Malaina Poore talks about the last taboo, mental health issues, and how she performed her own exorcism .
Recently I was invited on public radio to talk about mental health reform. The guests were a revered doctor, a lobbyist and me. The host introduced me as an “ex-mental patient” and I didn’t even flinch. It’s become part of my livelihood to talk about what madness feels like and what is left when the madness is over. But a few of my friends called me on the phone sounding unhappy that I would be described in such a way. It seems that the words” mental patient” bring images of hospital gowns and electroshock eyes, a land of no-return.
It’s uncomfortable. I don’t love talking about such things, but I can’t stand hiding even more than that. My boyfriend points out that even Tony Soprano had a shrink. The human condition is an emotional one.
There was a time in my life, while living in a yellow farmhouse on a thin country road, that I tried to lift a black demon from my chest, but he just kept pressing down. When I pushed up he pushed me back down and hard, with a strength that was supernatural. I had tears streaming down my face and I begged the white winged angel in the doorway to envelope me and he did. The scene was something I’d seen Mexican paintings, the little black devil that comes for a soul when one lies dying. Except I really wasn’t dying and I really wasn’t dreaming. I was trying to sleep in my bed next to my boyfriend and if he were awake he wouldn’t see what I saw. All he would only see my struggling and crying.
I keep this story with all the other stories that no one wants to hear. If I meet you when I am well then you don’t need to know all details. If I meet you and I am low then you would know better than to ask.
What I’ve cobbled together as an adult life is inspired by this. Make myself a fairy tale life and step into it. A little tin roofed house in the country with paper flowers covering the dining room walls, crinolines under skirts, 2 wild, blond children, a white cat, a hedgehog, some homemade raw chocolate ice cream and Edith Piaf records. If I must weep I’d rather weep here.
These days I do everything that I know brings health and move away from everything that is crazy-making (most especially the skipping record in my head). There is yoga and there is self-love and there is the time I make for friends. There is my absolute belief that life is no longer cruel when we leave this body. Nothing is fair but nothing is permanent and while we are here we have to accept all that comes to us. Also I give myself absolute permission to be miserable until I’m bored with it.
As a job I talk about mental health: how to improve services, what it means to be sane in an insane world, how I get by and what inspires me. I know that people get well. I know women who have spent long stretches in the hospital and now hold positions of power and keep their families together. I know people you would never accuse of being crazy who’ve heard voices and overdosed on pills. It is my work to get these people in front of students of social work and psych nursing so they can tell their stories.
It seems like the last taboo, the thing one just does not speak about. And for whatever reason, I can’t shut my mouth.
Malaina Poore works as the Firewalkers Coordinator for a mental health advocacy group called VOCAL. She is in the process of raising funds for a new anthology of new perspectives on this thing labeled mental illness written by people who have lived through it (please support their kickstarter here.) Plus she has two pretty human babies, a chiweenie and a shack in the woods of rural Virginia.