Yale’s traumatic withdrawal process for students with “mental illness”

In my sophomore year at Yale in the Spring of 2001, I was grappling with depression. I went to the student mental health services, which then was called “mental hygiene” (nice one, Yale). The therapist, who I had just met, asked me about my history with depression, and when I mentioned suicidality asked me, pressured me, really, about the percentage likelihood I was going to kill myself. I was dumfounded, but didn’t really know what to say- so I threw out a high number because I was really in a state of despair. I was involuntarily hospitalized for the first time. And then forced to medically withdraw.

I returned to Yale, after the readmission process, in the Spring of 2003. I became a very involved as an activist in the UnFarallon campaign, a campaign to disclose Yale’s billions of dollars in dirty investments, that turned into a national campaign with a coalition of schools that got national attention. I think I might have been branded a troublemaker. ¬†ūüôā¬†¬†In Fall of 2004, I was struggling with spiritual emergency, and my psychiatrist in student health services involuntarily hospitalized me for racing speech, large ideas and some slight paranoia. It was not the standard grounds for hospitalization- I was not a danger to self or others. I was let out of the hospital, but not given any extra support, put on a bunch of pills. I ended up in the hospital again after a few weeks, and then again was forced to medically withdraw from school. I felt like I was subhuman after the head psychiatrist dismissed me with some harsh words.

Again, I went through the readmission process. Sum total, I had to reapply 5 times because I wasn’t allowed back in right away. Readmission is tough- it required taking 2 classes at an accredited university, earning at least a B, and steady work or volunteer work, and recommendations from a clinician and supervisors, etc.
But I did it. In my first interview for readmission (you have to interview with a series of Deans), one of the first questions the Dean asked me was, “So you were thinking of killing yourself?” It prompted me to cry. I wasn’t let back in that time. When I was finally let back in, one of the dean’s lauded me on my straightforward essay- he mentioned that another student had written their readmission essay in a spiral- there was no way she being let back in, he chuckled.

I had many friends who were dealing with suicidal feelings who were afraid to go to student mental health services and risk that they’d get thrown out of school.

There’s a lot more to say.

I’m attaching this article on this loss of life this year, as a result of Yale’s withdrawal policies. ¬†And also a Mad in America article of mine on soul loss and Yale’s mental health services.

 

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transmuting historical trauma- revised

My first memory is from when I was three years old. I witnessed a mass shooting at my hometown mall. My mom and I hid behind a bookcase in the bookstore. Later on in my life, I would read the newspaper archives, something like 10 wounded and 3 dead, including a 2 year old toddler shot right through the heart. The young woman who opened fire was described as a violent schizophrenic.

***

My parents came of age during genocidal times in Bangladesh in 1971, a time of¬†mass murders and mass rapes. Over 1 million people were slaughtered. The 2011¬†Time Magazine article, Forty Years After Its Bloody Independence, Bangladesh Looks to¬†Its Past to Redeem Its Future recounts, “This was a past that could not be buried, at least¬†not in a country where virtually every household can offer tales of parents lost or¬†disappeared, sisters raped and children murdered.”

***

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder in my early 20s (I’m 33 now). I’ve had six, what might be called psychotic episodes in my life (lasting from 3 weeks to several months). These episodes may have been the most meaningful times and the most misunderstood times in my life. This essay is an exploration in unpacking some of the content from these episodes.   These surges from the unconscious, which I’d rather call them (than use the term psychotic episodes), contain mystical elements, biblical themes, eastern spirituality.   One time in a few short hours I felt I experienced life through the lens of a deep variety of spiritual, religious, and psychological systems, in an intense confusing whirlwind, from traditions as ancient as Daoism to modern neurobiology, tapping into knowledge that I normally don’t have access to.

Also included in these episodes is a lot of nightmarish content, including descents into hell that are too painful for me to describe or comprehend now. In this short essay, I will focus on the content related to my family and ethnic background and history. I believe my surges from the unconscious, this inner inner wisdom and forces, has a huge capacity to encouraging the healing of intergenerational trauma.

This essay explores an energy that is especially potent and accessible during these periods of unconscious spelunking.  I first met the hostile energy and its bigger-than-life ability to strike fear into my heart, when I was in one of these states. It was attached to my father. I couldn’t even be in the same room as him, I was so paralyzed with fear. This bull-like energy was going to kill me, I knew it. My father was very critical growing up, and he did chase after me and hit me a lot, and yell, but this energy was so terrifying, in retrospect, it seemed beyond him. But then, it was just how I felt I perceived him in these states. This would continue every time I had that surge from the unconscious- Absolute terror at my father and the archetypical violent force he carried.

