Insane survives thanks to your donations. If this magazine has been useful to you, please consider helping us!

Devi and his schizophrenia: a quiet perseverence

Illustration: Tony H.


Devi, a world apart from stereotypesFreedom, trust, autonomy, hopeBeing different: a source of vulnerability as well as strengthFamily therapy: a cornerstone to help support the structureLove: it's complicatedRecovery recipe: the ingredientsFrom patient to professorBeing an artist and having schizophrenia : no, it's not related

When I arrive at Devi's place, I'm glad to see that we can sit in an actual garden. Granted, it doesn't look very green on this early fall day, but as I sit down on a colorful woven chair, I can see a big tree with leaves still attached right behind Devi. Plus Azor, the dog, looks overjoyed running all around the place, and who better to judge the quality of a garden than a dog? I like knowing that life surrounds me, I know now that nature is always colorful even when I can't see it anymore. And all of this perfectly forecasts my conversation with Devi.


It's almost too easy: during the five-minute walk from the train station to the apartment he shares with two friends, we've already slipped into casual chatting. I feel comfortable around him, under a hesitant but persisting sun (not unlike the guy who's about to talk to me for over two hours). That's the kind of effect Devi has on people.


Thinking back on it today, I realize that despite my efforts I was already falling for the old biased stereotypes: "schizophrenia" to me first brings to mind someone agitated, prone to hallucinations, frightened and tortured. Or used to, rather, because though I have to admit that it's still my first thought, Devi's serene stand now immediately overlaps. Which goes to show that we're not doing all this for nothing.

"We" meaning Devi, myself and his mom who put us in touch after I'd met her at a conference about, among other things, the destigmatization of schizophrenia. She was there because, as her son put it, "my mother is everywhere, she participates in every such event". I sense a touch of admiration in his voice, as well as disbelief: the two of them are so different in character and he's the one with the condition... and yet she attends every event directly or indirectly related to schizophrenia. As for me, I tell myself she's a damn persevering mom, not knowing that 120 minutes later I'd decide that "persevering" is the best word to describe her son. Maybe the two of them aren't that different after all.


Devi, a world apart from stereotypes

Did you say stereotypes? As the interview goes on, they all get torn into pieces one after the other.

Devi works a steady job at a Burger King so he can afford his independence: he's been medically stable for three years and living in this shared apartment for two years. Before that, he moved in and out of his mother's place several times. And although nobody blames him for it, at now 27 years old independence means a lot to him. He's careful to preserve it, choosing his flatmates so that he's sure of their stability in this shared apartment and so that he can, as he tells me, "really talk with them, in depth, about all things in life".

He has noticed that being able to talk extensively about life and his own questionings with "authentic" people, this "brain stimulation" as he calls it, really helps him: he can evacuate his thoughts instead of mulling over them again and again until they become delusional. It allows him to clear out his mind, in addition to forming ever closer friendships. I recall experiencing the same thing: philosophical(ish) discussions till 4 in the morning take up sleep time but help with the neuronal clutter. You won't get a prescription for that in a doctor's office. But Devi clings to real life, he knows what works for him and he has managed to systematically incorporate those hacks he needs into his life.

He has taken control of his life for a while now, and little by little the picture of a certain man emerges : one who has accepted his own emotional needs in order to get better. That might even be the most critical part of his strategy.


See, I'm constantly looking to structure and fill up my life so I can respond to this instability, which can always be there, which always remains present somewhere... We [who live with schizophrenia] can have some small "bugs" happening in our brains, so we have to leverage the rest in order to counter-attack.

Stability is kind of a leitmotiv for Devi. What's funny is that, possibly without knowing it, he does offer a particularly stable image to the world, one of a peaceful and welcoming spirit -- an invite to relax your own mind in his presence. But I do perceive his need for a stable environment: that's what allows him to live with his schizophrenia day after day, without letting it engulf him.


Freedom, trust, autonomy, hope

In Devi's case, the first delusional episode, characteristic of his schizophrenia, started during his year abroad in Australia at age 23.

I would wake up in the morning, thinking I was God, and I would open the skies, speak with angels... Yeah, it was that bad. But now I can laugh about it!

His first stay at a psychiatric hospital lasted a week, in Perth, where he only remained under observation with no meds prescribed. On his way back to France, he was triggered into a second delusional episode during a stopover in Singapore.

I started feeling like I was the embodiment of another being, I did yoga in a toilet cubicle in Singapore, and then faked my own death. That's when they put me in a hospital, with people who... [Devi paused abruptly.] It was worse than what you see in movies, even though I was again not given any medication.

