I like to have fun. So one fine weekend in September 2012, I chose to pop in on the Xocai Chocolate ladies who were hosting an event on the Equinox. Jacques, my 12 year old son, had a buddy sleeping over so I put an early curfew on myself – reassuring Jacques’ buddy’s parents. We all laughed. I felt I needed to commit to something on their behalf. So cool, my new approach to parenting! Make sure I am looking after myself…and I need adult company once in a while. I left the house in high spirits.
I was a party all by myself as I nearly ran downstairs upon arrival at the event – the home of one of the Chocolate Ladies. I instantly saw a familiar face, one of my neighbors around the corner. I first met her 14 years prior when our two firstborns were in the same playgroup. It was many years later that she became a neighbor. She instantly marveled at the coincidence, informing everyone of our connection. Not a moment’s pause and the host declares, “So you know the weirdo”. I have replaced the actual word she used as it hurt me to hear it. It shocked me out of my reverie to hear such venom directed towards another Human Being, presumably one of my neighbors. This neighbor had perceived that a man was out to get her children. She alluded to threats of murder. I was stammering. Loss for words. A few more sentences came out before I connected to who they were talking about. I was really caught off guard and heard myself speaking right off the cuff. I cannot really remember the words I used but they were cutting to the chase. I fear they may have lacked compassion for this dear Soul in front of me. Maybe Authentic Honesty was the most Compassionate Response, heaven only knows. I was feeling Compassion for the accused man instantly. I had my own completely Peaceful relationship with him. I put my philosophy/spirituality into one sentence that declared that we each attract our own reality with our thoughts and beliefs. It was not these very words. Something along those lines. Not really sure if my meaning was understood. I recognized her victim energy. Noteworthy, her oldest was/is in a wheelchair. Unsure if that had any relevance to the dramatic chain of events. Then I was bombarded by the accusations, “Could you feel that way if you felt your children’s lives were at stake?” Oh, shit. How did I get into this conversation again? I felt like her goal was to win me over to her side. No way. Not going there. I had my own experiences with this same man and they did not match hers at all. She invited me to her hell. I chose to remain in my heaven. That was how I saw it. I backpedaled as best as I could but basically deflected the conversation away…with the help of my new friend, who concurred with my viewpoint. “Gotta give that girl a hug right now!”, I thought to myself. And that was what I did. OK, end of conversation. The girl I hugged became one of my closest friends.
Short break for a Pema Chodron story:
HEAVEN AND HELL
“There’s another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call Heaven and Hell, life and death, good and bad. It’s a story about how those things don’t really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?” The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.” The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.”
(From her book Awakening Loving Kindness)
Heaven and Hell are the Same Place, My Friend…
Well the next two hours I spent were thoroughly enjoyable. A bunch of Divine Goddesses enjoying music, dancing, snacks and a wee wine thrown in for good measure. My dear neighbor kind of segregated herself off with the host, leaving the rest of us to just have some fun. I could not help but reflect on this when I was alone. I performed the Hawaiian Forgiveness prayer numerous times as my energetic/spiritual attempt to heal the situation for us both. I did not dwell on it but I paid attention to it as I saw room for improvement there. The Forgiveness prayer sounded like this, “Dear one (I used her first name but will leave it out here), I am so sorry that I did not ensure you could understand how much compassion I felt for your situation. I love you. Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you.” I had compassion for myself too. I recognized that the lesson of how to meet people half way was waiting to be learned. How can we harmoniously coexist? If I could go back, what would I do differently? No idea. On the one hand, I must assume that it was perfect. I questioned myself. Should I approach her to tell her that I have been reflecting on our brief and awkward discussion? I sensed, no. But, I offered an invitation to her – via my prayers. I welcomed her if she chose to review it some more with me. I trusted in my Forgiveness prayer to seal this teaching moment – for both of us – with love and light. I could be sure that I know nothing…and that it was all perfect.
