by Chaya Grossberg
People have recently asked me if they could share my blogs on their social media pages. These are blogs I have on my website with social media sharing buttons underneath them and that I post on facebook, twitter, google plus and others on the public setting and post publicly in facebook groups full of people I don’t know. Yet the people who’ve asked me to share them don’t know me and the blogs contain personal, vulnerable information about myself that many people wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing.
Some express concern about revealing publicly that they’ve received a mental health label or been on psychiatric drugs since a future (or current) employer, professor, or even friend or family member could see it and disafford them of an opportunity. I respect that. Some of us have a path working within systems of oppression and making a difference from inside where a certain kind of reputation may be important for a time. I also question how much and for how long we can serve one another while simultaneously concealing our own life experiences.
This isn’t a matter of judging anyone who values their privacy and personal information. There are parts of society that are so entrenched in oppression that this guarding of personal traumas, challenges and vulnerabilities is a wise decision, and one I certainly make at times, when I am enmeshed in an oppressive structure I feel dependent on for one reason or another, for a time. Still I hold to the vision of liberation, of a world where revealing is healing.
When I first emerged from the mental health system and the clutches of psychiatry, I was more careful about sharing my experiences at times as I was aware that some people would stigmatize me and see me as “other.” Ironically the more I told my story publicly, the less of a concern this became. Looking back I realize this revealing was an expression of an internal commitment.
We need to ask ourselves what we are committed to. (This will guard us from being duped by psychiatry’s lies.) I wasn’t even aware of how committed I was to being public and “out” about my life (and there are many things I’d like to be further “out” about). What I did know and have known since my experiences with psychiatry is that I am 100% committed to the flow of words coming through me and committed to sharing them publicly as long as it feels safe to do so.
This goes hand in hand with my commitment to “right work,” which for me meant starting my own venture this year. And when I started it I wasn’t toe dipping. It wasn’t a one year experiment or a “start up” that may or may not succeed. It succeeded from Day 1 because it was directly connected to higher guidance and a sense of knowing that it was what the world asked of me and needed of me. It’s an incredible thing to know you are needed for something (which we all are), and to know it within even before anyone expresses appreciation or validation.
So without even considering it, I have had few fears of revealing myself publicly. Uncertainties and insecurities have popped up in other ways and I have an almost incessant fear/self consciousness of being judged, disliked or criticized by others doing similar work as me. But the amazing thing about working and writing from this place is that it is a Rock. The religious phrase, “The Lord is my Rock and my Redeemer” comes to mind. It isn’t about whether or not you call yourself “religious” (a word with just as complicated and corrupted connotations as “bipolar” or “schizophrenic”), but about where you find your own religion, your own Rock and Redemption, and following that. The word “Lord” can be replaced with whatever your Lord is.
Sometimes “Lord” sounds to me like an evil, destructive, commanding, punishing patriarch in a black cloak, but, letting go of those associations, my Lord is whatever guides me.
The problem with psychiatry is that it has lost sight of this truth-that we all have a Rock and Redeemer, that we are all solid in our purpose and essence and can be redeemed by our life’s work whenever we lose sight of it. Instead psychiatry plays with tinsel on the margins of our real lives. It discusses less relevant things like personality traits, moods, “disorders” and matters of the ego and persona, which as humans we can all get distracted by. If you are on a path towards “redemption,” or whatever you want to call being true to yourself, psychiatry, as our world conceives of it, is distracting.
Some Buddhists practice meditation and mindfulness to remember who we are. The teacher Pema Chodron says, “We forget and remember, forget and remember. That’s why it’s called practice.” Psychiatric jargon is the forgetting of who we really are and why we are here and the best path away from psychiatric oppression and psychiatric drugs is the path of right work. You know and grow familiar with this work because it is your Rock and your Redeemer. It is unconditionally part of you. No one else can tell you what it is or isn’t or who you are or aren’t. This can only be determined by your own personal “Lord” who you will uncloak, de-robe and come to know more and more over time.
How can we move towards our work being our Rock? Please share how your work is or isn’t your Rock and Redeemer in the comments below.