think they came expecting easy answers; instead I could only tell them my experiences of the past year and pose more questions. I told them about what it’s like to not have insurance and go to a state-run free mental health clinic: the front parking space is for a state cop car and there are cops walking around inside; you empty your pockets, go through a metal detector, and open your bag for a search when you go in; you often aren’t trusted with pills for more than two weeks at a time.
Despite all that my experience has overall been really positive. I feel better than when I first went in last summer, I am learning important skills and asking myself huge questions, and after being a little more pushy than I was raised to be, I am in therapy with a psychiatrist to work on things tailored to my diagnosis. I bump into regulars from Food Not Bombs, and we now have much deeper conversations over lunch about our mental health experiences. My zine-partner-in-crime and I have been stocking up on mental health zines for our distro. And as always, I’m taking something I’m supposed to be ashamed of and instead talking about it publicly.
So what does this have to do with women of color literature? For starters, oppression manifests itself in our personal lives in many ways, and in turn affects our health and access to caring for health or being cared for by others. Current national debates about health care, food access, and abortion rights make this pretty clear, but also have many subtleties. In the past year, for example, I have been thinking nonstop about the image of black women as everyone else’s tireless backbone and how this pressure keeps us from seeking help for our own mental health or admitting to “weaknesses”, and that is even if we have access to resources that may help. I am in therapy now for post-traumatic stress disorder, which comes from the 3 1/2 years I spent as a teenager in an abusive relationship, and being sexually assaulted many times in that relationship. I had pretty much no resources that I knew of to get out, and no knowledge of what abusive relationships are and how they work. I see my experience as completely linked to gender-, race-, and sexuality-based oppression/power (class has also played a part, more now than during the relationship). These are things I read about in the books this zine is about, but also things I live.
For women of color, the ways we navigate oppression as individuals and as groups informs how we are doing, and often becomes the setting of what we read and write.
In the workshop we gave, I mostly threw out questions I’m trying to find answers to. In this zine, I want to work out places to find possible answers. Some of those questions are:
How are poverty and mental health linked in a vicious cycle?
How can health and well-being become intrinsic parts of social movements?
Why is there instead often a culture of overworking yourself for the sake of The Movement, and expecting others to do the same? How might this leave people behind who know they cannot do this to themselves? Who is it most likely to leave behind?
How can we radicalize mental health? What resources do radical movements have, and how can we make the most of them in creating healthy movements?
How can we move beyond judgment in taking care of ourselves? e.g. “I can work this hard without sleeping so why can’t you?” “I don’t take pharmaceutical drugs so you shouldn’t either.”
How do oppression and privilege affect our access to health resources? How do they directly and indirectly impair our health?
How do we stay positive (or at least not totally hopeless) in a world with so many messed up things happening?
I don’t intend to answers all (or any!) of these questions in this zine; they’re open-ended anyhow. They set up a context of questions I try to find possible answers for.
hey, other Aspies & Auties in the DC area!! wanna maybe join this group?
Um, quick personal-ish post but this is also relevant to the group. (This is Jordan, by the way. Hi again.) Basically just talking to folks on the autistic spectrum right now.
So, I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Apparently I’ve been an Aspie forever and just didn’t know it because nobody bothered to think of that except me (eventually). Anyway, although I’ve been an Aspie for my whole life, things like having a name for and an identity with regard to my experiences, and finding out there’s a whole community of Aspies and Auties & other peeps (i don’t know all the terminology yet) and I finally actually belong somewhere.. that’s totally new to me, and overwhelming… but in a good, happy way, like a room full of puppies (or whatever good, happy thing you like).
Anyway, I know that radical mental health has not been anywhere near good enough about prioritizing folks with disabilities, absolutely including folks on the autistic spectrum and other neurodiverse peeps — in fact, a former friend of mine (to whom I was also unfortunately an asshole a lot of the time because I wasn’t dealing with my internalized ableism - I’m so sorry E!) got fed-up enough with that and other ableism from some allistic members of The Icarus Project that he gave up on radical mental health altogether, which is completely understandable to me, but a fucking shame that it had to come to that — and there is absolutely no excuse for that. I want to try to change that if I can, as much as I can, partly with this group. I figure one way to start that is to have more people in the group who are on the autistic spectrum than just me so the group will be more diverse and there will be more different experiences talked about, and so on. I think it’d be great if this group were not just a radical mental health group, but a group that celebrates neurodiversity as well. But I know it’s a big thing to ask, and the last thing I want to do is bring other Aspies and Auties into a potentially fucked-up group of predominately (as far as I know) allistic people. I’m just kind of mulling over this.
To be honest, I’m incredibly hesitant to join groups (or do a lot of other things involving lots of human interaction) because it’s stressful as hell, and I’ve wondered to myself more than a few times, “What the fuck am I thinking trying to organize a group?!”. With that in mind, maybe if we get enough people, we could actually have a separate neurodiverse group of some sort, if that would be better, and then anyone who also wanted to go to the radical mental health group could do that as well. Just a thought.
Also, if you don’t want to or can’t really deal with joining the group, I’d still love it if anyone has any advice for me with regard to making the group as welcoming to, supportive of and hopefully not fucked up toward Autistic folks as realistically possible! You can send a message on here, or email the group (dcradmadness AT riseup DOT net), or hit us up on Facebook or something (there’s a group called DC Radical Mental Health with a green leaf icon, that’s us). I’m the only one who checks these things as of right now, so you’ll probably just get me. If you just wanna definitely talk to me personally though, please feel free to drop me a line - asskickatron AT riseup DOT net, or hit me up on Tumblr at “dancelikeyrfighting”.