He was hospitalized almost as soon as he was back in France, on the psych ward his current psychiatrist still manages. He tells me (his voice flowing with a serenity I am not used to in psychiatric patients) that his psychiatrist and psychologist are "truly amazing people" and that he is "very lucky to have them by [his] side". He still regularly sees them at his local psychiatric consultation centre for outpatient treatment. To him, his psychiatrist is "kind of akin to God the Father" and if the doctor is able to reach this level of trust with his patients, Devi explains, it is only because he prioritizes their autonomy, fully includes them when deciding which treatment course to follow and shows respect for their freedom.

One very practical example Devi gives me is about the freedom for patients to come and go as they please: even though patients are not supposed to leave the psych ward, his psychiatrist has decided to leave the psych ward doors open and to tolerate his patients' city breaks. Because respecting their freedom and autonomy is crucial to get them to adhere to treatment, and patient adherence to treatment is what makes all the difference in its effectiveness.

My psychiatrist is a really strong guy with a very clear-cut, very realistic perspective. If you start ranting and being delusional, he'll tell you "no, that's bullshit", he's pretty crude but he has enormous respect for his patients. They're HIS patients and he loves them.

Devi also tells me how such a trusted relationship was born in his own case: his first treatment was very efficient and got him stable. Too efficient... A few months in, and Devi could not bear being confronted so brutally to reality, to a poisoning introspection, anymore. So it gave way to another kind of delusion: that of paranoia and being convinced he would never manage to do anything. He had become unable to work, and would bang his head against the wall in desperate attempts to get out of this brain fog. So he asked his psychiatrist for a change in medication. And the doctor said yes. For Devi, that changed everything: he was allowed the freedom of making mistakes. The freedom to choose, to try things out, to experiment.

I needed to be allowed to fall in a rather deep hole, so that I could realize the nature and the extent of my illness, and so I could accept it. Had I been denied this freedom to choose my treatment from the start, I would have been in complete denial. I needed to live my own experiences in order to accept treatment.

He relapsed about ten times and all in all, was hospitalized on psych wards for the equivalent of a year. Still, that made all the difference: Devi now knows that his psychiatrist's advice is good and above all, that the doctor will always act in accordance with his life choices. His new treatment got him stabilized, this time in regard to his emotions, and allowed him to look towards the future instead of inwards. Those meds now secure a balance between a (lesser) suppression of his symptoms and appeasement. He can sleep better, focus better, relax better.

Participating in choosing my course of treatment gave me a feeling of general control in my life, which was very important to me. Maybe it works for other people to just accept the suggested treatment, but I've always been very free, it's part of my psychology, of my story. I am a musician. And if I am not free in my life, I won't be able to do music, and I won't be able to go forward.

Devi is a realistic person (which in his case, as he tells me later, he considers a strength): the treatment course he follows also has limits... but thanks to this relationship based on trust and honesty, he doesn't hesitate to discuss it with his psychiatrist; it's a two-way street. Since the doctor authorized this personal choice of treatment, Devi feels he owes it to him to be direct, honest and rigorous.

My psychiatrist is the only person I'd authorize to put me back on the psych ward just like that, tomorrow, if he wanted to. Because I trust him.

Being different: a source of vulnerability as well as strength

Talking about life choices, I get interested in what he has experienced as a young boy that would make him need stability so badly today -- obviously schizophrenia doesn't sum up his whole existence, since his first delirious episode occurred when he was 23.

Devi answers me, describing some pretty hard stuff that would mark any kid for life, and that clearly contributed to a more vulnerable mental health in him. He explains that he ended up dropping out of school when he was 15 or 16 years old, as a consequence of the constant humiliations and cruel acts that took place because he was "different, with an unusual sensitivity". Which nurtured into a persistent feeling that he was indeed different. Devi describes himself as a dreamy kid, almost a simpleton, "too kind" and maladjusted, broken by the highly-rigid rules imposed at school and uncomfortable in his own skin, but whose rich inner life and passion for music let him escape. He tells me several times that he "didn't fit in with the crowd" and explains that at some point he "just couldn't take it anymore".

Doing things in the way that school imposed as the norm would break me. So I did them my own way.

