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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Did shops kill the flâneur?

Back in the nineties I was a flâneur.

Flâneur is a stroller, an avid observer of life, someone who walks, takes part in his surroundings without really making himself felt present. The flâneur, according to Walter Benjamin, was a curious detective, understanding the urban landscape around him, strolling around just for the beauty of the discovery and not in order to actively participate in the activities of the crowds. In other words, we can’t find this character in shops. First, it is unlikely to visit the shops solely for the ‘gastronomy of the eye’, and secondly, even in the unlikely scenario that the flâneur is there only in order to observe, he can’t remain invisible. The amount of security cameras, at least in the UK, make sure that everyone is on display.

But when I was living in Moscow, the possibility to be a flâneur was definitely there. I was constantly on a stroll. You see, in the Soviet Union, it was unthinkable to think about a trip to the shops, because there were hardly any and when there were any shops they were hardly selling anything.

But then things started to change. The reforms that Gorbachev put in place had an initial effect of small starvation problems. Shops became even emptier and when a product would appear, everyone was after it, regardless of what it was: a vacuum cleaner, some bread, pants, bras or coats. Obviously, with such development, shops acquired a new status. They became interesting.

With it my experience of flânerie was changing but not yet disappearing entirely. The square near all underground stations reflected what was going to happen, but it was still eluding me, that this was the future. Instead of students gathering for political discussions or dating, these places were now full of ‘larioks’, small shops where one could buy stuff. For a while all of them were selling bananas (I reckon that this was the first major import that Russia experienced as an independent country) but later they switched to selling cola, foreign cigarettes and tampons.

But yes, these lareks were more a curious sight rather than a proper destination for unwinding, spending some quality time and relaxing. Of course, this is far from the truth nowadays. When I do visit Moscow now, shopping malls there would leave any Londoner or New Yorker in serious doubt as to whether their own state regimes care enough about them as consumers. Today there are gigantesque monsters decorating the city in all possible and impossible streets, providing satisfaction not seen anywhere else.

Yes, nowadays, it is the same as elsewhere, with shops being the ultimate destination for passing by time, providing the fake feeling of happiness and absolute delight when entering a shop, leaving it, going to another and so on, like an act of exorcism making you feel like a drug addict desperately waiting for the next dose of treatment.

So, I do agree with Evgeniy Morozov that the flânerie is dead, and it is shops which killed it. All other forms of being a flâneur, including cyber-flâneur are simply impossible when everyone’s attention is focussed on the next gadget to buy.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I shop, therefore I am

In my previous post I mentioned the fact that being mad is a response of sanity to the world which lost its meaning. We live like zombies where we are defined by shopping, watching X-Factor, wishing for a nicer bigger house or a better car, and where in times of crises, it is more about reacting rather than acting. And one of the most grotesque manifestations of zombielism is the amount of time we spend in shops.

I am a shopaholic myself. It is hard nowadays to escape the phenomenon because everyone shops. I don’t even feel guilty about going shopping as it is where that life takes place. Going shopping is a well-planned, much anticipated trip when I can indulge myself fully and spend some quality time in the company of those like me. I am, obviously, not alone when I am in shops, as the number of fellow shopaholics demonstrates on my escapades. As it turns out we never talk, but it is the exact reason of shopping. I shop alone and in style. Just like the rest of the Western population. We smile politely to each other, we say ‘sorry’ when we try to reach in a hurry for the latest offer at Sainsbury and we don’t ask ourselves anymore as to why we are where.

Shops dominate every city centre in most countries in Europe. It is all about shops - the museums of the generation which has gone mad.

In my case, the addiction grew with age, time and experience, simply because I didn’t have a choice before (read my post on first capitalistic shops in Russia here). Trust me, if I did, I would have embraced it much earlier, so fun and fulfilling it is once on the scene. I look, I observe, I try and I buy, and I try once again when I get home, being consumed by guilt only later when I sit down and realise that once again… I spent the day in futility. But still, I return. There isn’t much else to do nowadays if one happens to be in town. Shops and shoppers are everywhere, luring me once again into the world where there is no meaning.

The whole Western hemisphere literally lives in shops. There are so many shops and people hanging out in there that I often wonder as to whether anyone is actually at work.

What are all these people doing in there, including me?

Thomas Humphrey Marshall once observed that when many people run in the same direction we can ask two questions: what are they running after or what are they running from? The same two questions can be applied to people in shops. Why are they where and what are they trying to achieve?

Let’s start looking at it in my next post.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Being mad is a response of sanity to the world gone mad

Yes, this is what I’ve been thinking recently. It is not madness which really matters but the core of the matter: why, indeed, do people become mad?

I have been reflecting on the issue for quite a while. Maybe it is the current world situation or the accumulation of reading the news about the world situation, but the answer, while being planted on a sub-conscious level for some time, finally reached my head in the morning of last week, when I was following the refugee crisis. With a mixture of total bewilderment and sadness I was reading about all this outcry taking place around the crisis. Which has been going on for a good couple of years, but no one seemed to notice, at least try to take part. But suddenly, secret billionaires and desperate housewives are on the scene with all kinds of ideas: from buying an island to sending tampons to refugee camps.

