Different ways of lives, different languages and cultures appeal to me from an early age.
I remember while being still small in Russia I was walking together with my mother towards the bus station. I can’t recall what was the reason of taking the bus but I clearly remember my state of mind during the march to the bus station
I was out of this world, engrossed totally in my own inner imaginative sphere and I was asking questions in my own head: why is the sky blue? Why should we assume that only the physical manifestations is what the world is about? The road, the bus station visible at a distance, people walking towards it from our Soviet style building where with my family we lived on the 16th floor.
Why are we rushing always towards perfection, my seven years old mind was asking God knows whom. Why do people get angry sometimes and why is the moon moving in cycles?
This sort of questions invaded my head from an early age and I applied a mode of ‘check out of reality’ to deal with all that. Life, according to me as a child, was supposed to be a constant stream of big celebrations: friends around to play and to talk, presents not reserved to just an event such as a birthday or New Year Eve. Cakes everyday, even if in small quantities, people singing on the streets. Children laughing, everywhere and always.
But instead I was confronted with a gruesome picture. Unhappy people queuing for the bus, sleep deprived children going to school, and everyone around playing some kind of normality. You behave, you follow the rules, you obey the existing structure.
My ‘check out’ technique helped me to process the grim reality by presenting me with a more colourful vision. In it lived a magician high in the sky, angels sung, and people danced. I had names for them, burrowed from numerous books I was always busy reading. Christian was a king of the birds, Olanda was a fire queen, while Patrick was a light keeper.
It was while living in the Netherlands that I found a better, much stronger version of a language to address my dilemma as to ‘why’. The Russian version ‘почему’ was too soft, more like a whisper rather than a question asking for an immediate answer. The French ‘pourquoi’ left the possibility of a reply with another question rather than an answer one seeks. To the French ‘Pourquoi’ there is always an option to answer ‘pourquoi pas’. It’s like talking in riddles while your questions still hang in your head.
But the Dutch language gifted me with a perfect word for what I am trying to describe in this post. It is Waarom- strict, precise and powerful sound pronunciation that in English can be spelled as ‘vaaroum’. A single word but holding in itself massive power. I even noticed that when someone asks me ‘Waarom’, I try to still provide some sort of answer even when I have absolutely no clue.
And so now, while I march in my daily reality I start my questions in my head with this powerful Dutch world:
Waarom have we so much poverty still?
Waarom did we have September 11?
Waarom there is still so much misery in our beautiful world?
Waarom there is so much sadness where I can hear so much crying?
And most importantly, waarom asking too many questions about humanity and the world we are living in, is considered as being too weird.
Waarom do we accept the ‘normality’ of this world where people mostly march with neglect and indifference to what’s happening in our beautiful planet, such as hunger in some countries, poverty in almost all countries, so much anger, so much disappointment, tears and sadness?
According to the Chinese, everything in this universe evolves within yin and yang energy. Yin represents the feminine, water and passive. Yang is the male, fire and active. Both have to be in harmony, which exists to maintain balance in our universe and within each of us.
My body had to undergo a major shock at the age of twenty-seven to recognize that my yin and yang balance was severely distorted. True, at my birth I received the perfect fire and water combination. I was born in a female body on the tenth of July in Moscow in 1976. My zodiac sign is cancer and my year of birth is the dragon. The cancer is water and the dragon is fire. However, as one Russian politician once put it: ‘we tried our best, but you know the rest’. The hospital where I was born did not have any hot water on that lucky day, and my small body was washed with cold water. This first event in my life is reflected in the picture taken immediately after the cold water procedure. Everyone looks happy and cheerful, except me. The creature in the photo has a blue face and looks like it is going to die. Which almost happened, as according to my mum, I developed a terrible flu and was lucky to live. What’s lucky is a big question, since I am not that sure that my life has been particularly lucky.
In any case, after the cold water and the flu, the yang element took over, and I developed the strange idea that life is about survival. One has to put in enormous efforts in order to be alive, feel happy, and receive love.
By the age of twenty-seven I was convinced that I had everything one was supposed to achieve with this kind of thinking. I had a nice job by society’s standards, was exercising my body like mad in a very good gym and was dating all kinds of weirdoes, which as far as I could see, was the case of almost all of my friends. And I strongly believed that I had put in enormous efforts in order to have the life that I had.
Then, what was wrong with me, you might ask?
One sure thing was that I had terrible problems with my mind. It was unable to shut it up. Although I seriously doubt that my power animal was a little mouse, I have the impression that my mind was constantly busy with analysing and scrutinising. Once I tried a trick, I made an attempt to get rid of my thoughts. I was even able to watch them at some point, like dark heavy clouds around my head.
‘Ekaterina, you are not worthy!’
‘Ekaterina, you are stupid.’
‘Ekaterina, you are a failure.’
‘Ekaterina, you are a total failure.’
‘Ekaterina, you are bad.’
‘Please, god, take away my mind.’
‘There is no god!’
‘I need a cigarette.’
‘You are mad!’
‘Please, god, help me.’
‘According to Nietzsche, god is dead.’
‘Nietzsche was mad.’
‘So, are you.’
You see, I did have a problem.
Another black spot in my biography is my name. My name, Netchitailova, is the size of a skyscraper in New York city and caused me only trouble while subscribing to libraries or opening a bank account. Netchitailova is unpronounceable in other languages other than Russian and means unreadable. This in itself is quite a pity, since my biggest passion in life is reading. Though it is not as bad as some other names in the Russian language. Imagine if you have the name Netchactlivaya, which means unhappy, and try to convince strangers or your friends that you might be in a cheerful mood.
The third thing, which is for sure, is that officially I am indeed mad. A certificate from psychiatrists that I’ve been psychotic (and more than once) is definite proof of my madness.
What is psychosis, you might ask? The usual scientific definition explains this phenomenon as a state of mind which is characterised by a loss of contact with reality, accompanied by delusions and hallucinations (including hearing voices). Well, it probably does not say much to you as, according to this definition, the majority of the world population is in constant psychosis. Someone is suffering from a delusion of being on a mission from god to liberate the world from terrorists, another believes in extra-terrestrials and I know a woman who makes millions of dollars by claiming that she can communicate with dead people.