I was also reminded of one of my many favorite topics of exploration: Mental Illness. Actually, I recall using the word explore in the awkward conversation with my neighbor at the Chocolate Party. I was not connected to her truth or my own for that matter. This needed some exploration. Mental Illness was at the core of my neighbor’s challenges – to my perception. I had lived ten years in the neighborhood at that time. The man in question was the son of one of the original owners, living with her for many years now as a single Dad. His lovely daughter is near in age to Jacques, my middle child. I met him, Frank for the purposes of this story, before he officially lived in the neighborhood. One beautiful day, my kids were playing in the back yard. Well nothing attracts kids better than the laughter of other kids. The young girl, Frank’s daughter, was visiting her Grandma that day and chose to come and meet us when she heard all of the fun coming from our backyard – across the street from Grandma. Well she fit right in. I had a brief conversation with her dad that day and with her Grandma on a later date. I always like to connect to the people around me. I know most of my neighbors. I recall how generous my neighbor seemed. She offered to babysit my kids if I ever needed. I did not ever take her up on that offer. We already had two sets of grandparents clamouring for this same privilege. Somewhere along the way, Frank separated and divorced from his daughter’s mom…and moved in with his own mom. It did not take me very long to notice that he was either Schizophreniform personality or Schizophrenic. He tended to wear sunglasses all the time, no matter what the weather. I guessed Schizophrenia – which over time was confirmed with that awful kind of gossip that can be hard to avoid in life. I find that I am pretty good at avoiding it but not 100%. My heart went out to everyone involved. A couple times I noticed a police car parked across the street from his house. Never sure if it was for him or not. I admit that I did have a talk with my kids. I described how Schizophrenia can lead someone to see reality differently. I wanted to give them a head’s up but told them to treat him like any adult neighbor on the street. Usually a person is well more often than in crisis. Be courteous, but use your common sense too. Not a single incident of concern.
I run into Frank regularly enough and it is always a pleasant connection. I gained confidence in my Medical career, for sure. Human to human connection is essential, natural and easy. We are all human. I understand that some labels scare people. I always felt a great rapport with Frank. I went out of my way to say hi when I ran into him out and about. The same courtesy I would give anyone that I know. Ask how his daughter and mom are doing. He always asks jovially how the Doctor is doing. He often sits outside in front of his garage. Wave. Hello! I had always felt the mutual respect. Therefore, I never feared him. I see him. I know him as I know many of my neighbors.
Time & Space by The Cinematic Orchestra
In the past, if I were to choose which Medical Diagnoses I would least like to own myself, Schizophrenia would be at the top of the list. Second would be Alzheimer’s Disease. In both of these illnesses, one seemingly disconnects from one’s self. Could there be anything worse? November 2014 I do not connect to this paragraph anymore. I may even have had it backwards, they may be closer to their higher version of themselves. I would like to formally eat those words. Done. I had thought that regularly enough in the past so I chose not to delete the vestigial sentences.
November 29, 2014 – I am not the only one eating those words. The British Psychological Society, BPS, this past week released a 180 page document titled Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia.
Lovely article about it called Making Space For The Meaning of Madness written by a Clinical Psychologist.
I ate the words before I knew that the BPS had. Just sayin’. Somebody has to be first … or at least earlier than later. My direct experience, both personally and professionally, taught me a lot. If you have never had any experience, how could you truly expect to understand it. Reading a textbook? Laughable. The University of Life has issued me a PhD in Psychosis. Think of me for all your psychotic needs. Ha ha…
END Nov. 29 addition.
At the time I wrote this I held onto a hypothesis: every single diagnosis is connected to some spiritual/energetic block of some kind. An energetic/spiritual cure exists for any and all illnesses, if only we understood ourselves fully. As I have explored this hypothesis, I have come across many credible people who would agree with me. Some of these are healers extraordinaire. The Medical Establishment would have a tough time accepting this. Miracle cures…Yes! The idea that deep down, many people are not looking for a cure (my personal perception in the Medical System) is noted within the Energetic Healing Community. Healers cannot assume that the sick individual wants full healing or in the form that the healer wants to offer it. There is this need for respecting another’s wishes, deep prayers and reality. Maybe just comfort is their desire in this life. Maybe a quick exit is more to their heart’s yearning. We cannot define this for them. I think often of this in my interactions with people. After a lot of reflection on my role in the wellness world, I am guided to write my little stories. Life has just flowed so beautifully as I have aligned to this – requiring me to Let Go of a lot of Resistance. I have been concerned for the privacy of others and myself. The Ego is strong with this one….
