I feel like I'm working and fighting every single day and I'm viewed as a complete bum. That is my problem. I cannot tell anyone what's going on with me. People will see me act quiet and that's it. But what's happening in that quiet is completely... it's just chaos. I experience screaming voices. I go into almost a paralysis from fear. Just being absolutely exhausted and frustrated and just tired of... tired of everything. And just not wanting to fight every single day. People don't believe how insane I am. At first it was human rights issues that took me to tribal and indigenous cultures around the world. As a photographer, I wanted to bring viewers face to face with the people who were struggling to hold onto their unique way of life and their traditional beliefs. I became fascinated with the remaining cultures, that commune with the spirits of rivers, mountains, animals and their ancestors. While I was working in Northern Kenya I met Sukulen. She was a -year-old mother of five. When she was , she started hearing voices and having visions, said she was feeling terrified but her grandmother took her aside and told her she had a very special sensitivity and then helped guide her through her crisis. Today she is a highly respected healer and predictor in her Samburu tribe. Over the years I've met many people like Sukulen who could be labeled as crazy in our culture. But were seen as gifted in their own. People who transform their mental and emotional crises to become healers or visionaries for their communities. In the West, we often call them shaman. And I began to wonder, could there be something more to these experiences we call crazy? When I was back home in Seattle, I met a young man named Adam. I was , it was four days after my th birthday, I went nuts. Very compassionate, be it animals, be it people Uh, at a very early age, it just a really a happy baby. Absolutely amazing. He's the funniest guy you'd ever know. I don't know if you've seen that but hysterical. Totally gifted athletically. He rode a two wheel bike at two. At five he got into karate. He ended up as one of the youngest kids to ever get a black belt. I think he got that when he was . So in high school when I met Adam, I was , he was . He had a cool red Jeep Wrangler, he wakeboarded and he was really popular, outgoing, charismatic guy. Uh, lots of friends and he was always kind of challenging the status quo so to speak. He just knew what I was thinking a lot. He would, I could be thinking of something completely random and he would know it and tell me and I, I mean it would weird me out. And I've heard that from multiple people too Other friends of his. I moved to Florida to pursue professional wakeboarding. And in that period is when I experienced that first depression. July nd, . That was the date. He started telling us a math equation that would solve all the family's problems. And it was a very simple one but it made all the sense to him. Which of course, to nobody else. When it first occurred it was very fun and exciting. It was just this total shattering and my mind just opened. and I started thinking of all these different things. And in that sense it was beautiful. I found it was the first time I had ever experienced a real connection to the universe. Where I really felt like a part of this, that I was this, this was me. It was just like incredible. Then I kept going and then I went way too far. And then it got scary. And it was terrifying. Totally manic or totally depressed. The rage that will occur in a manic episode is so scary. You know it's not who we knew as happy Adam. Funny Adam. And then you had this Adam. Like that. I was surprised to learn how many people in the US will suffer from a psychological crisis in their lifetime. And like many of the shaman I met, the crisis happens mostly in their youth. I met a young woman in New York named Ekahaya who also had one of these episodes in her s. I didn't know what wash happening to me. I felt like my whole world was just exploding. Like I was going into a whole different reality that that I knew nothing about. I was very afraid to walk down the street because I thought people were all focused on me and judging me and I thought everybody knew I had voices that would tell me to cut myself. It was like the voices were taking control over me. The visions were taking control over me. I was very sensitive to music, to sounds... I started to have very clear visions of dead people like, just appearing and watching me. So I felt I had eyes watching me all the time. I started to see my deceased father and he would show up in my room and really, it was the scariest thing that I've ever experienced. I literally locked myself in a room for months. I took the lightbulb out of the light fixture and I became completely enclosed. There was about a three day period of in my room writing equations and finding God in my notebook and then finally my parents were like, what you doing? You know? And then I checked myself into a mental institution. That is not the place to get sane. They put me in this holding room and there was no door and there was a camera on the ceiling and I was just laying on this bed and this little girl walked into my room and she was just staring at me. Just, with this just blank bizarre stare and I kept asking her to leave and she wouldn't. And there's more, all these crazy people everywhere and they were able to just come into my room I immediately felt in danger and scared and so I just decided NO and we went back to my parents house and just kind of tried to figure out what to do. They put me on depakote and then that just started the whole process of ope, no, now he's crying all day, let's feed him this one. Ope, no now he's barfing all day. Feed him this one. And we went from one doctor to another doctor and one prescription to another prescription. He was one every medication, I think, made for bi-polar. And they always say well every brain is different. Sorry if this makes you crap your pants, maybe it will work, maybe it will make you kill yourself. I mean like the disclaimer on these pills, that's typically the first side effect. is suicidal thoughts. And that's what the doctor is giving you to feel better. I mean it's, its crazy. Hearing of the struggles Adam and Ekhaya were going through made me want to learn more so I started interviewing experts in the field of mental health. In the United states we've come to believe in the chemical imbalance theory of mental disorders. So we believe that we have some known deficiency with the neurotransmitter and the drugs fix that like insulin for diabetes. It was a valid hypothesis that arose from understanding how the drugs acted on the brain and then it was investigated and found out basically not to be so. I believe it. When I was a reporter I wrote about it. How depression is due to low ceretonin, schizophrenia is due to too much dopamine and I called up some top researchers and I said, "I just want to see the research that says you found that people with Schizophrenia had too much dopamine or that you found that people with depression have too little ceretonin" and I'll never forget the