A real psychosis is when your madness is confirmed by a certified psychiatrist.
I have, for instance, a friend who believed all his life that in his previous incarnation he was Napoleon. Nothing is wrong with this belief (which might be true as a matter of fact), but be careful to whom you reveal your deepest secret. My friend started to talk about his Napoleonic ambitions at his work. Well, he ended up in the hospital.
As for me, I freaked out on a rather ordinary day in November while sitting behind my desk at my job in Amsterdam. It was pouring with rain – but that’s a usual thing in that city. Starting from October till April in general, almost everyone in the Netherlands is battling with the feelings of depression due to strong wind, constant rain, and grey sky.
I wasn’t battling with depression though, but rather with euphoria. I had this feeling that something magical was awaiting me in the near future. That the life I knew now would be transformed into something much more interesting and fulfilling. I suppose that practically everyone reaches this point in life nowadays, at least in Western society. The point when life appears to be worthless and one starts asking oneself serious questions about fate, the purpose of life, and one’s own role in society. I wouldn’t assume that so many people reach this moment in life, if the amount of self-help books in the stores didn’t testify otherwise. Nowadays it’s the biggest selling market in the book world.
I reached this point rather early in life, at the age of twenty-seven. Maybe because I was Russian – and Russians are well known for exporting crazy and suicidal elements to the rest of the world, or maybe because I worked in finances. Bankers are the first to react despairingly in crises – as the amount of suicides demonstrates at each and every financial crisis.
I wasn’t a banker, but I was a financial analyst of banks. In between lunches at banks, where I could at least indulge in my love of food (when I was allowing myself the pleasure of eating), I was battling with overwhelming boredom. Analysing figures and reading annual reports of banks for five days a week for two years straight can drive anyone mad.
But since quite a lot of financial analysts of banks don’t go crazy, I guess that in my case there was something else besides simple boredom. Now, looking back with some perspective, I suppose that it wasn’t just the job – it was the whole routine of organizing your life when you have to sit the whole day in an office.
Just think, for a second, about what exactly I mean. If you happen to work in an office as well – you might quite easily visualize the picture.
Your day starts with the terrible beep of an alarm. Not only are they really unpleasant, they also intervene, in a nasty way, into the natural functioning of your body. You would love to continue seeing that last dream (something like enjoying a holiday in the Bahamas) for five minutes more, but eventually you end up dragging yourself out of your warm and cosy bed to attend to your responsibilities.
Then you grab, from the fridge, whatever is available for your breakfast (assuming you are well organized and do have something in your fridge), take a quick shower and run towards the underground station as you realise that you might be late. As usual.
In the underground station (or… on a bus), once having managed to battle through a crowd to get onto the train, you have to endure standing close to irritated and sleep-deprived fellow passengers, who are more than happy to invade your personal space as you do theirs. And in case you go by car to work, I bet you spend some quality time in a traffic jam.
By the time you rush into the office, it’s rare that you are in a cheerful mood.
And it’s just the beginning of your day. You still have to face eight long hours (at least) in the office.
From these eight hours, as a general rule, you need to pretend that you are working for a minimum four hours (to keep up appearances and stay in good graces with your boss). You dohave to act as if you are doing something useful, in between coffee breaks, chatting with colleagues, checking private mails or your Facebook account (if it’s not yet banned at your workplace).
You survive till lunch (the best part of the working day by all standards), but then the worst part of the day lasts for eternity. Our bodies are programmed in such a way that the most natural thing to do after your lunch is to have a good nap.
But no, in your case you have to drag yourself back behind your desk and struggle with a terrible desire to sleep for the best part of the afternoon. You try to focus on your job (with difficulty), while at the same time constantly checking the clock to see how much time is left till you are free to go home.
Still… at this point, you try to think of doing something positive about your life once out of the office. Instead of watching the next episode of Eastenders or sabotaging your brain with something like Big Brother, you envision yourself doing something more productive and useful, like joining a course in creative writing, starting to study a language or simply reading an intellectual book.
Unfortunately, this positive thinking usually stays in the realm of a fantasy vision, since as soon as you are out of the office, you can’t wait to end up on your cosy sofa watching endless TV until it’s time for bed.
And the next day it starts all over again, and the day after, and the day after, until it’s weekend – the only time we seem to really enjoy ourselves nowadays.
On that particular November morning, when I was trying to do some estimates for banks, I got, for the first time, a glimpse that life could be something else entirely.
Doctors blame it on the chemical imbalance in the brain, David Icke says that we are invaded by reptiles, and some call it enlightenment.
Whatever the name of the phenomenon, on that day I took my first ride into a magical world, which is hidden from us behind job responsibilities, money worries and the burden of everyday routine tasks.
Who knew that this adventure would land me right in the nearest psychiatric hospital?
Проснулась я когда в больнице после чая, то не сразу дошло до меня, где я. Глаза открываю и вижу: камера на стене! Прям на меня смотрит!
Ну я села на кровать и давай изучать в чём я одета. Про себя думаю: «похоже попала я в реалити тв!» Только вот как убей, не могу вспомнить, чтобы я туда когда-либо записывалась.
А одета я была в полосатую пижаму! Страшную и слишком на меня большую! Встала я с кровати злая, подошла к доске с мелом, отписалась, что «я- Будда», и выхожу из палаты вся на взводе. Ну думаю, пойду к продюсерам шоу буянить! Ишь как меня решили нарядить! Нет, не пойдет так дело! Уж если русскую женщину в «Старшего Брата» запустили, то будьте добры представить нас как есть! При каблучках и с помадой!
Выхожу в коридор, там тоже везде камеры и картины весёлые на стенах. Куда не посмотришь, везде цветочки. Напомнило мне это почему-то про детский сад в Москве. Тоже такого вод рода блеск в глаза. Вроде как должно стать весело, а мне всегда в саду хреново было. Хотелось быть при маме и папе, которые манную кашу на меня никогда не навязывали. А в саду навязывали! Приходилось мне эту кашу каждый раз под стол выкидывать. Воспитатели всё время орали и пытались найти виновника, но так никогда и не поняли, что виновником была я. Ну я девочка с виду была тихая и спокойная. Сидела всегда в первом ряду, типа воспитателя слушала, когда она книжки читала. Не ребёнок, а чудо. Про себя я сад ненавидела и воспитателей тоже. Книжки они интересно читать не умели.
