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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gina, the magical cat

Let me tell you about my cat. Her name is Gina and she is truly special, and I won’t argue with other pet owners who all believe that their pets are equally special if not more.
My cat is more than special. She is a magical cat. Let’s first have a look at these marvellous eyes.

See? An Egyptian goddess she is, and she knows. The house does belong to her, I am just a visitor.
Here is a proof. 

She just claimed the entire bed to herself, as well as my table, and the third floor, where she complains if you go to fetch something when she is napping. How dare you, she mews, disturbing my beauty sleep!
We took Gina from a local shelter when she was 7 years old. She is 13 now, but in good health and still quite active on the local cat scene. Other cats know better than to argue with Gina, when it comes to defending her territory (as well as the territory belonging to the enemy), she is unbeatable.

An example. Before I finally installed a cat flap for her to go out when she fancies, I noticed at some point that she would mew, asking to let her out, exactly right after our neighbours would leave their house to go to work. They had two cats living in the house, but it didn’t cross my mind that my cat had such guts as to go there and eat both their breakfast and lunch, all of it. It didn’t appear to me as possibility for the simple reason that Gina is always starving. One would assume that she doesn’t eat at all, despite the fact that I buy her best cat brands and she has breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as treats.
But Gina was expanding, literally so. To an extent that when I took her for a routine check up to the vet, he advised to put her on a diet and suggested to refer her to pets’ diet club.
“Your cat is on the border of obesity,” he said while cuddling Gina, who was purring from pleasure even at the vet. She is a very kind cat. But she is also super intelligent, I have to give it to her.
And so, one morning I followed her. I sneaked out after she left and where she was, guilty as charged, emerging from the neighbours’ cat flap, with a satisfied grin on her face, still eating.
She knew that she was naughty because once seeing me, she jumped over the fence and didn’t come back until two hours later, thinking I would forget.
“Don’t you dare going there and stealing their food!” I was shouting at her back, in full naivety that she would follow my recommendation. You see, Gina is more than extra-smart, she is also extremely easy to get along with in terms of sharing a household. She understood from the start that it isn’t advisable to wake me up in the morning and lets me sleep, waiting patiently for her breakfast, even if it is at 11 am.
One evening though when the neighbour came back home from work, I could hear some screaming. It did cross briefly my mind that my cat could be a culprit, but still, I hung on to hope that it wasn’t.
It was. As the neighbour explained, he first thought it was one of his own, lying in the middle of the sofa as it was a throne. But then he remembered that his own cats weren’t allowed on the sofa and upon inspection, found them hiding in the attic, terrified from being taken over by the most complacent cat on earth. Yes, that’s what they told us in the shelter. She did manage to foul them all.
“Gina is very good with other cats and children,” the staff at the shelter said, then adding as an after-thought, “she does like her food though.”
I am not sure whether the neighbours decided to move because of my cat, or maybe it was just a natural progression of the events (after all they did plan to buy a house, just not for another couple of years), but Gina is not shrinking because of their move. No, not at all. They still try to refer her to the pets’ diet club every time we visit the vet. And she is still annoyed with my son, but at least she allows now that he cuddles her…for a second so. But it is a progress. In the first couple of years, Gina would literary fly out of the room at the first sight of him, to reappear only when he was in bed. Yes, she is good with children, provided they sleep.

And now, to confirm that she is magical. Yesterday I made this picture, while my cat was standing on the kitchen counter in front. The result? I became a fairy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Psychiatry versus Psychiatrists

Now, with the festivities behind us, and when everyone is busy with sticking to some new year resolutions, before giving up on them, as usual, I reckon it’s time to update you about what I’ve been doing during the holiday period.

While I might have an odd kilo I need to drop (one to be precise), as well as cut down on wine and coffee (mhh), unlike many other people who were busy shopping and cooking, I spent my final days before Christmas on writing an article for Mad in America. Here is a link to my article, called ‘Dialogue with a psychiatrist’.

This is a good article, I have to say (more or less humbly), and the number of views and comments are a clear demonstration that it reached the audience I wanted. I wished to lift up the mood of all people who have mental health diagnosis, who are stuck in a psychiatric hospital, or are giving up because they had misfortune of dealing with some bad doctors, right before Christmas. And I hope that my wish came true.

However, it also attracted some criticism from oldest members of the community (Mad in America) as their point of view is that I already come from a wrong position as long as I try arguing with a psychiatrist, less talking nicely to one. It doesn’t even matter that the psychiatrist in my article is a fictional one. I don’t see any, you see. They sing me off very quickly, as either they really think I don’t need them at all, or simply don’t want to deal with me (more likely). In my next post I will present new tips on how to talk with a psychiatrist. Beware!

But so, back to that article. I come from a position that science and magic can co-exist peacefully together. Even Christian Church started to argue for a dialogue recently, with the Pope proclaiming that the theory of evolution and Christian faith don’t exclude each other.