Debord, a brilliant sociologist of the last century said it already long time ago. We started to live in the society of the spectacle. It is not the act which matters but the image. The whole society as a whole lost its meaning. This outcry for refugees will die once something new and more exciting is presented to us by the media, while the starving refugees will hope that another terrible picture will emerge somewhere to bring spotlight back to them. They might only dream, because soon it will be about bombing and invading Syria. Media manipulates our public opinion as a good behaved crowd of sheep.

Unfortunately, all these crises don’t change the core of the matter. The society as such sucks. While the refugees and people in Syria try to survive as each day comes, here, in the West, we have mostly other preoccupations (I mean, who we are kidding really?). It is still about buying a new car, a new house, following a new diet and buying a new cream. We are still driven by consumption and accumulation and until our principles of life change, nothing in the world will change either.

And therefore, I decided to look bit by bit at the manifestations of madness in the Western world. I will look at the world which suffers from zombielism (look at the definition here), and mostly at things that seem to preoccupy the majority of our time, such as diets, gyms and whether to go for Botox or not.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The state of mania: to fear or embrace?

I intentionally put it as a ridiculous question because the explanations about mania are bordering on grotesque stupidity. Just google mania and it gives you the scary stories about what it means to be a bipolar. In the state of mania you are prone to quit your job, spend ridiculous amounts of money (probably if you are Stephen Fry or Robbie Williams), have numerous sex (I wish), and decide that you are Jesus Christ.

All these things are true and false to a certain extent. The only, real problem I decipher from all these statements is the money one can spend. And I don’t think that it is the problem of only bipolar people. Take any magazine or watch any TV programme and they all incite you to spend. The whole society is based on spending, so it is not a disease but a condition of living in the twenty-first century. So, as long as one doesn’t go into a minus, I wouldn’t call it as a major problem. Especially that you can claim all your money back. Yes, I did it, I know. I once subscribed to all female magazines when I was in the state of mania and was able to cancel it without any problems as soon as I was out of the hospital. And, I ended up with all their free gifts they promise upon subscription. Not bad, he?

The proclaimed promiscuous sex when you are bipolar is actually a good thing when you start dating, or so I noticed (and no, it isn’t like that in real life). Men want to date you because of this claim. It gives you a certain reputation. Being bipolar equals being good in bed. The saying goes ( and yes, yes, it is true!). But if you are in a relationship of seven years and running, with a small child in tow, it is the same as for everyone else.

As to quitting jobs I found that it isn’t a bad thing. When I became bipolar I was working as a financial analyst of banks, and as much as I loved the company for which I worked and my colleagues, I absolutely hated the financial analysis. I was analysing banks. So, I quit my job and since then received a bursary to do a PhD…twice. I am a Doctor of Philosophy and I organised my life in such a way that I can decide what job I do or not. Bipolar equals being clever, and yes, it is true as well.

As to being Jesus Christ, I have to admit that I am guilty. Yes, I was one. Or I thought that I was one. Or I thought that maybe I was related to Jesus, or maybe that Jesus is in me, as the Bible says.

So, are Christians then all idiots?

No, I don’t think so, but the majority of psychiatrists I met, are indeed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The advantages of being mad

In a world where we are increasingly taught some kind of conformity, I find being mad quite liberating. This is the argument I advance in the article I published in Mad in America (, and since then my belief became even stronger.

Yes, being mad has its advantages. Before I became bipolar for the first time, I was labouring in a financial consultancy in Amsterdam, thinking that being happy equalled a good salary at the end of the month, going to the gym at least twice a week, being in the office from nine to five while obviously not enjoying the job I was doing, and conforming in all other aspects of my life. I used to care what people thought of me, how they judged me and whether they were talking behind my back.

Obviously, they talk now more behind my back, and while with my diagnosis I learned that it comes with a label of stigma attached to it, I also discovered some other quite liberating things. I am different, I dare more in life than so called ‘the normal’ and as a result, I believe that maybe I achieved things that otherwise I wouldn’t. My diagnosis kind of pushed me to avoid being defined as just bipolar and since receiving one, I lived in two more countries, learned an additional language (in addition to other 3), got a bursary to do a PhD, became a Doctor of Philosophy and created a family. I also learned to stick with the like-minded people. I am blessed with some really great friends, after a purge of all those from my life who turned out to be judgemental and narrow-minded. My true friends love me as I am, like the fact that I might be slightly eccentric, enjoy that I laugh at my own madness (and laugh together with me), and are there for me at my lowest moments.

No, madness is indeed liberating. Thanks to it I am not judgemental myself (or I hope so) and I created networks and friendships which I wouldn’t probably have if I were totally normal. I talk to gods and see the fairies; I believe in unusual things and am blessed with an imagination which ensures that I am never bored. Place me in a remote village somewhere at the end of the world and I will still have a blast because I am mad.

