Mental Health · Shamanism

Why was INTAR India 2016 important to me?

When A Drop of Sunshine was screened in 2011, the film-maker and me found it difficult and overwhelming at times to have many people undermine the stand we were making. No one believed I lived without medications. Many doctors and psychologist didn’t want to have anything to do with me or the movie.
They claimed: it was impossible, we were lying, I was a good actor, my parents are privileged, and the movie even a bluff despite my psychiatrist in it.
The documentary was questioned at so many levels by so many people even including having asked to not be screened because it would influence others in stopping their medications and sending the wrong message. The film-maker was told ‘She doesn’t look schizophrenic’ and I received another label following my work with The Red Door as being ‘anti-psychiatry’.
You might be wondering how this is related to INTAR and why am I making this about me? I’ll explain…just read on.
You see, A Drop of Sunshine didn’t ‘show’ the psychosis of me running about with a knife or yelling. There was nothing in it that could give the dramatic effects which everyone wanted to see. I thought people were mad to have asked for that. The film-maker was once asked ‘Why didn’t you show her with the psychosis?’.
When I heard that I thought to myself, how selfish and insensitive can people be? Do they not know that I am the very protagonist and having such a performance can and will trigger me since I was coming out of the closet publicly? It would also make things difficult for my family which it did! How much more insensitive can people be? We weren’t getting paid to for this either. We did it because we believed it was necessary for a message to reach whoever is willing to hear it. My parents were called names by other families. I lost out on funds and opportunities cause some individuals even said ‘Well, she is famous why is she complaining about no money? She must have got something out of it’.
Students from reputed educational institutions called me awkward. Because I look as young or even younger than them, they found it easy to undermine my stand and question me. Although I allowed the questioning, it came with a lot of disrespect and arrogance.
Friends passed comments ‘Oh, now you’re famous so you don’t have time for us’…without ever realizing how much more difficult and alone it got for me as I would get triggered after every screening and needed days to self-heal. Very few really understood.
Despite the documentary having reached many festivals and screenings, the voice of an Indian woman living without medications and being queer at many levels wasn’t easily accepted. It was also challenging Western constructs and ideas of alternatives because I refused the idea that my story was an alternative. In one screening I said ‘My story is what is natural because what is called an alternative to one culture is what is natural to another’. Therefore even in this dialogues of alternatives another challenge was raised.
But at INTAR, I did meet few individuals who said ‘In some cultures and their own, if you do not hear voices that would mean something is wrong with you’.
After the documentary, came my book…’Fallen, Standing…‘ which again raised other issues and challenges because it wasn’t written in a conventional form. It wasn’t like other books on schizophrenia and mental illness. In fact, I hardly wrote about my diagnosis, prognosis and everything in between since that was kept for my second book. As an author, my book hasn’t really sold much. Even worse was when there were professionals and individuals from the very field who passed rumours around that ‘Reshma’s father paid someone to write it for her’.
Doctors who met me were trying their level best to proof that my brain tumour (which showed up in mid 2011) was the cause to my schizophrenia and therefore my story isn’t credible.
But at INTAR, I met individuals living without medications too. They might have taken longer than me but they have, and they valued my narrative when I offered the whys behind recovery timeline.
Robert Whitaker writes on INTAR 2016: A global call for a new paradigm in psychiatry:
“…it brought together people from 40 countries, including representatives from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the International Disability Alliance, and by conference end this gathering had embraced a common thought: a new global health narrative was needed, one that could replace the failed “medical model” that dominates mental health today…
…In the process of co-writing Psychiatry Under the Influence, I became convinced that the best way to understand the problem with our current system of care is that it arises from a “false narrative,” which comes wrapped in the gauze of science. Societies have organized their thinking around that false narrative, and that is producing social injury on a vast scale. And so I spoke briefly about how the disease-model narrative arose, and all the ways it is belied by scientific findings…”
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article written by Robert Whitaker.
There will be more INTAR updates and blog post from different participants surfacing soon, which I will share.
There are a flood of online platforms and organizations taking on the cause of Mental Health. When they reach out to me and share articles or narratives I accept the first steps but reject the stand later and tell them to look away from the disease and medical model. It has got me in a lot of trouble since I am direct and individuals don’t want to ‘communicate’ with me later since I am challenging their years of studies and investment. But this is advocacy…and it is political.
I really hope educational institutions, psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, doctors, and others who have often challenged, undermined and personally attacked me reconsider themselves.
It’s a very lonely and difficult journey to walk in advocacy when the field itself is against those of us that they claim to help. ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ is the motto of UNCRPD and I hope experts in the field keep this in mind.
creativity · crisis · Mental Health · schizophrenia

Updates, life, Mental Health, School, You…it never ends :)

Okay, so as you all have been following my blog and keeping track I’m constantly stalking time and doing a million things which then leaves me with very little time to read what everyone else is writing and doing – since my eye tends to squint when it needs to adjust to the screen or any light (much like my cats but they don’t squint and naturally adjust to light, since they aren’t victims of technologically advanced gadgets that affect our brains and eyes directly)

Nevertheless, before I share my stuff I would just like to let you all know – that if there is a post of yours that you feel I would enjoy reading and connect PLEASE do tweet it to me so I could read it. I’ve not found a way yet to keep track of so many of my online friends and supporters but until I do – do bear with me. I’ve kinda married to my work and been completely focused on the 60 kids at school.

