Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I saw my friend Archer Pechawis' performances last night, including Elegy, which made me cry. It's about the missing women, Cris Derksen reads out the names and birthdates of the women while he lights a candle for each one. And it's so simple, but after about seven candles when he just kept lighting more and more the weight of how many women died becomes so clear. About 65 women went missing or so. And I also started thinking about people I knew who worked low track at some point during the murders, and just realizing how scary it was, especially when my lover started hitting the stroll during all that happening.

And it's weird to listen to the media talk about these women, blaming them for being murdered because they were using drugs, like if they'd just stopped using drugs they wouldn't have been sex workers anymore and they would have gone on to live regular lives. It's creepy and simplistic. And this idea that these women were transient and no one noticed them going missing. BULLSHIT. When I moved to Van in 1996 people were talking about the missing women, people were agitating the police to actually get off their asses and do something about it. I remember when protests were being held because there was only one officer assigned to the case for YEARS. And sex workers call their moms like anyone else. Just because they're doing sex work doesn't mean they're cut off from their communities. These women are like anyone else, they have friends, family, lovers, they don't have only johns and the police in their lives, that's such a dumb idea.

I also have to say something about the media depictions of the downtown eastside right now, and you'll see it a lot if you're watching trial coverage. All the shots are those goddamn drive by camera shots. And it makes these women look more like people for sale than if the footage was shot in a more honest way. Right now it's all John-cam footage. The downtown eastside is different if you're gathering footage on foot, the way most of the people in the area travel. That all being said, there are some HUGE issues around taking footage of the downtown eastside and I personally don't even film there, and won't, ever. I was a camera person for a film school friend and we were right at Main and Hastings and it was awful, the crew had to talk the director into leaving. If you really want to get good footage of the downtown eastside, you have to give your camera to the residents and let them shoot it for you, and they will, they're very conscious of having a hand in the creation of images of their neighborhood. Rebecca Belmore has some really amazing things she does to approach marginalized communities to either get footage or do performance work in those areas. You can be ethical about it. But I don't think a lot of the international press are aware of these issues. Really, someone should do a workshop for the press about the particular ethics and informal regulations of filming in the DTES.

I guess I'm worried about the DTES folks. It was such a long struggle to get justice, and while I don't think this trial will get justice for these women irregardless of the verdict (because I don't believe Pickton was a solitary agent), I think it's opening up more avenues for the exploitation of the people living in that neighborhood. WISH is doing some good work trying to protect the women working by giving them information on their rights with the media and so on. It's such a vulnerable neighborhood though, and now the whole world is staring at it. I am especially worried because some of those women are going to be exposed as sex workers to their families and so on. Apparently one woman had her full name and the illegal drugs she used published in a major newspaper and her family saw it, and she really just didn't know that could happen. I really hate hearing about stuff like that, and I know it's going to keep happening.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jack and Charlie v. The Queen

I don't know how I ended up at this page, but I found out about a native hunting rights case that went to the Supreme Court with the most kick ass name, Jack and Charlie v. The Queen. Oh man, that is the most awesome name for a case. It should be a movie title. And then I got curious and found out that my old bosses were the lawyers for the case. Ah yes, those halcyon days at Mandell Pinder. It was my second job ever. Sometimes they got paid for their work in salmon. Aw, they were a nice work environment.

Maybe I should do a courtroom drama sometime.

Oh yeah, how I got onto that was I was looking up burning ceremonies in Google. I'm burning all of my crazy stuff. When I say crazy stuff I mean a huge box full of papers and odds and sods related to my manic psychosis of 2003. Some of it is pretty intense, and I've decided I don't want it around anymore. I've been planning on burning it for a really long time, but I never did for whatever reasons. But now I'm ready. It's all going up in smoke in two weeks. And I'm setting off fireworks and firecrackers. But now I feel like I have to figure out how this ritual is going to work, so I'm reading about other burning ceremonies. It's a funeral really, but a celebratory funeral. At least that's the angle I'm trying to go for. I'm so stoked.

I found out today that someone I'd known of who had bipolar disorder committed suicide. It made me think a lot about how hard it is to have bipolar, just thinking about all the other people who had manic episodes the same year as me and what's happened in their lives since. It's all different. Some people seemed to do well after finding out, and some people went through hell, and some people don't make it. You really can't ever tell how someone is going to weather through it. I wish there was more set up in Saskatoon for peer support. Not like, a support group, but centres where we can just meet and socialize.

I don't think I would have survived as well as I did if it hadn't been for making a point of becoming involved with the crazy community. In fact, for at least two years almost all my close friends had a serious mental illness and had been in the hospital or in other crisis situations. And they were totally fun people to hang out with. I guess I had a chance to let my guard down, I could joke about hallucinations and people would laugh because it was true. And we looked out for each other, in our own ways.

I guess finding out about this recent death I started thinking about how important it is for us to know each other, as a crazy community. Some of the best coping skills I have in relation to bipolar disorder come from other Mad people who I've known. I know sometimes we do irritate the hell out of each other, but there's something comforting about having friends who really do know what you mean.

I'm tired. I should sleep. This has been an INTENSE anniversary, oh my god. I feel like things have happened every few days that are making me look at it from really specific angles. And the whole drug withdrawal has been making my body suffer the way it did in the psych ward. I don't know if people knew that about going crazy and being hospitalized, that it makes your body feel really horrible. Twitchy and shaking and aching and electric zaps and christ almighty, it was a horrid feeling. When I couldn't read anymore, that's when I got really upset. And I couldn't draw either. And everyday, the same as the last. It's such a banal form of terror, it really is.


Ugh, this is messed up. I'm going through Lamictal withdrawal, and my Epival has to get adjusted to deal with now being the sole medication in my body, and I'm realizing that I have to be careful. Bleh. Withdrawals are awful with psych meds, it feels like going crazy but it's just that your brain suddenly has to make major chemical adjustments. I'm not getting zaps, which is nice, brain zaps are awful. And I just got off Celexa a month or so ago too, so I remember the zaps. They also cause auditory hallucinations, and sometimes when I'm falling asleep I yell out random words completely involuntary. It's just the way withdrawal goes.

A friend of mine was talking about a nightmare he had that he couldn't get methadone anymore and all these awful things he did to his body because he was in withdrawals. Intense dream man. But I understand it. Some people say psych med withdrawals are as bad as heroin withdrawal, and it is really awful. I used to get psych meds from other people if my prescription ran out and I couldn't see the doctor fast enough, it was that painful. I'd literally spend my last two dollars on bus fare to a friend's house across town if she had paxil. It's like being an addict.

And I still have one more drug to withdraw from after Lamictal, so it's not going to end right away.

And I saw Children of Men and now I keep listening to Ruby Tuesday over and over. Jesus. Where is the Quietus?

It really is an awful feeling these last few days, bleh. I guess I have to figure out how to take care of myself. I am getting to some amazing personal revelations and healing and stuff though. I realized that I have a psychiatrist in my head. It's really fucked, I just automatically attribute every emotion to bipolar now. It's like, I don't own any of my feelings, it's weird. So I'm trying to stop labeling my emotions and instead I'm trying to actively find the root cause of whatever emotion is at hand. I guess I'm trying to be mindful. It's working too, I'm actually figuring out what's really bugging me. I'm aiming to figure out how to be more in control of my feelings but without shutting myself down.

Either way, the point is I'm kind of all over the place and just trying to pass as normal for long enough that I can get out of withdrawals without someone hauling me away somewhere for observation. I think I'll be okay, I'm not seeing magic in everything and I'm not making any final arrangements either. As long as I'm not in one extreme I'm not worried. Just irritated and jumping out of my skin and some typical and old old thoughts are showing up to be jerky. I've been talking to another friend about alternatives to meds and she mentioned meditation, and I think I should start doing that now. I think it would help me get more balance and self control.

I think stopping Lamictal is harder because the rash meant I had to stop it completely cold turkey, which is a bad thing for psych drugs. Usually I would have eased off of it in smaller increments over a long period of time, but this was just immediate. Bleh to drug withdrawal, icky. Meth is easier to kick than psych drugs, I kid you not.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Suit

My friends Cindy and Megan are getting married this April and I have spent literally three months already trying to decide what to wear. For a while I was thinking about trying to honour the Scottish roots in me by getting a kilt made with my tartan, but then someone told me how expensive they are and I've had to go back to just a suit. But there are already heated debates about The Suit. My mom thinks I need a lady suit, like one tailored for women's bodies so it would have a "lady shape." I said I didn't want to be lady shaped. Then there was a long discussion about mens suits and the difficulties of fitting E cups in them. I know there are issues with large breasts and men's clothes, I always wear men's clothes. And I have always thought that someone could make a killing by starting a clothing line for big breasted butch women, but it hasn't happened yet. Still, I'm sure I can find some suit that will fit me.

But then I was looking at the Sweet Dreams video on Youtube and thinking about how it's cut for a female figure but it isn't femmey.

Its kind of an 80's look though and I'm going for something more classic. Something along the lines of Dietrich in Morocco in this specific scene:

This scene, incidentally, is why I got a top hat. But I don't have anything to wear with my damn top hat.