And most importantly, due to my madness, I laugh a lot. And sometimes I think that all other, ‘the normal’, should try a dose of madness in order to laugh more as well.

How about that as a concluding thought?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bipolar and medication: to take or not to take?

This is a question that all of us, the mental (and not only bipolar) ask as soon as we start dealing with the psychiatry. To take that monstrosity called medication with terrible side effects, or risk spending the rest of our lives enclosed in psychiatric facilities (and trust me, this isn’t fun).

Personally, I am all for medication. After all, plenty of people need to take it for all kinds of reasons and I know from personal experience that it does help. But the problem with medical establishment called the psychiatry is that upon giving you a diagnosis or releasing you from the hospital, they present you with a bag full of pills without explaining properly as to how one is supposed to live on 20 hours of sleep a day. Yes, this is usually the dose of medication that the psychiatrists feel the most comfortable with, the one where one is slowly developing into a zombie.

It was only with experience and several stays in the hospital that I learned how to deal with this problem. It is all in the details. Yes, I do need medication, even if I disagree with the mantra of the psychiatrists that developing an occasional psychosis is the end of the world (it is not and it can be an amazing experience), and I do agree that swallowing a daily pill will help me to avoid the company of psychiatrists and stay inside the community of all those we define as normal. But the detail lies in the dose. The psychiatrists tend to overdo the dosage because frankly speaking, they have little knowledge of what madness is. I think that lying in bed being unable to move because of the amount of medication is madness and not when one shouts on the streets about doomsday.

And so I learned how to manipulate it. The psychiatrists might prescribe whatever they want, but I am capable enough of making my own decisions. 300ml of quetiapine a day? Reduce it to 100ml (and when I am stable and happy, I also reduce it to 50ml). 10ml of risperidone a day? I wouldn’t take this medication from hell even under the risk of going mental for the rest of my life, but in case one doesn’t have any choice, I would reduce it to 5ml. 30ml of olanzapine? Yes, sleeping the whole day might seem as a good idea for someone who needs some rest, but if one still wants to have some kind of life, 10ml should be sufficient. The trick is to take a therapeutic dose and eliminate the aspect of becoming a zombie. We all want to live, enjoy the company of friends, find a good job, watch a movie, have fun. And psychiatrists (with the exception of some) don’t seem to understand this simple law of life. So, why should we listen to them if they just want to medicate us? The answer is simple. We shouldn’t.

I am happy enough on my self-medicated dose of quetiapine, thank you very much. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Coffee, biscuits and the 12 step programme

It was in Amsterdam that I attended my first (and hopefully, the last) 12 step programme. You know, the system which addresses the addiction problem. It started with alcoholic anonymous and spread fast and large to include everything, and when I say everything I mean it literally. The 12 step programme treats anything which can be treatable, though I am not sure about the final result.

I came to it unexpectedly, I have to admit. I was walking in the centre of Amsterdam, a rare Saturday when I had nothing to do, apart from exploring the streets and having a nice coffee in different cafes. In retrospect, I should have probably stuck to the occasional coffee in a café because I would have avoided some embarrassment, but we always learn by trying, don’t we?

It was the announcement which triggered my interest: ‘Co-dependency network with coffee and biscuits’. True, it was the promise of free coffee and biscuits which prompted me to come inside the church building rather than the word ‘co-dependency’ (I had no idea what it meant), but I reckoned that I had nothing to lose and lots to gain: meet new people, discover what Amsterdam had on offer in terms of events, join an exciting network. Ha-ha-ha.

It all started nice and cosy. I got my free coffee, chatted with members who all appeared as very nice and welcoming (maybe, perhaps, slightly, too welcoming? As if I had some kind of problem?). And it was only when we sat down around a large table, and it was the third speaker who was chatting away that it downed on me that I was a fraud and would soon reveal myself as such.

I realised the mistake of my attendance only during the speech of the third person because I couldn’t believe during the first two that they all were talking about the relationship problem. When the first speaker stood up and solemnly proclaimed: ‘Hello, my name is John and I am a co-dependent’, it did strike me that I ended up at some kind of recovery therapy thing, and ransacked my brain for a minute or so for a possible solution. These people were really nice, really pleasant, forcing on me biscuits and coffee and I kind of gave the impression that I was very happy to be at the event. Could I say that I was co-dependent with my cigarettes, I came up with a possible solution, but it came under scrutiny when the second speaker stood up. It was again the same story. This person, and it was a woman, was also suffering from malfunctioning relationship. When the third speaker confessed to the exact issue, I understood that I was in trouble. What could I possibly say when my turn came (and I was very obviously the next)? If I had a boyfriend, then I could think of something (now, that I’ve been in several serious relationships, I realise that all of them have been co-dependent to a certain extent. Hey, with some of my exes I am still in contact on Facebook! It is co-dependency, no?), but I was very much single, I didn’t even have a cat or a dog and mentioning the dependent relationship with my cigarettes wouldn’t go down well with the crowd, I could see. I couldn’t even figure out what was exactly the problem of co-dependency when my turn came (apart from the fact that one had to have a partner) and so, I said the first thing which came into my mind.

