‘Emerging Through the Mental Illness Paradigm’ by Andrea Hollebakken

The #EmergingProud campaign aims to build bridges with psychiatry, however, we cannot deny how many people feel that they have been harmed by the current paradigm of care. Andrea Hollebakken’s story is a brave one, and shows how much wisdom is being stifled when we are stripped of our power and the interpretation of our personal experiences.

Andrea ends her account with these questions;

How do I create safety for myself so I can continue to emerge proud and not be shamed, psychologically mamed, and chemically tamed by a visit to the psych ward? How can we thrive and unfold our unique creation as the world?

These are the kinds of questions that will be addressed on the 12th May at the #EmergingProud Open Space events all around the world and fed back to the hub in LONDON  so that we can produce an international report following the launch. Do you have a story like Andrea’s which inspires you to create change? Do you work in the system and feel it needs to evolve? Do you work in an alternative way to support people through trauma? Whatever you background, we hope you will JOIN US to come up with solutions to prevent more trauma happening to people like Andrea…

Andrea Hollebakken.png

Read Andrea’s story here:

In my experience, and perhaps in that of many others, what is called “Spiritual Emergence” or “Spiritual Emergency” is not a linear or well supported journey.  My journey of SE started 6 years ago and I was soon captured by the dominant pathologizing mental illness paradigm.  After spending 2 months in altered states and parallel realities, I was funnelled to the psych ward where, after 2 days, I was told a hypnotizing story about how I had a mental illness called bipolar disorder.  Little did they know that I was immune to this indoctrination of word viruses as I said to myself silently, “that’s not it”.  I did not flinch or voice my disagreement with this narrow interpretation as I realized that it would be like talking to a wall and that I was trapped against a wall.  Their explanation came no where close to explaining the immensity of the flux and flow rollercoaster ride in consciousness that the power of the universe had thrust me into.

I was put on daily antipsychotics and stayed in the hospital 6 weeks.  Shortly after leaving the hospital, I had a terrible akathesia reaction to the medication and went back to the hospital for another 6 weeks.  They took me off of the antipsychotic and I was on Lithium, Zoloft and Trazadone.

I suffered a profound grief seeing the situation I found myself in.  How did this happen?  Is there a way out?  I felt the only way out was through and I decided to play the role of “mentally ill”, though this was never my interpretaion of myself, while doing the best I could within the limitation that was imposed upon me.  I was lucky to move to supported housing and form many great relationships.  These relationships are the most healing aspect and with profound gratitutde I say I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.  For 3.5 years, I had lots of fun getting involved in everything in the “recovery” process.  It was sort of like a second childhood, so I laughed at myself all the way out of the medically imposed rock bottom.  The next two years are a different story though I wouldn’t change a thing as I have learned so much about myself and the system.

After 3.5 years, I was slowly tapered off my medications with the help of my psychiatrist.  I was off all of them for a couple of weeks when that universal process in consciousness started up again.  I ended up in the psych ward after an intense immersion in expanded consciousness land.  Past lives mix with the present and “knowing too much” becomes too much.  In a way, I feel that medication helps me stay in consensus reality because my brain can be too sensitive for the de-sensitized and overstimulating world.  I was lucky to have a psychiatrist who only gave me antipsychotics for 10 days, just to reconnect me with reality, and then send me on my way.  This same cycle happened again 6.5 months later.  I work as a peer support worker and I find it difficult to witness how the system suppresses and pathologizes people.  Many things are so subtle yet extremely important.  That mixed with past trauma can lead me to an accumulation of stress.  Fortunately, I had the same doctor who gave me antipsychotics just for the 10 days I was on the ward.  This was important because I learned that I can have a “major crisis” and be back to work in 2 weeks.  This doctor didn’t see me as “more mentally ill” and drug me up accordingly.  She medicated me for temporary distress and then stopped the extra medication.  These two hospitalizations made me feel comfortable going to the hospital when I was in distress as there isn’t anything else out there.  It also set me up for the next hospitalization.