Anyway, I found a Dyke Tyke on Youtube! I don't know if people know about these guys, they're pretty sweet and sometimes hopelessly tragic, but if you're a dyke you have one in your life, like, automatically. They're the equivalent of fag hags really, but a lesbian version. I don't know why people think men don't want to sleep with butches, because there's a fair number of bio "het" guys who go all goofy over butches. I got chased down the street by one once. Actually gay guys sometimes go all silly and crushed out with butch women too. A friend told me about a gay guy he knew who kept sneaking around and staring at a butch friend of ours. Boys and butch lesbians, just silly.

I have one more butch related Youtube video. My one and only decent karaoke song is Boy Named Sue. I don't know why I can do it and barely any other ones, but its really fun. Anyway, here is Johnny Cash singing Boy Named Sue at San Quentin.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thirza's Youtube Aided 80's Flashback!

I spent the better part of last night watching t.v. from the 80's on YouTube. I realized that I am largely created as a product of the 80's. How could I NOT be who I am without the following examples of mass media that were informing my identity? Come with me, back, back to a time of jelly bangles! I recommend you go away and smoke a joint before you return.

Any cultural anthropological journey of the media HAS to start with the commercials. Here are ten minutes of 80's commercials to orient you to the time period:

Okay, Sesame Street had some weird psychedelic funkiness going on. And people wonder why I ended up taking drugs? One two three four five six seven eight nine ten, eleven twelve!!!

Before Degrassi High, or even Degrassi JUNIOR high, came "Ida Makes A Movie," the VERY first episode of Kids of Degrassi Street. This is part 2 of 3. I was always so sad when the dolly got thrown away, oh god that was so tragic!!

Clearly I was a baby pervert when Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) came out, but watching the video I also noticed that this would have been the formative experience that showed me how freakin' hot female masculinity can be. I just thought Annie Lennox was the most beautiful woman in the world. I now think I was going through some Lacanian butch mirror phase, some kind of erotic narcissism, because I usually go for femmes and I ended up wanting to LOOK like Annie Lennox more than fuck her. Either way, this was the first song I used to sing over and over.

And of course, not all of the 80's media was fun and games. This was one of my clearest memories of the news when I was a kid, The Challenger Explosion. I was living in Montana when it happened and I remember a kid running into the classroom to say the Challenger exploded, and the teacher cried. They all wore black arm bands for a while after. It was the first thing I ever wrote a diary entry about, and I still have that diary, the Ramona Quimby diary. I remember crying because I really liked my grade two teacher then, she inspired me to write. This is the original NASA footage.

I was going to find a clip of the Electric Company, but then I gave up. There were tons of music videos I wanted to put up too, but Sweet Dreams defined me more than the others. Although Girls Just Want To Have Fun was a defining moment in my childhood. It was the first record I ever owned. Okay, here's Cyndi for you too, enjoy!

Persephone on a Day Pass

It's been about four days on this homeopathic medicine and I have a clear head like you wouldn't believe. It's like all the muzzy that was there is gone. And I still have emotional moments, but they seem less oppressive. I bawled during Brokeback Mountain, but I think that's normal, I didn't cry a tear last time I saw it when I was on Zyprexa, I felt like maybe I should, but I didn't. I thought about a friend I was fighting with and sniffled but then it went away. I still get angry but it doesn't seem overwhelming. I have a sudden fondness for 80's music, but I don't think that's really relevant. I feel less overwhelmed with things, I can see how to approach large tasks in smaller, more managable pieces. My problem solving skills have improved. I feel very silly and goofy again, which is how I usually am, and lucky for me no one's bringing up the Mania word just because I'm in a good mood. I'm having soft fuzzy day dreams about submission, which is cute, they're like little fluffy clouds of pervy fantasy drifting through my daily life. Ooo, there goes another one! It looks like me on my knees in a collar, aw. How cute.

And the immune system stuff is, holy crap. I haven't had ONE sore throat in the morning since I started my medication, and my nose barely ever runs whereas before it just went CONSTANTLY. So that has impressed me. Maybe I will survive the coming pandemics after all.

I was reading about the head injury medication I'm taking, it said it's indicated for people who don't like to talk and have a hard time keeping from shooting themselves in the head. I had to laugh, that is SO me, oh my god. It's nice to laugh about one's own lemming tendencies. Now I just wish I didn't have to pee so damn much.

I missed a doctors appointment. I've decided it's time to talk to her about quitting my medication. I'm nervous about it. It feels almost like breaking up. I hope she'll agree to work with me on getting off meds, because she is one of the most awesome doctors I've had. I don't want to have to dump her because she doesn't agree. I think she will though. I'm not even having seizures, I haven't spaced out in a while, and usually it happens a few times a day. I don't hear things. I'm not obsessively ruminating. It's like, EVERYTHING is gone. This has never happened on allopathic medicine. I'm sure there's still some oddness, but jesus, it's so different. It's like being Persephone on a day pass.

It really does feel like a kind of liberation. It's nice to not have all of those negative things attached to me, and to be able to think and feel clearly. It's nice to not have side effects. And it's a huge relief to think I might not ever need to go back to the psychiatric system, for anything! Jesus christ, what a fraudulent branch of medicine. I read somewhere that a psychiatrist suddenly said "Oh my god, people don't trust us because we're taking bribes and kickbacks from the pharmaceutical industry! We have to stop it!" Ha ha, too late. He said they were seen as employees of the pharm industry. Well they are! I dunno, I mostly don't want the bipolar label because I don't want to be prey for the psych industry anymore. I wouldn't mind being bipolar if it didn't come along with psychiatric intervention. But it does, so I don't want to use that word to describe myself anymore. I'm much happier with TLE, at least then I'm in the realm of neurologists who actually look at the brain instead of labeling me based on a cluster of symptoms.

Mostly, I'm just enjoying this close to drug free lifestyle of being able to think and feel.

I want Candy

I've pretty much decided to get facial tattoos, specifically traditional Plains Cree women's lip chin tattoos. Essentially it consists of three sometimes double lines extending from the bottom lip to the chin. It's kind of tricky trying to research the meanings behind it. I know I have to know more about it before I do it, but I've decided to get it done when I'm 30. I think it is often done around the time of marriage, which would be cool as well. I would prefer to get it done as part of getting married, but I don't want to wait around for a wife either. Some traditionalists would take me to task, but I think it's okay to ascribe new meanings onto old traditions. Lots of younger people are reclaiming their traditional tribal tattoos, like the moko for the Maori people, which are gorgeous! I think one of the things I like about getting the lip-chin tattoo is that it demonstrates my tribal affiliation, which is something not everyone notices because I'm a little pale face. I know it will probably limit the places I can get jobs, but I think those places are also limiting their pool of potential employees. Eventually there are going to be so many modified people in the workforce that people are going to have to start relaxing their rigid standards. Besides all of that, I don't particularly want to work in a place that gets upset over body mods.

I think I want to get it once I've learned some more Cree, enough to have a modest conversation, and possibly if I get married. Maybe I will get the three lines and then add a parallel line to each when I get married.

I've been reading more about TLE and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The story of my brain injury is kind of silly, so I won't be offended if you laugh. I was about four years old when it happened, maybe even younger, and it was Halloween night. I was so excited about getting candy for free that I suddenly fainted and hit the back of my head against the wall. We had to go to the hospital and get stitches, and if my head is shaved you can still see some scarring. I told Deanna that if anyone makes a film of my life and they shoot that scene they have to play I Want Candy during it. The irony of course is that I don't have much of a sweet tooth except for my cola addiction. So that could be how I ended up with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, which is still undiagnosed officially but I'm pretty sure I have it.

I also noticed there is one really common seizure I have on a regular basis. I'll just suddenly remember some weird snippet of time that has strong emotions, often negative emotions but sometimes happy ones, and to stop myself from being upset by it I make a noise. Just one weird little noise, sometimes a word but usually some weird grunt or murmer or something, and then it's over. I also get sudden waves of fear or sadness or disgust or happiness, out of no where, like I could be sitting in a room with people I love and suddenly be sure someone's about to run in with a machine gun, and then it goes away. Just weird crap.

Some people say bipolar disorder can occur with TLE, but then I just read somewhere that pretty much all symptoms of TLE that interest psychiatrists are really entirely under the umbrella of neurology and that trying to say someone with TLE also has a mental illness is just unnecessarily complicating things. I would believe that. It makes sense, I got a brain injury, I recovered as well as a four year old can, and I ended up with TLE that sometimes mimics bipolar disorder. I'm irritable and moody and hear things and get migraines where I go blind and a couple times I've hit the floor and thrashed around for a few minutes without knowing it.