I now trust that it is all perfect: I can tell my stories with Love and Light. It is with the best of intentions that I share my Love and Compassion with the world and My Self. No doubt, my humanity will shine through. My perfect imperfections. I interpret this as my path – So Good!
My philosophical self-reflections from way back:
- One man’s Crazy is another man’s Genius.
- Truth that falls outside cultural norms is one of my favorite definitions of Crazy – does not fit into the box so to speak.
- I have long learned for myself and now teach my kids, Evaluate the Evaluator. We do not necessarily have to connect to the various evaluations we receive. Our own judgment is paramount even though we know nothing. Presently, I feel connected to my highest version of myself so have come to trust my own judgment better than anyone else’s. In short: Discernment is the Key. The trick however is that if you have been looking through a dirty windshield all your life, you will not even realize that it is dirty. So beware. Stay curious. Be willing to question what you think you know… If everyone has a dirty windshield, others, including the experts, also may lack discernment. You do not know what you do not know. I like to clean my windshield. Possibly a lifelong task.
- My perception of reality could be challenged. I am open to learn what I am fully capable of. “I don’t know how but I know that I can”. I have really connected to this quote from the artist Bill Gingles. I believe in Miracles…
- One man’s Miracle is another Man’s Reality.
I have questioned over and over: What is Mental Illness? In my newfound vibrancy, I have been accused of being Crazy. A friend recounted a story to me that speaks to this same issue. She was eating lunch in a downtown Office Building Food Court. Out of the blue, a man approached a signpost in the public space. He entered into a deep squat and held it while tapping out a musical rhythm with his hands. My friend’s perception was, “Wow, what a Beautiful, Spontaneous Expression of Joy I am treated to in this moment”. She was thankful for this man. I will never know if she exaggerates or not but it was her perception that many individuals around her were quick to grab their cellphones to call Security. The spontaneous behavior of this man scared them. If he would do this random act, what other unexpected behavior is he capable of? As quickly as the man entered the scene, he exited. More than one comment was made out loud from the nearby patrons. One of them portrayed exasperation with the weirdos (or some other derogatory word) that inhabit these parts. By the time the Security officer arrived, the scene had ended. The perceptions of this same scene were polar opposites. When viewed with the Fear lens, a person could feel off-balance and not safe. When viewed with the Love lens, one could feel Grateful and experience the Joy of the moment. It was the same scene that played out for everyone. Food for thought.
I have worked as a Doctor. I have studied the DSM – Diagnostic Standards of Mental Illness. I actually reflected on these a lot. In our lectures, it was noted that how one is able to participate in life/activities of daily living could make the difference between illness or not ill. The same symptoms could be present but not indicate an illness if the individual was functioning well in the world. How do we define functioning well? Seems a huge possible continuum here. I have always been a person who has high times. When I am high, I think about the Diagnostic Criteria for Mania. I have experienced hypomania. I am not really sure if this is true for everyone. Another key component is that the state is experienced most of the time for more than 2 weeks running. I can still meet the criteria for Hypomania many times in my life. Was I functioning well? I thought so. Money has never run out. But I am good at attracting money into my life so it would take a long while for me to run out. Each of my kids was part of the plan. I am a healthy individual. Who will be the Judge? I recall Don Miguel Ruiz making the analogy in his book, “The Four Agreements” that if everyone has the same skin disease and then one individual gets cured of it. It will look like the cured individual is the one with the disease. When I am high, I have instinctively hidden away a bit. I do not always have someone to be high with. What if high is more of a cure from the duldrums of Societal Conformity??? I recall after having my first baby as one of those times. I hear so much about Post-Partum Depression. Well, for me, it was more like Post Partum Mania. Life was so good. I saw so much color in the world. I recall painting my house in cheery tones and needing an orange couch and a grand piano. The list could go on and on. I was alive now. Becoming a mother was truly a joyful experience for me. Is joy and being alive a disease. That would be one perception. Elise, my firstborn, was a great companion for me. My then husband was working 14 hour days and was pretty joyful connecting with his little daughter when time allowed. What more could a girl ask for? Friends were made who shared the joy of Motherhood – perfect!