answer. The answer was "well we never found that. And I said, "what do you mean you never found that?" Oh it's just a metaphor but it's not really true. Well not really. And I was stunned by that. I am very much against the casual and careless use of medication that characterizes American society today. These medicines are very, very powerful in helping but they can be very powerful in harming. Often the withdrawal problems will be worse than the original condition. I can look at any clinic I've worked at and If they've been at the clinic for years, years they've been on every category of anti-psychotic in the process. And the truth is that they still have the same symptoms they still have the same effects, they are still operating at the same level. They may have been hospitalized , , times during that process. We've been primed to believe that with medical research, we can find the causes of things and that we can create these magic bullets that fix these problems. So it fit into the larger story of medical progress that we believe in. We've been embracing this paradigm of cure now for almost years and we've seen the burden go up and up and up. And, if you have an effective medical treatment for a disease, at the very least, that burden of disease should hopefully stay stable or even go down. And we're seeing exactly the opposite. I didn't know why I was here. I had no purpose I didn't think I had any reason to breath, I didn't feel deserving of love, of anything The first suicide attempt was I took a whole bottle of pills. The second attempt was me walking out of the house headed into busy street traffic. I just wanted a car to hit me or a truck or just something to just take me out because this time I wanted it to really work. I always felt like I was the problem and if I could get rid of the problem, everyone else would be OK. I decided to try to get some kind of help and I was in the hospital for about weeks and I was put on several different medications, heavy drugs, anti-psychotics. And it really changed who I was completely. I had gained lbs in the first two and half months. I just felt drugged up. I felt like a lab rat. And the side effects were just awful. Absolutely awful. Vomiting all day, I couldn't leave my house for so long from just like these awful anxiety attacks and like the thought of interacting with people would make me sick to my stomach. I was the only one who he could be around. She basically terminated her job and made it a full time responsibility to take care of him. It took five or six years to get him where he could go to work. You go through the whole gauntlet Um, from was I a good father? Did I cause this? Did we do something as parents? And the pain that you see him going through and the inability to do anything to help it are the toughest things. I had no idea who I was. I lost myself, my identity, my friends, my family. I lost everything. After four years of horrible side effects Adam quit all his meds at once. Which I've learned is a dangerous thing to do. And then he did a ten day silent meditation retreat. I went there a drug addict alcoholic that hated everyone. And came back a sober life loving vegan complete health nut. Like, no one knew who I was. There was an obvious major change in his serenity and his peace of mind. He quit everything. He was a smoker, a drinker a pot smoking and the meds and he went to that ten day meditation and went cold turkey on everything. I can't believe he did that. Looking back at it now, I really wish that I would have known these things and tried the homeopathic meditative approach first but it was kind of like a panic I don't know, put some medication in this kid and just hope for the best. While doing a human rights story on Tibet I had the rare opportunity to witness a young monk known as a Kuten go into trance and channel the state oracle of Tibet. The ceremony took place in a monastery near the Dalai Lama's residence. Shortly after they seated him, his eyes rolled back and he began speaking in a high pitched voice. Suddenly he collapsed and as they carried him out of room I was left wondering, what happened? Two days later I was invited to interview the Kuten. His name was Thupten. He was years old at the time. He said he began having intense dreams severe mood swings, hearing voices and thought he might be dying. The older monks recognized he had the potential to become a Kuten. We're so locked into our mind and the rational world and the scientific world that when we have a spiritual experience, it can literally blow somebody's mind and they don't know what to do with it. And what's needed instead of stigmatizing people, and giving them labels is to give people tools to learn how to ground and to work with these expanded states of conciousness For some people, they can be an opening to a deeper self understanding, to a deeper psychological knowledge or to spiritual realms. According to the research, the best place to be a schizophrenic in the world is not North America with all it's pharmacopia. It's actually a village in Africa or India where there is acceptance, where people make room for your differentness, where the connection is not broken but is maintained. Where you're not excluded and ostracized but where you're welcomed. And where there's room for you to act out what you need to act out or express what you need to express. And where he whole community might sing with you or chant with you or hold ceremony with you. Maybe find some meaning in your quote on quote craziness. As our film progressed, we began hearing from people who had identified themselves as survivors. Meaning, survivors of our mental healthcare system. Many had come out of the shadows of their diagnosis and labels by meeting each other online to share their experiences and to form support groups. Will Hall is on the forefront of what is called the recovery movement. When I first was hospitalized I was feeling so desperate that I wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself. And I was hearing very aggressive voices and I ended up walking to the Golden Gate Bridge and I remember dragging my arm against the chainlink fence and my fingers were bloody and when I got to the bridge and I looked down I really felt like I needed to end my life. I felt like I was this complete failure. So I was in really bad, bad shape and the mental health system only made that worse. I went to the clinic in San Francisco. My therapist had recommended that maybe I should try different medications and I was buzzed into the clinic. And I didn't know what was coming but the door locked behind me. It was like there was this wild animal that they had captured and that they were evaluating it. And I was put into restraints and I was not resisting or arguing or being hostile. Finally after doing all these tests the resident psychiatrist who had been working with me came in and sat down and said, "Ok Mr. Hall, we have your, your results of these test, we have your diagnosis." It was this very solemn, ceremonial moment. And they said you have a severe mental illness. You have a kind of schizophrenia called schizoaffective disorder it combines the