But on the whole, I dunno. It's my brain. It doesn't work as well as I wish it would, but it's all I have and it's all I've ever known. I think I've done pretty awesome considering what I have to work with. It's still weird to see feelings come up that have no relevance to the current situation of whatever, but I'm more or less used to the unpredictability of it. And sometimes the unusual sexual feelings are entertaining. After a certain point I have to stop listing off all the things that are "wrong" with me and just accept it as my own normal brand of reality. And really, the only things that have ever truly bothered me are the occasional yet inevitable suicidal moments. I can live with all the rest of it, I can manage all the rest of it, even the voices, it's just trying to figure out how to deal with that ONE thing that led me on this whole wild psych goose chase. The irony being that I've managed to create my own systems of support for suicidal nights during this decade long medical misadventure. The only time I thought I might REALLY do it was when I was in the hospital. I came closer there than anywhere. And whereas before suicidal feelings were more about an existential escape route, being suicidal in the hospital was more about the desperation for a physical escape route. There really didn't seem to be any way out, and I didn't trust those freaks called The Staff to know what the hell Normal is. I have a natural distrust of people who gravitate towards work in the Psychiatric Industry. I think some people might go in well intentioned, but it can all spiral down into the Stanford Prison Experiment quicker than you can write a prescription for meltable Zyprexa.

Ziggy played gee-tar . . .

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

When was I in a Biennale?

I did a vanity google and found out I screened in some places I had no idea of. Like, I did not know I screened at the 9e Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement in Geneva. I mean, that might have been nice to go to. What the hell, am I really this flaky? I need to keep more on top of these things. What was I doing in 2000? And what the hell were they showing? Was it my vulva again? Was my vulva in Geneva? Okay, now I should just go to bed, no googling after 10:30.

Uh .. . . I don't want to do that again soon

I just spent two hours with about six boxes of crap looking for a letter from the Canada Council for some additional material for another application and found some weird weird stuff. I found of all things my application for commitment to an institution. That was like, ugh, so many ugly energies attached to one tiny piece of paper. I found a letter from an old/new cute girl that is nearly a decade old. I found Miranda July's invitation to her Miss Moviola chain letter video art thingy she did way back. I found Stephen Kent Jusick's address in New York, I was probably supposed to send him something and didn't. Good thing I have distributors. I found grad school applications, along with essays on Cindy Sherman and Madchen in Uniform. I found a small reproduction of Les Sabines that made me cry at the Louvre. I found some crazy writings, I mean, high mania crazy writings. I found a photo of an old high school friend and some short stories I wrote when I was a teenager. I found a manual for a video switcher circa 1985 that we used to use at Emily Carr in 2nd yr Video. I found some faxes from Oberhausen and a few congratulatory letters for scholarships and so on.

You know what I was thinking though, I mean, some of it's interesting in some sentimental kind of a way, but most of that shit is really, just shit! Most of it doesn't mean anything. I know for a fact I still have the fuck off letter my best friend in high school wrote me. I still have the fuck off break up letter my first girlfriend gave me too. In fact, I bet I even still have the break up email I got from another ex archived in my inbox!!! Why do I save mean things? And most of my love letters are all in emails.

I think I will save some of it. But there is definitely stuff I don't need around, like bills from 1998. Or grant applications that were printed out in 2000.

I don't know what to do about the stuff from when I had my psychosis. It seems kind of weird to keep it around. I might burn it. I have some friends who go to Burning Man every year, maybe I should try and go this summer and just throw all my crazy stuff on it and let it the fuck go. Actually, thats a really good idea, I think I'll look into that. Maybe my cuz Deanna will want to come with me to Burning Man.

The nice thing about looking at all that stuff was to realize its all in the past. Stuff changes. I don't feel like its me, it's mostly just detritus.

More psych talk, and thoughts on The Trial

I got to talk to my best friend and ex girlfriend Margaret last night, whose number I lost until I did a reverse address look up. I love Margaret, she's so swell. She's working in an alternative totally voluntary mental health crisis centre. She was the number one support person for my suicidal nights. I don't know how she was so amazing, she just was. Maybe because she didn't make me talk about it unless I wanted to. Maybe because she would just hold me all night so I could sleep. Maybe just because she's awesome and made sure I knew someone cared about me while at the same time not being freaked out by me being full of the snuff its. I had two other awesome support people in my life, but Margaret is still the best. I'm glad she's doing that work, she'd be awesome at it.

I told her about deciding to go off meds. She's supportive of it, which is nice. And then I talked about girly things along the lines of "OMG! She's SO cute!", which was fun. I'm still nervous about talking to my doctor about going off meds. I think I'm ready though. Someone told me I might get a bit worse while doing this long extended change over, so hopefully people won't panic and throw me into the abusive hands of psychiatry again.

I was reading that nearly 50% of people with mental health issues recover completely, but it doesn't make it into psychiatric knowledge of outcomes because most of those people have to go AWOL from psychiatry to get better. I would believe that. I guess I'm just nervous because I don't know how to divorce myself from psychiatry yet. I'm lucky in that I don't have a psychiatrist, just a G.P., which is a start. I think G.P.'s are a bit more open to things than pdocs, at least the ones I've had have been. And they're more aware of other conditions, whereas psychiatrists seem to only know their goddamn DSM. Tons of medical conditions can look like mental illnesses. Still, G.P.'s are just as faliable, especially if they've read my file which describes some definitely bizarre behaviour. Never mind that I only did that stuff for two weeks out of my nearly twenty-nine years on this earth. It's like looking at my meth use when I was nineteen and telling me I'm still a meth addict even though I haven't touched it or thought about it for nearly a decade. And I'm still surprised that no doctor ever picked up on the fact that my one and only manic episode was triggered by antidepressants. One would consider it to be a side effect of my medication, in fact it is in the side effect profile, but that one side effect got me a diagnosis that will follow me the rest of my life.

Ugh. So TIRED! The psych industry is just a tired sad little tyrant, the schoolyard bully of all the medical disciplines.

In other thoughts, the Pickton trial is starting and I'm dreading following it on the news. Anyone who lived in BC during those years knows some of the stuff they aren't saying, and maybe won't say. I heard that he was sending body parts to the rendering plant which supplies fat for use in cosmetics around the world. I also heard he was selling his "pork" to restaurants in the downtown eastside, I don't know much about it but I know they did have to issue a tainted meat warning that freaked a lot of people out, including me when I realized I ate pork in the downtown eastside. Just fucked up. Not only that but women had been going to the cops about Piggy Palace for years and would get threatened and turned away. Those cops SO knew what was going on, they so did. It pisses me off when I read or hear their description of their investigation, like they were actually doing any work. I seem to remember for the longest time they only had one or two people working that case, even though so many women were disappearing and so many people were getting upset, they were even denying a serial killer was at work. And now they're saying he killed 49 women. So what happened to the other sixty or so women who are missing? Is there someone else out there? And do we know if women have stopped going missing?

Not only that, but I'm tired of those womens lives being summed up with the words "drug-addicted prostitute." It's such a value judgement. They did have drug problems, they were in the sex trade, but that doesn't mean that's all they were. What freaks me out about that use of language is that it frames them for the public in the same way that the killers framed them (and I truly believe there was more than one person involved). I noticed they don't really mention that most of those women were Aboriginal, which I think was a major reason for them being singled out as victims. I think the questions we as a society have to ask is why was this allowed to happen for two decades with the police knowing that women working the streets had taken issue with the New West pig farm. Why were these women in particular allowed to be hunted for so long with such minimal protection or attention. And furthermore, how is this trial coverage going to perpetuate societal feelings about Aboriginals, about sex trade workers, about drug addicts, about women. We have 300 international media folks accredited to cover the trial, where was the international media when these women were going missing?

One one hand it's easy for us to point to Robert Pickton and say he did all of this, but there were so many issues inherent in Canadian society that enabled this to happen. For one thing, the fact that Aboriginal women are the highest risk group for homicide in Canada. Justice is generally not served in the case of murdered Indians, which makes us a prime target for whoever wants to get away with murder. And then we have to look at how anti-prostitution laws have endangered womens lives unneccessarily. In Canada prostitution is technically legal, BUT communicating for the purposes of prostitution ISN'T. That means no street walking, no newspaper ads, no escort listings in the phone book. You'll note that all of these things still exist, but they're illegal. Either way, Vancouver's needed a safe way for women to engage in prostitution, something like Amsterdam's red light district which has been talked about over and over. It's not ALWAYS going to be safe, but at least some risks could be lowered. And then we also just have to look at why certain demographics in our culture end up having drug problems. It's not the drugs that are the problem, the drugs are a symptom of a problem, a much larger problem. Say someone got sexually abused by a second generation residential school survivor who became a perpetrator, or by a white foster father, that could kick off a long standing drug habit to try and cope with that kind of trauma. I will make the grand sweeping statement that a lot of these women ended up in dire poverty as a result of colonialism.

So, it will be interesting to see how the coverage of this trial works, but I know it will be missing out on most of the dialogue that was going on in Vancouver about the missing women. I also feel bad for the people who will be going to the trial who know the victims. That is going to be so traumatizing. I wonder if the truth of what happened will ever get out, or if we'll all be called conspiracy theorists.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Recently I was reading "Letting go of the person you used to be" by Lama Surya Das. In it he tells a story about a seeker who visits all of these teachers to ask what the final total encompassing truth is only to be told that he is God by everyone he meets. He disagrees with every teacher until he finally finds one who agrees to let him study with him for years, but only if he also works shovelling manure. Several years later the seeker finally asks what the truth is, and the teacher tells him he is God. He gets furious and asks if that's true then why did he toil away for so many years. The teacher says it's true that he is God, but he isn't very bright.

