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)