All posts by Maneli

Sane Chauvinism – Hard questions about how we take care of each other

Insane Liberation Front Manifesto:

We demand an end to the existence of mental institutions and all the oppression they represent.

We demand that all people imprisoned in mental hospitals be immediately freed.

We demand the establishment of neighborhood freakout centers, controlled by the people who use them. A place where people, if they feel they need help, can get it in a totally open atmosphere. (Everyone is insane and everyone freaks out).

We demand an end to mental commitments.

We demand an end to the practice of Psychiatry. It is based on the assumption that there is something wrong with the individual and not with society. The majorities of shrinks make money off us and see us as objects or categories.

We demand an end to economic discrimination against people who have undergone psychiatric treatment, and we demand that all their records be destroyed.

We want an end to sane chauvinism (intolerance toward people who appear strange and act differently) and that people be educated to fight against it.

We demand with other liberation groups an end to the capitalistic system with its racist, sexist oppression and with its competitive antihuman standards. We believe in cooperation.

We demand the right to the integrity of our bodies in all their functions, including the extremist situations, suicide. We demand that all the anti-suicide laws be wiped from the books.

From “The Radical Therapist”,

by Jerome Agel.

Do you ever feel that you are at the edge of a breakdown, see your life with despair and have no one to talk with because you are afraid of not being understood? Do you ever fear finding your worst fears and phobias hiding deep inside yourself and not knowing what to do with them? Do you ever think that you are “weird” (fucking society’s label) and that speaking up would make it worse? Do you ever find yourself being “too moody” and having emotional changes because of all the oppression and shit happening in this world nowadays and think that you might be crazy but are scared of being told that you need to see a specialist who would label you as mentally ill instead of an open-hearted and sensitive person subject to the evil things of this western civilization?

Do you ever run into people who live in another reality (whatever that means) and you feel like helping them but they are homeless, and others feel unsafe and threatened by them? But still you think that we all got to be compassionate towards others, so you want to help but you don’t know how because you ain’t a fucking doctor or got no resources?

Well, we’ve all been there before and ideally this is where community support and healing steps up.

Here’s the thing: we, all human beings, as radicals and activists are involved in too many things trying to change the world or just living our lifes’ dreams; we all then become too busy and forget that we need people; we need to be true and honest with each other and just sit the fuck down and talk about our fears, feelings, visions or the things that we see. For so long, society has tried to tell us that we ought to be normal, we got to have a job, be rational and all that crap. If you are different or ever find yourself communicating with animals or nature like the witches in the old times, are crying one moment and happy the next, you get locked up because you need to be “changed,” you need to become normal. They call it a rehabilitation program.

I know this person who is a projection of how sick this rotten society is. She did a bunch of drugs when she was young because of how her life was when she was growing up. Her childhood traumatized her: her parent’s oppression plus society’s twisted her mind and she lost it. She did a bunch of drugs to escape and her reality changed. I have met many people like that in my path.

She, because of her own choice, has been homeless for a while. She sees herself as an anarchist, an artist and a mom. She sees herself as an anti-system person who does not want to pay rent, get a job or get involved in society’s affairs.

This person kept getting kicked out of all the communal houses in the town where I live. People felt unsafe and threatened by her. Her presence and acts made them fear even for their children’s safety. This person would offer people poisonous hallucinogenic tea or inedible plants and shrubs. But we all have to remember something. Her reality was far different from ours.

Some people at the different collective houses offered her help, such as taking her to shelters where she could sleep and be safe instead of sleeping on the streets or trying to sneak into people’s houses. But talking with her was like talking to the wall. She was in denial and never wanted to be in a shelter- she wanted to be with people, do art, sit down and eat food with her friends, but people despised her because of their own fears and incapacity to offer her compassion because of the way she acted and the things she did. People got tired and wrapped up in their own bullshit so at some point it was too late to help. (You also can’t really help somebody if they don’t want to be helped.)

At some point she had a break down and called 911. For the third time (or maybe more) she got locked up–against her will.

This person was taken to a Psychiatric Hospital named St. John Georges. Three days ago there was an article in the paper about this place. What shocked me was that in the article it said, “The hospital had been cited by state and federal licensing agencies for failing to provide a safe environment for staff and patients”. Anyone could figure that out- the worst of the worst.

There is a law, Section 5150, that you can get taken to a hospital against your will and they hold you there for 72 hours if they think you are crazy or a threat to the community. After 72 hours, she got a hearing; nobody claimed her or tried to get her out, so she stayed and after 72 hours they started forcing her to take medication.

They have diagnosed her as bipolar and they are dosing her with Lithium, a “mood stabilizer” and a really bad chemical, which makes you numb and sucks your brain out. But she is not bipolar– that is just another label that the man has created.