This is something I figured out when I went "crazy" and this is the main reason people threw me into the bin. I knew I was God. And not just me, you reading this are also God. It's the greatest irony of human existence, sort of a joke really, but also completely sensible. God was never some Us/Them entity sitting up in a cloud making judgements. God is a being that supernova'd into billions of pieces to learn something about life and become better. And we're all God and therefore the same person. It's really terribly simple. But no one believed me, or bothered to do spiritual searching on their own, so when I realized this basic thing I got into DEEP shit, and I never really talked about it since.

Maybe I thought that one revelation was enough, but now I'm realizing it isn't. Just being God doesn't answer everything. I still have to figure out how to live my life in a suitable manner, I still have to take responsibility for certain things. So I guess that's what I'm doing now. I don't know why it took me so long to be able to just say this again, that I am God. I guess because I didn't want to get thrown in the bin for something so obvious and true, AGAIN. Also, I think people just have to figure it out on their own. It's not something you can truly believe unless you go through whatever it takes to understand this basic premise of existence, even if that means shoveling shit for seven years.

I don't think it's right to punish someone for having spiritual revelations, and I don't think it's right for people to have to hide what they know to be true about the nature of life. So mostly I'm looking for other people who know this too. A lot of people with mood disorders seem to have discovered this a long time ago, which is why I like hanging out with them. Buddhists too. Christianity has these principles in it's history but I think the church obliterated a lot of it. I just feel like I don't have a plan for after discovering that God thing. I have terrible spiritual discipline. I collect and toy with various religions, none of which suit me much. I like spiritual concepts but I find so much is caught in dogmatic ideas that have held it back from meaningful evolution. Mostly I find I'm making it up as I go along. But really I'm just trying to figure out how to live my life in a spiritual way, without falling back on rules which make no sense to me.

I guess I have questions, but I haven't formed them properly so that I can address them. Those questions would be something along the lines of "How do you deal with bad people?" "Is forgiveness always necessary?" "Do you always turn away when someone is mistreating you, how do you hold them accountable?" Questions like that. Am I really crazy? Why am I crazy and not other people? What made me crazy, was it me or someone else? Am I just holding onto someone else's projections of neurosis? I could ask questions all day.

I also think there is a spiritual emergency going on right now though, I keep seeing visions, and I keep thinking about that thing I saw in the sky. People I've been talking to have also noticed a higher incidence of paranormal activity. Personally, I think we're moving into another dimension. And I also don't think everyone will realize it. I think there will be a number of people who aren't going to see things which are manifesting around us. In my own family I noticed my generation are nearly all capable of seeing and hearing things which people say don't exist. And we can't ALL be crazy. Something is afoot. What does it mean, I'm not sure. But I know life as we know it is going to be irrevocably altered.

I keep having a dream about something evil, something really bad but also completely paranormal, an entity of some kind. It's not like it represents something specific, just a generalized Bad Spirit type of thing. And in my dream I have to swear at it, I have to yell really loud and I have to insult it. And I can't do it, I keep stuttering because I'm so afraid. And this dream just happens all the time, and I'm starting to get better at it, but I still can't yell. It's like I'm training for something, it's weird.

Normally I don't talk about this side of me at all, because when I did I ended up in the bin. BUT, I think we're at a point when these things should be talked about. Especially since some of the things I've been seeing have a political basis.

Maybe the most troubling thing I've seen recently is this vision I had of this dark rumbling cloud, something like the Nothing in the Neverending Story. This dark angry cloud of fury and frustration and anger and sorrow coming out of the whole of the Middle East and moving toward the United States. I don't think it's evil, I think it's bad in that it has negative repercussions on everyone involved, but I also think someone in the Middle East would have seen the exact same entity coming towards them from the States just after 2001. I've been thinking a lot about it since I saw it. I don't know what it means, like, I'm not going to say I see a dirty bomb in New York or anything. I don't know what will happen. But it's there, and it's coming, and it's slow and dark and huge. And if I could say it has one cause then that would be grief. It's been built by grief. I saw it back in early November.

So yes, trying to get a spiritual practice together. I'm so often NOT someone who seeks out attention through things I've seen on those other planes of existence, so it's kind of awkward for me to talk about this stuff. But I feel compelled to. I feel like if I don't then there's no point for me to be getting these visions. I don't know why I'm getting them, but I think anyone can if they're open to it.

Opening, Submission, new Doctor, BOOKS!

So the homeopathic doctor hit upon something everyone else missed, the head injury I recieved when I was two years old. He's trying me on Natrum Sulphuricum for the head injury and chloramphenicol for a Salmonella infection I got when I was twenty, he thinks it might still be impacting my immune system. Anyway, it was one of those great moments in a doctor's office where I was like "Holy shit, the head injury!" I did have to go to the hospital for it. And I was two (maybe 4?) when I got it so I wouldn't have known life without any symptoms from it. I'm going to take this stuff for the next few weeks and we'll see what happens.

The opening went well, people liked my tape. There were too many people so I hung out with my friend off to the side and felt ridiculously uber submissive feelings keep coming up and I was trying to behave, it was really hard!!! I don't usually have massive submissive urges directed towards people, it's nice when it happens but it makes me turn pink and shy.

I bought a book called "The Sanity We Are Born With," it's about Buddhist psychology and this idea that we are all born sane and that we are in fact sane at this very moment. It's specifically written for people in psychological distress, so I'm curious to read it. I've never read much about Buddhist ideas around mental health, specifically the sane/insane thing.

I also picked up a book called "The Buddha and the Terrorist." It's like a parable about a terrorist meeting Buddha and having a serious of enlightening conversations.

I'm thinking of going to my first meditation group tomorrow night. We'll see. A friend sent me a huge email about all the things she's done to live med free. It was really helpful.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sick fucks

Shit like this is why I don't support the troops.

The Yellow Ward

"It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw--not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things." - The Yellow Wallpaper

"Is there a reason you've chosen to paint this ward in this shade of yellow?" I was specifically thinking of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," which I assumed was an obvious cultural reference (it isn't). However they didn't get it and just started telling me about using whatever paint gets donated. How can people working in a psych institution not get the Gilman reference? It's like not being insulted when I call them Nurse Rached.

Briefly, The Yellow Wallpaper charts a woman's descent into madness while using the yellow wallpaper of the room she's imprisoned in as a focal point for obsessive ruminations. It's written by a psych survivor in the pre-med era.

In her own words:

"For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia--and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still-good physique responded so promptly that he concluded there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice to "live as domestic a life as far as possible," to "have but two hours' intellectual life a day," and "never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again" as long as I lived. This was in 1887.

"I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over.

"Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained, and helped by a wise friend, I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again--work, the normal life of every human being; work, in which is joy and growth and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite--ultimately recovering some measure of power.

"Being naturally moved to rejoicing by this narrow escape, I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, with its embellishments and additions, to carry out the ideal (I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it."

The irony of psychiatry is that time and time again the survivors who finally leave it altogether (or as much as is legally possible) go on to do great amazing and wonderous things, sometimes specifically to spite their doctors. It is clear that psychiatrists are not psychics and can't truly say someone will be dependent on medication and be insane for the rest of their lives. But they do. And once someone sets up THOSE kinds of expectations in someone, it's hard to see and move beyond it unless you have some really supportive people. Currently mental illnesses are theories, we know people have clusters of specific symptoms, but we really don't totally know WHY. There isn't a test one can do and underlying issues are never investigated. The most likely causes of mental illness symptomology involve trauma or abuse of one kind or another. Social factors like racism, homophobia, and poverty have far more impact on mental health than mere genes. Even beyond that, mental illness is more often a judgement call. I can easily say someone is crazy because they act or think in ways different from myself, but psychiatrists have the legal and medical pull to make that person's life a living hell. And the cures are often worse than the initial issues.

How would reducing someones life to rote domestic duties cure their depression? It doesn't, it made Gilman crazier, and the only way she got out was to buck doctors orders and have an intellectual life again. The only way I started feeling more human and in control was to kick Olanzapine. I am beginning to suspect that psychiatry is designed to create mental distress in patients rather than allieviate it. So many alternatives have been shown to be superior to the current medical model (the Quakers had it going on!), and yet we're still using the psychiatric model born out of Nazism (the heavy neuroleptics have their basis in Nazi experimentation) which we already know compounds mental health issues.

Either way, I am still researching the way out of the system. It's tricky. I'm just sick of the Yellow Ward and the Yellow Wallpaper and all the Yellow Pills.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You're going to help me, bitch!

