Door to the Beyond

February 1st, 2009

Getting CHEESy

…and written over the Door are the words:  Choice.  Hope.  Empowerment.  Environment.  Spirituality. This is the door we walk through together this month.

I spent two weeks in school this month (January 2009).  The class was called Peer Employment Training, and the end result was to be a certificate as a Peer Support Specialist, making the twenty of us in the class eligible for employment in the fields of mental health and substance abuse.

The twenty of us walked in with our Superman capes and bulletproof Spandex, waiting to be empowered to lift and carry all our charges into a new world.  We were very disappointed, but in a joyful way.

In just the first hour of the class, we were taught how to take off our capes and fit them for each and every person we were (will be) assigned to, and teach them how to learn to use it themselves.  Instead of Advocacy, we were trained in how to make each person we serve into their own expert, empowering them to take control of their own case and not live down to their labels.

You know how psychiatry has been these past 40 years.  You walk into the doctor’s office, you tell him what’s wrong, and he doesn’t hear but a few key words of what you tell him.  He then uses those key words to decide upon a diagnosis, and that diagnosis tells him what drugs to prescribe you.  There is little or no talk therapy, and after being given a label, you are never treated as a full human being again.  They can take you to court and force you to take the medications, or force you to receive electro-convulsive therapy, or force you to go to and stay in a “hospital”, all in the name of Your Own Good, to keep you from Doing Harm To Yourself Or Others.

Voila, you are no longer a person.  You are a label, a diagnosis, a stigma.

I’ve been beating my own head against that barrier for most of my life.  I knew I was still a person.  I knew the drugs were hurting me.  Over five years ago, I told the doctors where to go, and they didn’t have enough on me to commit me somewhere.  In those five years (and in the two prior years), I learned how to take care of myself, how to get well, how to recover.  My recovery is not complete, but I am at least 80% better than I was under their “care”.

I walked into this class expecting to get more bruises on my head from beating against the same old wall… and they moved the wall!  They had even begun to dismantle it!  I grabbed my sledgehammer and did my own best Berlin imitation.

From the first, the word “recovery” was used.  We were told that we were people, not labels, and were not to be defined as less than human ever again.  We were told about our choices, and we learned that this new paradigm has already been in use in a few areas.  There is a new hospital about 40 miles west of Asheville which mimics another hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where there are no physical restraints, there are no labels, and there are more peer support specialists than doctors.  The treatment area is called the “Living Room” and is furnished accordingly.  People are recovering, and are welcome to come and go as they choose, and are never ignored.

Wow.  Add another wow to that.  We learned about the CHEES Priniciple, which is:

One choice is no choice.  Mental health can be achieved through the use of drugs, supplements, talk therapy, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine, and many other routes, and withholding information on any of these is dishonoring the individual.

HOPE: You are never hopeless.  Sometimes you can feel so far down that you need someone to hold your hope for you until you can hold it yourself.  The twenty of us were trained to do just that.

EMPOWERMENT: You are the expert on your problems and your solutions.  We will help you find those sources, but you will lead us through that process.  We can give suggestions, but only with your permission and only after trying to get you to see what is already inside you.  We will listen to you; we will do our best to empower you to get your “treatment team” to listen to you.

You need to be in a place that suits you, not a “treatment center” and not on the streets.  You know what is best for you.  We will help you discover the options and find ways to get into what you need.

SPIRITUALITY: This was the big one. We are using the S-word again, and even the L-word (LOVE).  No more impersonal decisions made on your behalf.  Each of us has our own spirituality, and we peer support specialists are being trained to honor that.

Peer Support Specialists are experts, but it’s a different kind of expert:  We are experts in not being experts (and that takes a LOT of expertise!).  We are learning how to listen to you, how to lead you to listen to yourself.  We do not know what is Right For You – only you know that.

Are you beginning to see why I am so excited about this?  Are you beginning to have hope that the System will die and leave something better behind?  If not, I would be happy to hold that hope for you until you are ready.