In my own personal case, if anything, more harm was done by some people who advised me against taking any medication after my first psychosis, saying that I am totally normal. Yes, I am! I am more normal than the majority of the human population and having been in psychosis definitely helps me to understand that those who are mad often possess much more sanity than the rest of the world, especially as far as the political elite is concerned. If I stuck to that initial dose recommended by my first doctor, and then reduced it gradually as advised (by the same doctor), then I would probably avoid any relapses in the future, and not deal with the issue of psychiatry and psychiatrists for the rest of my life.

But as fate would impose I would deal with more psychiatrists and psychiatry as a consequence of me not following recommendations from the doctor. And maybe there is a reason for it. Now, with a PhD in philosophy and managing to maintain more or less stable and happy life, my argument is and will remain that medication can help! Honestly, why choose a life being transferred from one hospital to another, instead of a life where you can have it all? Be a member of the society, work, have a family, friends and be happy? And still be able to experience magic?

And therefore, my main argument is still the following. I don’t like the power that psychiatry as institution holds, it needs a radical reform, as well as the whole domain of mental health, but there are individual, nice doctors to be found among psychiatrists and we shouldn’t ban then. If there is help available, we should take it!
In my opinion, as far as psychiatrists and medication are concerned, everything is in the dose (of medication). And in my next post I will tell you how you should talk with a psychiatrist. The trick is to come prepared! 
(picture taken from cartoon stock)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas NHS

Let me tell you a story, especially that we are fast approaching Christmas and it’s nice to hear also positive things. Right when NHS is facing a crisis.

For all those who don’t know what NHS is, it is an abbreviation for National Health Service which is the main medical care in the UK, reminiscent of my communist past. Yes, this was my impression when I settled in the UK for good. NHS is one of the best medical systems in the world, and those who fight for its future are totally in the right. A system which cares for all citizens of a country, and provides more or less free medical care (even if those who work do contribute to paying into it) is something that the UK should try to keep.

My first encounter with the marvels of NHS happened 9 years ago when I entered this country in the most spectacular fashion. I travelled from Brussels to Birmingham on the plane in full blown psychosis, because my parents, in a rare glimpse of clarity, decided to try a new country for my treatment, especially that my mum lived already in the UK and didn’t want to be stuck in Brussels if I ended up in the hospital there.

I was angry with her for a while about that decision because I love Belgium with all my heart and know for sure that choices of food would be much better, even in the hospital, and I had also private insurance for the occasion.

But now, after all these years, and with newly acquired wisdom, I am thankful that she decided to bring me here, because after spending time in the local hospital, I realised that being a psychiatric patient isn’t that bad, that the UK is a great country and that I loved Sheffield. If not for that hospital I wouldn’t probably try my chances and apply for a PhD bursary here, which I won and somehow stayed much longer.

But so, the hospital. At that time, 9 years ago, NHS was in a much more relaxed form. Things have changed radically since then and not for the best, but I still recognise the goodness when I visit other patients or go and see my GP. And when I say ‘relaxed’, I mean it. Nurses were extremely nice, and staff working in the kitchen was over-helpful. I could order a salad for lunch if I wanted (patients stuck in the hospital now, take note, you can order a salad!), and also escape the premises much easier than in other hospitals, such as back in the Netherlands, where everything was locked, and it took me 2 weeks to come up with a strategy about how to escape the hospital. Not here. Staff members simply forgot to lock the doors, and me and another patient just walked out. She took a train to Manchester and was found there only a week later, as to me, I went to the nearest pub and got drunk. One thing they really struggle with, in the domain of psychiatry, is that they ban alcohol from the hospital’s premises, a strategy, I believe, which isn’t right. What is wrong with having a glass of wine while being in the hospital? Mhh?

It didn’t take them that long to find me, especially that they even sent helicopters to locate me, and when I was brought back, no one put me into isolation room or tried to drug me, as was the case back in the Netherlands. No, if anything, they announced on my arrival that I could have a nicer room with en-suite and helped me to move my stuff from another, much less cheerful room.