В общем меня от картин с цветочками слегка затошнило, даже вкус манной каши во рту появился.
Буду обговаривать себе хороший контракт с продюсерами, решаю про себя. Если мне тут придется находиться с такими вот цветочками больше недели, то попрошу хорошие за это деньги! Плюс нормальный, адекватный гардероб.
Из коридора выхожу в зал. Комната такая большая, там телевизор, стол, диваны. И вижу, сидят там в уголке (и как-то странно на двух женщин, смотрящих телевизор, поглядывают) мой босс с моей финансовой компании, моя подруга Лена, и моя мама! Сидят все бледный и мрачные. Мама с платочком, типа плачет.
Неужели кто-то умер? Я испугалась!
Подбегаю к ним.
«Господи, что случилось?» спрашиваю.
А они все разом подскакивают и давай вокруг меня хороводы водить, громко при этом причитывая.
«Ой, ой, ой!»
«Катюша, доченька моя, как ты?» Это уже мама спрашивает.
«Да нормально,» я говорю, а про себя начинаю соображать, что, что-то тут не то! С чего это вдруг, все переполошились? И вроде как, вспоминаю, что на реалити тв, посторонним нельзя.
«Катенька, доченька, мне позвонили, я сразу прилетела. Ну надо же, никогда, ни у кого в семье психоза не было! Что же случилось, деточка?» И смотрит на меня мама тоскливыми глазами. Босс мой на меня уставился тоже как-то грустно, а Лена (вместо того, чтобы поржать) всё на тех женщин, сидящих перед телевизором, косится. Ну я на них тоже решила обратить внимание и приглядываюсь. Ой, смотрю, одна сидит в футболке, на которой написано «ПСИХИАТРИЯ- НА ХУЙ», а другая сидит в тёмных очках, хотя вроде как телевизор смотрит.
Что-то тут явно не то, до меня наконец доходит. И почему я наряжена в полосатую пижаму?
«А где это я?» Спрашиваю я своих посетителей.
«Катюша, ты в больнице!» Мне отвечают.
Ну я себя осматриваю, и вроде как, помимо абсолютно жуткой пижамы, я окей. Руки и ноги похоже работают, и чувствую себя просто прекрасно (впервые в жизни так супер себя ощущала!).
«Что же это за больница такая?» Я интересуюсь, и ловлю себя на том, что тоже начинаю на женщин, сидящих перед телевизором, коситься всё больше и больше. Что-то тут СОВСЕМ не то! И правда, подозрительная такая картина!
«В психбольнице ты, Катя!» Мама говорит, и давай опять плакать. «Никто, никогда еще в роду, и на тебе, позорище!» И зарыдала в три ручья.
Ну я стояла до этого, а тут пришлось сесть, новость переварить. Они на меня втроём смотрят, ждут реакцию.
Ну а я про себя думаю, и правда, ведь позорище! Финансовый аналитик банков, портфельный менеджер акций в нехилой голландской компании, говорю на трёх языках (я голландский к тому времени ещё плохо знала), три диплома (плюс ещё квалификация профессионального инструктора по степ-аэробике), а сижу при этом в полосатой, неимоверно жуткой с виду пижаме! Такого позора действительно ещё у меня не было! Люблю я красивую одежду. Яркую и нарядную!
«Вы мне одежду принесли? НОРМАЛЬНУЮ?» спрашиваю я босса, Лену и маму.
А они пирожные шоколадные и бананы мне достают!
Одежду мне потом принесли, но не совсем, что надо было (притащили спортивные штаны и свитера!). Больница сама ничего так была. Если бы не мой психиатр, то настоящий курорт!
Бассейн, уроки рисования, кормили тоже неплохо. Котлеты, диетические супы, и неплохие десерты. Они меня даже спросили, что бы я хотела отдельно ещё получать (там можно было любимое блюдо заказать). Я попросила шампанское, но не дали, сказали нельзя. Пришлось тогда шампанское перезаказать на чёрную икру. Икры не оказалось, согласилась я на французский кофе. По утрам с чашечкой кофе сидела я у окна и наблюдала за птицами в саду.
Всё хорошо было, но психиатр оказался полный урод и через две недели мне там надоело.
Dear Camarades, colleagues, friends, and readers of this blog. This is a first part of a story of two to come on my Porcupine’s wisdom teachings.
Let’s start with part 1.
When I was telling you about the fact that you shouldn’t despair in case you end up in a mad house during the festive period, I didn’t realise that I was kind of fortune-telling and predicted my own landing in a mental institution for Christmas and New Year in one go. And therefore, when I was planning to write and give advice on how to spend quality time in its full glory if sectioned under mental health act (part two will be about some practical ideas about how to survive the ordeal), I ended up following my own recommendations.
But let me tell you more as to how I ‘volunteered’ myself into the section 3 of the mental health act (I did go to the hospital to seek help all by myself, driven by ambulance I summoned also all by myself).
I blame it on the weather. Winter has definitely come this year, and I couldn’t even leave my street for two days. It was literally frozen. If Sheffield is indeed in South Yorkshire, then York should be in Mexico.
And so, it was cold, very cold, especially that I couldn’t find time to fix my boiler, and was stressed to hell due to some other major worries.
I reckoned, on a subconscious level, that it would be just warmer in the hospital.
And I was right, not that it was done on purpose (me going to the mad house simply to warm up, well, actually, I did need a rehab in heating). Because I was freezing and shivering from cold so much at my own house, that I even started to come up with my own ideas for the Game of Thrones, season 8. You see, I am a Dragon myself (according to the Chinese wisdom), and I think that that Dragon who fell into the ice water, was resurrected by the army of dead people on purpose.
You see, while most spectators of the show (a guess), called ‘Game of Thrones’ are probably rather interested in royal intrigues and fights (and sex scenes of course, but unfortunately, they cut it down), my attention was glued to that mysterious leader of the army of the dead, with hypnotising blue eyes. He manages to lead his army of the dead with a remarkable zeal (Russian army?).