To me, the things I learned in this class were more miraculous than if we ever were to elect a black President… oh, wait, we just did, didn’t we?  Damn.  Am I still in the same world I was last year?

I sure hope not.  I like the world I’m in now.  And if we work together, praise Goddess, we will all have something good to think back on.  Why wait for 2012?  The old world is ending now.  We can, we will create the new one together, in peace, love, and all those old sixties things (minus the drug busts).  Remember CHEES and all those bad memories will start to fade.

Let’s walk through another Door together… next month.

Rest & Recovery

Last month we talked about action.  In this month’s walk through the Door, we are walking to our campsite, blowing up our air mattress, and climbing into our sleeping bags, in the company of our Family.

There are two things to remember about community action – 1. Always work FOR something, and 2. never do more than you can, which includes resting up.  If you have pagan Family or good friends to rest up with, you get a double recharge over doing it alone.

I’m writing this on a tiny Netbook in my tent.  My closest friend is getting handfasted tomorrow, and I’m “best man”.  The Drum Circle is sounding great; our best drummer, Greyfix, is back after a long absence.  The crickets and tree frogs are adding their music.  There are probably over 100 people here, it’s Friday night, and more are coming in tomorrow.  I’ve given-and-gotten more good hugs in the past 8 hours than in the previous 5 months.  (I haven’t been to a Gathering since Litha.)

Each time I come to a Gathering, my Family comments on how much better (more well) I look than when they last saw me, which is needed feedback; each time I return, my local friends comment on how much more relaxed and recharged I seem.  It’s a great cycle to have going.  I think I’ve mentioned before how this Family has stood by me through times when it was all I could do to lay in my tent and whimper.  By contrast, I am now working two of my own non-profits, putting in time on a third, writing several websites, doing this article, and working professionally as an editor.  This is not being said to puff myself up, but to show you how much improvement is possible, to give you hope in dealing with your own recovery if it is needed.  It was not a rapid recovery – I came to SerpentStone in 1996 after years of mixed rejection and acceptance elsewhere.

There are lots of good Families out there, and lots of local and regional Pagan Festivals.  I recommend finding the “family” gatherings over the “whoopie Wicca” festivals, but that is my choice.  (There is a lower chance of long-term rejection among people who want to be together, rather than those who are looking for a good time.)

Every step along then path was magick.  The magick involved asking for help, finding it, and accepting it.  Wanting to change is the first step, being willing to change comes next, and then accepting the opportunities to change,,, and accepting the length of time it takes to walk the path.  I found my Family 12 years ago; found the people who wanted to start the ALT-therapies4bipolar Yahoogroup 7 years ago; started taking some supplements 6 years ago… and got totally off psych drugs November 5, 2003, almost 5 years ago.  Each step was an act of magick, each step required some amount of faith on my part, and I was not taking these steps alone… but having Family would not have helped a bit if I were not willing to take the risks, to do the magick.

It wasn’t a straight path lined with constant successes; probably far more failures than successes.  I took offense many times when none was intended, and gave offense often when that was not my intention.  Most of the time I was sure nobody could screw up as badly as I was doing… (Ever feel like that?  Then you’re probably bipolar.)  Some people helped me feel like that, but it’s not like I needed a lot of help.  But I knew I didn’t want to feel that way, and kept trying to do better.

There were a lot of setbacks.  I didn’t give up, but I sure took some long breaks before getting my resolve up to try again.  It will likely be just about as hard for you.  (I truly hope some of my readers are ahead of me, and can pat themselves on the back for doing it better than I did.)  “Try, fail.  Try, fail.  Try, succeed.” – A. Low, M.D.

“She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.”  Nobody has the power to prevent Goddess from helping you, and even the power you have to keep Her from helping you is limited.  As the Hindu teachings state, Grace (Anugraha) is unlimited and always available; the only thing you need do is believe yourself worthy of asking for it – and then ask.