Later, in these states, I would wake up in the middle of the night several nights in a row, and the whole environment became this hostile energy, and sometimes it was concentrated in something in my room. Even something as insignificant and inanimate as a cereal box seemed hostile, it was as if the entire environment was out to rape me. And I lived with these states of terror in the middle of the night, but thankfully they eventually would subside after a few hours or less.

Recently in therapy, my therapist, with my permission, encouraged me to lightly revisit or invoke the hostile, environment-as-rapist state, because I had been experiencing it again. I did, and the therapy room environment shifted to extremely hostile. We only stayed there for a few. Later in the session I found myself while describing a dream as getting incredibly angry, like wanting to flip-a-table angry.  My therapist let me throw a pillow. I seldom get super angry, and this feeling felt super uncomfortable for me.

A few sessions later I was describing being mildly annoyed with someone¬†important to me, and asked to repeat the words, ‚ÄúWhat the fuck [this person‚Äôs¬†name]?‚ÄĚ As I did that I noticed some anger and sadness, and then all of a sudden I¬†went into a dissociative fugue from almost the rest of the session, totally lost, not¬†knowing who I was, or where I was but in tandem, having a light grip of reality.

When I described the session to my psychiatrist, she said it was indicative of suppressed rage, and indeed that night I had tried tapping into the anger around the person, but to my surprise and some horror, my face started contorting into the most grotesque, angry expressions I had every seen. My body was contorting too, so much that I bruised my ribs. I was watching on my computer screen’s live photo program. I couldn’t shout because I was at home with roommates, but I know it would have been blood-curling. And I started talking about rape. When I did this I felt a deep resonance with the mass rapes of women in Bangladesh during the war of 1971. This was not the first time I felt I was experiencing trauma and expressing rage and somatically processing rage and hurt associated with the war.

The first time I got more information on the hostile violent force was during one of¬†my states. I had a vision where I saw all my ancestors from what seemed like the¬†beginning of civilization in rapid succession lining up back to back. Then I saw my¬†mother and father laying in my bed before I was conceived, and my father¬†whispered to my mother, ‚ÄúWhat do I do with the pain that happened in¬†Bangladesh?‚ÄĚ. And then fast forward to when I was a young child, my father took¬†on that violent energy in the vision, and I stayed in state of terror, knowing of this¬†force‚Äôs impending desire to rape and kill me. My father is one of my role models,¬†and he really taught me so much, if not emotionally available all the time, he‚Äôs¬†mentor-like and wise. This energy I realized was not my father. It did impact him,¬†causing him to have a violent temper towards his two young children, but that¬†energy was coming from the genocide.

My father’s family was homeless for a year during that period in Bangladesh. His house was raided, and his family was lined up by a rifle squad, but spared. My mother lost her grandfather, who she was very close to, an altruistic doctor. He was shot and killed by the West Pakistani army.

I realized that I have the capacity to transmute this energy. It happened that time with the contorted rageful faces and body postures. It is not easy to transmute this energy.   Sometimes I think it takes people over. It is really hard work, with the added difficulty of being labeled crazy and pushed into the mental health system.  Another time I felt I transmuted the energy was at a cafe called Borderlands (which I also personally associated with Bangladeshi civil war and the genocide, partly because of the name). The vendor outside had gifted me a little orange tourmaline crystal. At the cafe, I had this inexplicable desire to break it. Of course I couldn’t because it’s a hard stone, but I tried, and then I start shaking all over. My friend who was with me advised me to stop. When I got home, I tried it again, and an earthquake went through me.   It felt like somatic experiencing on a transpersonal level, a release of trauma. Afterwards, I cried, and cried, and cried. I cried for my mom, who had lost her grandfather, and then made a photo collage about her and her strength. Powerful forces and emotions have coursed through me around this.

I thank my ancestors and the sacred feminine creative source, for aiding me along this journey. And I thank my friends and family. Sylvia, the woman who opened fire at the mall, I learned had been sexually molested by her grandfather. She was dealing with a hostile force too. One that had attacked her when she was a vulnerable child.

