"Delusions" of Grandeur and Persecution: Power and Marginalization

I have this very rich and fantastical reality in which I (whoever or whatever I am) sometimes reside. I am a super hero. I am god-slayer. I have the power to destroy whole worlds and tear apart the very fabric of reality. I have a dragon that eats fascists alive. If I were to share too much of my internal reality with a psychiatrist, I would likely be labeled as having "delusions of grandeur." People have been thus psychiatrized for less.

Reconciling "Mental Illness" with Mad Pride?

A few weeks ago I was told I needed surgery. 

The surgery was for a physical health concern - a legitimate medical problem that showed up as a discrete entity on scans and diagnostic tests. It caused me severe pain that prevented me from working, sleeping, or socializing for short periods of time every couple weeks. 

My Inner Dragon Celebrates the 4th of July

Dear United States of America,
I love you so much I just want to eat you up.
I want to snack on your drones like potato chips. They’re so crunchy.
I want to slurp up your pipelines like spaghetti. 
I want to rip up your border fence, fold it up, and swallow it whole like it’s an oyster. 
It’s good with Tabasco sauce. 
I want to nibble on all your detention center walls and cages. 
I think they will crumble just like crackers.

"The Angry Consumer": Embracing Difficult Conversations

Nev Jones, PhD and Emily S. Cutler

Nearly all of us who have been involved with mental health policy, practice, or research for any length of time have participated in multi-stakeholder meetings, collaborations, or relationships of one kind or another gone awry. And while there are many reasons that interpersonal dynamics can (and do) deteriorate, when it comes to mental health, by far the most common scenario is an interpersonal break-down across clear identarian lines. And these divisions occur both in terms of the issues—of what is being discussed, proposed, or reviewed—and the emotions involved (and, by extension, the style or mode of interaction).

Pride. Together.

Summer is Pride time for me. LGBTQIA in June, Disability in July. Banners and t-shirts, flags and beads. These celebrations often focus on pride as a celebration of those characteristics in ourselves that, though worthy of celebration, are often presented by dominant groups as shameful. And these joyous festivals have their place.  

But they are, at the same time, somewhat alien to me. They are at the end of a range of expressions, and my place is some distance away.

To me, Pride is celebrated at 4 am, walking friends who are likelier bashing targets, women in pearls and five o'clock shadow, men in heels and gowns, young couples too in love to pretend they are just friends, home from the clubs, miles put of your way, tired and laughing and keeping a wary eye on the straights you pass and still more than a little drunk.

My Complicated Thoughts on Neurodiversity

I want to start off by stating that I fully agree with the neurodiversity movement's basic premise: that no cognitive, emotional, or mental state, trait, characteristic, or way of being should be pathologized or stigmatized. I wholeheartedly support the notion that the experiences currently categorized as "mental illness" or "mental disorder" should instead be accepted as part of the spectrum of human mental, emotional, and cognitive diversity. And I honestly could not be more appreciative of neurodiversity activists, researchers, and scholars for standing behind this idea in some incredibly brilliant, innovative ways. I think in a lot of ways, the neurodiversity movement has begun to accomplish the de-pathologization and de-stigmatization of the states, traits, and characteristics commonly categorized as "mental disorder" in ways that the psychiatric survivors movement has been unable to. 

"But Isn't It Easier to Change the Individual than to Change Society?"

When arguing for the social model of disability, or for the acceptance of madness/neurodivergence instead of the cure, I am often met with the rebuttal, "But isn't it easier to change an individual than to change all of society?"

This argument often comes from (seemingly) the most well-intentioned people in the world. They agree, of course, that in theory, mad, autistic, and disabled people should be accepted and accommodated by society. These individuals will be among the first to express their wholehearted and enthusiastic support for this premise.

Toward a Trauma-Informed Approach to Accountability

I saw this post today and in a lot of ways, I could not agree more with it. 

I am so tired of and disgusted by the line of thinking pointed out by the post. It is painful to see how often marginalized groups are told to be nicer to potential allies, as if it is their responsibility  to convince others not to oppress them. I am horrified by how many times marginalized people are told to be more understanding of their oppressors, while their oppressors remain free from consequences. 

