"Mental Illness": How and what to learn from your mind breaking

11 months ago

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My experience

Many years ago, I had a very unusual experience which a psychiatrist described as a "psychotic break". There were many strange things which happened as a part of this - I talked to trees, to animals, believed I was being contacted by God and the Devil, even believed I was a god, believing I had certain super powers. These delusions naturally caused a lot of suffering for me and the people around me. On the other hand, I also gained many things from the experience - a heightened sense of empathy, increased creativity, a drastic shift in my mode of thinking, from linear to conceptual; my drawing ability increased dramatically, and I learned to dance.

When I went to the psychologist and the psychiatrist, their decision was that the best thing for me was to take anti-psychotic drugs. They told me that I would have to continue taking the drugs, and even if I felt better, I shouldn't stop taking them. If I did, then I would relapse into delusional thought patterns. I'm not sure if they ever used the phrase "the rest of your life", but that was certainly the implication, as they told me that the drug could treat me, but it could never resolve the problem entirely.

Today, while I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find someone who would describe me as eccentric or strange, or radical, it probably wouldn't be so easy to find someone who would describe me as literally crazy. The psychologist and the psychiatrist were wrong - and not just a little bit. They were very, very, very wrong. They wanted me to assume a psychotropic drug habit which would permanently alter my brain chemistry, reaching into my future to change me, change my mind, my personality... my fate.

Consider that the experts may be wrong

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As the months and years passed, this cemented what I suspected - even well-meaning, well-educated professionals - experts - don't always know what's best.

While I hope you would take the words of trustworthy medical professionals seriously, I hope you never forget that we are human, and we are all subject to biases - both personal and systemic.

We can fix you

The psychologist told me once that he would get me back to the way I was a year ago. What he didn't understand was, to take me back to how I was a year before would be a step backward. I'm still of that opinion, and when I talk to others who have had similar experiences, I find that I'm not alone. I suppose it was difficult for him to see that what I was experiencing may have had positive sides to it - from his perspective, my experience was an illness to be treated, and that precluded him from asking me or himself about its value.

Your mind is your own responsibility

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Sometimes I hear people say: the most important thing I learnt from my mental illness is that it's not my fault. I can't speak for everyone, and it's possible - even likely - that individual situations are different, but the most important thing I learnt, in the end, was that my actions and my feelings are my responsibility - and therefore it is my responsibility to gain greater and greater control over my own mind.

Now, maybe the first time I had these unusual experiences, I wasn't equipped, and that's why I went off the deep end - so I can reasonably say that it wasn't my fault. But as time goes on and I gain more opportunities for knowledge, it's harder for me to justify that going forward. Eventually, I have to say that my own state of mind is my responsibility - and whether or not it's my "fault" quickly becomes irrelevant.

A good listener

Do you have a therapist who wants to put you in their box? Or one who lets you live in your box - without challenging you - one who enables your bad habits and negative thinking patterns? Or worse, one who hands you a prescription and ushers you off? Or do you have one who truly listens and considers what you say, and asks you guiding questions to bring you to a place of greater self-knowledge? It's your choice, and your responsibility. No one else can make that choice for you.

Logic

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Take a course in logic. Toxic thoughts can readily spiral into toxic habits if gone unexamined. Logic can give us a defence against ourselves, and when our emotions tell us that things will never get better, we can put it up to the light and see through it.

Meditation

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Our thoughts can easily run away if we let them. We become entranced by them, and feel compelled to follow them. We are like a rider who falls off his horse still holding the reins, getting dragged along the ground at speed. You don't have to follow them - your thoughts are not your masters. Let go; let go of the reins.

Find a shaman

Modern psychology and psychiatry are a couple of forms of healing, but don't ever think that those are your only options. The fact is, there are other schools of thought, other forms of knowledge, other ways of seeing the world. Some of which have traditions lasting thousands of years. It would be a shame to dismiss them completely in favour of a system which has barely existed for 150 years. Do you want to limit yourself to people who tell you that you're sick - or find people who tell you that you're being transformed - who assume that you're going to take something positive from this experience?