Devi mentions average grades but tells me that he didn't really experience trouble with his schoolwork -- it's really everything around it that would destroy him little by little. He also mentions several tries at a job-oriented secondary education [Translator's note: a specific kind of secondary education in France meant to train young people to become electricians, plumbers, farmers... that's not as well-considered as classic, more general secondary education meant to prepare students for college] that didn't work out, but also his very first job at age 17: handler for one of France's biggest supermarket chains. What mattered to him was to finally be free, independent, and to get a day job so he'd be able to dedicate his life to his passions: music, but also video games.

At that stage in his life, Devi actually excels in what he undertakes, because he goes all out to make it work. He explains to me that it was his own way of counteracting his pain, of finding something equally strong, of balancing his failures with exceptional accomplishments. Today Devi has gotten good on a number of fronts and he can finally tackle several issues at the same time (music, women, socialization...), but it necessarily keeps him from excelling in one particular field. And in spite of the frustration it causes him to experience, he feels more balanced and clearly appreciates this new equilibrium.

I try to be like an even graph more than a saw-tooth one. And today, the line on the graph lies higher on average: I'm more in control. At least I'm not a total loser in some fields, which used to cause me a lot of pain, even if I'm not a winner in other fields anymore.

Family therapy: a cornerstone to help support the structure

Devi tells me how family therapy, organized by his psychiatrist and psychologist, played a crucial role in his recovery. But, as surprising as that might be, the benefits of therapy didn't really lie in being able to talk about his illness with his parents... It was more about opening a dialogue with them, and being able to finally speak up what had laid hidden for so long.

During one of the therapy sessions, I finally felt the moment was right: I had been waiting for this moment for a long time but it had never come, I didn't have what it took to get those things out and [my father] wasn't ready to hear them... My psychologist felt it too, she subtly oriented the conversation and I was finally able to say those things. At the end, I managed to catch my father's gaze, to exchange a glance with him, and I smiled to him. It was incredible. I had a fatherly attitude towards my own father. He really took in what I needed to tell him, I saw him with a tear in his eye, and normally that only happens in movies! But at that moment I felt it and it was right.

He explains to me that his father has always been absent, not so much physically (even though Devi's parents divorced when he was 3) but in his role as a father. A musician, he sacrificed everything else to give it all to his passion.

I didn't learn from my father, but from his absence.

As a child Devi suffered from it of course, but what he holds against his father is the fact that he did the same with Devi's three sisters.

To this day I'm still looking for my father figure. I've struggled with women, I've struggled with myself because I had no one to show me how to be a man. Today I accept what he has to offer me but I stay alert, especially since I have a big-brother role to play towards my 20-year-old little sister. I tell myself: OK, he gave me whatever he gave me, now it's a thing of the past, but he won't escape it this time, not with my sister.

In the end, managing his illness became easier for him because Devi could finally benefit from a better, more sincere relationship with his family. It was obviously a big weight lifted off his shoulders and an opportunity -- which he seized -- to focus on his own life and his recovery.


Love: it's complicated

We finally come to properly discussing the topic of romantic relationships -- it came up a few times in the course of our conversation and I understand that Devi wants to talk about it. So do I! And so Devi talks to me about " the ladies" and in his mouth, the phrase holds immense respect, almost adoration. Women are a whole other world, a whole different crowd he struggles to join, though not for lack of trying.

He tells me how with every relationship he's had, the same pattern repeated itself: they would first write to each other (on MSN, and I am caught in the throes of nostalgia), messages marked by emotion, sincerity and depth. Devi would feel like he was part of an exceptional relationship, one based on honesty and knowing each other intimately. The feelings would appear strong and mutual. Devi and the woman would then decide to meet in person...

And things would go well. Really well. Devi specifies that in those moments, the two of them would even get to some degree of physical intimacy. But face-to-face, Devi wouldn't be able to be the same person he was when messaging. The stress from knowing he wasn't as comfortable in a face-to-face setting, coupled to his intense desire to "succeed" at dating [almost like it was a test], would put him at a disadvantage.

So much so that, once they would be gone their separate ways home, the woman would "ghost" him, stop talking to him or message him to say that the relationship just wouldn't work out. In the span of a single day, the relationship that had been building for weeks would suddenly go up in smoke. And Devi wouldn't manage to pinpoint what, exactly, had gone wrong. Of course, and this I hear in his voice even more than in the words he chooses to tell me about it, Devi would suffer immensely from it. For a long time. Everytime.

But today, it looks like he's been able to take a step back and better analyze this flawed scenario: he believes himself to be all-in for emotion -- too soon and too much so. He tends to project himself too strongly into the relationship, guided by his fear of abandonment. Though since then, the scenario has actually been virtually reversed: Devis is now more comfortable talking face-to-face than messaging... but the dichotomy and imbalance between the two remain.