I've been trying to commit this year's 4th Anniversary of the Psych Ward to personal reflection and growth and I've noticed that some major issues have been presenting themselves which I was totally not expecting. One thing I wanted to really work on is the repeated rape attempts I endured in the hospital, but in a larger scope I am recognizing that it wasn't this one element which negatively impacted me for so long. It was the whole concept of the hospital itself and of contemporary psychiatric treatment. Of COURSE I wouldn't be protected from a rapist in the hospital, for one thing I was "crazy" so nothing I said mattered, even when I went to the nurses station for medical attention because of 1st degree burns. Of COURSE these things would happen because being raped would not be worse than being allowed to be "crazy" and unmedicated. Of COURSE I wouldn't have input into my own treatment, because I am "crazy" and therefore intellectually diminished.

It's not just about how I could have been raped (for the second time), or that I've been on brain damaging drugs, or that people still watch horror movies with crazy antagonists, or that whenever my mother talks about someone she doesn't like she says they're bipolar. It all really comes down to this essential idea of human rights. And not just human rights, but the fact that even among human rights activists there is still this idea of forming a hierarchy of whose human rights are worth MORE than other's human rights. I had a huge blow out fight with my mom earlier today about Dr. Dickwad and having my right to proper health care violated. She was trying to assert that racism was a more damaging form of discrimination than crazyphobia. I blew up. KA-BOOM!! There is no human rights violation that is more or less important than another. Sexism does not outweigh transphobia. Racism does not outweigh crazyphobia. Homophobia is not more important than racism. They are all equally important. Anytime someone's human rights are infringed there is a problem, and everyone's liberation is tied in with that. The concept of a human rights hierarchy is just a fall back to the original hierarchy which created all the hateful isms in the first place. We can't say "Okay, let's deal with this one thing and then after we win equality on that basis we'll deal with your little oppression over here."

As someone with multiple identities which are oppressed, I don't value or fight for one more than the others. However, I currently am very invested in disability rights because legally I am on shaky ground in terms of rights. While I am included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I can still be subjected to CTO's, and I still could have been sent to the ward yesterday because a doctor seeing me for five minutes assumed I was actively batty. Legally, I don't have a lot of protection. Even emancipating myself from the psychiatric industry is going to be a long hard struggle and I could always be thrown back in the bin if my mom thinks I'm too emotional or back talking. Legally I am a 28 year old adult woman. But in Dr. Dickwad's eyes I am a "young girl."

Psychiatric labels aren't only used for people with genuine neurological problems. They are also used to crush dissent. Step out of line, be defiant, demand equality, stray from a medical definition of normalcy, be poor, and you too could be in the ward. If you get angry about your treatment, it's because you're crazy. If you cry because you're being abused, you're crazy. If you demand to see a lawyer, you're crazy. If you try to keep from showing emotions, you have "flat affect" and you're crazy. If you ask for a second opinion or alternative treatments or try to be a pro-active health consumer, you're crazy. There is no way out of the ward except to acquiese to doctor's orders and judgements, to be docile and compliant and take the meds and agree that you have a serious illness which now puts you in a second class citizenship. If my mom was irritated with me, she could easily call the cops and have them haul me to the bin at any given moment. I know this.

So, I am tired of being at the mercy of the medical establishment. I am tired of the ball and chain medical file which follows me around. I want out, for good. I don't want to see one more psychiatrist. I don't want to try one more new miracle wonderkind drug. I don't want some creepy chemicals with no long term studies mucking around with my brain. How many psych industry inmates commit suicide just to get AWAY from it? I'm tempted to myself.

Although to be honest I would probably run away and change my identity before I did that.

The thing is, I have a brain that works really well. I don't talk in front of people super well, but I am a pretty good thinker and I have that kind of burning passion that's useful in creating change. I can't snuff it because I know I can be awfully useful.

So, this is the year where I am going to apply for every single thing I possibly can. Already the Canadian Film Centre has my application for the FFP. Outfest has a deadline coming up. Canada Council and Sask Arts Grant deadlines are coming up in a couple of months. And the beginning of March is the deadline for the Critical Disability Studies MA at York. There's a program in New Zealand for a month long writer's retreat. I don't know what's going to happen to me. But I think if I just keep going, keep applying, keep making films, something will come out of it. My ideal life would be to write critical theory, be active in the Psychiatric Survivors Movement, and make short and feature films. That's all I really want. I don't even care about the girlfriend thing or having a family or being fabulously rich or winning a major award. I just want to have a home, food, clothing, my support animals, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, and the resources to live full time doing the above three things. And by the time I die, hopefully at a very old age, I just want the world to be better because I was here.

Next week I am seeing a psychic and hopefully she can give me some advice or guidance on where I've been and where I'm going. I really don't know if I'll stay in Saskatoon now. Toronto has a horrid psych industry, but it's also the epicentre of the Mad Movement in Canada, and it has a really diverse population otherwise, along with a film and video community. Sure, maybe the apocalypse will happen and I'll be stuck in T.O. and the CN tower will fall, but maybe that's just where I'm supposed to be. Who knows? Maybe I won't end up in Toronto. Maybe I'll go for the MA program and then move back here. I really don't know.

Really, I just want to have the freedom to be ornery, happy, sad, super in love, crabby, angry, and all those other emotions which people outside of the psych industry take for granted. I have a right to have emotions.

Who Ate The Pube Cake?

Tomorrow the show opens. I have to dress clean and beautiful and stand around making small talk. The media are going to preview the show at 11am, I don't know if I will drop by for it or not. I do alright talking to the media. I'm excited to see my friend Rebecca though, and my friend Archer is coming in at the end of the month too. Another person from the Grunt millieu. He's hilarious. Once when Lynn and I were walking around in the hood we found him intently tinkering with his NDN car installing the most whack sound system I've ever seen. It was very Powwow Highway. I don't remember if it was the Toasted Marshmallow, maybe he had gotten a new car by then. One halloween someone set the car in front of his on fire and so the whole front of his white car had a scorched distressed look to it. Hence the Toasted Marshmallow moniker.

One time my friend and I were getting a ride in Marie Baker's fifth-hand station wagon and while she was trying to show off her new wheels she sped down 7th Ave and a hubcap flew off in a grand jeté.


Marie Baker reminded me of these. The first is her story. Shawna Dempsey used to do this performance where she masturbated with a chocolate cake and one time Marie Baker happened upon the stage just afterwards, NOT having seen the performance. She saw all this crumbled cake on the ground so she ate some of it because it looked perfectly fine (if you knew Marie Baker you would understand why she'd do this). When I told her where it came from she said "You mean I ate of her bush!?"

This is not the only pube-cake eating story involving performance art though.

During Art's Birthday at the Western Front, Margaret Dragu did a web based performance that involved me holding a slice of cake while she cut off her pubic hair and sprinkled it on the cake then kissed me.

Well what do you do with a pube sprinkled cake? I put it on a plinth and then later at a function in the same space, cake was being served. My friend Lynn and I watched that Dragu Pube Cake and sure enough, by the end of the night there was a plate with scrapings of crumbs. Who ate the Pube Cake? It's the eternal question. I told Margaret about it later, I think she got a kick out of it.

SPEAKING of cake, my friends Cindy and Megan told us all about Annie Sprinkle's wedding over in Calgary this past Sunday. They were in charge of making a three tiered cake, which had four breasts on the top. Megan promises to put it on Flickr soon. Apparently it was mucho fun, and they got to help the blushing brides get their outfits on. So jealous.

I think if you get married you either have to be COMPLETELY over the top, or you have to do a quiet lets-run-to-the-courthouse kind of a thing. Or maybe that is just me. I like extremes.

All I know is, if I do have a wedding cake I'm going to make pubes out of icing and put them all over it. Or maybe delicate marzipan pubes, or sugar glass pubes.


I keep trolling around for the next degree program that interests me. I'm terribly keen on getting a PhD in The History of Consciousness at UCSC, but I hesitate spending that many years in the States right now. I don't want to do an MFA because I more interested in expanding my academic knowledge beyond artistic practice.

And then this shit happened at ER and while scoping out disability law I came across a masters program at York University in Critical Disability Studies. Holy shit, oh my god, that would be so awesome! I am practically jizzing my pants reading the program brochure.

Anyway, I have a doctors appointment, with my REGULAR doctor, in half an hour so I should dash. And I have to drop by my old alternative medicine doctor's office and make an appointment so he can give me snake venom or something to get rid of this rash.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Death of a Psych Hospital

Some inspirational Youtube-ing.

Inside Edgewood (after being abandoned for 16 years). Kind of a goofy clip but at least it shows you the interior of a psych institute complete with barred windows.

Edgewood State Hospital's demise.


Okay, officially City hospital in Saskatoon is completely discriminatory towards persons with mental illnesses. I waited for hours in ER to see someone after fighting with an admitting nurse about why I was there because of a rash. Then I finally get in to see the doctor, Dr. Clifford T. Chase, who as soon as he found out I had bipolar disorder started talking down to me like I was an idiot. He seemed more interested in pontificating on bipolar disorder and telling me what it was than inquiring about my rash and the additional symptoms I would be presenting with. When I told him I was there specifically because Lamictal comes with a black box warning about fatal rashes he just dismissed me as someone "reading things on the internet." Uh, no, that's in the side effect profile that comes with the goddamn medication and fatal skin rashes with Lamictal are very well documented. He made some very general assumptions, like assuming I was manic for four years. He interrogated me on my psych history which was not the issue whatsoever, and then instead of giving me specific injections I may need to keep this from going into Steven-Johnson's Syndrome and making sure I had blood levels checked for a week, he gave me a referral to a psychiatrist.