Who is this man, I was asking each time they would show the character, and he deserves more insight and attention in the show. I mean, the man with blue eyes is simply amazing.
And so, while I was thinking about the show, I kind of froze to death myself that winter (it was in 2017) and had an idea that the plan of the guy with the blue eyes, who leads the army of the dead, is to simply get himself and his army a warmer place to live. You see, a dragon can always survive, and if he hypnotised the dragon, there is a purpose in it, and a profound one. He wants his army to have food, shelter, medication and wellness retreat. For how long, are they supposed to live in the bloody Siberia?
But I will stop to elaborate on the possible story line for the Game of Thrones and will progress to some tips about survival in a mental institution:
1. Make friends with fellow patients, you will help each other, and stay friends after the hospital.
2. Pamper yourself. Start exchanging clothes with patients, do each other nails and make-up, take baths and listen to the music. Do take part in their occupational therapy activities.
3. And final tip till my next post (part 2, apparently it didn’t happen, I forgot to write it). Try always to see the positive and as hard as it can be, persevere with some humour. I, for instance, was so tired of waiting for Jesus that decided to declare my own return (like finally) and feel fine. This time, I am female and I have brothers and sisters. And this was the real reason they decided to section me. My psychiatrist didn’t laugh when I said I am Jesus.
I was Jesus once, when I was in a psychiatric hospital. I knew that psychosis was coming and called emergency services because there was no one else to call. Mental health services are struggling, there is no coordinated effort, there is no place to go, if you need a safe place.
So, the hospital it was. But in order to reach the hospital, I had to spend twenty-four hours in the emergency department. By the time the psychiatric services came to assess me, I was in full-blown revelation phase. I was in the middle of human misery. I was Jesus.
I didn’t have to do anything apart from saying that I was Jesus to the psychiatrist, I was immediately put under a section of Mental Health Act, deriving me effectively of my freedom. It was astonishing because I was the one asking for help. Instead of help, I was sent to ‘prison’.
Arguing with psychiatrists that I was Jesus once in the hospital wasn’t that good, they tried to change medication three times, by adjusting the dose of each new medication. It lasted two months. It stopped only when I finally realised that saying that I am Jesus to a psychiatrist was a suicide on my part. I shut up. I still thought I was Jesus.
But what is exactly happening when someone says that he or she is Jesus? I am not the first patient and definitely not the last to say so, and I read many articles which describe more or less the same experience. Someone believes he is a Messiah, another believes she is Buddha.
All these experiences are nothing else than a search for spiritual truth, it is a spiritual awakening, which is always accompanied by some sort of distress when one actually sees God or other manifestations of other reality. When someone says that she or he is Jesus, one has to sit down with this person and explain that he or she is going through a stage of discovering faith, that it is a natural process of coming in contact with the knowledge that God is there, that there is something out there, and that Jesus is in everyone. Thus, saying that ‘I am Jesus’, shouldn’t lead to labeling it as ‘delusion’ but to delegating it to spiritual and religious domain.
But the psychiatry actively negates any existence of God, because it labels psychosis as severe mental illness. Psychosis is an experience of meeting directly with the other reality, but the psychiatry doesn’t believe in the other reality. It diagnoses it, and denies that spiritual awakening is possible. All those who hear voices or ‘see’ things are reassured that these are hallucinations. But voices and seeing things are real for the patient. These are manifestations of deep religious truth. The patient is much more advanced than the psychiatrist on a spiritual level, but the psychiatrist has the power, and uses it to smash ‘out-of-there’ experiences. He also stops the individual spiritual journey of the person concerned, unless this individual is strong enough not to believe the psychiatrist and the whole power of the institution of the psychiatry behind. It becomes a fight for survival from that moment on.
I was born in a beautiful world, in a beautiful country, in Russia. The country that saved the world at some point in human history. It is sad that it isn’t mentioned enough in history books, while it should be the case, of course, all the time. If you don’t know about it, I will tell you. It was during the Second World War, during the fight with the fascists.
My grand-parents fought in that war, and so many people suffered, too many. An incomprehensible number for a true human mind. 56 MILLION. The Jewish, the different, the Slavic race, and other beautiful souls. How could it have ever happened, is a question that I do ask myself each day, because history does matter, and it does matter to KNOW.
My family was absolutely amazing. I had a loving, very curious mum, a wonderful farther, and beautiful set of grand-parents on each side of my charming parents. I spent my summers in a Cossack village, because I have beautiful Cossack genes from my farther, and I travelled to St-Petersburg, called Leningrad at that time, with my mother, who came from aristocracy ancestors (a real catastrophe, that most of them they killed, but some of them survived, thanks GOD). She showed me beautiful museums and powerful paintings, and taught me history and maths. Maths wasn’t my favourite subject, but thanks to my mother I kind of survived the test nightmare of algebra and the like they impose on children in our modern schools.
The idyllic picture of my childhood was broken when something bad happened in my land. We can blame the capitalism (and easy prey), or we can skip all that critical thinking analysis and simply aim at the truth: bad people got greedy, and sold their souls to deprive my Russia from its true meaning: an amazing land, guided by goodness and God. Jesus watches this land, and so do I.
Gorbachev, the kind, beautiful man, tried to create something even more beautiful. He announced some important changes: freedom of speech (extremely important), Perestroika (I still struggle to translate this dilemma), etc, etc, etc. He wanted more good, he had a vision of communism, a term that we started to believe to fear, but in simple language, it just means: everyone is equal, everyone has the same rights, everyone should receive free medical care, have food on the table and receive education for free, and isn’t it wonderful?