Fast forward another 8 months.  I again found my self in distress even though taking daily medications.  It seems there is a process that wants to complete itself.  I went to the same psych ward but had a different doctor.  She put me on daily high dose antipsychotics with the intention of long term use.  My refusal of this treatment fell on deaf ears and I was trapped.  I immediately took a turn for the worst.  From that lucid part in my consciousness, I watched as the 5 years of “recovery” went down the drain as I felt myself becoming insane.  My plea to be switched to the doctor I already had a rapport, who new my history, who I knew would not drug me up like this, was met with condesending laughter.  I felt such profound helplessness and desperation as I could see that this trajectory would lead me to be discharged to long term care where I would have no control over my medications and be caught in an endless loop of medication adjustments and assesments.  I felt like I didn’t just see this for my own self’s sake, but for others who get trapped in this.  I knew that it was the medication doing this to me since I had the context of past hospitilazations being a quick blip.  I then remembered my first hospitalization and how the medications made me worse, and from that initital treatment, it seemed like my worsening of symptoms justified any further means and treatments.  I saw that I had been turned into a chronic mental patient by how I was recieved, perceived and treated.  Psychiatry took authority over my experiences and warped my life on this path of pathology.  And now it was like I was back at the very beggining and that it was the medication that did it, not my own brain.  I later found out the term to describe when doctors make patients worse.  Iatrogenic illness.

With some strong self advocacy, I was able to switch to the doctor I had prior and she listened to me and could see that I was worse.  She started to taper me off of the high dose of antipsychotic and I felt profound relief.  I really didn’t see how I was ever going to be discharged as myself without getting off that medication.  Instead of spending 10 days in the psych ward like the previous 2 stays, I was in there 33 days, and experienced tremendous suffering.  I was so thankful to get out of there and, a month later, I was completely off of the antipsychotics.  Instead of going back to work right away, I didn’t return to peer support to the same capacity in order to keep the stress low because of the fear of needing hospitalization.  It makes me so angry to now know experientially that so much of what is done to people in the name of treatment induces iatrogenic illness which is passed off as “worsening of ones mental illness”.  It’s scary to think that those of us who do not know the distinction between which energies are our crisis, and which energies are from the side effects of medications, will buy in to the lines we are fed that our brain has become more defective or that “our illness” is getting worse over time.  These are myths.   They don’t account for how people generally get more medicated over time and that makes things worse.  And I have had 5 crises and my brain is sharper than ever.  In my experience, If it is treated as a short blip, it will be a short blip and I can integrate it, become stronger, and move on.  There is so much to this and I’m very grateful for all of my experiences as I feel I was meant to learn these lessons about what is really going on, not just by reading it in a book, but by nearly being swallowed up by the chemical machine.  That being said, I’m still being chewed and I’m not entirely against psychiatry.  I currently take lithium as a voltage buffer to insulate this extreme electricity that attmepts to neuroplastically encapsulate more of what the universe is trying to show us.  This hospitalization made me very angry at what is being done to people in their vunerable states.  We need more love and less labels.  We need to be recieved as we would a new born baby, though even that is medicalized in questionable ways.  I also am now terrified of the psych ward.  I no longer see it as a safe place to go get reconnected to reality.  This introduced another fear.  If I had no safe place to go, what would happen if I didn’t call for help?  I was now terriifed of the psych ward and myself.

An aside:  A reframe.

Sometimes I get to a state of consciousness where I see too much, and when I see to much, I feel too much, and when I feel too much, the only way to get back to me is to re-experience old trauma to get back to the ego-me way of seeing.  There are many ways to re-frame it but it’s perhaps a safety mechanism to ensure I don’t get lost in prophecy and I can again resume some semblance of functionality in the consensus order.  It’s a frickin scary to go from zoomed out to infinite possibilities to zoomed back into my finite body.  Perhaps getting scared shitless is a way the universe scares consciousness back to the body.  Again my brain reframes experiences most often shrouded in the shame of labels spouted from the lips of those who’ve undoubtedly not yet had their brains sprained by the games of consensus cage.