criteria for schizophrenia with the criteria for bi-polar disorder. So it's kind of like this catch all diagnosis that's sort of like winning the lottery of severe mental illness. And they said, there's no cure, there's no cure for this. You will be maintaining yourself on medication, to manage your symptoms, we really recommend that you re-think some of your goals in your life. That moment really was like casting a spell on me. And they were in the process of transforming me from an ordinary full human being into this second class citizen of being a mental patient. I interviewed a group of people that had been diagnosed for their mental emotional distress. And asked each of them what was your diagnosis? Schizophrenia, schizotypal, schizoid personality um... schizoaffective, bi-polar and bi-polar . ADD, dysthymia, depression and PTSD. Borderline personality, they put autism, they put uh, asbergers, they put uh, manic-depressive I didn't think I was that. Manic depression, bi-polar, bi-polar and just the one time schizoaffective. In the era of DSM, there were like personality disorders and, and I had eight of them and, and uh, the perfectionist in me wanted to try and get all . I learned that all these diagnosis come from a book called the DSM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Published by the American Psychiatric Association. Over the years, the number of disorders has increased dramatically with each new addition. The problem with this advice is that it took a number normal aspects of life and pathologized them. Normal grief becomes major depressive disorder. Um, over eating becomes binge eating disorder. Temper tantrums become disruptive mood disregulation disorder. It's taking the experiences of every day life that are unavoidable, part of the human condition and turning them into medical disorders. The diagnostic and statistical manual is basically a sophisticated way of not listening to people. You interview just so that you've heard certain key words, you fit it into your framework and then you have a whole algorithm of treatments that you offer people so that when your colleagues and supervisors ask you what are you doing to this person, you're following the protocol. If we used all these psychiatric tests, on the healthy population I doubt that anyone would avoid to get at least one diagnosis. We think there are people who are normal over here and then there is the pathological ones who have depression, or anxiety, or addiction, or schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, ADHD or any other known conditions. What I see is a continuum. These traits to one league or another are present in almost everybody. And it's a mythology to think that there is the normal and then there's the abnormal. Three months into our filming, Adam asked to be interviewed. He'd just started his fourth -day meditation retreat and painful childhood memories began coming up. When he went to the retreat leaders and revealed his mental health history they decided it was best for him to leave. The first time I went to the Vipassana center, I had a memory of when I was really young and just being in a bathroom. It was involving a relative, I'm just like dancing around what... I was molested as a child. And it was involving a relative. Once I realized that my grandfather had molested me, I went to speak to my parents and they didn't believe me. I'm losing my house, I'm losing my job and I just walked away from all my bills, just looking into the abyss and that's when I began believing that my mother molested me, my father molested me. My mind, I think couldn't handle it anymore. So if I have an unusual way of feeling and my emotions are really big and I'm having a hard time and my culture and my family doesn't support that, I can go off into a really isolated way and become very, very disturbed. Alienated, isolated, more chaotic, more rigid. and you give me a label. And then we look at someone whose mind, that is there thoughts, their feelings, their behavior, is off. And then we say "oh, they have a bad brain" and then either you isolate them because you're afraid of them or you give them pills or whatever you do, and medications are sometimes essential, but if you don't first start with the communities of support then of course the brain is going to stop functioning so well. Because the brain is a social organ. Relationships are just as important as brain processes and I feel very deeply that if we could make that clear to everyone, we could have a shift in how we actually take care of each other. This is myself and my best friend Mya and she was a huge part of my life. Someone that I could trust and we lived together, we moved to New York together. We wrote together, we sung together, we managed an art gallery together, we created a business together so we were very much a part of each other's lives. During one of my lowest points, she didn't quite understand what was happening. When I look at her, this is not the person that I had originally met and then she was on medication when she was in that hospital and it was changing her. By my analysis and I may be clearly wrong, but I felt like she was being very manipulative. There was a day where she got out of the hospital and I met her and I gave her money for travel and I put her in a cab, I took her to lunch, and she was supposed to go to kind of like a group home and she attempted suicide again. I couldn't be a crutch for her anymore and for a year I didn't speak to her. And that was one of the hardest things I've ever done as a friend. I think it broke her heart too. I called her and I was experiencing some issues and really depressed and I was like you know I don't feel like I can live anymore. And she told me to get over myself. And, I just want to say I mean we've reconciled our relationship and she's back in my life and we've talked about this and we've healed over these things but that is the worst thing that you can say to someone. Another friend of mine understood what I was going through. I remember actually talking to her on the phone and talking to her in person and smiling a lot with her and saying this is not a break down, this is a break through. It's kind of like literally breaking down a wall and going through another path to be that person that you're going to be. and being willing to accept that people are going to reject you on some level. Your own family, your friends, the, and you know, I again I connected with that. I myself had attempted suicide probably or times in my life time and it took me some time to figure out that that feeling inside was about not wanting to be here the way that I was here. Not not wanting to be here. We don't have enough people in our lives to look at it differently from a peer perspective and say you know, I have been through this, I know where you are. I have actually experienced myself Someone that hasn't had an experience it's very, very hard for them to see through it. Sometimes the music she's just like a lover she'll try to lead you astray. I've been living in my car for three months. Or a little over three. I have incredible people in my life and right as I lost