Gorbachev wanted even more: he wanted to wake up people and show them that everyone can enjoy theirs jobs: be you a cleaner, a clerk, or a president. It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, what matters is that you enjoy what you are doing. With my extra superiors efforts in this life to survive, I think I deserve more money than a bad-mouthing former ‘neighbour’ who learned to envy success, but it means that I have even a better vision than Gorbachev,more in the lines of Tolstoy, our beautiful Russian writer. Leo Tolstoy, was a true aristocrat, a philanthropist, who wanted to see beautiful Russia, where kindness would rule, and everyone would have food on the table, and lead meaningful lives. If you haven’t yet read his books, I strongly advise you to correct this mistake rather urgently, and start with his diaries, and only after proceed to Anna Karenina (but not when you are pregnant), and leave ‘War and Peace’ till the end, once your master your French. It’s a read I successfully skipped at my literature lessons at school, because I didn’t speak French yet properly, and the rest what was left in Russian (‘War and Peace” is written in both Russian and French), told us about long war narratives, that I found boring. But the love story was amazing, and I read all parts related to that, and passed my literature exam with outmost distinction. At nights I was absorbing his diaries though,- beautiful notes, that I discovered by accident as it seemed, but of course, it wasn’t an accident, because good books always find their reader.
The dilemma of Perestroika resulted in a brain-damage. That’s the only term in English I can find to describe what happened next to my beautiful, unique country. But I will try to explain it in more accessible words.
There were kiosks at first, ugly corner shops selling Coca-Cola (the only nice thing), snickers, and cigarettes. My best friend and I, bought our first cigarettes there when we were just thirteen. No one was checking for age, and no one cared, as long as you had money and you could pay.
Then, even bigger things happened. Vouchers came out from the state companies for ordinary people to get their chance to own some assets in their own country. But the country was starving, because Boris Yeltsin was in power, having chased Gorbachev out of the regime, and out of Russia. I want to know how it could happen, and I tried, because I was watching what was happening to my country with a disbelief of a twelve, and then fourteen, and then fifteen, sixteen years-old mind, and I was watching how Kashpirovsky was allowed to go on the state TV and hypnotise the entire nation via a live transmission. I tried to warn my grand-mother, who, as many others, was watching that nonsense, an act of black magic, coming directly from those in power then. Kashpirovsky was telling: ‘everyone will be fine, and everyone won’t be fine’, confusing the entire beautiful land, and how this was allowed is beyond my beautiful mind, but I want to know how it was even possible. I want to KNOW the truth. Because history DOES matter, and we can never forget, in order not to repeat the mistakes of the humanity.
My grand-mother got gangrene after watching it, and died in pain and suffering some years later. That was the moment, outside the church when we said goodbye to her, that I run out and shouted to the sky, to God: ‘’what the fuck? How is it possible? Where are YOU?’’
But of course, God was watching, as he always does, because at the end of the day, goodness always prevails, otherwise, it isn’t possible to continue living, and the universe is doomed. And this simply can’t happen.
The vouchers were immediately bought back by what you know now as OLIGARCHS. Everyone was starving, no one had enough food. There was some promise of American food aid, that they send sometimes to deprived troops in the army, and we got it at school. I tried the sausages and dry milk, and it was disgusting. But it helped to live. I brought all my ‘American’ packages to my grand-mum, because she was starving, and she had sold her voucher back to the oligarchs because she didn’t have any money, as the rest of the nice, not that ordinary Russian population, for a penny.
Oligarchs were made, together with parlours of bad witches. It was all around Moscow, you have to believe me. Everywhere you looked, there was some advertisement: ‘a curse to ban your enemies’’, ‘I will help you to make even more money’, ‘I will bring you your lover back’. That was the moment when I vomited from my first cigarette, because it was the only thing that could help me to cope, with what was happening to Russia. People were shouting and people were crying. And I was shouted at and I was crying. My beautiful mother was in Italy then, because of some strange set of circumstances. I rejoined her when I went to study in Brussels, in French, at the age of nineteen.
Christian churches were opened though, including my favourite church, and it should be amazing and it should be unique, but money was being made on them too, and I almost stopped to believe, but I am not allowed, because God doesn’t let me. And I want to believe, because the idea to the contrary can’t be processed by my inquisitive mind. People were dying then in Russia, and everyone was miserable and upset, and it seemed like a fog, had embraced my beautiful land. Everyone was after apartments, where to get what one wanted, they were ready to put their relatives inside the psychiatric hospital. It was a legal procedure: you pay the ‘doctor”, he signs the letter, and then the poor distressed individual (usually an older relative) is driven inside a psychiatric hospital to disappear. Other schemes were created, and it was all about money, it was all about how to get even more rich.
I want to know how did it happen, and I want to know who was behind all that, and what was said, and understand the incomprehensible dilemma of oligarchs now ruling the world, from their perspectives of offshore brands, stealing money from innocent people, stealing properties from other countries, stealing all the goodness what is still left in this world.
They call it Psychosis. That’s how my quest, my incomprehension about what happened to Russia, and as a result, to the rest of the world, is defined in medical, psychiatric terms. It struck me shortly after September 11, right when I landed working as a financial analyst of banks in a beautiful company in Amsterdam. I saw the image of crushing planes when I was at my gym. I even tried to go to my step class like some other members. But I couldn’t stay there. Instead I run outside and I vomited, and then I watched how stock markets made billions on the sake of the human distress, because I worked in finances, and it was in front of my eyes. And I remember thinking: ‘but that’s exactly what happened back in Russia’, and it was hard to process, and I couldn’t understand how people could laugh, and continue living, and not just cry, like I was doing after that day. I, obviously, couldn’t return to the gym after that day either. I hate all the gyms now.
You know what happened next: Saddam Hussein was publicly executed on a stage. Apparently you could even ‘enjoy’ a place on a stage to watch that awful act. Apparently, it was even filmed, like some sort of Big Brother, that is presented to us as something that we should enjoy and be entertained with, as if it is normal. Amelie Nothomb, my favourite Belgian writer wrote about a similar story in ‘Sulphuric Acid’. I read it in French, but you can get it in English. All her books are more than amazing, they are unique. If you haven’t read her yet, I urgently advise you to do so. Start with ‘Stupeur et Tremblements’ – a beautiful, enjoyable read, a comedy, and then move to her other books, in the order that she wrote them, like I do.
One day, when I came back to Brussels, after my spell in the Amsterdam city for good seven years, I woke up in one of my lucid dreaming, crying. I was standing in front of Saint Basil Cathedral in Moscow, one of the most beautiful churches, the real, and I was crying and I was in terrible pain.
