This Is Mad Culture

This Is Mad Culture

Mad culture is trading stories of psych wards, therapies, drugs, and discrimination. It is the shared sentiment of horror and disillusionment that arises from these stories, and the pervasive recognition of the painful impact of sanism.

Mad culture is recounting Mad legends: telling and retelling the tales of those who have rebelled in both small and grand ways against structural sanism. It is the chronicles of Judi Chamberlin, who dedicated her life to fighting for the human rights of Mad people, and the adventures of George Badillo, who helped his fellow psychiatric inmates escape so they could be with their families on Christmas Eve, and the epic of Judene Shelley, who was declared crazy after leaving the Mormon Church and ended up rebelling against both the Church of Latter Day Saints and the mental health system. 


Mad culture is dark humor. It is laughing bitterly and vociferously at the absurdity of a system that punishes people for being who they are in the name of "help." It is articles like A Simple Guide To How To Be A Good Psychotic and A Simple Guide To Avoid Receiving A Diagnosis of 'Personality Disorder' and websites like NAMI Dearest. It is the deep, biting satire of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the hilarity of the entire DSM.

Mad culture is staying up all night with comrades to develop frameworks, paradigms, and a shared language to talk about the issues we face. It is exchanging emails with Mad Pride professor Ginger Hoffman about what self-harm says about mind-body duality and brainstorming the factors that contribute to common perceptions of Mad and neurodivergent sexuality with longtime activist Sarah Knutson.


Mad culture is the music of Daniel Mackler, the cartoons of Auntie Psychiatry, the graphics of Mad Mad Memez, and the artwork of Phoebe Sparrow Wagner. It is Oryx Cohen's Healing Voices and Allie Light's Dialogues With Madwomen.

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Mad culture is the sense of awe and wonder that results from being surrounded by activists who have tremendous insight into the power dynamics and oppressive structures within our society. It is the sense of admiration that comes from learning about how they have been pathologized for their insights, and yet refuse to let their voices be silenced. 

Mad culture is constantly learning new ways to understand reality and getting a chance to step into others' realities. It is listening to Kaz DeWolfe discuss the state, psychiatry, and corporations as gods - as false deities that society has all agreed to believe in, and that must be defeated through our Mad superpowers. 

Mad culture is raw emotion. It is blood, sweat, and tears. It is self-harm scars and loud uncontrollable crying. It is screaming, "I don't want to recover" and "Fuck your wellness program" at the top of our lungs. It is smashing furniture and punching holes in walls. 


Mad culture is being compliant on the outside and noncompliant on the inside. It is outwardly pretending to agree with sanist statements during meetings and events to survive under capitalism, while texting our Mad comrades underneath tables or from bathroom stalls in an act of quiet rebellion.

Mad culture is the pride and joy in sharing the crazy things we have done. It is the activist who called her sanist congressman so many times that he filed a restraining order and the comrade who mailed a box of poop to an ICE office.

Mad culture is smart, sophisticated critiques of the recovery movement and any attempt to tell individuals that it is their responsibility to get well through taking medication, eating healthy, exercising, going to therapy, or positive thinking. It is papers like Uncovering Recovery: The Resistible Rise of Recovery and Resilience and blogs like How the Positivity Only Movement Has a Negative Impact on the Disability Community and Gratitude Lists Are B.S. - It Was an "Ingratitude" List That Saved Me.

Mad culture is legitimacy. It is the knowledge of and gratitude for all the courageous people who came before us, whose words and output provide a basis for contemporary activism. It is standing on the shoulders of giants. 

Mad culture is solidarity. It is the firm knowledge and recognition that no matter what, we exist. It is the power that comes from leaving a mark on the world, leaving a trail of words, music, art, and emotions behind for others to connect to and see themselves reflected in. No matter what, we are not alone. 

Bootstraps Baby

Bootstraps Baby

A Transformation Story

A Transformation Story