And the sad thing is I KNEW this was going to happen, I so knew it. As soon as I said bipolar I wasn't a person anymore, I was just some silly crazy person who was upset over a little rash. He didn't say anything like "No, that doesn't look like Steven-Johnson's Syndrome, you'll be fine." He gave me a fucking psych referral and some fucking benadryl. And he never even let me talk really, he just carried on feeling all smug and superior because he has a bipolar son so he knows all about nutters. Fucking ass. Anyway, on the epileptic message board I posted on where they told me to go to ER, someone said to make a complaint with administration. So I will.

What the fuck is wrong with front line health workers? And what the hell is wrong with doctors? I wonder if I should file a human rights complaint. At the very least I will say publicly here and now that Dr. Chase should not be practicing medicine if he can't put aside his prejudices and actually listen to his patient's concerns.

By the way, Steven-Johnson's syndrome starts out as a rash which then blisters and causes large pieces of skin to literally fall off of your body. It's fatal because then infections develop, and people with it often have to spend a month in the hospital in the most sterile place they have while also getting skin grafts. It is VERY serious and I'm sick of goddamn front line health workers not even knowing what a black box warning means. So tomorrow I will see my regular doctor, hopefully, and I will tell her what happened to me at City. And I will chew out City admin, and hopefully they won't also be discriminatory.

I'm also making an appointment with an old doctor I used to see long ago who practices alternative medicine. He's REALLY good, and hopefully he can give me something to get rid of this rash and also help me find an alternative to drugs.

I almost thought he was going to send me to the bin, he had that sickening smile that means "you need a psych evaluation." Motherfucker. I hope he loses his license.

On my way to ER

Back soon.

I Don't Like The Drugs But The Drugs Like Me

I've been taking psychiatric medicine for my entire adult life, and after eight years I can honestly say, it has not improved my condition. I have been on about twelve different medications in different combinations, none of which completely worked. Maybe it stopped me from committing suicide, but maybe there were other ways of avoiding suicide too. Sometimes it even made me suicidal. It definitely made me manic. Either way, the beneficial effects have been negated by long term brain damage. I have tremors now that I doubt will ever go away. I've been in perilous near fatal drug related situations for a few months now. I hear things when I didn't hear things before. My intelligence and creativity have been dampened. I'm just tired of it. I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to feel like doctors have more control over my life than I do. I don't want to feel like if a major catastrophe happened and I was unable to get medication, I would lose it. I just don't want this life anymore. Something has to change.

I know someone who had a major manic episode and since then has become a devout buddhist and has lived a completely normal life for decades just doing meditation (and I'm sure eating healthy and other things). People have managed both epilepsy and bipolar disorder only using marijuana, which I know for a fact DOES work for me and has no side effects aside from the munchies. And here in Canada I could apply for a license to use and grow medicinal marijuana (which has been approved for epilepsy and with a persuasive doctor's note, bipolar too). And then there are various other therapies, the whole exercise thing, etc etc.

I'm going to wait until I see this neurologist. I want to know that I have temporal lobe epilepsy for sure and then I want to find out if that is what has been called "bipolar," or what. If it is ONLY temporal lobe epilepsy it will be easier to get a license to possess and grow marijuana. If not, it will just be a more involved process. It's not as simple as TLE and Bipolar either, I also have PTSD, OCD, and Social Anxiety Disorder, all of which respond to medical marijuana.

If I smoke up everyday my seizures go down about 90%. And my moods become a non-issue. In fact, thinking back on it, if I had marijuana when I was suicidal it would go away. I don't remember a single Long Bleak Night when I had marijuana around. And plus when my moods get really fucked, it usually involves messed up sleep patterns, and marijuana makes me sleepy if I smoke before bedtime.

I have never cried while on marijuana and I have never run around going "Woot!" on marijuana either. Sometimes I get paranoid, but ONLY when I'm worried someone might smell it and call the cops, which is also silly because Canadian police usually don't care about pot (with exceptions, I know a relative who will go unnamed was tossed in the hoosegow once for having pot).

But I don't want to rely on ONLY marijuana, obviously. I want to do everything else I possibly can because I do know seizures and suicide aren't fun. I know there are a few Buddhist groups in town who meet Tuesdays and Thursdays to meditate and then have discussions. I could do that. I think meditation would help me focus my mind a lot better. Yoga would probably help too. There's a doctor who specializes in Chinese Medicine who got rid of my depression for most of my teen years. I was still dramatic like any teenager, but I wasn't trying to hang myself like when I was a kid. I know he still practices. I have a shitty diet and I could do better on that front. There are tons of things I can do basically besides medication. And with no long term damage either. Yes, people say marijuana causes brain damage, but I know people who have used it on a regular basis for decades with no ill effects. And the drugs I'm on now have caused more severe brain damage in a much shorter time.

I wouldn't have been able to do this in Vancouver, when I had no money to buy groceries, or in Montreal, when, uh, life just sucked and I didn't know where any resources were. But I do have some stability here and I feel like I have the support to do it.

It's just getting away from the psych industry that freaks me out. They take so much from you that eventually you really do believe you can't live without them. It's like being in an abusive relationship and not feeling that you deserve better.

I know there's a chance I could have a major psychosis again, and I would use Zyprexa and Ativan as needed to bring me down should that happen, but I never want to be on long term drugs again. I have to talk with my doc about this and see if she'll be supportive. She's pretty open minded, so I hope so. And in theory I can get off these drugs if I'm in remission.

So yes, I have to do some research, talk to doctors, friends who are off drugs and doing fine, find a good therapist. It's not going to happen right away, but by May I hope to be off all of my medication.

God, I had a dream I was reading Frankenstein and suddenly came across a passage where Mary Shelley wrote something along the lines of "I don't know if people know the turmoil I am in as I write this. I am in a disturbed state of being," and basically went on describing going crazy and then went back to her story in the next paragraph. Mary Shelley did have mood disorders btw.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Psychiatric Industry

It is lunch. Hurrah!

Back in the regular world of living with insanity, I noticed some things recently.

I had called the HealthLine when The Rash showed up. The nurse I talked to was very thorough, although I still felt that she didn't know much about lamotrigine. Still, she made sure I wasn't having some really serious complications, which was good. And when I said I had bipolar disorder she didn't treat me like I was a child, which was nice. She told me to go to a walk in clinic to get it assessed, so I did.

The doctor I saw at the walk in clinic had VERY little knowledge about what issues I was having. He didn't know what lamotrigine was. He had to run off and look in a book for what I was talking about. And then in the end he just told me to go make an appointment with my regular doctor and lower my dose. I don't think he realized that the rash could be a sign of a serious complication. It was so frustrating.

I'm lucky in that my regular doctor does know a lot about what I'm dealing with, and what she doesn't know she isn't afraid to go and independently study. She really doesn't muck around with me. And she takes my File that now follows me for the rest of my life with a grain of salt. Even though it says there are certain drugs I should be on FOREVER, she doesn't follow it. And it has helped a lot, she helped me get off one drug which had dramatically reduced my quality of life for three and a half years. I can finally feel emotions again, and think, and be creative. Before my hospitalization I averaged one short video a year. After hospitalization I only made ONE in four years. So as you can imagine, I was glad to ditch olanzapine forever. Fuck you Zyprexa!!!

But I also noticed some other things. When it did look like I might have to go to emergency I realized I didn't want to. And the reason was that if I went to emergency and I did have to be admitted and they did find out I was taking the medication for Bipolar disorder, I was worried I would be put into the psych ward again. And it's a very real possibility. And it made me realize why many other people with mental illnesses have poor health care. It's not that we don't notice something is wrong with us, or that we don't know we urgently need health care, it's that we've been seriously wounded by the psychiatric industry and the possibility of getting sent to the psych ward again for a non-psych related health problem is so terrifying. One of the reasons abuse is permitted in psych wards is because if we're punished then we might not have the audacity to go crazy again and therefore end up at the hospital. But what really happens is that ex-inmates go to such lengths to avoid the hospital that other health problems aren't addressed later on.

I am using the words Psychiatric Industry rather than mental health system or psychiatric system because those words imply that healing is actually possible within them. The fact is, psychiatry is founded on principals of capitalism. My 6 week psych ward stay cost $20 000. That's more than I paid for five years of tuition at film school. Old timey wards like Bedlam housed inmates who were paid for by family or husbands who didn't want to deal with their relatives or wives who were eccentric or acting out. Often times people imprisoned in these places didn't originally have mental health problems, but they did after they lived there a while. And it was a very profitable industry. You could charge a lot of money and provide substandard housing, there were no mattresses, only piles of straw. The food served was the cheapest stuff they could find. And people running the wards made a killing. Later on mental patients made great experiment subjects as well, and I'm sure someone was getting money for recommending various inmates for studies (this still goes on). Currently psych drugs account for a multibillion dollar industry, and the fact that the drugs go on to create more health problems like diabetes, tardive dyskenesia, high blood pressure, Parkinsons, etc, makes it MORE profitable because then additional drugs will be required, made by the same companies. And since psych drugs cause brain damage and often create MORE mental health problems, people can justify keeping us on them because we keep getting crazier and crazier.