It's possible that these periods of mental transformation can offer you great things - starting with the ability to see things from a perspective outside of your culture - of course, at the cost of some alienation.

You are weird

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With a good guide, your suffering may be limited. You could go along with the psychiatrists, take their pills, with their two year medical history, and unknown long-term effects. You can take something which will give you the appearance of normality. Or you can embrace your weirdness, and explore your weirdness, and make this life an adventure, though you colour the page without lines to keep between, though your future is uncertain, and even though, yes, it may be dangerous and even scary - you will be free.

The universe is a weird place. Maybe, just maybe, you fit right in here.


About me

kurt robinson in the mountains of puebla

My name is Kurt Robinson. I grew up in Australia, but now I live in Guadalajara, Jalisco. I write interesting things about voluntaryism, futurism, science fiction, travelling Latin America, and psychedelics. Remember to press follow so you can stay up to date with all the cool shit I post, and follow our podcast where we talk about crazy ideas for open-minded people, here: @paradise-paradox, and like us on Facebook here - The Paradise Paradox

Some other cool posts

Here are some other posts of mine to check out:

Aliens and Drugs: Can psychedelics be used to contact beings from out of this world?

What drugs do you take to talk to aliens? (podcast/video)

Psychedelic Che Guevara Mandela Effect - The Paradise Paradox Episode 130 (podcast/video)

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You're a really skilled writer, @churdtzu. And I think your angle on this subject is really good. You brought up a few things I had never considered, as I contemplate the struggles of a good friend of mine.

If I were to compare her to who she was ten years ago, BEFORE the psychotic episodes, I would pick her as a friend TODAY over TEN YEARS AGO. Any day.

She's way more interesting, more open, more honest, more creative, more compassionate, more understanding, more intellectual, more loving, and more fun to talk to. When she has her episodes, it's scary, and I worry, and the accompanying depression that comes with it is miserable for her.

But she's altogether a fabulous individual, and partly BECAUSE of her illness.

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Thanks very much. I thought it was important to talk about this, because, it's not an easy thing to talk about, and so many people remain in the dark about it. It's a part of English-speaking culture that we try to sweep these things under the carpet.

I was talking about it with @andrarchy the other day, and I said it's like you're going through puberty except nobody has told you what puberty is, and nobody around you even knows what puberty is. His analogy was, it's like being gay and thinking there's nobody out there like you, which is a good analogy too. Thank God for the Internet, so we can finally get the word out and start supporting and guiding people to a better life, and make the most of these experiences.

Great article, I think you and my gf would get along fine. :-)

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Thanks Alex!

Very good post!

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Cheers!

Thank you so much for sharing this. I've had lots of transformation here recently. But I've been quite scared and don't understand it very well. I'm worried that I will become "insane"/psychotic / delusional. I do now have this kind of 'extra-sensory perception' which draws me to the most wonderful music, experiences and people - but it also makes me aware of various people's shadows or heavy energies that you're not supposed to know about. Sometimes it makes me feel quite threatened that I may know too much and will be persecuted for it.

Is there any shamanic people / websites/ resources that you'd recommend?

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That's a tough one. You might try reading Robert Anton Wilson, and listening to some lectures from Terence McKenna.

The thing about the word "shaman" is that it can be a very general term. Using the word "healer" might be more helpful. Try asking around your circle of friends, maybe go to some hippie shops where they sell crystals and ask if they know anybody who knows about energy work... That might be a lead.

If you're on the rocket chat I can add you to our channel

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If I may...
this subject is vast....because from meditation you can go to many other places.
Meditation opens a door or for some people many doors...
To be more exact picture like this:

  • you meditate and enter in a altered state ...where you see something...that touches you. From that moment you are different, you have something "extra" (Good or bad, it doesnt matter)
    Now same thing from a scientific point of view:
  • you focus (meditate) and enter in a altered state, your brain goes from radieting alfa ways to exerting delta ways ( that means deep sleep, meditation, or even coma). When you push your focus more, your brain will exert different types of radiation ways.
    But for each human there is a wall or a place that they canot see or climb.
    All I can say @alexc is be carefull what you do...because there are so many beautifull things in the night.
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I would recommend shiatsu or acupuncture.