“Hello, my name is Ekaterina and I am co-dependent on free coffee and biscuits.”

I have to say that a couple of people did laugh, but my line failed to impress the organisers. I should have invented a mythical boyfriend instead. But I simply tried to cheer up the crowd. What the fuck were they talking about? Hello, I am co-dependent? Were they insane or something? Shouldn’t one simply finish the malfunctioning relationship and move on?

As to me, I was asked to leave the premises and needless to say, I never returned.

But coffee and biscuits were nice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On the matter of stigma

Stigma…or how to deal with the idiots.

The word itself has a splendid definition provided to us by Erving Goffman already sometime ago. He described it as “the phenomenon whereby an individual with an attribute which is deeply discredited by his/her society is rejected as a result of the attribute.”

I define it as just idiotism. It is exactly in the same category as racism, only if we do hear the occasional cries for sanity from all those who are victims of racism, in the domain of mental health it is still mostly all silent. Wrongly so, I must say, because if we (the mental) all united and spoke, then doctors would act as less superior, we would feel as less oppressed and the world would be a much better place to live. But we are not yet there, are we? And so, how to deal with stigma meanwhile?

My experience shows that you need to act superior to all those who think they are superior because they don’t have a mental health problem. For a start, most of us do have a mental health problem and I know plenty of people who simply prefer not to talk about it, and even if you do stumble occasionally upon an individual who is normal and slightly arrogant, then you need to act quickly in your defence. And the best defence while being mental is our imagination. I am lucky because I speak with an accent and once someone tells me that they are such and such, shop in that shop and have a huge house in that area, I just reply that I work for KGB and am in this country on an undercover mission. This usually does the trick as it eliminates all the annoying people and leaves the interesting ones, those who start inquiring about how to get a job with KGB.

KGB doesn’t always work, and so one needs to think of other potential superior lines. I once sat down and researched the languages that hardly anyone can speak. And so, if someone asks me what I do in life (I am actually a doctor of philosophy, a writer and speak 4 languages), I sometimes answer that I am a linguist and speak 6 languages. I then proceed to mention all the languages I know, such as Chamicuro, Basque, Frisian, Faroese, Sarsi, and Tok Pisin.

I can reassure you that you will be greeted with a dropped jaw if you pretend to be a linguist in rare languages.

Another good line is to say that you are dealer. I reckon that I used it only three times and no one volunteered to ask about the details of my job as a dealer. People immediately assume that you are a dealer in drugs (and those to whom I revealed this profession never talked to me again, I have to say) but in case someone turns out to be extra-curious, just say that you are a dealer in pants, and then add something like: ‘they banned all sexy pants in Russia, so I am shipping the nice ones back’.

And opportunities are endless. You see, as mental people we are blessed with imagination! So, use it! And use it to combat stigma, because once the normal ones will learn that all the mentals hold the most interesting jobs, they will be eager to join the crowd.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Facial brushes – tools from hell

You know how it works. Every bloody second they come up with a new beauty product which is a must buy, will definitely make you feel younger, more beautiful, wrinkle-free and more appealing. We all know that it is all lies but we still buy them.

Sometimes I do wonder when I stroll along the beauty counters (guilty as hell) as to how one is supposed to remain sane with the overwhelming choice on offer? I am actually mad, but this question still lingers on the back of my mind when I try to resist the temptation of switching from a cream I know works, is cheap and has spared me from pimples to something which is ten times more expensive, will irritate my skin and will never deliver on its promise of a wrinkle-free face.

But while with creams, after ten years or more of struggle and irritated face, I did come to the logical conclusion that simpler is perhaps the better, with other beauty products I am still walking along the deluded.

Take for instance their latest invention: the face brushes. They are everywhere, as it seems, looking at us from the covers of magazines, beauty counters and beauty salons. They say that it is not a must, it is actually essential. Previous generations of women were all stupid when they washed their faces with a shower brush and soap. Nowadays one needs to rub his face as hard as possible, and wait for the spectacular results of absolute cleanness.

I bought one. The logic of my decision defied even me, and I questioned my purchase as soon as I clicked on ‘buy’ but I, nevertheless, proceeded. I did hope (even if I suspected that it was in vain) that it would deliver on the results it promised. That I would end up with a smooth face, deprived of any pores and dirt. In retrospect, this was exactly what happened, but, unfortunately, deprivation didn’t end up there. The brush also removed my radiant complexion because it made my skin red as hell, and a few hairs from my head. No one warned me that the electric brushes exterminate everything which comes their way and while I might admit that I was perhaps clumsy, it still came as a shock when with horror I stared back at myself in the mirror. I looked like a tomato and with a bald patch formed on my hair-line. Talking about making you look younger? Yes, if it is a look of a new-born.