Fast forward another 6 months.  I was trying to keep my stress low through deliberate lifestyle design factors.  I recently gathered the distance from my terrifying hospitalization to launch a complaint regarding the way I was treated in the hospital.  Talking about it puts me in a place of anger with the system.  Why work in peer support helping people that have been given iatrogenic illnesses and then given the consollation that “you can recover”.  What a slap in the face to be told we can recover from the induced chemical trap that causes more problems and justifies the trap?  This is not the root of it.  Not even close.

2.5 months later and I am celebrating my longest stint without a crisis, but that’s as far as it goes.  I had been feeling off for several days, though it usually comes on quickly.  I was getting ready for the day when it started.  I could hear my voice in my head but it wasn’t normal chatter.  I could hear what I was saying to myself, while seemingly unconscious, during a traumatic event a short time before this all started 6 years ago.  My consciousness was somewhere else and my body responded with a state of terror.  It was overwhelming.  I could feel the fear of that time sensing that I was not going to survive, that there was no way out.  In a way, this is still true of my life now.  Is there a way out of this mental illness paradigm?  A paradigm that studies show consume the lives of it’s participants 14 to 32 years early, either directly or indirectly.  I knew I didn’t want to call for the ambulance.  Something in my head told me to get to the Mental Health Clubhouse I am a member of.  I also was aware of another one of my safety plans which is rather odd.  Beside my bed is a zap strap and 4 PRNs.  This needs to be accompanied by a cell phone and charger so that I can be released by the person I call.  With the zap strap, I knew I could secure myself in one place and wait it out.  I’ve never had to do this, but knowing I had this option if it got to intense bought me the time to try to get out the door or keep myself safe in one place instead of going to the psych ward.  I have many plans NOT to end my life as I have had experiences of dissociation or feeling like I am a homeless person.  In this incongruence of consciousness with reality, it’s important to keep my body safe, and not confuse what’s going on in consciousness with what needs to be acted through the body.  When I was hospitalized the very first time, I saved myself from jumping off a balcony in a terrified state of confusion.   I remembered in the nick of time that I had handcuffs in the drawer across the room that I had purchased as a child from a garage sale.  I used the last of my stregth to fasten myself to the bottom railing of the balcony.  From there, my consciousnes left my body and I was bird flying south.  Later I felt an angelic being trying to lift me out of my body but I was handcuffed.  I had the sense I wanted to go with them.  The only time I opened my eyes, I saw blood all over the place.  I also felt like a homeless man lying on the street and hearing everyone busily walking by.  We are all one consciousness, that’s for certain.  So, that’s where I got the idea for the zap strap.  It is more portable and I know this works for me.  For some, it might make things worse.  It’s important to know oneself when it comes to dancing with altered states and the system that wants to make it into a defect.

I managed to finish getting dressed, get in my car, and make the 20 minute drive.  I arrived in distress and was recieved with the love, compassion, and acceptance of a wonderful community, that I am so fortunate to be a part of.  The people and the place and space are so much a part of me that there is no separation.  During the hospital stay that was so destructive, on the worst day, I felt I could not go on and I called out of help inside.  A person that works at the community popped by for a visit.  I had not planned on getting out of bed or eat any meals that day.  I was done.  She stayed for 10 minutes and I shared how I was struggling.  She listened and brought me kombucha.  She must have brought the whole community with her energetically because after she left I noticed something had lifted.  I felt I could go on.  I felt like being up and about and eating lunch.  Relationships are more powerful than medication and I feel her visit negated some of the toxic effects of the medication.

