Outside this corporate medical culture, there is another way, an ancient way found in all societies across history. Tribal societies put the authority to heal in the hands of people who've struggled through illness and survived it. You become qualified to help others because you've been mad or sick yourself. Illness is a painful initiation into your calling as a wounded healer.
Bare ground does not stay bare. Tenacious plants called pioneer species find ways to spread and extend roots deep into the soil, providing homes for all kinds of other creatures and enriching the soil over their cycles of life and death. Many of the most common pioneer plants are the ones we are trained to see as weeds; plants like the dandelion whose strong taproot extends far below the depleted topsoil to the deep layers of subsoil that hold hidden minerals far underground. The dandelion pulls these up and incorporates them into its leaves and flowers; when it dies all the nutrients that were locked underground join the upper layers of soil and make them available to the next generations of plants.
You can see it all from the highway: enormous monocrops of identical corn plants that reach for miles bordered by an endless sea of strip malls, parking lots, and tract housing. You can see it on our kitchen counters and in our classrooms: the same can of soda on the table in Cairo and Kentucky, the same definitions of "˜progress' and "˜freedom' in textbooks around the world. Monoculture "” the practice of replicating a single plant, product or idea over a huge area "” is about the most unstable, unsustainable, unimaginative form of organization that exists...
a man named todd in the desert growing celery on a day with electric light
and I am a passer-through seeking some kind of truth behind the strip-mall facade of america and he is channeling it through the minerals in his plants and we are talking under a disproportionate amount of sunlight for november and he has known me for about 10 minutes and I can feel myself radiating some kind of energy out through my skin...
So we're about to give you a whole bunch of suggestions that will help you get better informed about the places you might need to turn for help if things get really out of hand.
There are so many lenses through which we can look at the experiences that get labeled mental illness; one of the more imaginative is shamanism. Shamanism is a tradition found in virtually every primitive society, in every forgotten corner of the world.
First Printed in the SF Bay Guardian September 2002 By: Sascha Altman DuBrul
I WAS 18 years old the first time they locked me up in a psych ward. The police found me walking on the subway tracks in New York City, and I was convinced the world was about to end and I was being broadcast live on prime-time TV on all the channels. I hadn't slept for months, and I thought there were microscopic transmitters under my skin that were making me itch and recording everything I was saying for some top-secret branch of the CIA. After I'd walked the tracks through three stations, the cops wrestled me to the ground, arrested me, and brought me to an underground jail cell and then to the emergency room of Bellevue psychiatric hospital, where they strapped me to a bed. Once they managed to track down my terrified mother, she signed some papers, a nurse shot me up with some hardcore antipsychotic drugs, and I woke up two weeks later in the "quiet room" of a public mental hospital upstate.