“The birds talk to us when we are quiet enough to hear the sound of our heartbeats,”Veronica continued. We looked at each other with glances that did not look at but through, into a place where the words don´t have pen and paper. A lot of the things we saw could not be written, read or explained. I looked through today and saw a city inside her soul! I knew I should not tell the nurses and those working to heal me , because to see countries and cities in another person was what is called psychotic and not quite normal. In the city the lamps were lit and when I looked up over the rooftops the moon was a little sad, crying as the night came to take over from the day. Moon tears poured over the rooftops and rinsed the streets for scraps and trash, so the humans could easily find their way home. The moon said that it often took a weep in this transition between day and night, and that it was not so silly to be sad sometimes because the sadness washed and cleaned so the humans could find their way in the streets. Veronika had sat down on a chair and forced me onto her lap, “What do you see now,” she said. I told her about the city with the lamps lit and the moon that cried, and Veronika told me that the soul gave us these pictures when we got quiet up in our heads. “But can you hear the birds talk? They talk to us when we don´t have words to explain our pain, but when we dare to meet it so it can tell us why it has come.” We were interrupted by some nurses that thought we should not hold hands because the relations could get too strong and intense. Veronika jumped towards them and screamed that they did not know anything about cities turning into life and birds that had words regardless. The nurses asked her to calm down and she spat on them and said, “I will not calm down until you remove paranoid schizophrenic from my journal and say that I am a human being.” I was standing in a corner shaking as I watched Veronika being dragged into her room. I saw the window smiling at the end of the corridor closingasthe iron bars became thicker and a little harder while we had to be kept away from each other in separate rooms. I heard her voice that night,“Birds they sang, birds they rang, birds they prayed – one more day baby and we will meet you outside where you belong …”
The day after she was tired and her body carried sore muscles and flowers of bruises bloomed on her pale cheeks. “We cannot put diagnoses on the souls of the humans,” she cried, “because then the birds stop talking. The souls of us that are here need so insanely much space, and these diagnoses strangle them so they can´t breathe”. “Who are the birds,” I asked. “You don´t know before you have built them a nest, she said, “and they don´t start to talk before you have become totally quiet, but don´t tell anyone,”she whispered, “then they think you are totally crazy, and you are not.” A nurse came over to us and asked us to “finish up” because there were only five minutes left before we had to be in our rooms. “But you must remove that diagnosis , because I will not go to the room before it is taken away,” said Veronika. “After the weekend,” said the nurse, “after the weekend we will discuss this.”Many weekends have passed, and I know that you, Veronika, you say that you almost have forgotten how the birds talk … so I remind you a little today. You told me that they talk when we put away all we know, when we are so tender inside that our hearts get space to stretch out completely, and become so big that we can hear each other’s heartbeats. The birds talk when we listen, not only with our head but with the entire body and soul. In this silent room tones appear from a deeper place than what letters and words can house. Here our hearts play together, make melodies, musical pieces and beautiful rhythms we can dance to … You said we would hear the birds talk if we listened.Were the birds your symbol of the soul? Veronika is tired, she has not had that diagnosis removed, and now, twenty years later, zyprexa injections, abilify and all the others have made her so calm she rarely needs hospitals. Today she is crying and I take her hand while we are walking with small steps down by the riverside. There are no one saying that we have to go to our rooms, no one saying that our relation is too strong either. We are walking and we are listening. “You must never forget what I taught you,” says Veronika. “There is hope for you because you escaped the heaviest medicines, and you did not get the diagnosis that leads to one injection a week. I am tired, but I can feel my own smile burn in a hope that will never go away , as I am thinking about all those that can get away from it … because it is really true that the birds talk, can you hear?”
This text is an excerpt from Maja Thunes new book, “Love is Medicine”, that will be released in 2019.
Love as medicine
In today´s psychiatry treatments of individuals with mental challenges are largely based on diagnoses and medication. Is it possible to think alternatively? What do people in crisis need? Human reactions and expressions are categorized far too fast; often they are totally adequate when we see the context from which they come. Many of the so called “diagnoses” are actually natural reactions that arise in crises, challenging life conditions and/or difficult upbringings.
Can these modes of expression be understood and healed in a new and different way? These were some of the fundamental reflections that made Maja Thunes initiate the movement Love as Medicine. Love as Medicine is a series of performance-events with the focus of changing the psychiatry to become more human – with less medicines, compulsion and diagnoses and more use of chemical free treatments like yoga, mindfulness, expressive art therapy and other methods that work well in treating psychic challenges. In the performances professionals, former patients, and artists gather to share their different experiences and perform from their heart.
A fundamental attitude for Love as medicine is to see the human as a whole being, not just the diagnosis and most notably it includes the power of compassion, acceptance and presence as a healing tool.
This is an article from Hauste Magazine.
Words by Maja Thune, translated by Mira Beckstrøm Laurantzon.
Photographs by Birgitta Eva Hollander and Målfrid Sand.