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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 dreamstime.com)
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)