I add in November 2014 – yes, I see how ridiculous I sound. We can talk ourselves into almost anything. I am no exception. I grappled with telling it like it was. Truth that was not happy truth got converted. Likely I still do that. Ever evolving.
I always observed the Psychotic patients with great interest within my training. So many stories, so little time. I cannot really think of one or two that would benefit this discussion. I mostly remember just not quite being sold on this whole thing. What was this thing called Mental Illness? It seemed there was a community system that would cultivate these Illnesses, for lack of a better word. When I saw the individuals all by themselves either in my office or in the hospital (when I was in training), they did not strike me as ill or abnormal. I believe it was a difficult challenge to see the solution for this individual in the vacuum – without considering the wider habitat. It was always a challenge to view the wider environment (early childhood, significant others, stressors of their lives, etc.). I had partially completed a book by Thomas More called Care of the Soul. He spoke of his long career as a counselor where he viewed many symptoms considered within the Psychiatric world as the Soul trying to get our attention. When we could decipher what the Soul was trying to tell us, maybe we could make the choices/changes that would enable us to feel better. Our community’s B.S. (Belief Systems) might play a role in preventing Living Authentically from our Heart and Soul (my own perspective). I would go so far as to say it plays a big role in Mental Illness. My Learned Opinion. And Learned is a two syllable word here. I learned that in the Law Courts. Lawyers talk about each other using the two syllable version of the word learned. Got a kick out of that, “My Learned Friend”. Community Belief Systems as a cause for Mental Illness. More Food for Thought. Because, as I have said so many times: I. Know. Nothing. …But I have noticed a few things.
Wrote this September 2012 – including the title. Ironic is an Understatement. Amended in November 2014. Removed a fair amount. See below.
I was blown away reading this story a year after it was written. I had just been discharged from the Psychiatric Ward for the second time. Can you say Incarceration? As I wrote it I heard Cajun man, the old Adam Sandler character from Saturday Night Live, pronouncing it.
I stopped medication to ensure that it was actually still needed. And yes, it was. Thank you for asking! The story was written one month prior to receiving my very own DSM diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, with psychotic symptoms, during my first hospital admission at the end of October 2012. Mania with a big “M”. Amazing how I had been contemplating the Psychiatric system for so long only to discover it from this new viewpoint. Discovered that, despite my best intentions, I stigmatized Mental Illness myself: an Ugly Truth to my Heart. A Doctor is supposed to be Neutral, Caring and Compassionate. I thought I was … until I realized I wasn’t.
I grieved the label of Bipolar Disorder. Letting that go did not happen overnight, but it happened. I reconnected to ancient wisdom, a longtime hobby of mine. I forgot everything I ever learned about Bipolar Disorder and simply paid attention to my own experience: extremely liberating and uplifting. I felt so whole and complete, whether I took Lithium or not seemed a moot point to me. I felt awesome! I was awesome- awesomely Angèle. Who else could I be? I am the world’s leading expert in being Angèle.
Crazy by the Barenaked Ladies
Is Bipolar Disorder really any different from Diabetes or High Blood Pressure or Depression for that matter. I think not. I truly believe that each of them has a root cause that is energetic and different than what Medical Science now believes. Medical Science is curious…so it likely will figure it out eventually. Kind of like how tonsillectomy was reviewed with a different perception and then, viola, tonsillectomy is now a rare procedure. Who knew? Back in the 1950’s, a lot of tonsils were extracted. My own mom was admitted to hospital with a brother and a sister, the three at once. There was a monumental day in history when six of my family’s tonsils were collected in jars. Three tonsillectomies on the same day. They were running a special family rate. You know I jest.
I believe in Miracles…
Or is that just reality???
P.S. -I chose not to upgrade any of the ideas related to healing. I have elaborated in other stories. This story documents my early thoughts from two years ago.
I figure out how . I know that I can. …and it is easy.
P.S.S. – Ran into the neighbor (who feared for her kids) on the day of publishing this story. At a photography business, not in the neighborhood. Amazing coincidence! I experience a lot of those. I had not seen her outside of waving from our cars this past couple of years. I was treated to a beautiful warm exchange. My intuition read that our prior interaction at the chocolate party was water under the bridge. Peace. Yes!!!