I ask for too much, immediately, so I don't risk forming an attachment for nothing.

His hope is that one day he will fall in love with a woman, who will love him back, and that he'll finally be able to "give her his everything". Because Devi, schizophrenia or not, knows he has a lot to offer. He also knows he deserves to receive just as much, and I am incredibly happy to hear him say it: for someone living with a mental health issue, that's often far from a given. He simply longs for a strong, full-fledged, enriching relationship for both himself and his girlfriend. And above all, as a principle that has guided his whole life, he longs for authenticity.

Recently, he decided to turn the whole thing on its head: his last relationship lasted a month, but for the first time he wasn't the most committed of the two. He wanted to try for a less powerful relationship, a more measured and healthy one, that would allow him to be fair to his girlfriend while still acquiring experience in romantic relationships. One that would offer him a sort of pressure relief valve with regards to the intensity of his feelings, before embarking on a stronger, more intimate relationship. He was looking for a woman who could give him her everything, and who would be ready to receive everything he had to offer -- contrary to most women who seemed frightened by the intensity of his personality. And after parting amicably with his girlfriend, he says he does indeed feel more self-confident and has found hope again. He know perseverance will lead him to finding just the right woman.

Failure leads to success, in the end.

Recovery recipe: the ingredients

Want reality


So how do you get out of schizophrenia and its enclosing symptoms? Aside from medication, which will work much better if the person is fully motivated and committed, Devi explains to me that you need to "want to live in the real world": you need to be convinced that the real world has more to offer than delirious delusions do, and so you need to want to live fully in it.

I'm being simplistic here but in my opinion, there are two major categories of people: those who seek reality and to be "true" in their life, and those who prefer to avoid reality. To me, wanting to live in reality is the muscle that allows you to heal. You need to train and improve your endurance in order to do a marathon... It's the same with schizophrenia: you need to train your will to live in the real world. Because this illness, in the end, is about denial, delirium: that's what's most characteristic of schizophrenia.

Devi has learned to keep his schizophrenia at bay by striving to remain even-tempered and steady-paced, by mistrusting his emotions and favoring "his brainy side" instead. That doesn't mean he seeks to not feel any emotion at all and to become a machine capable only of rationality... Not at all. He simply wants to feel true emotions, that arise in response to what's happening in reality, instead of extremely intense and invasive emotions that trap him in his delusion.

You need to have a certain background to be able to say "yes, I want to live in reality". It has nothing to do with moral strength or character strength ; it's about luck, and whether you've been dealt the right hand.

Surround yourself with the right people


The positivity aspect is just as crucial. Devi tells me that the reason for his own success in life has laid in his ability to "surround himself with people who succeed". To him this success is mainly defined by living unapologetically, incarnating authenticity the way you understand it, and chasing your dreams. He spends hours, on a daily basis, talking with these people about whatever issues are on his mind, which he says serves as an overflow drain for his thoughts.

What really helped me was to surround myself with people who could help me channel the constant stream of thoughts. I have always thought a lot, from the moment I was a kid, and I need to get words out in order to free my mind. You only see your shrink once a week, so it's hard to say everything you need to, it's hard to know what thoughts to favor. That's my biggest success: to have managed to surround myself with true and authentic people with whom I can exchange. You need other people in order to get to know yourself, and you have to be able to tell them everything.

Know and accept yourself

Devi now knows which emotions (or which intensity of emotions) constitute a symptom of his schizophrenia and takes them as a warning: "my brain sends me likes", he explains, "but I am careful because emotion is dangerous... [rationality and logic] on the other hand is reliable". On a practical level, he knows that when he is delusional his brain sends him dopamine shots. So today, when he experiences very intense joy that's obviously disproportionate when considering the situation at hand, he calls his psychiatrist or his psychologist.

And more importantly, he has come to know which ones of his senses he can trust: sight, hearing and touch are reliable. Smell is too, most of the time, since he experiences none of such hallucinations. The way he thinks other people consider him, though, and the representation he has of himself when he's walking on the street and feeling too (meaning phenomenally) good, well those perceptions are false.

I have a check mechanism in place now, to ensure that my emotions are legitimate. I need to feel strong, to feel good, so my brain creates delusions that make me feel powerful. But now I'm able to notice when it happens, and my rational side corrects me with regards to my emotional side. It's like looking at a blue and red tree: you know that your senses are deceiving you, because your rational side tells you that the tree is actually green and brown.