Exploring the surges from the unconscious and exploring the meaning of the violent energy, and even inviting it into a therapeutic setting, has allowed me to release trauma that has been stored in my body and also energetically release trauma that has been stored in my family unit. After going through these processes of exploring and releasing energy through my body, akin to the practice of Somatic Experiencing developed by Peter Levine, which facilitates the release of trauma frozen-in-time, in the body, I noticed deep shifts in my family’s interaction patterns. My father and I had been distant for a long time, and connected to these releases and explorations of the violent energy, we started connecting and communicating on a very deep level- at a synchronicity level. I am a believer inspirit animal guides and that spirit animals come to me to teach me things. My father, and amateur photographer, uncannily started sending me his own photographs of the animals that I felt called by, with the exact timing of when the specific animal or insect was calling me, without me ever mentioning any animals or insects to him. I was blown away by the strength of connection we started experiencing- connection on a deep psyche level. And our connection is continuing to smoothen out at multiple levels. And the same kind of deepening of communication and connection is happening with my mom. My family is entering a deep healing process, and I believe this is partially a result of the therapeutic, self-reflective exploration, even invitation, and holding of the violent energy that had permeated my episodes. By allowing the intense, violent anger to flow first through my father, as a larger than life, numinous violent-seeming force during my episodes, to the environment as a the violent threat, to violence and anger coursing through my body, to the release and realization of the connection with the transgenerational trauma that is present within my personal history, to the telling of the story, using self-reflection, mindfulness, and a curious and compassionate therapist and psychiatrist, I believe historical trauma can be transmuted, and lead to incredible healing for the person going through the process, and consequently their family.

the teenage black girl, the century plant, and the haunted energy: power and trauma

photo 1 (6) (1)

and what scared and deeply saddened me i realize, was a feeling of incredible potential and that power being robbed…

i saw her outside of trader joe’s near 9th and Bryant. ¬†she was selling candy for donations. ¬†a beautiful black teenage girl. i went up to her and asked her what she was selling candy bars for- she was so shy and had the highest-pitched voice i’d ever heard. ¬†almost everybody, i had noticed, was essentially ignoring her. ¬†no one had time for her, or her candy bars.

she was such a beautiful soul, but she sounded, so so sad, almost to say, like she was masked, but naked at the same time, a caricature, a shell. ¬†she had the most haunted energy of absence that i’d ever felt. ¬†it gave me chills, and i felt an aversion to this palpable emptiness. ¬†she was collecting donations for her voice; she sang and played piano. ¬†the money would allow her, through her group- Youth Empowerment through the Arts- to send her to the Academy of Arts do a performance for the first time. ¬†She had never been there and was really excited to have a chance at this opportunity. ¬†i donated a dollar. ¬†i wish i could have donated more.

this girl, i felt, was carrying, collective neglect, the collective trauma of black teenage girls, being robbed of their incredible, incredible potential.  i asked her to sing a song for me, and she said she was too shy.  her friend who was raising money too, who was also a black teenage girl, but confident in her manner, came over.  they sang a beautiful song together, Selena Gomez.  their voices blended so beautifully, and my body got warm chills, and i teared up as i listened.  she thanked me for the donation.  i walked away, and as i left i got startled by a black couple yelling behind me in the parking lot, perhaps this was something telling too.

this teenage girl, for me, i feel, was carrying something personal, of the times, collective and intergenerational. ¬†the ghost energy was so palpable that i had to brush it off me. ¬†it was one of the scariest things i had felt in a long time. ¬†this week i saw a century plant in bloom, an agave plant that supposedly blooms once every 100 years, but under the proper nurture can bloom much faster. ¬†it was the most powerful, old, energy, i felt for a long time. ¬†¬†it was hauntingly beautiful, stunning, hollow, and honestly a little scary because of the power it carried. ¬†imagine waiting for such a plant to blossom. ¬†such power was building for that “century”…it needed nourishment and time, for it to then shoot up and grow. ¬†i didn’t see just one plant actually, i saw a row…Agave plants are blooming for me now.

it is a phenomena that this is happening now. ¬†agave flowers, which look like trees, when they bloom, have a massive growth spurt, incredible for any plant. ¬†a consciousness is rising supported by the “old”, by the ancestors. ¬†i see many parallels between these blooming¬†agave plants and black teenage girls. ¬†even though the haunted energy i felt with the girl at trader joe’s was of absence and neglect, of trauma, i realize through the nature teaching that the hollow has such potential, that it could be filled with such immense, fierce, power, and be supported and backed by the strength of those aligned leaders and teachers before us.