I can’t say though that I was entirely stupid. At least I didn’t bin it, even if the desire was very strong to throw the brush out of the window. I put it on ebay. Almost at the same price I had bought it. And while I might have felt slightly guilty that I was selling a monster to an innocent party, the fact that it sold in five minutes, probably showed that innocence is a thing of the past in the world of the beauty industry. We buy the promise, not the result and while my bold patch has regrown since then, I was kind enough to send a note to the next victim.

“Beware of the loss of hair if you use this product.”

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I nominate myself as a Labour Party’s leader

And quite seriously so. I mean, let’s think for a second, why not? If there is a chance to become a leader, it is, obviously, right now, when the Labour party lost due (I think, it is the main reason) to the unpopularity of its leader.

The reasons for this lack of popularity seem to be the absence of charisma. It appears that modern parties’ leaders have first of all to be attractive to the public in terms of the media image. As long as one does well the job in the domain of the celebrity of politics, it doesn’t even matter what the party stands for.

So, I thought, I could be a leader. I could be a good leader. Embracing labour’s values (more traditional ones) does help me to advance my nomination for the role, but I have probably more serious grounds for success in terms of an image.

I do have a certain charisma. I say, certain, because, I noticed that one has to remain quite modest in order to remain popular, as beautiful and awesome one might be in reality.

I will provide a huge entertainment to the public. I mean, I am diagnosed as bipolar, how about witnessing a party’s leader getting into psychosis during a debate in the Parliament? I reckon that people would even stop watching X-Factor or Big Brother to see it, which, in my opinion, would be a huge result in the field of un-brainwashing of the celebrity culture.

I am also a Doctor of Philosophy and while I am smart, no one would ever call me as ‘nerdy’. I was known as one the biggest saboteurs at school in terms of having missed it all together, and some scandals from my past life would mean that the interest of the public would stay, and probably even increase, once I say that not only I smoked I also inhaled. Yes, I will stand for honesty.

And finally, while values of a particular political party appear as less important nowadays, I could become a walking example of these values.

I will speak on behalf of mental people (obviously, I will never cut any benefits for disabled people), I will talk on behalf of the immigrants (my accent speaks for itself), I am a mother (no cut in child benefits, that’s for sure), and I rely on NHS (it won’t be sold to naughty capitalists).

And my communist past is the biggest reassurance that Labour party will become a working people’s party once again.

Yes, how about nominating me as the Labour Party’s leader?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

One blast from the past

The process of changing from one regime to another didn’t happen all at once in my native country. There was this day when The Soviet Union was suddenly gone, but in terms of economy it was more gradual, if not always subtle.

I reckon it began with the establishment of lareks, a word that brings painful nostalgia (if one can say such thing) to all those Russians who saw with their coming the end of the world where one was living his or her life not based on consumption but on something much deeper.

Here on the picture, we can see the example of such a larek. It means a small shop, a monstrosity from architecture point of view, but also in terms of what it used to sell. Bottles of Coca-Cola were standing next to blocks of Marlboro light and packets of tampons, showing to us, the mundane, what we had been missing before the arrival of capitalism.

They were implanted in all unusual places, next to the underground stations, next to schools, and next to supermarkets. The later would perhaps strike as something very stupid, but not for Moscow’s entrepreneurs at that time. Shops were almost totally empty, deprived of any edible products when the first lareks appeared, and in this respect it was a smart move. One would go to a supermarket hoping to buy something there, and without finding anything, would turn to larek, to feed on bars of snickers and mars, washing it all down with Coca-Cola.

I remember that period quite well because it was the first time that I witnessed something as I would describe as ‘mad’. One larek is especially memorable, as it was on our way from school, and together with my best friend, Masha, we would stop there and purchase our first bottles of Gin and packets of Marlboro Light. We were fourteen or fifteen at that time, not that anyone would actually ask our age.

It was standing next to that larek that I got my first realisation that something was wrong with this world. It wasn’t even the fact that I knew that I was living in a different country, with different values and gods, it was more down to rather a sad thought that no one was questioning the choice. How come, I wondered, that instead of launching a small revolution and asking for return of fresh bread and some normal products, people were tolerating and celebrating the establishment of lareks? It symbolised some kind of freedom, opening of the door to the outside world, and while I tried to join in cheering for such an outcome, subconsciously, I was more or less crying. Is having a choice in life means being able to choose between Coca-Cola and Pepsi? And how long was one supposed to stay happy on bars of Mars?

