Since I started writing "Coming Out Crazy" 15 months ago, I've been on the steepest learning curve of my life.
At least twice a week I sit down here facing a blank screen on my trusty iMac to muse and investigate issues around mental health and wellness that matter deeply to me and I hope to you, too. Particularly Recovery. Plus any relevant news. These days, there's lots of it.
Your comments are my only barometer, my only way know if I'm plucking at a few of your psychic chords. I live for your reactions, to hear your voices, to learn more about you and this community we've created.
Today, I am launching a short series on Mad Pride, which means many different things to many different people. I believe that Mad Pride is analogous to Recovery because they both share one very crucial quality. Hope.
Perhaps you'll think about what Mad Pride means to you. If you want to know the truth, I'm glad to be mad. I know I'm not normal and I wouldn't want to be. I'd rather be Next to Normal. I think everyone is. No one's normal.
Being different and proud of it affords me enormous freedom, though I've worked hard to get here. Now, thanks to my psychiatrist Dr. Bob and his brand of talking therapy, I don't ever have to dare to be different. I simply am different. I like being different. That's part of my madness. I'm fine with it.
Some of you don't like the term "mad" or "madness" but perhaps you'll change your mind by next week at this time.
Anyway, here goes. A few annotated highlights for the first day or two of Mad Pride Week in Toronto.
• Mayor David Miller has once again officially proclaimed next week, beginning this Monday, July 13 and ending on Sunday, July 19 to be Mad Pride Week 2009.
And for all the folks of MindFreedom International, Mad Pride is central to its ethos as a "movement that celebrates the human rights and spectacular culture of people considered very different by our society."
For this "non profit organization that unites 100 sponsors and affiliate grassroots groups with thousands of individual members to win human rights" and alternatives for people labelled with psychiatric diagnoses, Mad Pride is a constant campaign – one of many.
NOTE: This year, due to the City Worker Strike, many of Toronto's week long Mad Pride Week Activities will take place at the May Robinson Auditorium at 20 West Lodge Avenue. That's one block east of Landsdowne and one block north of Queen Street.
This year, Mad Pride Toronto is up to the minute electronically.You can follow our local Mad Pride Toronto events by watching them on YouTube. Or read the Mad Pride Toronto Blog. Or by following on Facebook.
Mad Pride is a cultural festival of arts, entertainment and heritage activities. Several activities honour and commemorate the contributions of men and women who lived, worked, struggled and died in the former Toronto Hospital for the Insane which was located at 999 Queen Street West.
Here are a few events that intrigue me:
• At 6 p.m. on Monday, July 13, you won't want to miss Geoffrey Reaume's unique historical guided tour of The Patient Built Wall, constructed in 1860 by unpaid patient labourers in what was then known as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) now stands there. Patients lived and died building that wall and Reaume, author of the landmark history Remembrance of Patients Past – Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940 is well-acquainted with their stories. Soft-spoken, thoughtful and profoundly knowledgeable, Reaume teaches a course in Mad People's History at York University, where he is an Associate Professor. He is also co-founder of the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto.
• At 8:30 p.m. a Candlelight Memorial will take place at the wall.
• Tuesday, July 14, is Mad Pride Day globally. It's celebrated from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada and from Australia and New Zealand to South Africa. Celebrations vary, but often Mad Pride is an opportunity to challenge mental health prejudices, discrimination and negative stereotyping by raising awareness through community activities and the arts. Music, theatre, poetry, art and literature can transcend so many barriers, especially the unnecessary ones perpetuated by societal and media ignorance and fear.
• It's no coincidence that July 14th is also Bastille Day, the French National Holiday marking the anniversary of the storming of this Paris prison in 1789 that started the French Revolution. It's a universal symbol of liberation and, according to Mindfreedom, "when the Bastille was stormed, two prisoners with psychiatric labels being detained there for that reason were freed."
(I wonder what those psychiatric labels were, back in 1789, before there were psychiatrists.)
• The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall and MPP Cheri Di Novo will be attending the Opening Ceremonies at 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning to kick off Mad Pride Day.
• Following that, a virtual variety show of entertainment, song, poetry and readings is planned.
• At 1 p.m., York University's Geoffrey Reaume will be back to present an intriguing, no doubt healing and historically provocative program called "Hugging Our History: Why Psychiatric Survivors Need to 'Own' our Mad Past." This is a one-hour presentation I'm going to try to see.
• Wednesday, July 15th is "Know Your Rights Day" and features a presentation by The Dream Team – consumer survivors who advocate for more safe, secure and affordable supportive housing for people living with mental health and addiction issues.
Next week, I'll continue with my Mad Pride series and some surprising information about how Toronto has led the world in the Mad Pride Movement.
The original organizers of Toronto's first "Mad Pride Day" was almost called "Crazy Day" back in 1993. Instead, they decided to call their event Psychiatric Survivor Day." But I'll leave the rest of that story until next week.
Finally, to get yourself into a "Mad Pride" mood, why not download some utterly amazing interviews on Madness Radio – "Voices and Visions from Outside Mental Health."
Have a peek.
More of that next week, too. Have a "Truly, Madly, Deeply" sensational weekend.