IMG_1179


louisiana mass shooting, trauma and art

there was a mass shooting in Louisiana at a movie theater tonite, and i feel so sad.

my last blog post briefly mentioned a mass shooting i witnessed when i was 3 at a mall, and focused on the hostile energy that was passed down in my family because of my parents coming of age as survivors of genocide in Bangladesh.

i don’t really know what this is, or what exactly i’m writing about. i’m just trying to put down my experiences. i invented a game the other day, just in my head, about calling people (or beyond people) telepathically while listening to my headphones and laying on my back in the dark. in my head i called that seemingly hostile energy because i was curious about it, and worried about it, and even maybe feeling some compassion for it- i mention in my last blog post trying to transmute this energy somatically. when i dialed this energy on the telepathic telephone, i had a visual of a devil emerging, kinda cartoonish and neon but scary and emerging from the ethers. it was pretty fucking scary. very archetypical fear energy. immediately i pulled out of that state and grabbed a pen and drew a picture here. the eyes, “hair”, and outline of the face were done forcefully and my body shook while i did it, like i was transmuting trauma, releasing trauma. this was the fear. the mouth and nose i did to make myself feel safe, even though the mouth is gagged, suppressing a loud scream, and the circle i put around for protection. this, i realized was a drawing of 3 year old me.

trauma and art. i’m starting to think, only art will save us. ¬†but also interesting that the shooting was at a movie venue, a place of “art” too.

photo (11)

transmuting historical trauma

My first memory is from when I was three years old. I witnessed a mass shooting at my hometown mall. My mom and I hid behind a bookcase in the bookstore. Later on in my life, I would read the newspaper archives, something like 10 wounded and 3 dead, including a 2 year old toddler shot right through the heart. The young woman who opened fire was described as a violent schizophrenic.

***

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder in my early 20s (I’m 33 now). I’ve had six, what might be called psychotic episodes in my life (lasting from 3 weeks to several months). These episodes may have been the most meaningful times and the most misunderstood times in my life. This essay is an exploration in unpacking some of the content from these episodes.¬†¬† These surges from the unconscious, which I’d rather call them (than use the term psychotic episodes), contain mystical elements, biblical themes, eastern spirituality.¬†¬† One time in a few short hours I felt I experienced life through the lens of all spiritual, religious, and psychological systems, in an intense confusing whirlwind, from traditions as ancient as Daoism to modern neurobiology, tapping into knowledge that I normally don’t have access to.

Also included in these episodes is a lot of nightmarish content. In this short essay, I will focus on the content related to my family and ethnic background and history. I believe my surges from unconscious, this inner inner wisdom and forces, has a huge capacity to heal intergenerational trauma. This essay explores an energies that is especially potent and accessible during these periods of unconscious spelunking.

I first met the hostile energy and its bigger-than-life ability to strike fear into my heart, when I was in one of these states. It was attached to my father. I couldn’t even be in the same room as him, I was so paralyzed with fear. This bull like energy was going to kill me, I knew it. My father was very critical growing up, and he did chase after me and hit me a lot, and yell, but this energy was so terrifying, in retrospect, it seemed beyond him. But then it was just how I felt I perceived him in these states. This would continue every time I had that surge from the unconscious- Absolute terror at my father and the archetypical violent force he carried.

Later, in these states, I would wake up in the middle of the night several nights in a row, and the whole environment became this hostile energy, and sometimes it was concentrated in something in my room. Even something as insignificant and inanimate as a cereal box seemed hostile, it was as if the entire environment was out to rape me.   And I lived with these states of terror in the middle of the night, but thankfully they eventually would subside after a few hours or less.

Recently in therapy, my therapist, with my permission, encouraged me to lightly revisit or invoke the hostile, environment-as-rapist state, because I had been experiencing it again. I did, and the therapy room environment shifted to extremely hostile. We only stayed there for a few. Later in the session I found myself while describing a dream as getting incredibly angry, like wanting to flip-a-table angry. My therapist let me throw a pillow. I seldom get super angry, and this feeling felt super uncomfortable for me, and came out in a semi-dissociated way.

A few sessions later I was describing being mildly annoyed with someone, and asked to repeat the words, “What the fuck [this person’s name]?” As I did that I noticed some anger and sadness, and then all of a sudden I went into a dissociative fugue from almost the rest of the session, totally lost, not knowing who I was, or where I was but in tandem, having a light grip of reality. When I described that to my psychiatrist, she said it was indicative of suppressed rage, and indeed that night I had tried tapping into the anger around the person, but to my surprise and some horror, my face started contorting into the most grotesque, angry expressions I had every seen. My body was contorting too, so much that I bruised my ribs. I was watching on my computer screen’s live photo program. I couldn’t shout because I was at home with roommates, but I know it would have been blood-curling. And I started talking about rape. When I did this I felt a deep resonance with the mass rapes of women in Bangladesh during the war of 1971. This was not the first time I felt I was experiencing trauma and expressing rage and somatically processing rage and hurt associated with the war.