my family, I found a brand new one that is incredible. This place, Soul Food family. They are amazing. It is jut a beautiful community of open minded, loving people. I think a lot of people would say that Adam was broken and I don't view it that way. I think our culture is broken, not Adam. We say "there's something wrong with you" instead of actually addressing the fact that as a society we don't have the skills to be able to support somebody like that. It makes your really wonder what the mantis really wanted when she ate her lover after sex in the garden. Did you think she missed him at all? Oh did she miss him at all? He seems to tune right into what people are feeling. I don't think he knows how to to not feel it for them. I think he'd be a great psychologist maybe someday or work with kids and he doesn't need to end up in the back of a car. Guess I'll never know... oh, oh. Being here and finding that love and comfort and just the acceptance saved me. Without that, with just being in your head having nothing other than rejection to what you're experiencing going on is absolutely maddening. One of the problems in this industrial society is that the so called normal people, they don't want to admit that they are psychotic, actually. This is, we live in a psychotic society, I'm sorry, we do. And what is meant by psychotic, out of touch with reality. Where does somebody who is in this delicate state your know, their inner process, they're sent to prison, they're sent to jail, they're sent to a psychiatric ward or they're chemically incarcerated or they're homeless. I'm not against medications, I'm not against hospitals I'm not against doctors, I know may people who have benefited by medications but we have a one size fits all framework. We think that the issue is biological, the solution is medical and pharmaceutical and we see it as objective science. It's not objective science. Most non-Western cultures, it's assumed that people hear voices or they have very unusual beliefs there's meaning to those experiences. Only in the Western world have we developed this bizarre idea that hearing voices and having strange ideas has no meaning at all. Um, it's just a symptom of these imagined illnesses that biological psychology has actually created. While mentoring young photographers on the Navajo Nation, I met Morgan Yazi he said he had been having dizzy spells and hallucinations in his s but tried to ignore them. They started to happen more frequently until he finally had what he called stroke. His friend Sam Begay, a medicine man did a ceremony for him and told Morgan he was ignoring a calling. A calling to be a medicine man. And I've heard this several times before. If you ignore the calling, there's good chance that you could get sick and possibly die. Many say it's a transformation waiting to happen that has to be dealt with. I couldn't go into the bathroom to shower because people were smoking crack. I felt like I was about to harm myself again and I didn't want that so I called the nurses' station and one of the nurses said come back, come back and um, we'll help you. I had an intake with the psychiatrist at the emergency room and after him questioning me and seeing my records and seeing that I had been in the hospital for already weeks, he didn't believe me. He said I'm going to send you home, that you don't need to be here. I walked out of the emergency room door, I had just filled a prescription bottle of anti-psychotic pills and right outside of the hospital I took all the pills in the bottle. When I woke up I was strapped to a bed. When I opened my eyes, I was like, how am I here? Why am I still here? I couldn't believe it. But I am very, very grateful for that moment because that's the moment I knew that there was purpose for my life there was reason, I didn't know it. But I knew that there was some higher being, some higher being, some higher force that wanted me to be alive. And I knew I that I had to find it. Born and raised in the city of rain and life's rain and it's pouring, it's not letting up. Soaked to the core but I'm... Ever since I can remember with Adam meeting him when I was in high school is his confidence that was what made him very popular and people love to have him around because he was free to be him. and I say thank you, to the sunshine, thank you to the rain, thank you to the good times thank you to the pain. And then I went into the army at and that's when we lost touch. I just heard it through friends that something happened to Adam and they said he was crazy and they put him in the hospital and I didn't really know what was going on but I was worried for him. to the sunrise... to the sand We started hanging out more and meditating together. And at that time I was in a very dark place and the things that he told me about meditation in the quieting of your mind and in going to that still place because of the experiences I had at war, I was open. At this point part of me still thought of him as unstable, you know. That he was as the doctors diagnosed him, he was using meditation as a means to cope with that. and I say thank you to the sunshine thank you to the rain. Thank you. I would be like, well he may be crazy or not but I'm still his friend and I'm going to talk him through this. But in going along process of feeling that I was helping him I realized that he was actually helping me. In the shamanic traditions you're not ever completely healed until you become a healer yourself. It's the way of the wounded healer, and as you heal yourself, what has been before a great source of pain and suffering, now becomes a source of compassion. There are people who have gone through psychotic episodes, can come out the other end and say, that changed my life. Those openings, or those things that we call psychotic breaks you know, I think why can't it be seen as a great blessing that I open to something far greater that was a holy blessed moment that released either the angels or the demons so that I could access the deeper essence of who I really am. The Buddha wouldn't have been enlightened. Jesus wouldn't have been Jesus without going into the desert for days. There's a kind of arc or narrative that wants to unfold in the psyche and if an individual is given proper support, um a person can actually reconstruct their life at a higher level. I saw a flier about Baltic Street, it said it was for people who had experienced emotional struggle, and had mental health issues. I went there and I met a beautiful, beautiful group of people. And these people were telling me their story and asked me what was happening with me and my experience and there I was able to record in their studio and get back to song writing and making my music. I did some painting. I really got int touch with myself again. It was like the first time that I was able to feel myself through the cloud of the medication. Going to their support groups, I met a lady who offered to interview me for a job that was coming up, they hired me for the position. It was part time starting out and then about two months later they hired me on full time. For people diagnosed with schizophrenia, if we take a