Laura Delano: Sanity in an Insane World (E28)

This conversation explores the contentious subject of the mental health system, through the story of patient advocate Laura Delano. Her journey into being institutionalized and recovering sovereignty over her mind and body has larger significance in our society. Her organization, Inner Compass Initiative, supports those who want to wean themselves off medication -- a formidable task not to be taken lightly.

Comments

  1. Wow, so completely moving and compelling. My journey was similar in trajectory but nowhere near the severity. So lovely and affirming to hear this story. Can’t thank you enough!

  2. I am so glad to hear of your initiative Laura. As an alternative health practitioner I have seen first hand how difficult it is for clients to come off anti-depressants, or anti-anxiety drugs. I have also seen a monolithic approach to dosage – many clients choose to take medications at dosage their practitioners perceive as placebo. The medical body does not seem to know how to allow the wisdom of each person to find its own voice. Having said this i have also seen the damages done when people have taken lithium, or anti anxiety drugs for 20 or more years and the near impossibility to come off these drugs. I am heartened by your 5% method of tapering off drugs – it makes complete sense. I will share your website as a valuable resource. Thank you!

  3. I had a similar experience, also not as severe, my first year living away from home at college. It started from sleeping roughly 4-5 hours a night for just over a month, living off of canned food, working every weekend, and being part of the tennis team which filled any extra time for rest. I woke up one night just after falling asleep to my cell phone ringing from an unknown number. Somehow I thought it was Nostradamus, a prophet I learned from watching the history channel. I was really scared that it was somehow the beginning of the reversal of time. I broke my phone in half and felt like I was crucial to the natural process of the universe. I got up and began writing on the wall. I somehow felt very strongly that I was communicating ultimate truths. To this day I feel like it stemmed from the state of society and culture that deeply frustrates all of us.

    I continued to say that “there is no such thing as time”, I referred to the idea I was trying to communicate as “the paradox”, and I also was saying that the best path to a destination is a straight line. I somehow thought that I was bringing about the great turning. I set off the alarm in the dorm room and eventually ended up sitting with the police officer in his car waiting for my parents to arrive. We had a pleasant conversation and he asked me if I was autistic. I still wonder about whether or not that capacity was occurring in my brain in some way. I had called my parents and asked for a ride home because I felt like something was wrong. My parents admitted me to a psych ward for a week. I was unable to and refused to fall asleep the first night and was eventually held down by a group of staff and given a shot to put me to sleep. I was then able to fall asleep each night after that point. I had a unique experience and connection with an elderly woman patient in the psych ward. She would say things that didn’t make sense to anyone or me but with the intent and passion of a kind of oracle . I never saw her again but she is a unique individual in my memory.

    Throughout the week and over the next couple years I gradually disrobed the ideas and identity. I thought that the world was going to end in some way in 2012 and I slowly stopped believing that. Psychologists determined that I had a “psychosis not otherwise specified” originating from a neurochemical imbalance. I was diagnosed bipolar and told I would need to be on the medication for the rest of my life and that I am fundamentally broken mentally. My Psychiatrist respected my desire to go off the medication. I too felt that my body was sacred and didn’t wish to stifle my innate gift. After a couple years I was no longer taking the medication.

    I’m now married and every once in a while at the same time of year this happened (beginning of October), I experience insomnia and a great excitement for possibilities of connections and knowledge out in the world. I also began remembering different feelings and thoughts I had at that time and was almost beginning to understand a proper place in my identity for whatever manifested inside me. Last fall was ten years since it happened and I experienced a greater level of insomnia than I ever have since. During the original “psychosis” I had the experiences of being in synchronicity with gaia or the universe. I would hear conversations around me and feel that it was the universe speaking directly to me. I felt like I had a choice to interact with it or not. It sort of reminded me of “The Truman Show” with Jim Carrey. I had similar experiences last year but felt like gaia is trying to communicate to us but we don’t know how to understand what she’s saying.

    I’m reading “The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” now. The approach to entertaining a particular reality simultaneously while living in a different one resonates with me. I’ve since come to see the beliefs I had as fuzzy logic as I call it. I entertain these ideas as being possible but also reserve the belief that they may not be. It’s like straddling two realities I guess. You could say I’m pretty normal now and these “spiritual beliefs” have faded away for the time being.

    I’d be interested in sharing more about this if anyone’s curious. Thanks for the podcast it was really great to hear her story.

  4. Thanks for this. I am a retired psychiatric social worker as of ten years ago and listening to this and having a look at Laura’s website was a way of connecting and updating the work I used to do. Great to see there’s so much positive stuff on the internet.

    I intend to read your story, Laura, more carefully on your website, but I just wanted to say that the mystical experience you describe, staring in the mirror at the age of 14 struck me right away as in some ways very similar to one described by Dr Eben Alexander in a book I recently read called ‘Proof of Heaven.’ Mr Eisenstein described your experience, I think, as a loss of ego state, and you might be interested in reading Alexander beecause as a leading neuroscientist himself his experience shattered his belief in the boundaries which the established scientific method erects around itself.

    With great thanks

    Doug Allanson

  5. Thank you Laura and Charles for sharing this conversation.

    It was very moving for me as my mom is taking medication for a bipolar depression since I was a child. I saw what the medications made with her: how they lowered her symptoms and took away her force to looking at where do they come from and address the root problem. For me it has been painful to see her life decline over the years into a way of living where she is not really alive anymore. I would have loved to have had an alternative way to help her, in a way I believe would truly help her.

    Keep going with your great work!

  6. Thank you for sharing. As someone who was first put on anti-psychotic medication at 15, I completely resonated with Laura’s story. Especially when she mentioned the desire to connect when one is in an altered state. Most people respond with fear and rejection, and force. Being put in psychiatric hospital repeatedly was a terrible isolating experience. And the subsequent stigma that then followed me everywhere ….weirdo…..
    Out of my repeated psychotic episodes emerged increased sensitivity and ecological consciousness that led me to study permaculture and ecopsychology. I now understand my monster as my friend and a gift . I haven’t taken medication for 10 years after very slowly weaning myself off. I think i might have killed myself without the drugs at some points. But I also know the drugs numbed me terribly and did nothing to assist with the shattered sense of self I experienced for a long time. Supporting others to get off the meds is a great, great thing. I do my best to hold a space of compassion and calm for the people around me.

  7. This idea of creating small circles of caring and support for each other is one I have been living with in my own life for some time now, holding regular circles and retreats for women. You have expanded my vision to include broader possiblilties for the greater community as we create our new paradigm of what it is to be a human being at thus time. Thank you for this conversation, my friends!

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