You don’t need to be a musician to prove that music can uplift the soul, and evoke and express emotion. You don’t have to be a monk to extol the benefits of bringing awareness to the breath to calm the mind. And you don’t need to be a saint to experience miracles and epiphanies, however small or spectacular, revealing that there are greater forces at play than the eye can see.
But you do have to hear a calling to assume the role of the Messenger: an unrelenting, private persuasion urging you to ‘speak up’. Driven by unwavering faith in your message, I believe that ‘walking your talk’ is the commitment of a Messenger and trusting in its worth is the key. While I relate to many names, faces and archetypes, it’s the Messenger within me that seeks to re-invigorate a tired and troubled mental health care system, that for too long has relied on medical intervention to address psychological, emotional and spiritual challenges. I come with a message derived from those challenges, piercing open the silenced spaces of the system itself.
As a Messenger, I further define my role as a mental health activist. In this lifetime I chose to act; advocacy only travels so far. I believe that action intended to improve mental health care is desperately needed and role models who embody wellbeing can activate positive change more so than the traditional doctor-patient dynamic. I dedicate my life, my creative gifts and the wisdom I have gained from exploring the current mental health care system, to improving mental health care and inspiring people to care for their mental health. No one is saved the responsibility of nurturing their own wellbeing and everyone has unique needs, priorities and approaches when it comes to defining and refining their mental health. Psychiatry cannot represent us all adequately, nor be expected to have all the answers to the mysteries of being human.
When you have endured tragedy, suffered trauma and discovered healing arts that have assuaged the wounded legacies left in their wake, an intrinsic desire to share what has been learnt from the life-death-rebirth cycle, emerges. For me, this desire takes the form of promoting valuable, life-enhancing, transformative ways of addressing mental health issues that are overlooked by psychiatric frameworks; ways that enabled me to move beyond the diagnoses of depression, bi-polar and psychosis, towards a lifestyle free of medication, psychological distress and prescriptive limitations.
I ponder the last 15 years of my life that were pre-occupied with overcoming depression and its host of self-sabotaging behaviors and see how I measure up today. I am no longer intimidated by my mind. I believe that our biochemistry is only partly responsible for the magnitude of psychological suffering and I am passionate about discussing psychological, emotional and spiritual challenges as they are, and not under the banner of ‘mental illness’. I am also adamant that other paradigms of healing that embrace the full-spectrum of human emotions without pathologising or medicalising our psychological pain, are alive and kicking worldwide, and need to be acknowledged and made accessible by societies dominated by psychiatry.
This passion forms the backbone of my choice to heed the calling as a Messenger. Emerging from the flipside of attempted suicide teaches you about life in ways that no bible, school or parent could encapsulate. You are called to dig deep for qualities of the heart and soul, like courage, faith, gentleness, forgiveness, patience and self-love that is rarely talked about in scientific circles. You learn the true meaning of self-responsibility and you learn to transform and re-create your life beyond suicide in ways that have nothing to do with biochemistry, psychological theory and analytical models of the mind. It comes naturally to me to share what I have learned from these experiences so that people who struggle with similar challenges may benefit, and greater sensitivity and awareness can be raised. It’s a humble offering of gratitude and an opportunity to give back to a life that has blessed and protected me through my darkest hours.
The reason I see myself triumphing over psychological, emotional and spiritual challenges is because I have pursued healing arts that focus on transformation rather than cure; arts that mainstream society fail to represent. Through my project, The Babyfacedassassin, my intention is to represent these healing arts and attract from governing institutions the acknowledgement they deserve. I refer to them as the Creative, Embodiment and Sacred Arts and I believe they are paramount to mental health and wellbeing. I acknowledge psychiatry as a useful, alternative approach which brings its own merits particularly during crises.
Paving new frontiers based on this message comes directly from my lived experience of mental affliction, not through scientific experiments or studying textbooks – wisdom of the heart and power of the soul reign over Freud and philosophy. I am living proof that mental affliction is not always caused by biochemical imbalances and does not always require medical intervention. I will seek opportunities to highlight this perspective through the creative endeavors of The Babyfacedassassin.
When you have attempted to take your life and life has insisted you learn to befriend it, you develop a relationship with yourself quite different to those who have not attempted suicide. You foster a relationship with life and death that is rarely given freedom of expression. It is based on overdoses of self-love and extreme gentleness, as well as acceptance of the fact that sometimes you just aren’t coping – how this translates to ‘mental illness’ is beyond my understanding. Your greatest challenge is to learn to respond positively to yourself in the face of yourself as your worst enemy, which is an art that I consider to be lifesaving. So much about mental health is derived from self-sabotage and an inability to meet your own needs form an empowered place. Focussing on definitions and diagnosis over this fundamental premise prevents us from really helping each other at the core of our descents.
So, I don’t need to be a musician to know that the creative arts are paramount to my mental health and wellbeing. I know it’s so after I dance and escape in fine music. I don’t need to be a monk to practice tuning into my heart over my mind in the midst of anxiety and depressive spells. I do it daily so I can tame my thoughts. I’m by no means a saint but I believe that my life is sacred, as is everyone’s, regardless of status, gender, age or faith. I hear a calling that I honor, propelling me to represent what’s under-represented on the road to recovery from the greatest battles of the mind. As a Messenger who illuminates misconceptions about mental health, I know that the way of wellbeing is not purely a psychiatric one. I say, rest our troubled minds from over-defining the mind itself and find respite, healing and transformation from within our hearts and souls.
(This article was written for the Are You a Messenger? Project, to explain why I have auditioned to become a ‘Messenger’.)