Not long as I noticed but ten years later. I was living then in a proper capitalistic world, where instead of lareks I could choose between several supermarkets chains. I knew that I wouldn’t go hungry and that I didn’t have to drink another glass of Coca-Cola for the rest of my life (as well, as eating any snickers and Mars), but I also knew that something was missing despite the overwhelming presence of ‘choice’. It was the absence of simple life with simple values, when having a choice between two brands of salami can be a good thing. It doesn’t take your time and frees you to focus on something more meaningful, like walking in a park and watching birds, or writing a novel.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Porcupine’s dilemma in a world which has gone mad

Ektie, the small porcupine was in deep thinking mode.

An annoying dilemma has been bothering him already for quite some time.

Ektie was trying to loose weight.

Not that he actually wanted it in the first place. Secretly Ektie was convinced that he possessed rather a gorgeous body, and most importantly, he was feeling comfortable in it.

But something strange was happening in the animal kingdom. It’s like all animals became obsessed with being slim overnight.

Apparently, nowadays, one had to be slim, toned, muscled and firm. Animals were rushing into gyms and all kinds of diets.

Ektie hated both the gym and the diets. He had already tried several of them.

Without any visible result…. as Ektie could witness, - that apart from feeling much more frustrated and even unhappy.

For a week or so he tried eating the cabbage soup. Yes, he did loose some weight, but also his sleep and his radiant appearance. Not only he started to hate the cabbage (his suspicion was that it was for the rest of his life), but he also developed some serious stomach problems.

Then he also tried what they call low-carb diet, all sorts of pills and meal substitutes.

But it simply wasn’t working!

Ektie took a bite from his chocolate bar (with a feeling of guilt) and sighed. Why life was so unfair?

Only recently the animal kingdom was having fun. No one was assessing each other in terms of looks, status and size.

But it seemed that everything started to change. If one wanted to have some sort of recognition and respect, it was necessary to have a size zero figure, have a recent brand of a car and a new plasma tv.

Gone were the days when everyone was judged according to one’s personality.

Take for example, the pig Spike, - one of the best friends of Ektie. He was fun, joyful, great friend, loyal and smart.

And well, because of the recent weight loosing mania, Spike wasn’t daring to leave his house anymore! And Ektie even suspected that Spike was depressed.

Unheard of! Being a pig and being depressed!

If only, the Eagle, the animals’ guardian would soon reappear! If only…

But no one has heard of him already for ages.

Meanwhile, all directions as to how to rule the animal kingdom were coming from the magical raven, who was stuck in Amsterdam visiting coffee shops and smoking marihuana.

The world was going mad….

Friday, March 6, 2015

If paranoia could speak

In one of my previous posts I talked about how painful the process of coming out of the closet can be (Out of the Closet and into the open).

In the case of mental people it means telling the concerned parties that you are mad.

This situation is complicated for a number of reasons. The most obvious one being the stigma. But then there are also such things as trying to be more open with your friends, or wishing to share an important part of your life with someone who might become a potential partner.

So, how and when should we tell the others about the mental condition?

In our imperfect world , where despite the façade of tolerance everyone seems to be afraid of something (difference, madness, weirdness), the answer is never. Not if you want to land a good job, get a promotion or avoid concerned looks on the faces of people to whom you told it. Being mad in our world means that you failed somewhere the expectations of a society based on perfection. We are supposed to be normal, predictable and passive. Not questioning why we have the increased surveillance everywhere, why we spend so much time in the shops and why everyone is obsessed with physical perfection, such as body weight, the amount of wrinkles or buying the latest pink coat (or is it blue coat this year)? Being a machine which follows the commands of the market is the current definition of normality.

An army of sheep who is supposed to be totally complacent, in other words.

And now, imagine the disturbance that a truly mad person causes this status-quo. All mental people, as I noticed, share a number of thoughts, which, in my opinion, should have become a subject of a serious scientific study long time ago.

For instance, one of the common suspicions shared by a large number of mad people is that we are all watched. Doctors call it a delusion, but I came to the conclusion that if anyone is deluded in this instance, it is the doctors themselves.

We are indeed watched! All the time and everywhere. Take Facebook with its privacy policy or Google with its database which shows what you read on the Internet at any point during the day and night. Or take the numerous cameras which are installed with an alarming speed on almost each street under the pretence of the fight against terrorism. Or your Tesco grocery shopping which tells not only Tesco but the companies to which it sells this information, all about your household, your daily habits and your drinking pattern.

The world is slowly moving into installing the chips into our body so that we can be traced anywhere and everywhere. This is another common fear among the mental patients – that we have devices installed into our bodies.

 Another delusion?

Not really, they did start installing them in the US under the last medical programme, called Obamacare.

In case it doesn’t scare you, you should read the Book of Revelation in the Bible. It does cover these events and what it means to accept a mark in or on your body.

Now, does it sound like paranoia?

Yes, of course, as defined by the society which doesn’t want to see the truth.

But this is my point exactly. What if mental people are those who do see the truth and are being silenced for this reason?

And this is why we, ‘the mad’, should start talking despite the stigma. Because once a certain amount of people starts telling the same thing, other people might start listening.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Because I am worth it

Let me introduce to you one of my voices.