I talked with the social worker that has her case and she said that the doctor and the judge will give her medicine until she changes, which means: until she stops talking about pixies, witches and the revolution, until she seems normal enough to hold a job or get a house.

Now, after a month or so, people in the community have started to make a move and this person has gotten herself someone who is going to play the role of her advocate.

I recently talked with her on the phone and she made sense, and this is what she said: “Maneli, I am not bipolar, I am just fucked up because I did a bunch of drugs when I was young because of how decadent my life and parents were. I want to be healthy, I want to get out, this is not a safe space and they are violating my privacy.” That sounded really “normal’ to me- clear thoughts, smooth words.

Anyway, one of the things that happened when she got locked up was that nobody cared, some people even wished that she was dead and had no compassion about mutual aid or her healing. But there were some people that still cared and know that to survive in this jungle, aside from focusing on your own personal healing, we’ve got to help each other. But to maintain our own sanity and help each other, we all must remain strong and grounded. And for that, you need community support; people who are there when you need them, people who won’t laugh at you or stop listening when you are having a breakdown. You need people who are able to communicate reciprocally in a healing way and practice mutual therapeutic acts.

A bunch of us came up with some ideas at a recent community discussion where we addressed issues including being homeless and mentally ill and the role of community support. Some of the ideas that were brought up and are actually practiced in other places were:

A group of people could open up a safe space (or freak-out place), but for that you need money to rent a space because unfortunately we all live in a capitalist world.

If you don’t have enough money to rent a space, you could start an Advocacy Group where people help each other by giving them information regarding resources of where to go, what to do, who to talk to and all that.

Or maybe we all need to have some sensitivity trainings where we learn how to treat each other right.

Well . . . that’s the story. Things like this happen all the time and people need help everywhere. And we all lose it at some point or another. We just need to be honest.

If you want help or want to help others and do not know what to do, here are some websites that you can check out:

Icarus Project : www. theicarusporject.net

Or mindfreedom.org (advocacy for psychiatric survivors)

ABORTmissION ABORT missION

I’m smoking a cigarette with a coworker on our break and she tells me her period is a week late. I ask her what she is going to do, how long she is going to wait until finding out if she is pregnant or not. Her response is that she will wait four weeks because that’s how long it will take to find out if she’s pregnant.

“That’s not true,” I say. “It took me only a day to realize I was pregnant.” I ask her what she will do if she is pregnant and she says she will have it. I get kind of confused, seeing how young she is and she says that since she is a doula and is gonna have children at some point anyway, then why not now?

Well, that whole conversation set me off to thinking about children, parents, abortions, religion and everything else that comes along…

When I was 16, one of my best friends from high school got pregnant and had an abortion. I remember meeting her to talk over coffee and cigarettes. When she told me, I just hugged her and said, “You’re such a strong woman. I am so proud of you, going through all this alone, without the stupid guy. Are you sure? You seem like you are. If I was the one pregnant I’d have it…” I remember seeing her eyes and her asking me why I’d have it if I was only 16. I used to be one of those people who’d say, “If I ever get pregnant I’ll fucking have it even if I’m 14. It’s a human being.”.

I did not grow up in a Catholic family- my parents were some hippies who hung out with other hippies in Spain, where I grew up—but as you might know, most of the Spanish population is Catholic, so the culture is very Catholic. Even if you don’t want to grow up with those beliefs or ideas, Catholicism is everywhere. So I was kind of a mixed up hippy believer.

I believed if two people made love and one of them got pregnant, then it was meant to happen. I If I ever got pregnant, I would have it. I could not kill a human being or soul that was growing or developing into a child. I knew that raising a child would be really hard but I thought, All a baby needs is love, and I got plenty of love to spare.

And then…I got pregnant. I was 19. Two months after September 11, I took a trip to Ecuador and Peru to get out of the States, find who I was again. During that trip I decided I would go back to the States, go to college, fix my paper status, and travel…

I had a lot of plans for myself, projects for the future—finally I wasn’t confused or lost, I knew what I wanted. And then, one day at the gynecologist’s office, I took a pregnancy test just in case. The boy I had been fooling around with and I had not been as careful as we could have been, so…just in case. I called the gynecologist the next day and this is how the conversation went:

“Hi, I want to know to results of the pregnancy test that I took yesterday.”

“Oh, it’s positive.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure. You are pregnant”

“You ain’t kidding me?”

“Of course I am not! Do you want to set up an appointment for a prenatal test?”

I didn’t even know what that meant. “Do you mean an abortion? Can I have an abortion tomorrow?”

“You have to call another number to set up an abortion and no, you cannot do it tomorrow. You have to wait 3 to 4 weeks. If they do it now the fetus would break into pieces and it would damage you, it is too small.”

