Chaya Grossberg was a twenty-eight-year-old yoga teacher, poet, writer, and Mad Pride activist when I interviewed her in 2009. She had been one of the leading organizers of Freedom Center for six years, where she ran a yoga group and taught creative writing. In the summer of 2009 she moved to the Bay Area of California, where she got a job at the Alternatives to Med Center helping people withdraw from psychiatric drugs and opiates. After a year the center moved across the state. Grossberg did not want to move; she works now as an intuitive reader, or psychic, and a massage healer.
In a letter to me in January 2011 she described her life: “I have been mostly living a simple life in a small studio in the woods and studying my environment and wild herbalism and foraging, as well as [performing in] theater and [doing] creative writing. I am healthy and happy. . . . I spend time every day meditating and writing and eat wild foods almost daily.”
In the course of our conversation she affirmed most of the contentions that I listed as explicit or tacit beliefs of Mad Pride movement activists. She seemed to agree with my theory — although she had not thought it out fully — that we are involved in a process of spiritual evolution and that we are currently in an acute evolutionary crisis where the role of the Mad Pride movement is to act as a catalyst for making the transition to a new stage of human development. Like all the activists in this book, Chaya Grossberg is one of the creatively maladjusted. Her process of spiritual development can serve as a model for other psychiatric survivors who have not broken out of the psychiatric net and not discovered their identities.
I recently went to a training for [patients’ rights advocates] that ended with a talent show. I realized that if everyone in the room took their talent and ran with it, we’d have a room full of artists, musicians, and craftspeople rather than people who identify as ADD, manic depressive, and “mentally ill.” We could have a roomful of people who know they have gifts and need to nurture their health through exercise, good nutrition, and less toxins.
Instead we had a roomful of people on one two or three psych drugs each (with a few exceptions), who smoke a pack a day, and drink a few Cokes and a few coffees. I could see the unresolved hurt under the layers of psych drugs, nicotine, and caffeine. As people worked to speak through the layers, I could tell that their brains were not functioning optimally.
When there are problems, do we want to see more or less clearly? This is a question that needs to be asked directly before getting hooked on psych drugs. I know because I have been on those drugs. I know that difficulty. In fact, being on neuroleptics was the only time I identified as having a mental illness. I was unable to think clearly.
To drug people into stability is to take away their essential humanity. Imagine if someone found chemicals that could keep the sky stable — free from too much rain, free from too much sun. Or if the Earth were stabilized so there were no mountains, no deserts, no valleys, no large bodies of water.
Just as there is order in the natural world, there is an order in my life, and yours. There are natural forces that I see as spiritual forces, which keep me on track. They keep me in line with my destiny — they guide me to heal myself and others with love and brilliance. I make space for these possibilities. I treat my life as a garden. I must fertilize it, water it, I must take care of it. The bulbs I planted long ago will grow and I plant new ones all the time. Wildflowers grow too — ones I never expected. The whole thing looks messy sometimes.
You cannot afford to withhold your brilliance from the world, even if it is labeled madness. Whatever society calls it, and people will find all different names and explanations, it is your gift and the world needs it. This is what we can think of as passing the torch — taking the risks to show your brilliance and inspire others. For the future generation of activists, that’s us.
We have a mental health system gone haywire that appears to be capturing people faster than they can be born. When you take the chance and offer your gifts, it is a huge leap of faith. I say this as someone who, like you, is able to take the leaps sometimes. I have much farther to go with sharing my own gifts. And so do you, that is why you are here. I must say “I love you” to myself and to G-d numerous times everyday, and take the leap. I have met many young activists, around the country, and I sense that faith is one of our strongest points.
©2012 by Seth Farber, Ph.D.
Reprinted with permission of Inner Traditions, Inc.
All Rights Reserved. www.innertraditions.com
The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement
by Seth Farber.
Many of the great prophets of the past experienced madness -- a breakdown followed by a breakthrough, spiritual death followed by rebirth. With the advent of modern psychiatry, the budding prophets of today are captured and transformed into chronic mental patients before they can flower into the visionaries and mystics they were intended to become. As we approach the tipping point between extinction and global spiritual awakening, there is a deep need for these prophets to embrace their spiritual gifts. To make this happen, we must learn to respect the sanctity of madness. We need to cultivate Mad Pride.
Chaya Grossberg is a writer, teacher, coach and group facilitator living in Portland, OR. She teaches classes and leads support groups on coming off psychiatric drugs and alternatives to psych drugs, as well as coaching individuals in person and by phone. Chaya is a psychiatric survivor and has publicly spoken, written and blogged about her experiences and perspectives. She has also written poetry and created art and performance pieces to open the public’s mind to mental diversity and the importance of educated and informed choice. Visit her website at chayagrossberg.weebly.com.
Seth Farber, Ph.D. is an author, spiritual visionary, renegade psychologist and a founder of the Network against Coercive Psychiatry. Dr Farber was one of the first in his field to realize that the mental health professions have become part of a psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex -- PPIC -- whose primary goal is to make profits. He sees this as a social trend: "the cannabalization of the population by the corporations, assisted by the government." In the late 1980s Dr Farber became a supporter of the psychiatric survivors' movement, now called the Mad Pride movement. His website is sethhfarber.com
Hear and see Martin Luther King Jr. speak about being creatively maladjusted.