If we do get off our drugs, we get worse, not because that's who we really ARE, but because the drugs have been designed to worsen our condition if we withdraw from them. Quitting a drug your brain has become dependent on can seriously flip you out, and it would flip out anyone irregardless of whether or not they were mentally ill.

In Mad In America the author notes that people who have a mental health crisis in third world countries fare better than those of us in "Developed" nations. The simple reason being there are no drugs, no wards, and no psychiatrists. A person having a schizophrenic break will often remain in their community and be cared for by the local shaman. In fact, in an experiment in the sixties down in the states had a supervised home for people in the midst of psychotic episodes. There were no drugs used, just supervision. People had episodes lasting on average three months and then got out of it ON THEIR OWN. The people running the home noticed pretty much everyone went on to have a normal life afterwards. They said people did do things like run outside with no clothes on, but for the most part there wasn't major trouble. And they also noticed that people were having life changing spiritual epiphanies, and letting them go through that process made them feel stronger and more capable once it was over.

The psychiatric industry is not about healing people, no matter what the people working within it may think. It has always been based on the principles of behaviour modification, on making sure the insane just don't bother the normals. We may think we've advanced because people aren't institutionalized like the olden times (although a lot still are), but the drugs are working in very similar ways. A patient may not have a manic episode again on Olanzapine, but neither will they feel deep emotions like love, compassion, anger, or sadness. Neither will they be able to think, or to effectively live a regular life of working, or to create, or to challenge the psychiatric industry. The people around them will be happy with the way they have changed, but the person who is really living that life will not be happy, and even worse, they won't even know they aren't happy.

Possibly the thing which frustrates me the most is that while I have done extensive research on the history of psychiatry, psychotropic drugs, neuroleptics and their origin in Fascism, the causes of bipolar disorder, etc etc etc, I still have to deal with people whose education is, to put it gently, limited. And yet they still assume they know better than me how I should be living or being treated because they are sane while I am crazy. It's getting to the point where I want to make up bibliographies and hand them out to people and say "Look, before you start telling me this shit, you have to educate yourself by reading these twenty books, forty of these articles, and at least ten of these medical studies. Oh, and I also want you to spend a week in a ward."

And to them I also say, it doesn't take much to step over that line. Anyone could find themselves on the other side of a locked door, whether they have a mental illness or not. And once you do end up on the other side, you will be dogged by the psychiatric industry for the rest of your life.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Madness In Four Actions

Remember how earlier in this blog I mentioned that it's the extended anniversary of my hospitalization from a psych drug induced mania? Well, now some weird fucking thing keeps happening with my computer. The language settings keep slipping to Canadian French, which means when it slips over I get shit like this when I type in quotations: Èè What the hell? It reminds me of every small petty annoyance I had living in Montreal. The French language is hijacking me! When I first got One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on DVD my friend turned it to the French language selection and I blew a gasket. "How could you be oblivious to such an obvious trigger!! Change it back right now!" I mean, the film itself was one big trigger, but making it an unintelligible language to me AGAIN, that would just slip me over the edge.

I'm having less triggers about hearing French. I quite like the language actually, I just think Quebec has some really shitty human rights abuses that go on unquestioned. I heard some FUCKED UP shit that they did to the warriors at OKA after the blockade went down and they got a hold of them, like torture under the Geneva conventions type shit. So many of those guys have snuffed it since.

Anyway, the video, which now has a name, is sitting in a DVD player at the Mendel, which is shut down this week for installation in all galleries. The video is called Madness In Four Actions, because it uses four repetitive actions performed by Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in the Miracle Worker. Taken out of context they are pretty interesting because they are so adversarial and yet so meaningless. And I also liked using it because Patty Duke did go on to have a diagnosis of manic depression. She even states "Although I don't think that my bipolar disorder fully manifested itself until I was about 17, I had struggles with anxiety and depression throughout my childhood. I have to wonder, as I look at old films of mine when I was a child, where I got that shimmering, supernatural energy. It seems to me that it came from three things: mania, fear of the Rosses and talent."

One thing I noticed about it is that it references repetitive loops I fall into when I get really upset about something. If I get so upset I lose higher communication skills I will, quite literally, repeat a short five word or less phrase over and over and over, sometimes 15 times. I guess I feel like if I say it enough people will understand I really mean it, because sometimes if I just say it the one time they don't really clue in that it's bothering me. So making Patty Duke slap Anne Bancroft around over and over was pretty fun.

I also liked that it was using tropes of performance art moreso than other videos I have done. And it was more of a collage than other videos too, everything was sampled, even the text. There are still a couple tiny things I want to tweak, but I'm taking a break for a couple weeks and doing it later for the copies I'll send to distributors. I think I'm also going to burn a bunch of DVD's to go with the Betacam master I'll send in case people do use it for installation.

I saw my friend Megan's work at the gallery too, it's really good. She did Velveeta (my ex from art school) really well. And it's from a photo of when Velveeta and I dated and she looks really happy, which is cute.

Anyway, I'm glad I got to make this video while I was having The Anniversary. I think it helped me resolve a lot of my feelings around being in the hospital. This is the first time I've actually tried to evoke what it feels like to be involuntarily committed and also the politics around it. I quoted R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, Benjamin Rush, and two survivors. And I read Mad In America during rendering times, for the second time. If you want to read a really good book on the psychiatric industry and it's gross human rights violations throughout history, I recommend it. And it even describes an all too short humane alternative that worked and was abandoned around the turn of the century.

Once I am done being so exhausted I will compress it and post it on Youtube. In fact, I think I might use Youtube for videos more, maybe it will improve distribution.

Schrodinger is wandering around on the desk being cute. He's such a sleek little weirdo.

I saw Paradise Now. REALLY GOOD, holy crap. I'll have to write more about it later. Next I'm watching Mandalay, the second in Lars Von Trier's American trilogy. I hope he doesn't do something awful to the protagonist again, but I'm not holding my breath.

Rendering Pines, Rendering Pines

Well now my video is pretty much done EXCEPT for compressing it into an MPEG2 (which Compressor is doing now for the next twenty minutes) and burning to DVD (which will take at least another twenty minutes). But aside from that I'm pretty happy with it. I MIGHT put it on Youtube just so I can let people preview it, but a lot of the text might be totally illegible then. I went WAY overboard last night and got pretty heavy handed, so I had to take it down a tad this morning. I thought I had to get it to the Mendel at noon today, and then I just got an email saying Wednesday is fine. Aaaaah! Oh well, it's done.

I like it, it's the first time I've made something specifically for installations, so making sure it can loop and still make sense was fun. I'm also going to output a single channel screening copy for festivals. It would be nice to send it to Rendezvous with Madness, which is in Toronto. I've never been to it, but they've shown two of my tapes and send great swag. Maybe this time I can take a trip to Toronto and watch other films on madness.

And the audio isn't too shabby, it's minimalist but that makes sense. And I found a website called FreeSound Project which has downloadable wav and aiff clips of sounds it's members have uploaded. It's so useful, I don't know how I didn't know that site existed. I'm on my mom's computer BTW, which pisses her off. I keep running back and forth between the upstairs computer and the downstairs computer.

I've spent at LEAST 24 hours on rendering and processing this 7 minute video. It's not so bad, that's pretty normal, but it's a reason I like having my own suite. Paying for 24 hours of rendering time would so SUCK! Ugh! At ten bucks an hour that is PRETTY fucking pricey.

I have six more minutes before I can import into DVD Studio, set it up to loop endlessly, and burn it. BURN IT!!!

Editing is weird and fiddly, but I like it. I had to go on the hunt for an errant frame that kept showing up. My mom watched a rough cut with me and suddenly I yelled "Hey! That frame isn't supposed to be there!" She didn't see it though. How can 1/30th of a second be so obvious? But it is. I fixed it and even though she didn't notice it the first time, she thought it was an improvement. There's one thing I wish I had been able to fix, which is the slapping scene. But I think it's fine as it is, I'm just being uber picky because now I've watched this damn thing about 50 times.

And General Error 34 started showing up when I wanted to play full screen in FCP. I know it means I have a corrupted file somewhere, but it's not affecting the video itself, just the program, so I decided to ignore it until I can deal with it later.

I could probably tweak my video for the rest of the week and still not be satisfied. At a certain point I just have to back off.

Ugh, and now I have to re-compress because I didn't like the way it turned out last time.

20 more minutes. Plus another 20 for burning, when I finally get there. So fiddly.

I'm bored of writing about how boring making videos can be. I'm going to go look at stuff while I wait.

I am still itchy. The doctor I saw yesterday said to go back to the dose of Lamictal I was at before the RASH happened. Hopefully that works. I don't think it will get worse. I'm all covered in calamine lotion. And I'm hungry. Wah! Anyway, yes, no death today. I think I will be okay.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Slavoj Zizek is my favorite philosopher and cultural critic these days. A film was made about him recently called Zizek! which I have yet to see. A Canadian made it. He has a background in Lacanian theory, which is a way better branch of psychoanalysis than Freud. Freud can go suck a phallus.