This might seem a little sad to anyone who hasn't met Devi... joy, a sign of illness? Joy, a forbidden emotion? Yes but no: Devi specifies that joy acts as a kind of precursor, an actual warning sign, not a problem in itself. He simply knows that intense joy means he could get carried away if he's not careful, that he could experience his delusions again: of being the Messiah, of having supernatural powers... Pleasant delusions, in fact. And that's where the trap lies.

Since there are actually a lot of different kinds of schizophrenia, I ask Devi what his exact diagnosis is. He's unable to answer me (his psychiatrist only mentioned schizophrenia in general) but he tells me that in his case it's linked to anxiety: when he's under too much stress, he tends to extract himself from reality and to sort of invent a story for himself. That's his unconscious mind acting, triggering a delusion to protect him. That's why schizophrenia is sometimes refered to as a stress illness: it's a maladapted answer by the body and psyche in the face of one or several intensely stressful situations.


Benefit from a regular monitoring

Devi has now organized his own stability. He sees his psychiatrist once a month for his medication (one dose every night, that also helps him sleep and that "reboots" him, re-initializes him if you will, so that he doesn't rehash the same thoughts over and over again) and his psychologist only if he feels like he needs to. He isn't delusional anymore, or at least he knows how to handle his only actual hallucination: a particular foul smell. When it appears, he simply ignores it.

Seeing a shrink makes me dizzy, there's too much to tackle because you generally only see them once a week. So, consciously or unconsciously, I get most of it out with my loved ones. And then I dwelve deeper into some matters with my psychologist, all the ones I can't exhaust with my family and friends, [and she helps me] regain clarity and focus.

If Devi feels better -- feels well -- today, it's also because he was able to admit his own vulnerability: he went back to the psych ward of his own free will, this time not regarding his schizophrenic issues but because he experienced a (second) burn-out (his first one having led to his departure for Australia). And he doesn't want that to happen again, so he patiently takes care of his own life balance, made of rather simple things: his garden, his dog, his friends and flatmates, a few video games. That's how he has put some sort of emergency plan in place with his flatmates: if Devi feels like he needs it and if things get difficult, they know how to act. But it's simple and besides, in his red first-aid kit, there's only one thing: Valium, to calm him.


Never give up

Once stable, you'll need to "be realistic but nurture hope and positivity". Which means not being afraid to face your demons, acknowledging your difficulties with honesty and optimism, and having faith in yourself no matter what, because schizophrenia is not a synonym of failure. What I take away from Devi's words is that you need to persevere in having hope, because the illness will tire of this competition in stubbornness more quickly than you will.

I'm not yet far enough along the path of recovery to think I can do without my psychiatrist. I tell myself I'll probably need at least several more years before I reach full autonomy, before I can emancipate myself from psychiatry, even though, you know, I'm starting to talk about it.

Devi allows himself to imagine a future without medication, without psychiatric monitoring. He's getting it ready, slowly, all the while remaining conscious that this future might actually never happen. But in the end, that doesn't really matter.

I think I'm a realistic person. The first step will probably be to manage my medication myself. It's one of my strengths: I am conscious -- of myself, of my situation, or when I get a warning sign. At a later point, I will probably sketch out a plan that would consist of slowly stopping the medication but over months, over years, and then let go of psychiatry completely ; do something else, travel. But I'm not seeing that happening before several years pass, and I don't know of my psychiatrist considers [getting me completely off my meds]. But it's still on the side of hope.

He has learned to look at his past with pride, because he sees how far along he's come when his diagnosis is one of the most dreaded ones in psychiatry. Well, that didn't stop him.

I have a pretty nice recovery background to look at, honestly: I graduated from high-school 2 years ago, before that I was incapable of focusing, of talking to women, I felt bad, I felt numb... I have found work, I talked during a conference on Schizophrenia Day, I date women, I built a shared home... I have come so far along, so yeah, the thought of me getting off my meds completely one day is a credible one. And I think it's a thought that should be entertained, because it's a realistic one. I think it's legitimate, just as it is legitimate to say no, maybe it won't ever happen.

From patient to professor

Devi is on the other side of the illness now ; and I tell myself that schizophrenia can suck it, because now not only is he well, he's the one to help others gain better insight into psychiatric issues! In practice, that means he participates in TEP workshops [Therapeutic Education in Psychiatry or Therapeutic Education for Patients] as an expert-patient [in France, those are patients who get certified after following a specific educational course about their illness, so that they can help the medical body but also the community at large to better cater to the patients' needs and to take them more into consideration when deciding what course of action to take]. Those workshops are co-organized by his psychiatrist and his psychologist. The day before our interview, Devi was actually getting educated on how to monetize his talks. With great enthusiasm, he tells me more about those workshops.