Western construct for a second, the average recovery in the Western world with all of our sophisticated diagnoses and medications and huge, highly paid experts is about one third. The recovery rate in the developing world is about two thirds on average. I find that kind of interesting. How mental illness is constructed in different places in the world is very, very different. I believe myself, if I hadn't chosen to live in Nepal I probably would have been medicated or institutionalized. I knew for myself that I couldn't be in a society or a culture that was high paced. I needed to move down slower. So it was easier for me by being an anthropologist creating a lifestyle where I could be out in villages on agricultural time. Not on industrial time. I met a lot of people who might have seemed crazy by our concepts of mental health. There's something over there that's called "crazywisdom" In Tibetan medical tradition, illness is not just an individual, it's something larger and it's related to the environment so when we start to lose that connection with the environment in a very deep way, I think other illnesses start to manifest. Mengatohue is known a powerful shaman and the leader of the Huaorani tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon. As hunter gatherers, an intimate connection to nature is critical to their survival. This is the root of this tree the um, this is somewhat of a grass that is growing up the trail here. And evidently there is a fruit of another plant in this case it's for respiratory problems. How they came upon this by trial and error over, over the centuries I guess is quite amazing. Every five to seven days, Mengatohue goes into trance and takes on the spirit essence of the jaguar. It's a process called shape shifting that he uses to guide his people. At the time I looked at this with curiosity and skepticism. Now I wonder if these rituals could be a metaphor that helps the tribe connect to nature in a very deep and spiritual way. They're not free of mental health issues and not everyone that has a crises becomes a shaman. But they often believe that non-ordinary states like hearing voices or having visions indicate the person in crises has a special sensitivity. A sensitivity that can actually be a gift to the community. Then they give that person guidance, meaning and purpose. I believe that is something we can learn from. Oh my god. Adam flew back to Seattle the next day and Ron offered to let him live in his garage. They turned on you? One of them? Yeah, they all just started hitting me like, all from, like every side of me. I dropped to the ground and just shielded myself and told them that I didn't want to fight them. And they continued just to beat me. And one of them picked up, I guess a rock, that was guessed to be the same size as my own head and just picked it up over his head and just spiked it down on my face. And it fractured my jaw in half right here. Just totally, all the way to the teeth just separated this. And after they smashed the rock on my face then I guess one of them was coming at me with a knife to stab me. While I was unconscious, my friend Rico shielded my body with his own. We were sitting on Baby Beach in Lahaina. We had a fire going, we weren't supposed to have a fire going. It was magical place for a minute and everyone just went in the circle of sharing how they ended up being homeless right next to me. It was amazing to hear how broken all of these people were. And how broken I was. And that that was what brought us together and what was making us all stronger and it was just truly incredible. These people that had absolutely nothing were the people that were helping me. The following day after being assaulted, my mother called me to tell me that she had terminal cancer and was going to pass soon and so that was incredibly devastating. I can't be there for her. I wish that I could and I want to you know love her the best way I know how, but without my family's acceptance I have nothing to give them because I literally can't. There is so much about me that is not accepted in my family. The majority of what makes me who I am is not accepted. Take medication, you're crazy. That's all they will say to me. Often families would come and they would have an education on what the symptoms of bi-polar disorder are for example or they would know the symptoms for schizophrenia. But they weren't educated on seeing the strengths in their relative and noticing the things that their relative is really great at and pointing those out. They weren't educated on how to have hope for recovery. There's sort of a continuum of involvement there's like, neglect on one end of the continuum and then there's over protect on the other end of the continuum. And sometimes the families kind of oscillate between the two so, they'll be really protective, over protective, over protective. No you must do this, you must take your meds, you must, all these ideas of what everything their relative needs to do to stay well and it's just you know, big eruption, so much fighting, crises and they just swing to neglect. And it's human nature. It's frustration, it's a lot of things but then neglect is like "You know what, you figure it out. I'm done, get out of my house. You just figure out this whole thing yourself. I'm not doing this anymore." They want to fix that person they love but they don't know how. Because in fact, it's not easy and there is no obvious answer. We don't do this in isolation. We do this in relationship. Healing is about relationship with our psyche and with each other with the natural world. Being socially marginalized and psychologically vulnerable is usually characterized in the West by lots of suffering. This is in Kindergarten. Although I'm smiling in my eyes I see sadness because this was around the time that my father started molesting me. So it's a bittersweet picture. I was really confused about the world, about adutls There was a time when my mother dealt with the situation and took me to the precinct to speak to the police about what had happened but you know my father denied everything and you know, it was just swept under the rug and my mother let me go back to him after he molested me. And she even married him later in her life. Again. So I felt really betrayed. You know I was always wearing a mask. You know, I was smiling just pretending to be happy. To be what everbody expected me to be. It begins with the denial of childhood trauma. In our whole culture, which then shows up in the medical profession. When I was in the hospital, I was asked about my family history of mental illness, but what I was asked about was about the presumed genetic origins. I was never asked about the violence and abuse and the history of trauma that I had been through and that my family has been through. When I was a beginning psychiatrist, there was still kind of a two schools, there was the uncovering and the covering. Covering was used as suppression of symptoms, the uncovering was you do something, some process of psycho therapeutic process depth psychology and so on. Trying to go to the core, to the underlying reason And now what we see