The first time I got more information on the hostile violent force was during one of my states. I had a vision where I saw all my ancestors from the beginning of time in rapid succession lining up back to back. Then I saw my mother and father laying in my bed before I was conceived, and my father whispered to my mother, “What do I do with the pain that happened in Bangladesh?”. And then fast forward to when I was a young child, my father took on that violent energy in the vision, and I stayed in state of terror, knowing of this forces’s impending desire to rape and kill me. My father is one of my role models, and he really taught me so much, if not emotionally available all the time, he’s mentor-like and wise. This energy I realized was not my father. It did impact him, causing him to have a violent temper towards his two young children, but that energy was coming from the genocide. My father’s family was homeless for a year during that period in Bangladesh. His house was raided, and his family was lined up by a rifle squad, but spared. My mother lost her grandfather, who she was very close to, an altruistic doctor. He was shot and killed by the West Pakistani army.

I realized that I have the capacity to transmute this energy. I did it that time with the contorted rageful faces and body postures. I did it another time during these states. It is not easy to transmute this energy.¬†¬† Sometimes I think it takes people over. It is really hard work, with the added difficulty of being labeled crazy and pushed into the mental health system.¬†¬† Another time I transmuted the energy was at a cafe called Borderlands (which I also associated with Bangladeshi civil war and the genocide). The vendor outside had gifted me a little orange tourmaline crystal. At the cafe, I had this inexplicable desire to break it. Of course I couldn’t because it’s a hard stone, but I tried, and then I start shaking all over. My friend who was with me advised me to stop. When I got home, I tried it again, and an earthquake went through me.¬†¬† It felt like somatic experiencing on a transpersonal level, a release of trauma. Afterwards, I cried, and cried, and cried. I cried for my mom, who had lost her grandfather, and then made a photo collage about her and her strength. Powerful forces and emotions have coursed through me around this.

I thank my ancestors and the sacred feminine creative source, for aiding me along this journey. And I thank my friends and family. Sylvia, the woman who opened fire at the mall, I learned had been sexually molested by her grandfather. She was dealing with a hostile force too. One that had attacked her when she was a vulnerable child.

My younger life stream – Ecels’s story

I lead an interesting life in that I have two life streams. Sometimes the streams merge, but they can be quite disparate. My younger life stream is an ecstatic, chaotic, and expansive life stream. We can call her Ecels. The other is biznaas as usual life stream. This one has been present all my life. Ecels emerged in my 20s. I live her for periods of time and eventually she enters hibernation, perhaps allowing my other life stream to integrate her life into the others narrative. Ecels is younger. She’s lived out in the world less and when she comes out of hibernation, her narrative continues from where it left off. She first emerged in 2004 for three months and the went to sleep. In 2008 she came out for eight months and then went dormant again. She made a brief months appearance in 2010. I 2012 she came out for four months at the beginning and two months at the end. Similarly in 2014 she appeared for three months at the beginning of the year and three months at the end. She’s young. A little older than 2, but quite a sage 2 year old. Ecels thinks very deep thoughts and has a great grasp of changing reality. The way she processes reality is fascinating. She can see it through one whole lens at a time. She seeing the world through a Daoist lens and other eastern philosophies, psychodynamics and other Western psychology to cutting-edge neurobiology. She has energetic superpowers. She is very skilled in handling heart space but sometimes gives off and takes in more energetic than she realizes. She is developing shamanic capacity. Some of her challenges are boundaries and getting lost in metaphorical or archetypical places. And never wanting to sleep when she needs rest. She’s a very fast learner when she has encountered something from before, even if it is very challenging like being reborn she learns how to manage. She’s very sparkly-eyed and open and people tend to gravitate toward her except when she’s too intense.

extreme emotional archetypes

I’ve been blessed with the capacity to navigate intense archetypical emotional spaces. The most recent being the “war refugee”. Past down through intergenerational trauma and walking in areas of scarcity in the streets of Oakland, and feeling low on resources myself, I learn the light and shadow attributes of this emotional state. A need for hustle, hyper vigilance, camaraderie and also a sense of being ravaged while maintaining pride, strength, and resourcefulness. I hope this ability will help me be a better therapist.