I took a PRN antipsychotic and spent time talking to different people.  I rested in a room for a few hours.  It was just like how a respite should be, though the place isn’t a respite.  I found respite in the space of their hearts.  They listened.  They care about me and I care about them.  We are all equals there.  They were very aware of how I did not want to go to the hosptial, though they gently mentioned it once as an option.  They didn’t call the ambulance.  At the end of the day, one of them drove me to be with my family.  That night was the worst internal suffering I’ve ever experienced.  Each time I woke up in the night, I took another antipsychotic.  I stayed in bed most of the next day.  I didn’t talk about anything I was experiencing inside with my family.  By staying with it, surrendering to it, and not being taken by it, it passed.  If I would have talked about the inner bizzare stuff that was bubbling through me, my family might have wanted to take me to the psych ward.  Each time this happens, I learn.  I learned that the process of being admitted to the psych ward, where they make you describe all the strange things to 3 different people to the point of anger that they aren’t listening to the fact that one needs help, and then they admit you in a riled up state all the while writing all these things down to forever justify any form of treatment or mistreatment, is detrimental.  It’s perhaps benifical to ask, why talk about this extreme stuff when it will just pass like a common cold if I just lay down and wait it out?  I wonder about this though I don’t feel it’s a final answer.  The point is, it’s important to be aware who one is talking to.  What lens do they carry?  Are they listeing to label and medicate further?  So in the case of going through distress in the community with the support of family, friends and a few PRNs, maybe it’s good to stay quiet as to not scare them?  This is the strategy I used this time and it worked.  I took a number of PRNs the first night, 4 the next day, then just one at night for 10 days, and then half each night up to 14 days.  I really appreciate that my family was able to love and accept me this time around.  My mom brought me juice with Moringa powder and checked in on me.  I felt this sense that everyone was doing exactly what I needed without me having to ask.  They didn’t fear me and steer me to the psych ward.  I still had to contain the experience in order to be able to go through it with their help.  It has been a learning process for them too.  I felt a sense of awe that I was able to co-create this situation for myself out of the background of such a horrific prior hospital stay.  It was shown how it could be for people in distress, this time, for the good.  I saw that love really is the answer, the love of community and family to allow someone to go through it without transferring the responsibility to a medical authority.  Taking an antipsychotic isn’t ideal but I was able to take it just as I would be given it by a good doctor in the psych ward, but administered by myself, with support.  This is huge for me as I now feel free in many respects.  I feel like I can travel and if I have distress, I can manage without a hospital.  I feel like I can move to a small town that is peaceful and not have to live so close ot a major hospital.  I feel happy in knowing that perhaps the psych ward, and all that precipitates from it, has hopefully lost a customer.  I no longer fear myself or the intense terror of distress.  I no longer fear being retraumatized by the hospital.

What a difference a year can make.  I turned 34 for in the psych ward and I will turn 35 bathing in the hot sunny weather of another country.

So, in knowing myself, I was able to be my own psychiatrist and avoid the possibility of being at the whim of one who is paternalisitic instead of collaborative, pills first instead of person first, and blindly induces iatrogenic illness as part of “best practice”.  Know thyself and thy patterns.  Know what is your rhythms and pattern and know when a treatment is making you worse, which could be passed off as your worsening illness.

I feel like this is all a type of strength training.  I feel like next time, I can possibly go through the 3 days of distress without alerting others.  And perhaps one day, I will have people in my life who can support me through it without having to take PRNs.  It seems that it is all a learning process and that one day I will completely transcend the mental health system in a slow dance with altered states.  This perhaps may alter the state of affairs for others who have not faired as well due to unfair treatment that seems justified due to the nature of the inner turmoil.  There are gifts in all this learning in seeing that our brains are being funnelled back into a box of so-called normality.  I feel our brains are transforming into a unique neurotribe needed to tranform the world.  I see it as a kind of aquired highly sesnstive personhood, among infinite other reframes and perspectives.  There is a selective pressure from Gaia for our consciousness to transform beyond the confines of the limited self.  Gaia is doing this and it has nothing to do with the will of the human ego.  Yet psychiatric egos come in and warp this natural process.  I truly feel that one day we will see that our brains tranforming so we can “help” those who think that we need their help, so that they can see what is beyond this reality of conditioned thought constructs.  If they saw it too, they’d want to be there with us, which is just a now-here of a different vitality and energy.  If we can engage in true dialgoue, not just in order to reconnect us to consensus reality, but to share our diverse perceptions such that consensus reality levels up energetically.  This would make it easier for them to see what we are talking about.