And now I know, I was crying for Russia, and I was crying for my beautiful land, and I was crying for what happened to Jesus, and I was crying to what had happened on our planet earth.
But they call it psychosis, because some people tell you that you should just be happy and enjoy your life.
And of course, one should be happy and enjoy one’s life. But I don’t know how to be happy when such terrible things happen on this earth.
How is it even possible, can someone explain??? How can one dare to feel happy when so many other beautiful people are in so much pain?
It was at the end of the fifteen century that Hieronymus Bosch painted his amazing painting, called the ‘Ship of Fools’. I wrote about it here, but want to come back to this piece of art once again.
(Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch)
The painting as such was based on what was happening to the people proclaimed as ‘mad’ at that time. ‘Madness’ as such incorporated the same elements as today, such as calling all people exhibiting weird behavior or showing weird thought pattern, as ‘not normal’. These people were put on the ship and sent in the middle of nowhere, but still attracting large crowds of people in order to see them off or when they would embark in another town on their journey. The human curious mind always liked the spectacle because it simply shows us the possibilities of a quest of the human soul: some people simply go beyond the gates of ‘normality’.
Later the ships were replaced by asylums where those, deemed, as ‘insane’ have been kept away from the general public, and not because they pose any danger (it is a grotesque lie) but because our society, using psychiatry as its biggest weapon, doesn’t want to be confronted bluntly with possible ways and thoughts which can deny us of our mediocre thinking, such as dwelling about the next ski holiday, which car to buy, and how to stock on toilet paper because of a very bad flue. All those who start thinking that there is more to life, and question things, usually acquire one form of ‘madness’ or another. But the psychiatry doesn’t want these people, because more people think – more there is a possibility of a revolution for our society which has lost totally its values, with so much poverty, hunger and unhealthy competition where it is no longer a life for the common good (including for the sake of our humanity) but an individual fight in the big manipulation machine where it becomes a battle about who earns more money and drives a better car.
It was several centuries ago that Bosh painted his oeuvre but it is more than still relevant today. On this painting we can see several nuns and a priest instead of the crowd of fools, as the title hints to us when we first see the depiction. There is one single fool, at the end of the painting, in the background, just to reassure us that it is indeed the ship of fools that Bosh is talking about. But by putting the self-proclaimed ‘sane’ members of the society at the front Bosh asks and answers a prominent question at once: but who is really mad here, an innocent ‘fool’ or those, who, behind tales of morality, hide their own sins?
The painting is speaking to me today because it is precisely how I see the society. I don’t witness any high moral values and any strive for the goodness of all. I see rather greed, fake love behind Tinder apps and the like, chase for better gadgets, and thoughts in the head of people that make me wonder as who is insane. I can see the thoughts in the minds of people around, it is written on their faces: how to manipulate someone, how to outsmart someone, how to be more competitive in the already overdriven by competition earth. Rare are those who still look for true friendship, true love, and don’t always think about money. Money is a tool which can make one’s life more comfortable but its place in today’s society got at a higher platform than the one for God.
Those who ask and wonder usually get a mental health diagnosis or get depressed. The depression of today is a normal reaction of our minds to reach for something higher in a place where there is no longer anything higher, hidden behind the fake normality which hides in its turn just greediness and strife in our over-competitive world. It is a normal reaction of our higher selves that revolt in the fakeness of love, fakeness of friendships and betrayal of God, where one can believe in something, but God forbid, when one actually sees the manifestations of God him/herself. All exhibitions of aspiring for something higher than what is dictated by those in power, telling us what and how to do from their vintage points of offshore accounts, are suppressed immediately by the scare of the psychiatric tale. The psychiatry is a weapon to make us all the same, which puts all those who aspire to be different, behind closed doors of the asylums of modern times. Nothing nice is happening there, and no one gets healed, because there is nothing to heal. All the ‘success’ stories you hear are provided by those who feel relief that they are back in our fake normality and can function like everyone else in our robotic society. The psychiatric drugs simply mask the problems of our sick competitive material sphere, and eventually all those on psychiatric drugs, realize that they are not healed and never were, because there is nothing to treat or heal in the first place. Depression is a sane reaction when one wakes up in our sick society, and so are all other ‘psychiatric’ symptoms.
But we are not allowed to voice all this aloud, and only pieces of art such as ‘The Ship of Fools’ remind us of the sad truth that few dare to voice out. It is not those who see the truth that are sick, but those who punish others when they see and hear what is real, hidden behind the narrative of normality, presented to us as ‘caring’ for our mental health.
Let’s turn away from the painting of Hieronymus Bosch and face its portrayal in reality, all around us.
I like unique, unusual people, I genuinely do. I realized it another day, thinking why, for instance, I am attracted only to certain people and have, most of the time, weird, unusual and daring friends.
I am unusual, and I attract unusual people into my life. By unusualness I mean unique outlook to life, the ability to not just think out-of-the-box, but demonstrate in practice what it actually means. We ask the new generation for out-of-the-box thinking, but do we even know what it is? Out-of-the-box should mean being different, but in reality this word is mostly used on paper, because, we, humans in western hemisphere, really forgot how to live differently, how to live interestingly, and how to be unique.
Let me give you in an example with two variables in otherwise same and boring system of normality. Let’s call them Nick and Janna. They met at the end of their studies, both interesting and lovely humans, who fall in love, or think they fall in love, as how many of us confuse passion (it disappears relatively quickly) and real love, I got tired of counting? I don’t know about you but I had met only one or two couples in my life who show with their union what love is, one of such couple were my grand-parents (I wrote about them here). Many other couples follow the same pattern: marriage, mortgage, kids, work, retirement. Nick and Janna did the same, realizing one day that they had missed on something, when it’s too late. It is so boring as a plan in life (marriage, mortgage, retirement) that I am surprised why not more people rebel against it, especially when they discover that all passion is gone not just from their union but other aspects of life as well. Work should be fun, life should be interesting and adventurous, and we should dare more.