more and more for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the influence of the pharmaceutical companies, you see more and more a shift to try to solve everything with this with this suppression of symptoms. What become suppressed is our authenticity, our emotions. And then we become and or , and we don't know who we are. And somebody asked us what we feel and you say, I have no idea. So then, it becomes not our first nature but our second nature to suppress our feelings to lose touch withourselves and to suppress our gut feelings. And then we pay the cost later on in the form of addictions, mental illness or any range of physical illnesses. This photo was a beautiful, beautiful time. I had just given birth, I was married and I was just so happy. I had custody of my children and it was a lot of pressure for me now being single and so I became really, really depressed again. I started to treat my children differently. I always wanted to be the best mother I could be. So when I found myself doing things like yelling and lashing out, it wasn't right and I became depressed and I said, I have to leave. I have to get away. Because they don't deserve this. Living in the car, I mean it's nice I have my own little meditation pod. I think a lot of people would imagine this to be miserable but it's not that bad. Like, this was given to me, this car was given to me. It's so hard to even figure out if I should complain or celebrate. I wake up and meditate and try and get over whatever nightmare I woke up into. The voice in my head that tells me to kill myself, to kill other people it's just chaos. I walk to town and hopefully sell weed. It's about three miles to Soul Food I guess. And that helps me ground and breath and gets my heart up. Go and try to get what I need to survive, and then come back. I'm amazed that I am alive for how close I was to jumping off of a balcony. Three years ago I was completely sober, vegan didn't smoke. And active. I mean, it's, it's And now, how would you describe yourself? Just a shit show. Like, an alcoholic, a drug addict a nicotine fiend. malnourished and crazy. Adam is not alone. Many of our homeless are struggling emotionally and it seems our jails have become our new asylums. A prison bed can be $-$, a year. It's more expensive to put someone in prison than Harvard tuition. It's much less expensive to provide housing and to provide adequate treatment. The best place to handle psychiatric problems is in the community. And the problem was that the funding for all this has just disappeared. This is the one business where we're supposed to be spending time with people. The king pin is talking and understanding, and learning and listening. If you talk to patients, for example with schizophrenia, And although they might tell you many strange things that they might think they are Napoleon or Jesus, if you show them respect and talk to them, it has an effect. They need less medications, they need less forced treatment. The solution that is offered by our society is a bandaid. It really isn't a lasting solution. During the time we've been filming Adam, he was trying to qualify for any type of housing through various local and state agencies. But up to this point, he'd been unsuccessful. Just because there's a violent image or a violent words doesn't necessarily mean that the person is actually going to do something, That the behavior is going to result. That's a conclusion that we jump to. The truth is that somebody with schizophrenia is far more likely to be a victim of violence than perpetrated. I have had a serial killer in my head. I feel like what I'm experiencing is the integration of a fragmented personality that I've had my entire life. It's like I'm waking up the forgotten me. And it's the scariest thing in the world. I rarely express even to myself when these thoughts occur, I suppress them. And this side of you over here is the happy Adam, the part that everybody loves that helps them with this or that. He lives here. He lives in your heart. yeah. And then the shadow is up here. By the time my heart gets over here, it says some crazy things. And they scare you. Yeah, I actually force myself to listen to it and write it. And I would like to read that. Wake the fuck up cock sucker. Wake the fuck up. I wish you were dead. I will fucking kill you and everyone that you think you know. This is the place where evil thrives. Fucking kill yourself. You need me. Your father hates you. You betrayed me. I leave you alone for two fucking minutes and you get fucked. Literally. You pathetic incompetent fuck. How the fuck can I trust you? I am the only one with any fucking balls. Step down and I will show you what pain is. I don't want to read any more of this. Adam, had he'd had the same experience in an Eastern culture where there's mentors and shamans, he might have had his experience formulated in a completely different way. He might have been told he was gifted with sight but that that sight needs to be employed and deployed within a certain tradition. Where there is teaching and there's guidance. Because it's too much for the individual ego to handle. Now, in the Western world, there is no such framework for that. I met Namid in the very remote Darhad Valley. At , she had an active healing practice working day and night, seeing people one after another during the time I stayed with her. One night while going into trance to help a woman who was having trouble in her pregnancy, she collapsed. Then she got up and kept going. When she as about or she started having intense dreams, hearing voices and feeling confused and frightened. She would often go into the forest alone and be gone for days. And her parens were extremely worried. Her grandfather who was a shaman recognized these traits in her and began mentoring her. While making Namid's portrait the next morning and looking into her face, I thought of her devotion to her patients and how much time and energy she gave as a healer. I was reminded how important our relationships are to the healing process. Peers are taught to meet other peers where they're at. And a lot of time in other medical or clinical settings, you have this hierarchy. But in peer work it's almost like talking to a friend. It's like saying, I've been through this, what have you been through? Share your story with me. I really truly value my life now. And I have a focus and awareness that I didn't have before. What we're seeing happen in the US and internationally is a grassroots democratization of mental health. We have lost touch in our medical system from some of the simple needs that people have for connection. The simple needs that people have for community. And because the mental health system isn't providing it people who have been in the system are starting to provide it for ourselves. Today's session is about finding strength after trauma. As a survivor of childhood trauma, as someone who was sexually abused by a family member I can say I am a survivor of trauma, you know, of trauma and I know that I am not alone. It's very, very important that we have storytelling from people who've lived through psychosis and who have discovered