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Facing and overcoming our fears can be as tough as it is important. Large part of our minds are all about control (some call that part 'ego'), and letting go of control and fully trusting self and world can be easier said than done. It is much easier if one does not have to go through it all alone.

I don't know where you live, but if in North America, one possibility is Native American Church. We've had a Roadman from Arizona visiting yearly hereabouts and no complaints. :)

PS: a song by a friend of mine:

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Seriously great song

Now you got me curious so following. As a carer for someone with a long term mental health problem I'm always searching for new or different ways so I can give better care.

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Great! I don't know if I can help you with that specifically, but perhaps I've given you some things to think about.

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Plenty to think about, if I get any questions I'll ask, thanks.

I find that terapeuts or so called specialists, that are underpaid and work just to survive will never help me...they only prescribe Ritalin to the sick and that is all.
But this is the paradox....because we nee specialist, or more exact plain people that can say:

  • No you idiot that is wrong!
    In meditation I transformed miself into something else...and after many Years of practice...I can trully say that I am with "one leg into other world"
    ...
    But to explain this:
  • here I am refering to perception...or the way I see reality.
    I was connected to a EEG or electroencephalogram, where the doctor discovered that my brain waves had to much delta wave present.
    Delta wave are present in deep sleep, meditation and olso coma.
    I dont mind sharing this...because this is proof that meditation...(I done other things as well) can transform you...
    But in the end...we still bleed red blood...and that makes all of us humans.
    @churdtzu I loved your post and excuse me if I wrote too much!
    Is just that I have pleanty to share about the matter...and even so I censorated myself...because...for theory you need to listen and for practice you need to practice.

Nice :)

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Thanks!

Chinese medicine also offer a different, more respectful approach for mental disharmonies.
https://www.amazon.fr/Psyche-Chinese-Medicine-Disharmonies-Acupuncture/dp/0702029882

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Thanks, that's a good path to consider

Thanks for sharing. After my first tough experience I took the anti-psychotics they ordered the minimum time possible, and never again. What they call 'psychosis' are often deeply transformative experiences, what in shamanistic cultures are called 'initiations' etc.

My analytical mind has given thought to the bipolar aspect of these events. "Psychosis" seems to be characterized by order of 'high' first, then 'low', which is very tiring, but in the organized shamanistic kathartic rituals the rule of thumg goes 'low' first, then 'high'.

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Thanks @id-entity

"Psychosis" seems to be characterized by order of 'high' first, then 'low', which is very tiring, but in the organized shamanistic kathartic rituals the rule of thumb goes 'low' first, then 'high'.

I'm not sure what you mean here. High and low in what way?

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Mainstream bipolar (formerly manic depressive) speaks about "periods of depression and periods of elevated mood"; a waveform has top and bottom; many shamanistic traditions have conceptualized 'above' and 'below' worlds in various forms; drama is based on 'tension' and 'release'; etc.

Often people get first drunk and then hangover; cf psychosis. In shamanistic work you usually first take deep dip in the subconsciouss "below" of fears and trauma etc., and then go to the "elevated mood" aka good vibes. :)

Awesome post. Always loved this Ted talk

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Thanks man. I haven't seen this one; I'll check it out

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Unbelievable insight into the process. Love the phrase "solvable emotional problems."
http://www.intervoiceonline.org

Here are a couple of related videos:

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Cool, I'll have a look at those. This is an article I like on the subject of how other cultures treat these experiences

http://www.jaysongaddis.com/the-shamanic-view-of-mental-illness/

This is really deep and interesting @churdtzu!
Thanks for it!

#Salute

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Much appreciated!