And so, right before Christmas, I would like to thank all the staff at NHS which helped me on my journey. You are all very kind and patient, Merry Christmas to you all!
(picture taken from NHS Million campaign)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Madness and Shamanism

Every mad person is a potential shaman. Yes, I do believe so, and it is one of these rare truths being confirmed by massive historic evidence. Shamans, also known as medicine men, were the first healers on this planet, who would have direct link with the nature and spirit world, and by being able to use this connection (such as through hearing voices), were able to know how to heal a person, or at least, how to help this person find a correct path towards recovery or just die in peace.
(image found on
Moving back to the 21st century, where we are now, shamanism is a dying, or better said, twisted upside down skill. There are still, hardly to find, individuals, located in some remote places (such as in Africa), and where they are helped and even strongly encouraged, to develop their talent, which does require getting mad at first, and then being able to experience two worlds at once. Being here, and listening to the spirit world at the same time requires extensive stamina and bravery.  
But here, in the Western hemisphere, this shamanic skill (or call to heal, and it can be manifested differently, depending on the individual), is being repressed by the psychiatry.
Let me try to explain.
Michel Foucault, the French philosopher, was among the first, and is still the best person who was able to analyse the approach to madness from the point of view of power and institutions. As he says in many of his works (volumes and volumes, in fact), at some point in history, it was decided by those in power that all forms of weirdness should be controlled (otherwise, there is always this potential of resisting the status quo by those who see and hear things which matter), and the institution of psychiatry was created. Psychiatry is not just a domain of medicine, it is indeed an institution and as with every other institution,  it means that some abuse of power is always there.
Don’t take me wrong, I am not among those ‘mad’ individuals who think that the psychiatry as such is totally evil, that we should ban it like totally and just go on with our lives. In all honesty,  I think that a dialogue with psychiatry is needed, as well as  a more balanced approach towards people who experience weird stuff (hearing voices, being psychotic, being delusional, and so on), like a radical reform in mental health completely. But we are not there yet, and so, I am just arguing my point on my blog.
For instance, nowadays, if you have this misfortune of ending up in a psychiatric hospital (and the number is on the increase, due to pressure of our capitalistic, reality TV society), you will meet a psychiatrist at some point. He will sit you down and spend 5 minutes of his time (that’s the precise amount of time a leading consultant-psychiatrist has to spare on each patient once a week, because of cuts in the budget and struggling NHS), on telling you that you have a big problem, that you are not well, that what you hear and experience is not real, it is a disease, and then will end up by prescribing you a killing dose of medication and giving you a diagnosis, in most cases.
This is totally wrong.
Ok, yes, I was diagnosed as bipolar at some point, but after studying the domain of psychiatry and everything else (spirituality, shamanism, different belief systems, and so on), I came to the conclusion that if I still wanted to enjoy my life then I needed to take control of my illness, and not give this power to psychiatrists (as nice as some of them are, but I don’t think they understand madness properly and have to follow too many rules themselves, as in every institution). I learned that yes, I do need medication, unless I want to become a proper shaman and retire somewhere in a village in Siberia, but that I had to decide on the dosage myself. I mean, how can the psychiatrists be so sure, when they prescribe things (read about the diagnosis I gave to the psychiatry itself)? In 5 minutes time? Dealing with totally different personalities, needs and souls?
Well, they can’t.
And so my advice to all those who are diagnosed as mental, try to take madness into your own hands. Research it, question things, think about what it means to you, and most importantly, don’t allow to kill that nascent shaman inside you.
I am a shaman and I learned how to live in two parallel realities at once. It is a gift.
(do I look like a proper shaman or as a mad witch, mhh?)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

On being mental. Tips Number 3!

While being busy writing about politics, I kind of forgot to update my readers (I have no idea whom I am addressing, but still) about my own mental status, something I was writing extensively about on here before, since this blog is dedicated to madness. Madness is something I quite cherish since I do believe that those who hear and see things (the mental) are simply standing above all those who are stuck in being normal, especially taking into account such crazy things as Black Friday spending mania, watching endlessly reality TV, or thinking about the next car or house to buy. Being mad is, I think, a response of sanity to the world gone mad, something I also wrote in my article for Mad in America, which I then asked to remove for a year, because I got slightly paranoid and decided that if people will read that I am openly bipolar, they will stop talking to me on the streets.

I will write a special post on paranoia (one does have to, since that Matrix movie is not that far from the truth), but I rather give you some tips on how to prepare well for Christmas for now. Most of my advice is for the mad but I will try to incorporate something in between that ‘normal’ people can also use. I even reckon that those who are still walking without diagnoses might actually start adopting some, and you will understand what I mean, once you carry on reading this post.
So, in case you signed any stupid contract with a new IT provider or car insurance company (quite a few of them are now bombarding the public with offers), even with a close of ‘non-refundable’, you can always cancel anything as soon as you proclaim that you are mad.
For instance, I once ordered a full collection of jazz DVDs while being in a psychiatric hospital and using a computer at the staff room (they kindly allowed), but obviously, once I was back home, and after I had checked my bank account, I realised that I had done something totally stupid and called the company which sent me boxes and boxes of DVDs at once.
“Excuse-me, but it was sent already 4 weeks ago and it is not refundable!” The representative of the company which sent me the DVDs tried to explain.
“Excuse-me,” I answer while noticing with total bewilderment that I had also subscribed to all beauty magazines, as well as beauty boxes, standing in the corner of the room, ready to fall over the carpet under the weight, “I was in a psychiatric hospital when I ordered all that stuff. I was in full-blown up psychosis and can even send you a proof, such as a letter from my psychiatrist.”
Silence. And a long one. I think the guy was consulting the legal team or something.
“Ok, we will refund all the money and you can keep the DVDs, have a lovely day.”
You see? In all honesty, I didn’t expect that result at all, but it, obviously, made me thinking. Like, wait a moment, and how about trying to cancel the rest of all my purchases I did while being in the hospital and still managing to keep such nice things as that collection of creams I received because I did a year subscription on a beauty magazine (quite a few of them actually)? Mhh?
I did keep the collection of creams and I also managed to get a whole refund on that Belgian chocolate and wine I ordered to be delivered to the psychiatric hospital directly, sending the staff into total panic and banning me from the computer (finally). The wine had to be delivered to my mum, meanwhile, instead of the hospital, where I promised a party, to all other patients.
And so, dear mental patients here in the UK, I am so sorry that you have no longer any access to computers or internet in the staff’s room. That policy was changed after I visited the hospital and they had to rewrite that rule.
Sincere apologies,
Ekaterina (the mental)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is Russell Brand an Ideology? Not sure he is, but I AM!