alternatives to medications and alternatives to diagnosis because that's really the expertise. Your story's important. You are unique. Own your title, "trauma survivor". Find your strength. Come on Apple... My mother, now she's facing death, me sharing my spiritual side with her, it was, she was open to it. And it was amazing and she really did listen to me and it was one of the first times in so long that I had been able to share my heart with someone in my family. It's been really intense on the family, It's been really intense on me. I see the death of my mother being a catalyst to bring a whole lot of necessary love and appreciation into my family. And that was what she was about. The first time I was diagnosed insane, I had something to say. And I look back at the things I had to say And I don't think any of it is insane. It's a very damaging thing to be able to not be able to trust your own perspective. when you can't do that, that really fucks you up. What we do in the West is to constrain individuals. People start to manage your experience at a level which takes your agency away. Robs you of your autonomy, makes you feel like they don't trust you. That's not what you want to do. Once I internalized the "mentally ill identity" Once I came to see myself as having this disease living in side of me, I stopped trusting in my intuition because it was sick. The only way to find myself again and to get back to an authentic sense is self is to feel this and to listen to it and to explore it and to not be afraid of it. So that's what I started to do. I traveled to the Amur River in Eastern Siberia where the word "shaman" originated. There I met Lindsa. A very respected healer for over years. She was forced to practice in secret for decades until the Soviet Union collapsed in and was just one of two remaining shaman in her Nanai culture. Nine year old Sascha is Lindsa's neighbor in their village. Her grandmother told us that Sascha has fainting spells and hears voices. Both considered signs of shamanic potential. Unfortunately, just three weeks after my visit, Lindsa passed away leaving Sascha without a mentor. At the time it seemed I was witnessing the disappearance of an age-old tradition in this corner of Siberia. However as I later discovered Shamanism is re-emerging in very unexpected places. Ekhaya met a South African Shaman known as a Sangoma living in Baltimore and began working with her. She told me that I was called to be a healer, a shaman. And I had been feeling that inside of me and a lot of times we need confirmation and so that was in my absolute, as soon as she said that I was in tears. She said, her exact words were, "you should be doing what I'm doing" You know, "you have priesthood responsibilities. you should be doing what I'm doing." I get on a packed bus for a four hour trip to Baltimore, Maryland where my Baba is, my teacher. And during that time I'm just really meditating and just preparing myself for everything because it is a lot of intense work. Beautiful work but very intense work. The Sangoma training involves humbling yourself completely to your teacher and to your ancestors. What you have to do as a Twaza is submit yourself. Your ego, all of your beliefs, you have to sit on the floor. You have to eat with your hands, you have to surrender to your ancestors. A Twaza is an initiate to become a traditional South African healer. During slavery we lost a lot of who we were. But what you can't take from a person is what's in their blood. So if it's in your blood it's going to be in you. The only way that she recieved the calling is because someone in her family was a traditional South African healer. Her ancestors that are in her blood, that they are saying "wake up, wake up," they are waking her up to them. To say "you are our child and this is how we want you to live". At the start of my initiation, I experienced all of the problems that I was having, all of the anxieties and depression and I was being pushed And I hurt. And I cried. And my body ached. The medications drown you out. They mask you, they put a fog over your problems and you really aren't in touch with yourself. You don't feel things. I've had to face all my fears, All the things that made me upset and angry. All the people that I've hurt. I've had to face it and be with it before I was able to release it and let it go. Adam started turning a corner and moved into an apartment with a friend. It had been three long years since he was turned away from the meditation center and alienated from his family. I had an opportunity for about a year to be an autistic counselor and that was really powerful for me. I know that music therapy is a practice that more and more people are looking into. Maybe I should be one of those people? My mind was just interpreting everything as hate and rape and that's all it knew at that point and that's what became this evil personality in my head that has gotten a lot better. Actually my dad just called me before this interview and was saying, he originally just wanted to be by himself and now he wants to come hang out. I think he's coming over here We're going to have beers. Merry Christmas. That makes me so happy. That's magic. Now he's coming over to my place. I have a place for my dad to come over to. And he's down, and he's actually down to talk to me. Ekhaya has come a very long way. When she first came to me she was very unstable. All over the place, not sure of herself, confused and just not clear about who she was. I felt like, ok finally, I know why I'm on this earth. I know why I'm so sensitive to all these things and energies. I understand why I have visions now. I understand and you know, I had to go find it. You tell your therapist of your psychiatrist and they say you're ill. They say you have borderline personality disorder, you have chronic depression and these are the drugs that you need to take. This is what's going to help you but nobody told me this is a spiritual matter. And you are gifted and now it's time for you to hone these gifts. And it was just so amazing I'm so grateful because it has changed my life. I know who I am without a doubt, percent I know who I am. And it is the best feeling ever. I have a purpose and I have a reason to live and the reason is the best reason that god could ever give. It's to help humanity, help other people that have experienced the things that I have experienced. To connect with earth, to connect with this universe. It is magical. And I am so grateful. It's part of being human to discover meaning in our tragedies. To discover meaning and purpose in the pain that we go through and to look beyond the specific suffering that we are going through and fit it into the the larger story of our lives. That's just human. If you asked anyone how they survived an extreme tragedy in their life, most people are going to put spirituality at the center of what helped them. That's there's no difference for mental health problems. We have to recognize that people's spiritual beliefs and their spiritual resources and their religion are often central to what give them the strength that give them to make it through. The paths