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Everyone’s Mind Is Whole, Precious, and Completely Capable

Writing this article is a key part of reclaiming my mind for myself. “Mental health” oppression has told me that there is something wrong with my mind and that sharing my experience is dangerous. But it sometimes happens that a scared person is powerful and speaks her mind anyway!

I am a mixed-race (Han Chinese and Ashkenazi Jewish) young adult who was raised upper-middle and owning class in the United States. I am also a “mental health” system survivor who took psychiatric drugs for eleven years, starting as a young teenager. I was able to decide to stop taking psychiatric drugs when I got connected to people and began to do liberation work. Then I joined RC to get more help to face and heal from both the effects of the drugs and all the feelings they had suppressed over the years.

Early on in RC, I realized that “mental health” liberation was key to all liberation. We are facing big challenges in the world—capitalism, war, racism, classism, sexism, genocide, and every form of oppression that separates human beings from each other and destroys the environment. We need all of our minds working together to figure out powerful solutions and to put them into action. To have our best thinking, we need access to discharge, which means really showing our struggles in sessions. But “mental health” oppression says, “Don’t show your struggles. If you do, we’ll lock you up, isolate you, label you, and drug you.” It suppresses discharge and ends up supporting the oppressive society. If there were no “mental health” oppression, people would be discharging freely and recovering from old hurts. They would have access to their best thinking, which would lead them to stand up against oppression. And they would stand up without fear of getting labeled as “crazy.”

“Mental health” liberation gives us a clearer picture of what’s possible—for ourselves, for our communities, and for the world. It entails trusting our minds and our Co-Counselors enough to have big sessions. Every tear, every shiver, every giggle, every yawn is a victory over “mental health” oppression and is something to celebrate. I’m not going to settle for less than my full mind. We can’t afford to have anything less than everyone’s full mind. Together we can take on the biggest challenges and create a just, connected, sustainable world.

MY STORY

I am a mixed-race Asian-heritage person from an upwardly mobile U.S. family. I was born in the 1980s. I have few early memories of overt racism. When I was young, the adults around me wanted me to have a good life. Partly because of their own oppression and early hurts, they felt it was best to focus on positive things as much as possible. Implicitly or explicitly, they gave me the message that everything was “fine”—that all the big struggles of history (colonization, racism, the Holocaust, sexism, and so on) had been resolved long ago. However, I know I experienced racism. I remember my own attitudes toward myself and other people of color. For example, I remember how much I longed to have blond curly hair.

By the time I was in middle school, I gave up on my desire to achieve that white beauty ideal, because I decided I couldn’t achieve it and that I would look “ridiculous” with golden curls. As a young adult, I got access to enough information to realize that my feelings about my looks were a form of internalized racism and sexism. Once I recognized my true difficulty was oppression (not ugliness), I was able to put my attention toward ending oppression rather than blaming myself.

As a young person I couldn’t see the racism targeting me, partly because I’d received the incorrect message that racism had ended long before I was born. In particular, I’d been given two false messages “proving” that racism was over:

1) Mixed-race children are living evidence that we now live in a new post-racial color-blind society.

2) The “model minority” myth: Asians in the United States are “model minorities” and therefore do not experience racism, and their economic success “proves” that if people of other races just worked hard enough, they could be “successful” members of U.S. society too. (The term “model minority” has been used to convey the false idea that one minority group is more socioeconomically successful than another because of cultural differences. It was first used in the United States in 1966 to describe Japanese- and Chinese-heritage people, in part to discredit the demands and successes of the U.S. Black Civil Rights and Black Power movements.) The “model minority” myth also ignores the diversity of Asian Americans and the oppressive immigration policies that have brought a disproportionate number of middle- and owning-class East and South Asians to the United States.

The first lie put a lot of pressure on me as a young person. Many people pinned their frozen hopes on me and couldn’t tolerate it if I showed despair. The second lie is hurtful not only because it blames other racial groups, particularly African-heritage people, for their own oppression but also because it divides different groups of people of color from each other, diluting our liberation efforts. And both lies are hurtful because they deny the existence of racism and suggest that any struggle a person has is his or her own individual failing.

Both lies in combination with my class background set me up to have “success” patterns. I strove to meet the oppressive society’s standards of success for a young person of my background. I got near-perfect grades in advanced classes in school, performed in professional theatre, won awards in extracurricular school activities, and so on. But despite “succeeding,” I still sometimes felt terrible, without any obvious reason.

When I showed my distress by hurting myself and discharging heavily, the adults around me, themselves hurt and confused by oppression, concluded that something must be wrong with me since everything in my life was good (according to the standards of the society). I didn’t have any other explanation at the time, so I went along with their assessment of me and accepted the psychiatric drugs.

Now, it makes a lot of sense to me that I felt bad. I was a young person in a world of young people’s oppression, a person of color who was told that racism didn’t exist anymore, a gender-non-conforming person in a heteronormative society, and a mixed-race Chinese Jew separated from my ancestral homelands, with no families around that looked like mine. It also makes sense that I felt bad on the oppressor side. It feels bad to be used as a tool for anti-Black racism, to have an excess of food when others are starving, to have your own bedroom when others have nowhere to sleep, to live on land stolen by means of genocide and colonization.

Because I couldn’t go numb to all these oppressions, I got targeted by the “mental health” system and was forced into numbness and compliance by psychiatric drugs. But the reality is that nothing was wrong with me—what was wrong was the oppression!

COUNSELING ON “MENTAL HEALTH” LIBERATION IN THE CONTEXT OF RACISM

For me, working on “mental health” liberation means deciding to face some of my deepest terror—to feel things that were completely unbearable in the past—in particular, the impact that racism and other oppressions had on me. And feeling all these intense feelings means that I will not settle anymore for a world in which any oppression exists. It means that I have to take action to end racism, the destruction of the environment, and all forms of oppression.

Taking on “mental health” liberation also makes tackling every other distress much easier, because there’s more access to discharge. I invite everyone to join me in taking big sessions and creating a just, sustainable world in which we all know, without a doubt, that everyone’s mind is whole, precious, and completely capable.

I’d like to share some things I’ve found helpful when counseling on “mental health” liberation and re-emerging from the hurts of racism (here).

“Bobby Tamara”

(Present Time 186, January 2017)


Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00