I’m aware that perhaps not everyone’s path involves totally discontinuing psych drugs, but be aware that it can be not only possible but quite safe, with help and support.  Part of that support will come straight from Goddess, but it won’t happen if your love of yourself does not eventually catch up with your love of Goddess.  Don’t be hard on yourself along the way, but give yourself a huge pat on the back for each step you take, no matter how small you think it was.  Every step adds up.

And soon you will join me walking through yet another Door:  The door to freedom and mental health.  I will see you next month.

Hope and Audacity

Ah, my friends, the door once again beckons.  Let us push on.

“The bad news is, there is no key to happiness.  The good news is, the door was never locked.”

– Swami Beyondananda

Hope.  With it, we can do anything.  Without it, or with the perception of being without it, we feel lost, and many of us choose this time to attempt to “end it all”.  Sometimes we need attention, sometimes one of our friends catches us and kicks our ass and we get back to it.

There is hope around us.  For some of us, it may be the first time we have allowed ourselves to hope.  With every glimmer, there is a rock in our path.  Are we going to step over the rock, or are we going to howl about stepping on it and refuse to go further?

If there was ever a time for not just thinking outside the box but destroying the whole damned box, this is it.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called several times for the formation of a National Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment; MindFreedom International has now done so, only on an International level, and has even hired (the real) Patch Adams, M.D. (not Robin Williams) to run the organization.

Crazies like us power the imagination of the world, and we now have an umbrella organization to deliver that power.

Some of that power went into the recent US Presidential Elections.  While the results were, for most of us, highly encouraging, we have not yet seen the end of the dismal jimmies and control freaks.  The election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States is not even the end of racism in our country.  We all hope it is the death knell, but dying organisms stink a lot until you bury them.  (For those conservatives among you, this event is also not the end of  America… for those racists among you, get over yourselves.)

America has never dealt with its inherent racism.  It merely stitched the wound closed without treating it, leaving it to fester.  This election opened the wound — hopefully to clean it out and let it heal — but the deep infection is exposed, and it smells awful.  It is up to each of us to pray for real healing, rather than reseal the wound in its untreated condition.

I am reminded of something I learned while working in wastewater treatment in my youth.  Most treatment ponds tend to attract vegetation and other life.  Since the vegetation tends to grow roots through the sealing layer of the pond, they present a problem, in that the contents of the pond could infiltrate the local groundwater.  So for years, people in the business of wastewater treatment would poison these plants.  What they discovered was that dying plants suck up many times more oxygen than living ones, and most times the whole pond and all the life in it died from not having enough oxygen in the water to breathe.  A dead treatment pond provides no treatment, it just sits there smelling like something died (Can you say “anaerobic bacteria,” boys and girls?  Didn’t think so.).

Who in this world can inject life (air) into a conversation, into a whole paradigm, better than we?  Look for the humor in the situation, and whisper it to somebody.  Watch it catch fire.  Laugh it up, and be gentle with it.  Always remember that the only tested, proven way to dissolve hatred is laughter — good, rollicking, loving laughter, entirely empty of ridicule.  My battle cry is: “PUNS OVER PUTDOWNS”.  Rid yourselves of jokes AGAINST yourself and others — find something loving to laugh about.  Find the silly chink in the subject, and break out your prybars.  HATE STINKS.  That goes for hatred of yourself, hatred of the “other guy”, “other gender”, in fact, of anything “other”.  Whenever any one person is not equal, there is no such thing as equality.  THERE IS NO THEM, nobody here but US.  Go ye therefore and heal likewise.

We have been hospitalized, drugged, tortured, and stigmatized, but we find a way to keep going, even to laugh about it.  I don’t want anyone, ANYONE, treated the way I have been treated… it’s all wrong and it keeps us apart.  And there is SO MUCH we could do together.

I hope I’m preaching to the choir.  And I further hope the choir takes the word out into the world.

Come with me and join the Right-To-Laugh Party.

“Serious Crime: Sure, serious crime is up. But why not look on the bright side? Humorous crime is down.”
– Swami Beyondananda

Until next we walk through the Door together, Metaphors be with you!


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