True, in one of my previous posts I mentioned the Porcupine as one of them (, but upon reflection I decided that he was more suitable for a rubric of delusions (I will consult him on whether he agrees).

I have many voices. I don’t hear them anymore but they are in a dormant state somewhere in the background, promoting me occasionally to think more about them and question their purpose.

Like the voice of the TV, for instance.

Before you start saying that the TV is already a voice (well, it does talk, doesn’t it?), I need to emphasise that in my case the TV was talking, only not necessary something which other people could hear as well.

“Ekaterina, you are a beauty queen of Belgium!”

“Ekaterina, you are a face of L’Oreal!”

This was what was transmitted to me by a good-looking guy from the screen.

I have to say that at that time the message was lost on me because of a particular belief I was pursing then. I was trying to be a Buddha because that revelation (that I am a Buddha) came to me several months previously and it was a profound one.

So, my concern was mostly about how to incorporate the Buddha’s thinking into the daily life. Like should I abolish all my material pleasures or could I pursue them still?

Later, however, that voice from the screen started to bother me slightly.

Like, for instance, who was that guy and whose voice was it?

I have to admit that when I cited all these messages to my treating psychiatrist he put it into the label of a ‘delusion of grandeur’. Apparently, all these things that we hear and which sound better than the real life belong to that category.

The explanation seemed reasonable, even if not a very welcome one (I would prefer that the psychiatrist would produce a contract with L’Oreal instead), but its reasoning came under my analysis only several years later.

Several questions became of a particular concern. Like if I am a beauty queen then why of Belgium (I did live there) and not of Russia or the Netherlands (the country where I heard the voice)? And why a face of L’Oreal and not of Dior or some other brand which I seemed to consume without thinking how it would affect my budget (badly)?

And it is only when I was writing my PhD thesis that a possible other explanation came into my mind. First, we are all affected by the celebrity culture, even if we claim that we are not. And second, if the voice was promoting L’Oreal then maybe it was indeed a good brand.

The fact that the voice could come from the Devil, this explanation reached me only later, when I was firmly established on my dose of Seroquel.

And so, I made an experiment. I switched to l’Oreal! And I have to say that I am very happy. Much cheaper than other fancy brands and the quality is amazing.

And to conclude I will quote from a song by Nickelback ‘The Rockstar’. I think it does summarise quite well the celebrity culture.

I'm through with standing in line

 To clubs we'll never get in

 It's like the bottom of the ninth

 And I'm never gonna win

 This life hasn't turned out

 Quite the way I want it to be


 (Tell me what you want)


 I want a brand new house

 On an episode of Cribs

 And a bathroom I can play baseball in

 And a king size tub big enough

 For ten plus me


 (So what you need?)


 I'll need a credit card that's got no limit

 And a big black jet with a bedroom in it

 Gonna join the mile high club at thirty-seven thousand feet…

Etc, etc…

Watch the video on Youtube



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Let’s cheer up little bit, shall we?

It is all doom and gloom on the scene of that is currently known as ‘mental illness’ issues.

There are a lot of voices lately discussing them in the press and elsewhere. There was mental health awareness week, there was a mental gala ball organised by a charity, there are articles about all these poor people who are ill.

And what I started to find slightly annoying is that it is all entirely sad.

True, depression is sad, and in my opinion, it represents a sane approach to the world which is hugely insane (I won’t elaborate on it for now). But the same, very depressing attitude goes for the rest of mental health problems.

Got schizophrenia? Doomed for the rest of your life! With tearful relatives reminding that you not only spoiled your own life, but also theirs.

Bipolar? The same: don’t forget that once you got this diagnosis you will be ill for the rest of your pathetic life.

Sad, very sad. And the mainstream media is shouting this sadness every time there is an article covering the mental health scene. It is like listening to an endless chanting at a very prolonged funeral. Funeral of all those who are unfortunate enough to get the label of being mentally ill.

Come to think of it, it reminds me of a particular card in the Tarot deck – four of cups.
On it we can see a man sitting next to a tree. There are four cups in front of him, with one of them being presented to him in a very clear gesture, but he is very obviously oblivious to it. The man seems to be deeply asleep. Rachel Pollack (in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom) describes this situation as “apathy.” And as she continues: “What we can call the ‘negative imagination’ makes us look at everything as worthless or boring. There seems to be nothing worth getting up for, nothing worth doing, and nothing worth examining.”

True, in the world of mental health, there seems to be a lot of ‘examining’, but there isn’t much left worth getting up for. It is like they want us to remain sad, reinforcing the stigma every time they proclaim that mental illness is a ‘terrible disease’.

But I beg to differ.

Madness is a gift. And if you come out as a winner and realise that you can still be happy, enormously happy, then you will reach the conclusion that you were never ill in the first place.

There are plenty of people who are mad and are very happy.

