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Just got back from an ER shift that left me heartbroken, esp in light of an interview I read yesterday about politics and “mental health”. On my shift, I talked to several people who had been given diagnoses like schizoaffective, bipolar, depression, personality disorder. Yet what I saw in them and felt from them was naked sadness, anger, terror, the feeling of not being seen/human/wanted, and a distant ray of hope that refused to relinquish the possibility that things could somehow change.

I felt my hands (but not my mind) handcuffed by the churning wheels of a medical system - including me - that does not have the time, patience, or training to meet what is happening in front of our eyes. I can't write a prescription for a person to begin living with a loving family who has experienced what they are going through, understands the outbursts and uncommon behavior, found the way through, and is continuing their own self-work. One person essentially implored me to do exactly this.

I wonder: where are the stories of all those who were once given such diagnoses and yet are now doing better with fewer/no meds and without the baggage of medical terminology? I hope foundations will step forward, study, and market those stories just as vigorously, along with widening the paths they walked to reach a better place. This would strengthen the delicate hope many feel, as well as inspire new, tangible steps forward.

I was fortunate to grow up in the presence of many people who dedicated their lives to exploring the union of mind, philosophy, spirituality, and practical day-to-day living. To many of them there was no such thing as strange or unexplained or confusing behavior, no matter how much society feared/ didn't like it. *Every* behavior was perfectly understandable - even predictable - provided one had a broad enough worldview, patience, and the experience of venturing into the wilds of nature and back. That doesn't mean they "cured" people. They just didn't see diagnoses so much as they saw ways of navigating experiences–which brings me to a point I didn't know I was trying to make:

A global culture that values the short-term, the predictably exciting, the individualized, and the definite is a culture that has space for only a few compartments of human life. The rest of life (our lives) have to be cast as approaching-illness to propagate such a culture. That's not a culture that works for the people I talked to in the ER today. It's not a culture that works for me. I can enjoy the exciting, but only because I really value the non-exciting.

It just may be that the answers we are looking for are exactly in the places society tells us not to look.

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