- Jordan, co-founder & organizer
The tag “radical mental health” is always almost entirely people talking about oppressive shit, usually ableist shit, that’s been said or done in the name of The Icarus Project, a supposedly radical mental health collective that tries to speak for a much broader range of mental health issues than they actually can. It seems to mostly be about bipolar “disorder” (put it in quotes cause I’m not gonna call someone else’s shit a disorder, I’ll let individuals decide about what they deal with). I recommend checking out things under that tag to see some of the criticism of Icarus Project. I just finally read their zine “Friends Make the Best Medicine” this week; I’ll write about it later but I had some definite problems with it (I mean come one, that title!)
“Instead of viewing the experiences of madness as a “dis-ability,” which can be a stigmatizing putdown, it is helpful to view those of us who go through emotional extremes as having “diverseability.” Society must accommodate the needs of sensitive, creative, emotionally wounded, and unusual people who make contributions to the community beyond the standards of competition, materialism, and individualism. To truly help people who are labelled mentally ill, we need to rethink what is “normal,” in the same way we are rethinking what it means to be unable to hear, without sight, or with limited physical mobility. We need to challenge able-ism in all forms, and question the wisdom of adapting to an oppressive and unhealthy society, a society that is itself quite crazy. Our needs are intertwined with the broader needs of social justice and ecological sustainability.”—Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs, The Icarus Project (PDF)
atapestryofdisasters replied to your post: The tag “radical mental health” is always almost…
ooh… i look forward to hearing your thoughts. a friend recently asked me & another friend (both with mental health disabilities) what we thought of Icarus & i hadn’t heard of them. i hate the whole system so… i am skeptical of everything, LOL.
I don’t know a ton about them either, but what I have seen has been well intentioned but problematic. They try to encompass all mental health issues, and they also try to argue that things aren’t disorders, that they’re actually gifts that people can learn to appreciate. Which can be true, for some things. Or you can learn to appreciate how your brain works without calling it a gift, but just accept it. But I don’t want to impose that on anyone, I don’t want to tell someone not to complain because don’t they know that’s a gift.
What I know of Icarus, it seems like they focus on people diagnosed with bipolar “disorder” and taking away the way that’s pathologized—and that’s awesome and necessary. But if that’s their focus, then they need to be honest about it and not then project onto other mental health issues based on that.
I just finished reading their zine “Friends Make the Best Medicine” and I’ll be honest, a lot didn’t apply to my shit. I really don’t feel like I have any “dangerous gifts” that are being medicated away. I’m interested in them using a harm-reduction model for approaching psych meds, but again it’s from a bipolar-centric standpoint. I don’t like being judged as being less radical for being on psych meds: yes, I know they are made and marketed by really big bad corporations, and yes I believe you that some herbs might also be helpful but I know nothing about herbalism, no one judging me on this has instead taught me much about herbalism, and I really just need to make it through my day okay.
Friends and community are really really not enough for everyone, especially if you are marginalized within that community (and I mean srsly, the shit that can pass for radical community? I’ll just take my meds). Friends and community aren’t even helpful or possible for everyone, so again, it’s not a fair projection. Many posts on tumblr under the tag “radical mental health” are written by people on the autistic spectrum who point out that solutions to mental health issues that rely so heavily on socializing are just not realistic for everyone. And there are plenty of other situations where friends, no matter how awesome or radical, are NOT gonna be the best medicine.
So, my answer is: good idea, important work, unrealistically broad scope, problematic but not doomed.
“Write the story that you were always afraid to tell. I swear to you that there is magic in it, and if you show yourself naked for me, I’ll be naked for you. It will be our covenant
― Dorothy Allison
TRIGGER WARNING: Mental Heath, Panic Attacks, Disassociation, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, trauma
I walked around the library, deciding to get a book on it. The thing I’ve been diagnosed with, or whatever, the thing my therapist says to “wear lightly”. The thing I’m scared to talk about. The reason I’ve felt. The reason I read and read and reread that Danielle Steel book about her son, because I thought my diagnosis was similar to his, and they said I had too, for years. The reason I wrote so many sad poems. Maybe, the reason I wrote the ones that never really made sense. The ones I didn’t remember. So I subject searched “borderline personality.” There were four books, two which were different copies of the same thing. I’ve been told it’s a secret. Many people have told me: you do not want this. It’s a scary, violent thing, they say. You can’t trust this sort of person. A psychiatrist told me that once, when I told him I thought maybe my lover had it, because I thought maybe we both did. I was there for my anxiety. Again. The reason that if she goes to the store, I cry. If she sends a text that doesn’t say I love you, I fear that the love is over. That I can’t stop crying in bed if she’s out without me. That the love had never been. The reason I feel alone. They say it has to do with my gender. Or, I guess, that my gender has to do with it and I read that, today, in the library, again. And I heard a voice say “they don’t know.” And I noticed the language. The subject, “Dating a Borderline person.” I become Borderline first. A person second. It was all in there, so I chose the one out of the four books that had “I” as a subject. Because, I needed it to be about me, this time. Because it hasn’t been about me for a long time. Because I still feel guilty when anything is about me. Because BPD is usually connected to PTSD. Which is connected to trauma. Which so often is perpetuated by these “professionals”. So I panicked. I took deep solid breaths when I could and held back the heavy screams I felt in my abdomen. Because the library is a place for learning.