I dare in life and therefore, live a truly interesting and unique life. And I refuse to be humble and not to admit it loud and clear. Yes, I live adventurously and I live uniquely. Just four months ago, I accepted a job offer in Leeuwarden (Friesland), and moved to another country for the fifth time. Difficult? You bet! Challenging? Yes, I am exhausted, especially that I also moved my son and my cat in unprecedented life move (before this move, I would move countries on my own, which is a piece of cake, in comparison to what I did this year). Do I regret it? No, of course not. I miss my friends I made in Sheffield, I miss the UK (where I lived for the last twelve years), I miss cafes there with live music, my strolls in the hills, the local park with its café, the botanical gardens, the Sharrow vale with its restaurants and artisanal shops. I miss the British sense of humor, the BBC, yes, I miss it a lot. But if I stayed there, I could see my life unfolding in front of me with a depressing picture. It would stay the same, with me holding three different jobs, all on zero-hours contracts (even if at university), until I would be lucky enough to land in a more permanent post, the political unfortunate developments after Brexit for the whole country, the homelessness on the streets, the same routine. I was stuck in it, and once stuck, we should look for solutions, not wait for one day when you wake up and realize suddenly that you missed on opportunities, that you didn’t dare, that you let go off the fortune.
Yes, I have it in me, the forcing of fortune. I refuse day after day to ever let go and be weak. Oh, on how many days I wanted to give in to nostalgia, to the misery of the life itself, become depressed (and I did experience it) because, let’s admit it, life is not easy, and we are not always in control of the events. Bad things happen, and bad things can damage us if we let it.
There was once a woman who worked in my son’s school. Her name was Sarah. She worked in the after-school club, a very pleasant, beautiful woman, who as me, was a single mum, and we sympathized with each other. I could sense some sadness in Sarah as if she was looking for something more, for life itself to reveal herself in a more interesting and unusual way. I probably felt in her what I feel myself, the powerful urge to live fully and to live each single day with a purpose.
My son changed school and we lost touch, but two years later I met Sarah in a pub. Sarah was a different person. She had, on the spur of the moment, decided to move to Malta and was back in Sheffield to sell her house to say goodbye to the UK for good. Sarah was blossoming, she was happy! Did she move for a marvelous job? No, not really, Sarah moved just because she wanted to experience something totally new, she wanted adventure and she wanted more from her life. She found work as a cleaner, and was happy, because the job became just a means to live life at a different level.
You might guess that I admired Sarah when I met her in the pub. I didn’t know at that moment that only a few months later I would also move to another country (fifth time), but I thought then: wow, that’s an interesting life! Maybe I should do the same, even if it seemed like almost impossible, that with a small child, a house, and a cat.
So, what am I trying to say in this post?
Be like Sarah! Be adventurous and be unique. Don’t be afraid to make radical changes, even if it means that you might change a glamourous job to a less prestigious one. It’s not the status and wealth which really matter, but the desire to live life fully, without compromises, radically and in a unique way.
Be different. Be unique. Think indeed out-of-the-box. Don’t be like everyone else.
We are making yet another break in chronology about the events in Russia back in the 1990s to look at an important issue, which has been bothering me for a while.
Let’s look at ‘normality’, let’s have a good look. Let’s even try to define it, because it has become relatively easy – the whole society is based in normality, it is difficult to miss. The definition is literally staring at our faces, reflections and minds.
Normality is when first of all, one acts ‘normal’. One is supposed to follow a certain life pattern nowadays, and dare you to do otherwise, – you will be proclaimed as insane if you don’t follow the rules. You need to finish school, continue studying, get a job, then a mortgage, meet your second half, have children, two holidays per year that one would prefer to spend at the sea or skiing, work more, retire, wait for visits from the grand-children. In between all this, one has to read the news brainwashing our brains, shop for Christmas and on Black Friday, celebrate the Valentine’s day, buy a new car every couple of years, save for a new TV, etc, etc. Just writing all this, I want to evaporate all that boring bullshit with a nice inhale from my vape. Or and I forgot the gym! One also has to be a member of the gym, being a member is enough, as you probably know, you don’t even have to go there, a gym card will do.
Normality is boring. It is so boring that you can stare at it, each day, and the picture remains the same, it is static. It is the desolate faces of people who greet you every morning on a train to work, it is the same tired faces when you return home from your work, the same reality TV which greets you back home when you watch your TV, the same shops that entice you to spend even if you can’t afford it or, more sadly, don’t need their merchandise. It is gossiping about your ex-best friend because she did something better with her life, or is depressed, and you think that it’s a good topic for gossip. It is wishing to marry a rich man, forgetting that there is also love and care, and that being marrying to a rich man without being in love, is a total nightmare. Or when you stay in a marriage because you are afraid to leave and have no job or qualifications because you put all your faith in a rich husband. The syndrome of normality is also when everything simply has to be normal, without extraordinary thinking, without challenges and even reflection. Even universities are affected by the syndrome, boasting of their ableism, as if being normal equals being perfect, while in reality, no one is ever perfect, and we all can get unwell, depressed, sad or anxious. It is a normal reaction when one relies on zero contract, when there is no stability and no security. One’s mental health is directly affected by the social circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I don’t like the normality, you see. I find it extremely boring. If I had to lead my life by the normality’s astonishingly boring to death rules, I wouldn’t be here. There would be no joy for me, no aspiration, no challenge and no magic. I learned from an early age that I can always rely on myself, and thus, I am not defined by any rich husband or aspirations about how to get a mortgage and save for the next TV. I don’t watch any TV (very rarely), and I always can find a job to sustain myself. It also happens that I love my job, and work, and not labor, is an essential part for a person to feel happy and fulfilled. Without it, we feel useless, even if there is a thick bank account at one’s disposal. One can feel good only when one does something meaningful with one’s life.
Our boring society is running itself to its boring death, with laughter being replaced by the capitalism which sees no respite in its own making. Where love is replaced by the Instagram culture, Tinder culture, and the reassurance from the authorities that status and money do matter, instead of finding a job one really likes, even if it isn’t the best paying job. Where care is replaced by the ever-consumption, with animals being tortured still in civilized countries, to make sure your cream of more than hundred pounds is good for your skin.