I put a link to this music video in one of my other posts, but I put it again. It is like it was made for us, the mental, so I advise you to watch it - Heroes

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Ship of Fools and the satire on sanity

Among the depicted works we can see such masterpieces as Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Vittore Carpaccio’s The Healing of the Possessed Man at the Rialto.

This was perhaps a brave attempt to show madness from a different perspective, but still not quite a very successful one. The author of the article makes clear what he thinks on the issue right from the first sentence: “Art has led the way in seeing mental illness not as alien or contemptible but part of the human condition – even as a positive and useful experience.” I might be the only one to decipher some patronising attitude in this statement, but then I do sympathise with the author as it is perhaps really hard to see that something is not an illness in a society defined by medicalization.

And this is what I want to talk about in this post. I would like to describe the condition of the current society from the perspective that it is all those who are socially constrained, end up being insane and not the other way around.

And I will use an example from the art world as well.

Let’s look at the following painting by Jheronymous Bosh called The Ship of Fools, or The Satire of the Debauched Revelers.

On it we can see the debauchery caused by some distinguished members of the society. The two figures in front are a Franciscan friar and a nun, quite unthinkable at the time of the painting (1490-1500). Which is also the case today, apart from some Youtube videos showing Russian priests being drunk and swearing on God’s name that they can have whatever they want, including millions of dollars in the car’s trunk. I have to say that the behaviour of some Christians was perhaps the main problem for me to reach my own faith. Until I understood, of course, that not all Christians deserve to be called as such and not everyone who goes to Church believes in God or understands his significance.

But this painting, in particular, has an additional meaning. The ship itself holds the biggest symbolism. Because it was on these kind of ships that the mad were put and sent into the fools’ paradise (into nowhere) in the Middle Ages.

On this painting, however, there is only one fool, and who is put there with a purpose: to remind the viewers that it is the ship of fools indeed which is depicted. But by placing other characters, so called ‘sane’ members of the society on it, Bosh made his view on madness quite clear.

It is not the mad who should be sent away or treated but all the hypocritical members of the society who harm others in the name of God.

In our generation we can talk about all those members of the society who judge others while failing to analyse their own short-comings in the first instance.

Watch the amazing video of Hozier Take me to Church.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hearing voices?

Be glad.

I know, it runs contrary to the current thinking. Hearing voices is condemned, not understood and usually involves a diagnosis, such as schizophrenia. And since the psychiatry has such power in our society, we all tend to agree that all those poor people who seem to lose touch with reality, need help, pitiful looks and a patronising attitude.

The latter is especially annoying and I started to come to the conclusion that I should become patronising towards all those who don’t really see or hear, but this would run contrary to Jesus’s teachings. We are supposed to love each other.

And so, I should probably try to explain. By using the example of voices.

Mystic experiences have been part of human history since the beginning and hearing voices is one of them. I really don’t understand, how can one say to another human being that what he hears is not true when he doesn’t hear it himself? I do wonder sometimes about who is really mad here, the psychiatrist lost in his highly constrained world or the patient who is blessed with visions?

Well, I do know the answer, but it took me years to understand that everything which happens in our madness is just a part of another, hidden reality. I also think that that movie Matrix is not that far from the truth.

The current approach in psychiatry is to try to erase voices. The same goes for anything else which can be considered as slightly weird, but voices are often of a particular concern. Because they do cause distress (at least initially) to all those whom they address.

And as a consequence, because of a huge misunderstanding on the part of doctors and ‘mentally-ill’ (I put it in between brackets on purpose), these voices are immediately shut down with the help of monstrous pills.

I am not against medication but medication can really kill when one doesn’t get to the core of the matter.

Just try to put yourself in the shoes of a person who has had such an experience. You hear something which others can’t, it might be terrifying, or pleasant, but the result is always the same. One receives a diagnosis, is drugged and is unable to live a normal life ever again. How can one? Not only one becomes terribly tired due to drugs, receives a label of a ‘retard’ but also knows, somewhere deep down, that it is all wrong. And it is.

Voices do matter. If someone hears them, it means that there are there. I know a psychic who could talk with my dead relatives, describing them as they really were when alive and even giving me their names in Russian. She makes money on this ability.

The difference between this psychic and those who receive the label of being ‘mentally-ill’ is that she learned to listen to the voices. Probably they were not as overwhelming, maybe she was seeking them by herself or maybe she was simply lucky.

Or maybe, she never heard the Devil.

I did and after pondering over different issues associated with madness, I am reaching a tentative conclusion.

All those who hear too many voices are simply lost between the ugly ones and the good ones.

And the trick is to learn how to listen to them. Ban the bad and listen to the good.

One such survivor Eleanor Longden has an amazing story to tell on this account I call her a survivor because despite having received the diagnosis of schizophrenia she learned how to get away from the psychiatric system, did a master degree in psychology and learned what her voices meant. As she says, hearing voices and this can apply to anyone who is mad, is a sane reaction to insane world.

So, be glad that you can hear.

God is trying to reach you.

So that you start seeing heaven from here.