“Shit…3 or 4 weeks to wait. Ok, I’ll call that number!”

Those first 5 minutes were really intense. I did not think about having the baby but about having an abortion. It was something that I had never thought about and was “against”, but in that moment, the decision came right from my heart—and it was right.

A month and a week of pregnancy is a lot of time to think. The boy and I had long conversations. The idea of having the baby was out there, I told him I thought maybe I could have it and just raise it on my own. He said he would be helping no matter what—but neither of us wanted to be parents. We did not want to be together anymore; we each had our own plans and wanted to live our lives. We realized that if we stayed together and gave up our lives to focus on the baby’s life, we could end up a miserable and unhealthy family. The guy (who’s one of my good friends now) and I would only have been together for the baby, and oh shit poor baby.

Although I have seen tons of young parents out there (and more in the radical scene) who get pregnant and decide to have it, many stay together only so the child can be raised by both of them-but what a fucking pity! Two people who don’t want to be together are together only for the child’s sake? Don’t they realize that the child could grow up realizing that and feeling shitty? I know a lot of young people who got pregnant and decided to have the baby for a number of different reasons. Some not the healthiest: they were against abortion; they grew up catholic; they wanted to keep the other partner; they wanted to feel more whole as a woman or human being; or…boredom. I was just talking to one of my good girl friends a while ago and said I feel really sad about all these young people I know that now feel miserable because they have babies, and how there are tons of babies out there who need parents. I said that so many of us can’t even take care of ourselves, so how are we ready to take care of smaller people, when she told me that she had also had an abortion. She was only 17.

In Spain (and other countries), as well as some of the states in the US, if you are under age 18 and get pregnant, you cannot have a “legal abortion” without a parent’s signature or consent. Let’s say you tell your parents and they are Catholic or anti-choice? They might make you have it or kick you out of the house and disown you. So some women choose not to tell their parents and end up having super-expensive illegal abortions that could totally fuck them up. Or women almost kill themselves by drinking liters of pennyroyal oil. Or they end up keeping the baby because of a fear of Catholicism declaring women dirty if we have sex before marriage, or sinful because we choose not to have it. What gets me the most are three points that my friends brought up to me in a recent conversation: age, money and religion(culture).

>Age. Who’s to say how old we ought to be to have children? The system? The man? A system ruled by Patriarchy? Fuck that shit. So, we gotta tell our parents we don’t want to have a baby because we are only 15 and having fun, it was all a mistake, we gotta tell them so we can have a legal abortion. But oh wait! My parents are super catholic, they’re against abortion. Oh shit..What are we gonna do? Bye bye to my life.

>Money. Fuck bureaucracy and all that crap. My friend had to pay more than $300 because she was a minor and didn’t have health insurance. That is money that most of the population doesn’t have to spare. So, are they fucking privatizing Freedom of Choice as well? What the hell!!. So, let’s say a person is totally broke, or doesn’t have a SSN or any insurance at all, then the best option for them is to bring a baby into this world? Whatttttttt? >Religion. Fuck the Pope and everyone. Fuck the whole Catholicism brain wash piece of shit, making young women feel dirty and bad because they get pregnant or are sexually active early in life, and for teaching generations of people that “killing” a fetus is a “sin.” And who’s to say that, the Pope?..That person there, a male, some one that will never get pregnant (at least not nowadays, maybe later with Genetically Modified Technology), will never have to worry about a late period, will never be treated like a piece of shit for carrying a fetus …Oh please, let the women be.

I think about and give my thoughts to all those strong women in other countries or in jails, cultures and religions where abortion is taboo and women don’t have the privilege or the option of choosing. I also know, even when we can choose, there are a million pressures from the outside preventing or making women feel guilty for having abortions. I just know that I am damn glad I made the choice I did. I think about what I am doing right now in my life and “a baby” does not fit in that picture at all. It took me a year to get over it, but it was not as dramatic for me as other people often picture it, not even physically painful. I do not regret my choice. I do wish I had known about herbal abortion more but I didn’t, so I had to deal with the hospital shit: I slept through the operation and woke up “un-pregnant.”

I woke up from a dream. I had been stuck to an idea of abortion that I didn’t even understand. Becoming pregnant made me realize that not only is love important and necessary to take care of a little human, there are other issues imperative in the raising of a child. Things like community support, economic support, a stable home and family, and even more important—being ready to have and raise a kid. I do not feel bad about having an abortion, I now have a lot of respect for it and see it as a big challenge that forced me to open my eyes and helped me be more realistic. Now I don’t think that having an abortion is killing a human being, now I realize that it is about being mature, having choices and making choices. I also realize that a fetus is just the beginning, if it’s not wanted then the world will regret it…and I didn’t want that to happen. . *Solidaridad para mis hermanas.