are many, some find it through religion, sometimes religion is an obstacle to that. In fact often it is but it may be a conduit to it as well depending on who and how and where. There's this spiritual nature that if we ignore we're actually ignoring an essential part of ourselves. Human beings have certain needs for meaning. For contact, for community, for acceptance. For authenticity which is our capacity to feel what we feel and to be in touch with our bodies. And to express what we feel when we need to. In the shamanic traditions, there are maps, and there are compasses that you can use to guide you through your night of the soul so you're encouraged to explore the depths of the psyche with all the despair and suffering and to not get stuck there. To use it as some point of initiation to open you up to lucidity and a sense of personal destiny. There is something so magnificently touching and moving to see how people handle trauma because you see the splendor of the human spirit for those who don't allow themselves to be victimized but become stronger and more committed to making sure it doesn't happen to someone else. What I would like to see is that everyone who goes through the kind of crisis that I went through is given an opportunity to explore what it might mean. To present them with the possibility that maybe it's not just a broken brain. Maybe it's not just an illness, maybe, and this is not just something to hide and be ashamed of. Maybe it's something to explore and learn from. The film process has been a perfect storm of everything that scares me. The interactions with an older male and also the just the experience of cameras, of invasion, of allowing, sharing every, every aspect of this has been like a a perfect thing for me to get over trauma in my, or seeing it later, it has been terrifying in every way but it's also been healing. Phil has helped me so much, someone coming to me with an honest curiosity about my situation instead of an opinion. I hope this film ends up showing people that they are OK. What helps all of us stay well? Well it's shelter, it's exercise, it's good food, it's meaning in life, it's socialization and that immediately breeds a sense of optimism, a sense of hope that you can have a breakdown but you can recover from that with the right sort of environmental care. How do we as a society provide those things to people? How do we build up that foundation and not just put a bandaid over it but to really build a healthier society for ourselves? I just think it's really important for people to find some spiritual path. It doesn't have to be shamanism. It could be yoga, it could be Tai Chi, it could be meditation, some spiritual path that opens people up to their own creative impulse, into their own spiritual power. There are millions of varieties of therapy and alternative, holistic treatments but in the mental health system, really all we offer is traditional psychotherapy kind of stuff and drugs. Now is the time for us to be pressing for alternatives for new ways of looking at things. For funding peer support groups for getting options out there, for bringing the holistic medicine framework into mental healthcare. Bring them out of the closet and that'll help fuel a movement that says we're out here, we're not alone and then we can build a movement that can make change happen. I want to apologize to my children. Because of my depression, because of being, you know, without shelter sometimes, I abandoned them for months at a time. I wouldn't call, I wouldn't be in contact. They wouldn't know what was going on with me. I'm so blessed that their step-mother even called me one day and said, hey we have space for you, how about you come out to California? It's a miracle, you know to be in a space where I can come and co-parent with my children and that all three parents in the household can get along and agree to do our best for our children. I've been away from my children for years. The suffering that they've been through you know, I have to have complete compassion for that and it's going to take time for us to build up a certain level of trust. She's a very different type of person. But different in a good way. What she's been going through this process, she's been away from like, technology and everything else that other people have been around. I think it gave her time to find herself and figure out who she really is. Miles did come to me and asked, "Mom, what is it that you do?" And I said, "Honey, I help people heal. I help people get better." The fact that I falsely accused my father of molesting me and the fact that he was able to forgive me and still have love for me, it's just incredible to me. I spent a lot of time screaming, punching things, and just letting out pent up emotions, crying, the whole spectrum and the more that I would do that, the less intense those voices were becoming I just really had to let it all out and not judge myself for it. If my mom were here right now, she would be so happy. The garden was something that was her focus. I mean when she passed away our family was in shambles. And if she's somewhere right now, she's smiling. While following Adam and Ekhaya's stories, I often thought of the transformational process that takes place in indigenous and shamanic cultures. And I wondered, what if a mental health crisis was viewed as a potential growth experience instead of a disease with no cure? What if everyone was supported and guided to seek meaning and purpose in their suffering? If we took more time to be with and listen to those considered to be mentally ill, we might find there's a relationship between Crazy and Wise. I pretended to intent this moment in attendance forgot yet again ascension, remembrance, remember to forget. The graces of not yet. I agree to see what, I agree to be my moment of attention free of what you mention. To be my deficit won't pay you attention, you won't make sense of it. All that I may give to you you take one less of it. What it is you hear, see or feel, a reminder of who and what you view to be real. How you feel, don't pay me your retention, I'll do you the same. Appreciate the fires and the visual flames making sparks within the dark for residual gain. Make the fire grow higher in original names. I am me, you are too, I am you who is who. I am we. I am free. Well actually ADD is what you may be and I faithfully read the DSMD and it's been telling me that your sights are unfit to see so I'll get paid to, yes paid to oversee your baby test rat medicated slavery. The only escape now is obey me. So look, watch me pull this rabbit from this hat look away and look back. Not there? Imagine that. And we take notice one hour segments of your deepest darkest secrets, on file we will keep it you'll be shaking cold feetless in a permanent mental winter where we'll leave this. I could have a problem if a problem was a problem to me. This less than perfect life is exactly what I need. I could have problem if a problem was a problem to me, this less than perfect life is exactly what I need. This less than perfect life is exactly what I need. This less than perfect life is exactly what I need.