Anyway, here's Slavoj talking about the creativity of the void and the violence of love.

p.s. The health nurse says I should just go to a walk in clinic today with all my meds and see what's up, so I am okay, for now.

Death as a Side Effect

Last night my lower back erupted into a rash, and it started spreading to other parts of my body. I was wondering, oh maybe it is stress? And then I remembered the dire warning everyone who's prescribed Lamictal gets. Here is the kind of medical warning no one really likes reading.


Yes, so those last three things, death, disabling, and disfigurement, well, those all freak the shit out of me. I know those things could happen without pharmaceuticals being involved, but if I must be disfigured I would prefer it not be because of some ridiculous pill. I can't believe I was a meth user at nineteen and yet nothing happened then, and then now I take doctor approved medication and oh yeah, I could just suddenly die! Well just great, and it's terrible timing too because I have a deadline coming up. And my cute friend is in town again and I don't want to look all disfigured.

I am seriously considering trying to live my life sans meds. I haven't ever really done it, so I don't know what to expect. I do know that marijuana seems to work more effectively than the legal drugs I'm on. I've been doing a maintanance dose of the equivalent of one joint a day for a couple of months or more, and its really helped. I dont get high unless I'm really like "Oh yeah, hanging with the cousins," mostly I just get a low grade buzz and my symptoms go away. Come down from the highs, come up from the lows. Fewer absence and complex partial seizures. It's a hell of a lot better than these ridiculous drugs, and it's been proven safe and effective for my conditions over THOUSANDS of years, not just 20 to fifty years. Of course it's illegal because some racist capitalists had to put it out of business to secure their own profits. GRRRRRR!!!!

I did realize my own mortality though. I've been feeling it more lately, ever since Chris died. In your head you can kind of understand the concept, but that's different from really truly realizing your mortality. And then last night I realized this really could be it. And I was trying to figure out if I was happy with my life, or if I felt like it had meaning. And I honestly couldn't answer. I knew how I wished it was different. I don't know how much of that I could have ever had control over.

I'm so tired of feeling like I don't have control over my life. And I'm tired of the constant pressure to go the pharmaceutical route to deal with bipolar disorder and epilepsy. The thing is I can see the good things meds have done for me. It's not a black and white issue, there are tons of grey areas. I'm not one of those "Everyone should take drugs" and I'm not "Everyone should get off their drugs" either. Maybe some people can eat a strict healthy diet and exercise and meditate, but then there are also lots of people who's lives, through no fault of their own, restrict them from being able to do those things. Someone living on disability is not ever going to be able to afford to eat healthy.

But maybe I can do the alternative. I can actually afford groceries now, and I have more time to do exercise. I have done meditation but maybe I could join the Saskatoon Zen temple folks or something. Talk about Dharma instead of what a lamotrigine rash looks like.

I do know I have to figure out how to live my life so that I would be happier about when I do croak. I don't think I will though, at least not now. I think there's still stuff I have to do here. I want to pull a Kubrick and die just after I start editing my last movie. Or at the premiere. Thank you. Bye! Put the reviews on my grave!!!

Eyes Wide Shut didn't get very good reviews though.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fucking Amal, Ma Vie En Rose

My computer is still processing. And the car needs to be plugged in for an hour before we can leave the house because I am going SQUIRRLY!

I think my favorite all time lesbian film is Fucking Amal, which also happens to be my all time favorite teenager film too. Maybe because I know the feeling of high school clique-crossed lovers. I was reading a message board where someone was looking for a good lesbian movie to watch and someone said Fucking Amal had vague lesbian undertones. I was so shocked. Did they watch Fucking Amal? The whole thing was about Elin figuring out she liked girls and coming out. How can you call that undertones? That's as dumb as saying Ma Vie En Rose is vaguely about growing up transsexual. Strangely enough looking for the trailer I did find a bunch of clueless Film Critics saying that exact thing.

I find it bizarre when queer films are made by or for children/teenagers and then people get upset, like we're recruiting or something. They never think that there are queer children and teenagers who need to see themselves represented somewhere, because heterosexual children have tons of movies and television shows that make them feel normal. Oh right, I forgot, queer kids aren't allowed to feel normal about themselves.

Oh, Ma Vie En Rose makes me cry every time I watch it. It is such a sweet film. Even the TRAILER makes me cry.

It's interesting to note that both of those films are foreign. I have no clue how the ratings system works overseas, or if it even exists. Either way, some really revolutionary queer film comes out of Europe. And the character development is spot on, a lot of mainstream work totally misses the mark on how children or teenagers actually behave.

I think I am going to have to find some uppers to stay up late enough to get serious work done on this project. Le sigh.

French and Saunders have computer trouble

BNC, Enchante!

Once my friend Candie became totally smitten with someone because they knew what a British Naval Connector was. I have to admit, people who know tech stuff make me cream my jeans. When my friend Rheanne and I saw Shortbus I got all excited when I saw a character using Final Cut Pro. "Aw! Final Cut Pro." "You geek." Which coming from her is a compliment.

I don't understand people who don't appreciate geeky video tech-y stuff. It must look pretty obvious that I've hung out with mainly video and filmmakers for the last decade. I was so depressed when at my last job I was accused of knowing nothing of sound editing, because they were using a very temperamental Logic Pro software which was incompatible with their input device and I had spent a decade using Protools in well designed suites, which in my opinion is a far superior program. Although maybe I am just a software loyalist. It makes a LOT more sense for video editing at least, because the interface is similar to programs like Avid and FCP. I hate Logic Pro, it can go to hell, it's such a fuck ass program. And in my experience thus far M Audio sucks too.

Either way it's kind of dumb to tell me I don't know sound, when I can use Protools with one hand tied behind my back and standing on one foot. It wasn't my fault they didn't choose a more intuitive program, which would probably have been better for their membership anyway.

I remember one time I was sitting around with friends having a conversation and another tech minded person and I started talking about RF modulators. Which I didn't think was very impressive, but everyone else was all "Oooh, RF modulators, how do you know that stuff?" He also asked a question about winding cords and I mentioned the crucial 3/4 turn. Oh yes, he said, the 3/4 turn.

The most major suck ass thing about my previous job (besides terrible interpersonal issues) was that I came in and NOTHING was set up and barely any video decks were functional. The Betacam deck had to be serviced. The distribution amplifier had been out of commission for ages. There was no 3/4" deck. The S-VHS decks were crap, which was a big issue because for some ungodly reason the centre had been using S-VHS formats to master onto for YEARS! Anyone who masters onto a video tape that is a 1/4" wide is being an idiot. Even 3/4" is more stable, magnetic doohickeys just fall of tape and the less physical size of tape you have the more magnetic particles coming loose with destroy your tape quality.

And then we were all told that Mini-DV tapes were generation lossless and you could keep things on them forever. Ha ha ha. What we didn't find out until years later was that Mini DV is "lossless" because it replaces a missing piece of information with whatever the next pixel beside it is. As you can imagine tapes on Mini-DV are starting to get really square pixel shit happening and distributors everywhere are imploring their artists to stop sending in Mini DV masters. I'm sure HD is going to end up having some horrid complication later in life too. The fact Betacam has always been and will always be the best format to master onto unless something MAJOR happens. But as a rule analogue is superior to digital.

The sound suite was in random pieces. The M-Audio input device they were using kept crashing and having to get software reinstalled, it would work for a while, and then it would crash AGAIN! It was like being in the 9th circle of hell. I never want to go into a tech artist run centre job again when nothing is set up and barely anything works. I can't troubleshoot equipment that is totally broken.

I think the problem was things were being acquired because In Theory they were a good idea, although in practical usage they were too new to have proper support or a large base of knowledgeable people to consult. Just a bad idea. I remember when I was in elementary school we did rudimentary computer programming with sprites and I wrote a program which In Theory would have worked perfectly, but in real life application was pretty shoddy. I was talking with my friend Archer about getting an HD camera and he told me to stay away from it until they work out whatever kinks will come out. It's true, if you're putting thousands of dollars on equipment you'd better be damned sure it's going to be reliable for the next six to seven years until they come out with a different format and everyone screams. And using a Beachtek because the camera has no XLR inputs is so dodgy, and few of the new HD cameras had XLR built in.

I digress. Once I found out a filmmaker friend didn't know how a light meter works and I never looked at her the same way again. I'm awfully shallow about stuff like that. In film school everyone had their own light meter because the school's meters would get smacked around by constant use and ended up being pretty unreliable. And when a minute of 16mm film costs $100 bucks from film stock to processing, you can see why everyone put out that much cash for their own meter. Once when I was totally broke my mom kept trying to convince me to sell my Sekonic so I could buy groceries (they're about $200) and I was appalled. You can have my Sekonic when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

I am still waiting for my video conversion to finish and I got on a tangent. I think I have to do something else. I am going to go play We Love Katamari and try to pass the campfire level.