It is time I worked out the pain involved in my hospital commitment hearing. I am only aware of one involuntary commitment hearing and that was during my last inpatient stay in 1988 at a psychiatric hospital.
I know there is an agreed upon reality. Society deals harshly with those who do not stay within it. They are isolated, stigmatized, feared and dehumanized. That is why, with every fiber of my being and with every resource at my command, I try to stay within those boundaries. The punishment for noncompliance is swift and long lasting.
And yet during my illness, I felt I had fallen into another reality. For it was every bit as real as the agreed upon reality. The interpretation of the language and the rules were different but real it was.
During my illness, I seemed to go in and out of the two realities. Was I insane? I don't know. What I did know was that the second reality (at the time I did not think of it as insanity) was absorbed and experienced by me with an intensity of feelings and thoughts taking in all five senses and a few senses as yet undefined or at least not experienced by most.
I was reading a magazine article and the phrase "root of awareness" jumped out at me. Somehow the terms "awareness" seems to define the second reality and be enmeshed in it.
So at the commitment hearing did I feel like I was insane? Yes and no. But then I felt the world was insane and I was powerless to explain or defend myself.
The only people at the hearing were men. Symbolic of a male dominated society. My father and son were there but did not testify. The man who was my husband at the time testified against me. Prior to eventual discharge, I chose to end the marriage. The rest of those present were strangers. But the most important element was I didn't know the rules. What was I to do? What could I say? I didn't know the rules. What reality was in control? Even if I was in the agreed upon reality and could stay there, what were my choices? I could remain in the hospital or go home to an abusive marriage. The choice was made for me. I was committed to the hospital for an extended stay.
In the past I have phrased the second reality as another level of consciousness, but now the term intense awareness seems more accurate. But awareness of what? Mood, intent (my own and others), harmony, disharmony, the yin and yang, the ebb and flow and all that comprise it, including music, sound, vibration, movement, the Earth elements, color, texture, energy, love, fear, tenderness and all the human emotions. It was not only an intense awareness but an awareness of the root of all, including the mysterious, the unknown and the magical forces.
My time spent sleeping and dreaming were as real as my waking hours. I can remember the dreams, including the sensations and feelings associated with them as if it were yesterday. While awake or asleep (and it's difficult to separate the two), I entered and went beyond ecstasy, ending all thoughts and feelings of separateness. All is one. I traveled through the seven realms of hell, each one being more emotionally painful but yet more commonplace than the next. I can not and will not describe each realm. But I will tell you this, hell is not a place. It is a state of mind, an attitude and a point of reference.
That was the commitment hearing. Feelings of powerlessness - yes. Feelings of betrayal - yes. The betrayal was by society, my former husband only followed the mandates dictated by that society.
What the commitment hearing symbolized and asked me to give up was the identification with and release of the awareness. It asked me to deny it. I am asked to label it insanity and not acknowledge it.
But others have experienced this intense awareness and are experiencing it now. I recognize the language and symbols when I hear it from the "crazies" in the streets and in the psychiatric hospitals. People in support groups gingerly refer to it and laugh. What is it, a mass hallucination?
I have learned not to speak of it. Explaining it to someone who has never experienced it is impossible and not wise. The vast majority of people, 98% or more, want no explanation or mention of it. Even those few people who are compassionate or curious about the experience, know the repercussions imposed by society. In the telling, it is impossible to separate the pain of its stigma from the actual experience itself.
I will agree not to speak of it. I will suppress all thoughts and feelings that arise occasionally associated with it. But deny it -- never. It was a gift. A gift reserved for "crazies" and mystics. And for this I was and continue to be sorely judged.
Copyright 1995 April 1992
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