Much of this might not sound like it has anything to do with spiritual emergence.  However, I feel that many of us have to emerge with, through, and out of the mental health system.  Many of us become imprisoned by medications that can be difficult to taper off of once our bodies are adapted and addicted.  My hope is that one day it will be recieved differently and based on the sameness of common humanity.  There is a lot of great work happening around this.  We as individuals and together might have a significant role to play in quickening the shift.  Can we learn about ourselves along the way to such an extent that we can rely more on ourselves and our community and less of psychiatry?  Can we develop “heard immunity” which is immunity to what we have heard about ourselves from the lens of psychiatry?  Only together are we immune to the memes of psychiatry.

I also wonder, what are we emerging for?  The word “emerge” contains “merge”.  And just as “emotion” has been said to mean “energy in motion” then perhaps “emerge” is “energy merging”.  Merging with what or for what?  I feel it’s about emerging together as emerging without others to merge with has no meaning.  Merging implies two.  When will “spiritual” and “emergence” not feel like anything special as it is just intrinsically part of who we are as human beings?  When will the term “spiritual” disappear as the duality of “non spiritual” is no longer part of humanity?  Why do we even need spiritual emergence?  Is it not a reaction to the non spiritual divergence?  Right now, we do need this process in consciousness, in order to make things right from the perspective of Gaia and the Cosmos.  When we see with that vision, we merge with that energy.  We we see with the division of the personal self, it creates further chaos.  Blah blah blah, the energy of the universe animates us and we can get with that as it removes all contrivances.  When thought-images operate through us, we reacting according to programs.

I chose from the very beginning to take the journey through the mental health system slowly step by step without resistance.  Now I can see why.  Now I can see what spiritual emergence is warped into in various ways.  I see what my peers are up against and how they are being limited.  Unfortunately, emergence is not allowed to flower and unfold.  Perhaps we need to find those who would merge with us and not turn us in to the perception police.  Instead it’s warped with medications and an outdated context.  Why do people with a diagnosis have permanently defective brains when neuroscience speaks of neuroplasticity in every other field?  I feel our brains are “too” neuroplastic and that scares the status quo.  We are programmed to believe in our individual personalities.  I feel the critical mass of energy needed to shift the world is contained within the minds and hearts of those who have been labelled.  Can we reframe ourselves infinitely and re-game reality to be in alignment with merging with the universe, walking there together, hand in hand?

How do I create safety for myself so I can continue to emerge proud and not be shamed, psychologically mamed, and chemically tamed by a visit to the psych ward?  How can we thrive and unfold our unique creation as the world?

#EmergingProud is dedicated to everyone who is going through an ’emergence’ process and suffering as a result ❤

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2 Responses to ‘Emerging Through the Mental Illness Paradigm’ by Andrea Hollebakken

  1. Tim D says:

    I think you are amazing and your thoughts and perceptions are from your heart as you feel this out of body experience. Maybe your right maybe there will come a day where we transcend all excepted medical practices. I have felt this way many times and I’m not sure if it helps me at least at the moment of distress it feels like nothing helps. I hate taking medication it makes me thoughtless, tired, and unimaginable. There are some days I can function as society want me too but in large I need some variety and spontaneity I prefer it routine is for lack a better word f***ing boring. Life is supposed to be exceptional and amazing so find your limits and do what your soul tells you.


  2. Isabella N says:

    Thiis is a great post thanks


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