Remove the normality, and only when you will see, and you will start caring. You will see when what Greta is on about, with fires in Australia, dying forests, and lands. You will see that you should stop eating animals, because you will notice that they have a soul. You will stop planning the Christmas a year ahead, and just chill in the moment, perhaps making presents by your own hands, or realizing that a good tasty meal is maybe enough, when some people are dying from hunger on the same Christmas day where you are inundated with presents.
Get away with normality, and you will start questioning things. You will start thinking about deeper and more meaningful values. You will notice that there are more and more homeless people on the streets in your ‘civilized’, ‘democratic’ country, and you will ask: why? You will realize that one in third has a mental health problem, and you will question, why? You will finally notice that even in your ‘rich’ country, children have nothing to eat, and you will hopefully cry, because it isn’t fair, and it wasn’t our God’s plan.
Have a glance beyond the normality, and you will encounter angels, you will communicate with God, you will meet the fairies, and you will know: it is humans and only humans who are the biggest problem on this earth, with their distorted normality, greediness and death of moral values.
F…the normality, I prefer to be ‘insane’, which in our days, means being saner than the rest of our miserable population.
But let’s go back to the 1990ies in Russia to continue with chronology of the events, not just influencing me and my life after, but also the fate of Russia and how it has become.
When I talk about witches, and apologies to all nice white witches, who wish no harm, I talk about bad witches, and in order to ban you from telling me what I am deranged, I will present you a picture of Moscow on one day in June in 1991.
It was a beautiful day, as far as I remember, and I was strolling the lovely streets of the Moscow city, together with my cousin, who came to see me from the South of Russia. We were then really young, fourteen, fifteen, care-free, and very independent. I, for instance, due to the fact that I was constantly moving from the house to my dad and step-mother to the house of my grandma, and back, had lots of freedom. I really could do anything I wanted, and once I came back home at seven o’clock in the morning from a party of my boyfriend, and no one even noticed.
I was proud of my city then, because Moscow still stood as it was meant to: large streets with scare construction, old beautiful buildings, the view of the Kremlin, undisturbed, amazing museums, and not than many shops. I was slightly boasting to my cousin, even if I also actually envied her, with her nice, simple, very friendly life in an old mining town in the Eastern Ukraine, where she could visit our grandparents, proud Cossacks, in the South of Russia, whenever she wanted.
We walked for a long time, stopping at different places, to admire the view. We didn’t go inside the Kremlin that time, but stared at it from the bridge, taking in the breathtaking view of that amazing establishment. Kremlin is indeed breath-taking, encompassing beautiful imposing building, the most beautiful cathedral in the whole world, and the Kremlin tower itself, as well as the canon, and park and river around. All Kremlins in Russia were built on the river, surrounded by it, to protect themselves from the enemies.
And then we reached the old Arbat, a famous street in the center, forbidden for cars, where so many Russian writers created their stories, and where artists and vagabonds loved to assemble: to play guitar, to have a laugh, to share artistic ideas, to fall in love and to experience magic. Old Arbat was magical.
But no anymore. In the summer of 1991 I got for the first time a definite feeling that something wrong was going on in my native country. We entered the street, and there it was: witches parlors on almost every corner. At each corner, they were sitting, the witches. One was saying on a poster in front that she could read your fortune and make it better. The other had an announcement that she could ban certain people out of your life, and one man claimed to be a hypnotizer, looking similar to the idiot Kashpirovsky, promising to hypnotize one to good health or death, depending on your wishes (he didn’t mention ‘death’, but he looked like he could do it).
Ah, all that is innocent, and doesn’t mean anything, you might say at this point, especially if you are an atheist, or a psychiatrist.
Well, it does, of course it does. Queues of people were assembling next to each witch, wishing, hoping to get something that would make their lives better. It was indeed a desperate moment for my country: there was nothing to eat, nothing to buy, with uncertain future and total turmoil in politics and economics.
I didn’t like any of them, and I kind of felt a sort of despair myself when I saw these crowds of people, and because I was curious by nature, I joined the queue of a palm reader, a woman who didn’t look kind, and who started to give me weird looks before I even approached her. My cousin was standing next to me, but I told her I had money only to pay for my reading, not for hers. Something protective was always in me, in regards to my one year older than me cousin. She was vulnerable, fragile, thinking that she had lost on points, because my father had made a life in Moscow, while her dad, my uncle, worked in a mine. We both didn’t understand then, yet, that the life of her parents, in a small mining town, was the one that was full of beauty and wonder, and nice, kind people, who earned their bread with honesty and integrity.
By the time I approached the palm reader, I wasn’t feeling that well, I think it was probably due to the fact that all people who had a reading with her, had sad, desolate faces when they departed after receiving their reading. She was piercing me, with her unkind, calculating eyes all the way through, and I assumed it was due to my quite sexy, revealing top, that my mum had brought me from Italy. I was standing out in terms of my clothes, and the woman probably didn’t like it, was my guess.
When I sat in front of her, I had a massive headache, not helped by the fact that what she was telling me, a fourteen years old, was beyond being disturbing, it was pure bad madness.
“You will soon have an operation and you might survive, but it is all in the hands of the fate. You should never work as a teacher, or become a doctor. You will be unlucky in love.”
There was nothing nice coming of the mouth of the woman, and I don’t even know where I found the strength to contradict her, but I did. When she finally revealed her trick, such as asking to paying her lots of money to correct my outrageous fortune, I put a hand on top of hers, looked into her eyes and said:
“You are a liar.”
I then stood up and took my cousin firmly by the hand. I stopped for a good measure as well, looking at the crowd still waiting for their reading, really wishing for them to never approach that monster psychic, to never deal with her madness, greediness and ill-will.
Something unexpected happened then. The bad psychic stood up and started to assemble her chair and her tools (cards or whatever), and then she said:
“No more reading today, I am going home.”
I experienced enormous relief then.
The next day, I took my cousin from the south of Russia, and my cousin from Moscow, my sisters really, I don’t like the term ‘cousin’ to the Zamoskvorechye, a district full of churches, right outside of Moscow (now, a part of it), to baptize all three of us.
We received baptism, someone stole my best hat on the train back to Moscow, and I did feel something. Something really good entering my life.
It wasn’t enough though to fight with the negative energy my native town was dealing with then, but we will come back to it in my next post.