Andrarchy explains why his experience with depression was less about mental illness and more about alienation
I don’t think I had a disease called “depression”; I think that my mind was conflicting with what is socially acceptable for a mind. I was having difficulty integrating with society. And because I was having beliefs and ideas that were different than everybody else’s, that created discomfort and sadness in me that was difficult to resolve because there was nobody there to guide me through the experience.
I do believe that there is a place for therapists – whether they’re psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, whatever – I do believe there’s a place, because if somebody had been there to say “this is normal” – not just “this is normal”, because they do say that – but if they were to explain to me, basically, “hey, society is a construct; it’s a set of delusions we all kind of agree on so we can function, so we can go to the store and make sure there’s shit there – we share these beliefs, not necessarily because they’re true, but because they enable us to form stable societies. Just because you don’t see them as true, doesn’t mean you’re broken.”
When you see a homeless mentally ill person doing something unusual on the street, you might do as most people do, and ignore them. Have you ever thought about why they’re on a street corner barking? Maybe they weren’t always like that, but over the years, their desperate attempts to get anything resembling affection – attention, acknowledgement – lead them to stranger and stranger behaviours.
If you’ve ever had an experience with mental illness, you might have noticed that your thoughts can quickly carry you away, getting you to places full of anxiety, dread, hopelessness and even delusion. There are mental tools that we can use to help us gain control of our minds and our lives. Meditation is one of them, and so is logic. Being able to look at our thoughts and analyse them a little more objectively can help ground us.
In this episode, Andrew “Andrarchy” Levine interviews Kurt about mental illness among homeless people, and about the role of reason in stabilising your own mind.
The Story: Is it mental illness or a spiritual experience?
If we take the psychiatric industry’s model of mental illness, we might be inclined to believe that these experiences are purely negative. But if we go too far the other way, speaking of neurodiversity, spiritual awakenings or shamanic experiences, we might be tempted into thinking that these experiences are wholly positive. It’s true that these experiences may involve a lot of suffering for the people whom they affect directly, and the people around them – however, it’s also true that people can learn a lot from these experiences, about themselves and the nature of the world they live in.
This is part 2 of Andrew “andrarchy” Levine’s interview with Kurt about having a psychotic break, or spiritual awakening. We discuss the terms used to describe these experiences, the change from linear to conceptual thinking that went on in Kurt’s brain, and possible explanations of what caused this spontaneous change from psychiatric and yogic perspectives.