The question of whether Russell Brand can be an ideology was brought up by one of my students in media studies last Friday, when we were discussing the ideology. In order to help and bring you into the picture, ideology is a set of beliefs hold by an individual, group or society taken as granted, but which might not be true at all.

For instance, to give you an example, when I was born, on the 10th of July (which is a month of cancer) during the year of Dragon (I prefer to keep my age as a secret for the time being), it was in the socialist country of the Soviet Union, which was busy building communism at that time. I wasn’t questioning the ideal, of course not, because it was and still is, the best system that a society can have. To each, according to their needs, as Marx would say. In reality, however, this system is the absolute opposite of truth, since humans are too greedy to be able to ever make it happen.

Moving back to the UK, where I am now, we live in the capitalism, which is presented to us as the prefect structure, since we can all try to make money, appear on the X-Factor and try to lure beauty industry into believing that we are the next top model. Do you understand? Total rubbish, in other words.
And so, when the student asked me about Russell Brand and whether he can be analysed as an ideology, I have to say, I was smitten and for a couple of seconds (more like a whole bloody minute) lost my voice (which is rare, as I hardly ever can shut up during my seminars because I simply love teaching).

My first (internal dialogue) reaction was: WHAT? Followed by (still internal dialogue), I have no ‘f’ clue, and then arriving at the obvious conclusion that most of my students are geniuses.
I mean, who could ever think of Russell Brand as an ideology? He is a Brand, not an ideology!
But, that question has been chasing me for the whole week, to an extent that I have been researching it rigorously. The thing is, I was curious about Russell Brand before, because I remember that day when I was skipping some boring presentations at a conference, and since no clothes’ shops were in the proximity I went to the local academic bookshop. And here it was, that ‘Revolution’ book by Russell Brand, occupying the most prominent place, at the centre of the shop, storing hundreds of copies.

In all honestly, I was surprised to see it because I knew of Russell Brand as a comedian, and seeing him getting into politics with some hint at Marxism, stopped me on my track and I almost bought the book, but then remembered that I had to go back to the conference and a bag of purchase from a bookshop would betray me as the biggest procrastinator.
However, I did subscribe to his channel on Youtube and watch him occasionally, because I do find him funny and he has quite refreshing and interesting view on politics. As quoted from Wikipedia, “British commentator Joan Smith dismissed Brand as the "canny self-publicist" who indulges in "waffle about 'revolution'" as "one celebrity, I'm afraid, who's more idiot than savant."
But I disagree with such criticism! It might be that Joan Smith is an idiot herself. For instance, if Russell Brand actually voted (he encouraged sabotaging elections for a number of times), he could indeed become an ideology, especially if he delivers on his promise ‘We’ve got to do something’ and does shake up the current prevailing thinking that we live in some sort of democracy. He is also a very nice and kind man, and all the money from the book goes to charity. And looking at his date of birth, 14th of June 1975, he has all the chances to become a politician. His year of birth is the Rabbit, and according to the Chinese, rabbits can make great career in the political sphere. His month of birth represents Gemini, who are natural leaders and end up with a lot of followers.
So, yes, let’s watch this space in terms of Russell Brand becoming a leader of some new political party.
But coming back to me, and my title, I started to think that I could become an ideology myself! You see, I am mental (officially so) and my belief about madness is that it is not an illness but a gift from God. Some of us are blessed with seeing, and I do belong to the group. I also possess all the necessary narcissistic skills to actually build up on my theory of me being an ideology and will update you on that in my next post.
I am stuck with the ideas about how to call my ideology though, so, please, do comment with some suggestions!
Sincerely yours,

Ekaterina (ideology), PhD