In Defense of Echo Chambers

I always try to make it as clear as possible that the goal of my activism is not to persuade others to agree with me or to convert them to my beliefs, but to validate and legitimize those who do share my beliefs but who do not yet have the tools or language to fully stand behind them.

The Killing Machine

I started hearing it several months ago, just once in a while, always late at night. There were strange loud noises at night. The chug chug of a diesel engine accompanied with strange whirring and grinding, electric humming and buzzing. Clanging, creaking.

What was odd was just how close it sounded. Like there was machinery running right outside the building, maybe even in the building somehow. My building is right near a commercial area. I just assumed one of these businesses was using trucks and heavy machinery at night, and that it sounded closer than it actually was. I had no idea how close to home, and how sinister and evil these sounds actually were until recently.

In Defense of Victimhood

“Stop playing the victim card.”

“Stop wallowing in self-pity.”

“Stop being so victimy.”

“You’re stuck in a victim narrative.”

“You’re not a victim. You’re a survivor.”

Chances are you’ve heard at least one of these statements before. Maybe you’ve even said one of them to someone else. These kinds of statements are pervasive in the media, religion, the mental health system, workplaces, and families. They are indicative of our culture’s general attitude toward victimhood: being a victim is one of the worst things a person can be.

They have so much to teach us

I look at my youngest son as he studies. There is something about how excited he becomes when he talks about any variety of science that makes me smile. I can't believe how much he has changed from a frightened child into a strong almost adult. At one time, he sported the Autism Spectrum moniker, which he himself stripped away. After having violent and terrifying hallucinations on Risperdal, he chose to never take a psychiatric drug again. I supported his decision because it was wholly logical and the "meds" never made his distress any better. It actually did just the opposite. 

Migraine Madness

I woke up on September 1st, 2017, and I knew that it was bad. Instinctively. I just had a gut feeling that everything was terrible. My head hurt. I felt nauseated. I am a synesthete, I have sensory processing differences. I have color associations for letters, words, days, and weeks. “September” for me has always been red. So that morning on September the 1st, that morning that was overwhelmingly bad to its core, everytime I saw something that was red, it popped out at me with such intensity that my head started spinning. Everything grew dark. I started to faint, barely catching myself each time.

It's time for unity with the prison abolition movement

Recently, my small socially liberal home state of Vermont was considering building a 925 bed private prison complex with psychiatric and juvenile facilities. Not surprisingly, the proposal was met with overwhelming opposition by liberal and leftist Vermonters. I think that many of us do not take kindly to private corporations that pocket taxpayer dollars while profiting off of systemic oppression.

On Emotional Pain: Psychiatric Abuse and Neglect

Since my activism primarily focuses on my opposition to involuntary commitment, I am often asked about my opinion on another important issue: individuals who seek mental health services for suicidality and who are turned away. While some people, like myself, have been locked up for half-hearted or facetious statements about wanting to die or feeling like killing themselves, others are not taken seriously when expressing suicidal thoughts. They are told that they are "seeking attention" or "acting out," and that they don't really mean it. 

On Oversharing

As I prepare for my upcoming surgery, one topic that has been crossing my mind a great deal is the issue of "oversharing." For most of my life, I have been taught that all personal medical or healthcare related topics fall into the category of "too much information" or "oversharing." And for me personally, my tendency to share too many personal details of my life has been pathologized as a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder.

A Mad Pride Moment: Being Proud of My Self-Harm

I wanted to start out this blog by sharing a brief story that captures what Mad Pride means to me and the transformative power I think it has.

This past week, I was out of town for a family event. I have some large scratch marks across my face, and inevitably a family member asked me what happened. Even though I was super nervous, I managed to calmly and confidently say, “I did it to myself. Sometimes when my emotions get overwhelming, I scratch myself or cut myself and it helps me manage the intensity of how I feel.” I then explained that part of my work is defending people’s rights to do just that.