So here’s one article now published on Youth Ki Awaaz on how Mental Health Care in India needs to change (and around the world actually) cause I hold society as the main support system here. A blurb of it:

My question remains: What are you going to do about this rise of mental health and all of these other strangers in the asylums around the country? They were once someone’s friend, child or parent. Now they have no home and only a place that treats them worse than…( I have no words for it.)

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If you haven’t visited my school blog, please do CLICK HERE  there is much to be updated as always in terms of vlogs, writing, pictures, etc. But I only have 2 hands (still) 😀

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and a little bit of sudden spurts that happen with me:

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(Quote from Alice in Wonderland. Image source here)

Sometimes there should be nothing and no one, she said.
But you’re here.
That’s cause you’re in front of the mirror, she replied.

I fell asleep when she hit the lights.
Now we’re finally together.

‪#‎TheSchizophrenist‬ ©Reshma Valliappan 2016

I hope your weekend is going well! Peace & Colour from me and my imaginary friends.

Art · Shamanism · Spirituality

I got mentioned by someone I admire!

I stumbled across this post yesterday while I had to search for some links of mine to give someone else. It reads ‘The Importance of being Reshma Valliappan‘ (missing a ‘p’ in it)

It caught me by surprised cause I have yet not read The importance of being earnest’.

The writer Mr. Randhir Khare is himself someone I personally and silently admire. [ I don’t need to social media all of those I look up too. I think they just know it ]

And as the universe would have it, I was going to be visiting his gallery Gyaan Adab the same afternoon. When I mentioned the article to him, he just said [ like any other ninja would ]  “I like leaving stuff there and have it be discovered by itself”

So I leave you to read his piece. He is one of the few people who I could say has known me for 10 years now, watched me and work at different times and can keep me engaged with his stories or talk without me getting bored. [which happens most of the time with me if I had to listen to another]

 

crisis · Mental Health · patriarchy

Should we rejoice about the MH Bill?

Here is my piece (first part actually) on my response to the Mental Health Bill 2016 that was passed in India recently:

Should we rejoice?

It was followed by another friend who also gave her response too:

Unshackling the Recent Mental Health Care Bill 2016

and then followed with another here:

Favourable or flawed?

AND THEN followed by why I love kids and advocate for them which I posted on my Facebook page (12th August 2016):

“Every time someone tells me a child needs a Mental Health label or even presents their point of view on why it is okay I am going to share this video to prove my point, and an instance from school to back it up.

Today, one kid whom I’ve not interacted with before asked me who I am and where I’m from:

Me: From a different planet
He: Where is your planet?
Me: Outside of the Milky Way galaxy, you’ll have to check the map.
He: That will take me a lifetime to find didi (didi = older sister).

If he knew I had schizophrenia & all the symptomatic ideas behind it he would have concluded I was talking crazy. But he looked at me as a child does, in curiosity – imagination – acceptance – non judgemental.

And those kids who were somewhat aware of what schizophrenia is – have shared ‘but I also see things in my head, does that mean I have that?

And yesterday;
6 other kids who are part of our Anti-Bullying project was asked what is their purpose behind the project?
They: So that they don’t get depression
Me: What do you think is depression and where does it come from?
One kid jumps: It’s a name we give to their problem when someone troubles them and calls them names. Then they become depressed. Naming is bullying.

I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

Mental Health · schizophrenia

Person behind the label

Yesterday I had an interview and today I was working around the issues of bullying at school. It strangely sums up my already unwritten talk for tomorrow about Mental Health and Stigma [ 4pm at India Habitat Centre, Delhi ] – where there is a ‘person behind the label…every label’ and nobody seems to try to get that right.

Most people have assumed and concluded that all schizophrenics are the same. In fact, I have even been patronized by those with other labels who always seem to know better than the schizophrenic. It is likely why depression isn’t given so much of an importance when we speak of Mental Health issues because even those with depression seem to know better than the one with psychosis. A conclusion shared by legal experts, psychiatrist and many other professionals.

So here is my bit on the kind of responses I have had from those with the label of mental health issues and how stigma exist at the most preposterous levels:
1. Person with depression: See, I know what’s it like to feel like that but I can function. The trouble with him (schizophrenic) is he still has his delusions about everyone.

2. Person with anxiety: I take my meds cause I think it helps me. You should take yours you know. Schizophrenia is worse than anxiety and I can’t imagine how you can say living without medications is okay.

3. Person with bipolar: You should learn to come back 10 steps down and listen to others. You must tame yourself for others to understand you better. Stop thinking so much of yourself.

4. Person with borderline: Cut your nonsense and come and socialize. You can’t keep being inside.

5. Person with OCD: I kinda get what you are saying, but I still manage to get work done with my OCD.

6. Person with schizophrenia on medications: That is not true. You should take your meds because I know what it is like to be without them. It is very difficult. I don’t think you have schizophrenia if you are without meds.

…somehow it is always others telling me what I should do or should not do. These are people with their own labels of a mental health condition. It is not their condition that defines them but the kind of people that they are. And unfortunately society comprises of the same lot.

So I am to conclude that the whole of society is actually messed up in their brains – each thinking they are right and that they are entitled in telling another person what is wrong with them.

When I restate there is a ‘person behind the label’ – this is what I meant. As a society each person is responsible for the kind of thoughts they allow themselves to eat.

And to many others with such labels, you are a person to me and I take time in explaining myself to you. It doesn’t make me a better person by doing so. But I am done doing it – since you’ve already chosen to see yourself as a label and a disorder. I won’t be reduced to it however.

Ironically,
#TheSchizophrenist ©Reshma Valliappan 2016