My psychiatrist and my psychologist are there to ensure a structured setting, and I am there to talk about my experience and to help mental illness not be looked upon as diabolical anymore. The workshops tackle mental health issues as a whole but we talk a lot about schizophrenia because that's the scary word ; for most people, that's really THE representation of mental illness. We start off with a brainstorming where people associate words with schizophrenia (often "knife", "violence"...). That was my first workshop but at the end people were unanimous in saying that it had totally changed the way they saw schizophrenia. And that's something I'm proud of.

In this particular case, the people who came to get informed weren't patients or even their loved ones: they're working people (sometimes actually the cream of those companies, Devi tells me, laughing) who are likely to come into contact with people in the middle of a crisis or dealing with a psychiatric issue, but who know nothing about mental illnesses. Among the ten to fifteen participants are people who worked at city halls, at police stations, as medical secretaries... They're often managers or teammates with a certain social influence and who will be able to pass on information to their colleagues. Short trainings on a number of topics are commonplace for managers, so I think it very normal, though yet too rare, that at least one would tackle mental illness.

Devi explains to me that one workshop is divided into five sessions spread over the year and that, for every day-long session, he works on organizing it with his psychiatrist and psychologist during one day-long "pre-session". So it's a rather sizable commitment on his part -- but it's not a coincidence that they chose to present him with the opportunity.


Being an artist and having schizophrenia : no, it's not related

It's an assertion that Devi repeats several times: he's keen on demystifying both his illness and his own self, on reminding me that he's not exceptional, that he doesn't even excel at what he undertakes (as opposed to the period during which his schizophrenia bloomed, and he would put every ounce and fibre of his being into his passions until he truly excelled at them), he's only good at it. He's keen on demystifying because he's afraid it might cause people around him to be uncomfortable, or lead to a false, idealized vision of him.

For example, there was a time Devi had achieved true mastery of some video games (Tera, DC Universe Online, Guild Wars 2): he even had a gaming channel on YouTube with 200,000 views on one of his videos. He actually played for the limitless immersion feeling it offered, because at the time, that was his only reality. Since then, he doesn't excel at those games anymore ; rather, he plays them for the sake of hobby enjoyment because in his own words, "today I strive to live fully in the real world". Devi now knows that his illness pushes him to lose himself in the idealization of his role models... and that's why he strives to avoid becoming someone else's idealized role model.

I don't want to be the exceptional patient that made it. I want to be the person that I [needed but] lacked when I was in hospital.

Towards the end of our interview I discover one last, unexpected but seriously cool, side of Devi: he's an artist. He's been rapping for three years now, notably but not solely about his experience with schizophrenia, and though I am not a fan of this kind of music, I'm blown away when he has me listen to one of his songs. I promise that'll be the subject for another article (in the Artists section) ; because in this case it won't be about an ill person, and even less about an artist whose greatness would be rooted in his being mentally tortured ; it'll just be about Devi, a really good rapper. He actually played as a drummer in several groups, of which one was one quite successful at the time. But then the same scenario repeated itself: as soon as rules would get enacted, it would break him and he would end up fleeing them: a rebel... but a forced rebel rather than one with a calling.

I've always learned, in the midst of pain and exclusion, to do things my way.

When I ask him, he says that yes, rap is therapeutic for him in that it allows him to nurture his creativity and to remain authentic -- all things that keep him away from his delusions and that he holds dear.

His name, which is amongst others that of the Indian goddess of music, was a decidedly discerning choice on his Buddhist parents' part... Love for music is the most important thing his father passed on to him -- and just as he has done with everything else, he has pulled out all the stops. Being able to extract the good where the bad has dominated is a rare quality trait, but it does a pretty good job of summing up his philosophy of life, I think. The most recent song available (in French) on his SoundCloud channel, Black + Black = White, was written during his latest stay on the psych ward ; it's also the first one he's ever recorded with his father.


Going further

  • Here's an excellent article about the ways mental illnesses can actually make sense and be useful from an evolutionary point of view
  • And here's another one with good advice about how to manage hallucinations on a daily basis (in French)
When fame meets bravery: 4 Game of Thrones celebrities speak up about their mental health issues
Emma Stone joins the Board of Directors at the Child Mind Institute