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I’ve scrolled past the movie “Changeling” many times on Netflix.
But I wasn’t in the mood to scroll this time, so I decided to watch it.
A week prior, I edited, “Not Doing your ‘Womanly’ Duties? Asylum it Is”. I couldn’t believe the coincidence when I realised the movie depicted much of what Christina Lepore talks about in her article.
Something in me stirred—do I write about this? What am I supposed to say?
As I watched the movie, I could feel the anger rise within.
My neck felt tense, my stomach was twisting and turning—I could feel this weird sensation come over me. I’m not good at getting angry. I spent most of my life thinking anger was a bad thing. I learned to be a good, little Christian girl and turn the other cheek.
When I feel this emotion—anger—it still feels foreign to me at times. What am I supposed to do with it?
Do I have a right to be angry about something that hasn’t happened to me?
Throughout my Psychology degree, I felt the same way—angered—by the ignorance and treatment of people throughout history all in the name of psychiatry and religion. And other reasons around the world. But, in the context of this article, what has happened and continues to happen to women today—especially inflicted by men and people in power—is worthy of anger.
In fact, it’s worthy of rage.
Or is that too unladylike, too unspiritual, too “unjesus”?
That is what we have been led to believe to keep us from speaking up about such issues—or to voice our opinion—so that these things can continue in our world, and we can doubt ourselves as to whether or not we should be angered about them.
I never knew about the history of women concerning psychiatry before studying. Interestingly, we were never taught about this in school, nor has it been a topic of conversation, like, ever, throughout my life. Why? To keep it hidden?
On my daily walk, I wondered, can I write about this? I haven’t been through it myself. I don’t have a personal story to share with first-hand experience of being admitted to an asylum against my will.
I further think about it as I stroll in my calm neighborhood. Who am I to write about such things? Such violence.
Here I am, walking freely. I don’t have to worry about being dragged off to an asylum for speaking up or writing on Elephant Journal.
Over head, the birds chirp a blissful song, the trees slowly sway, and the sky is the tone of baby blue—not a cloud in sight. The sun is warm, a little too warm for a mid-morning walk, but I don’t mind the sweat. I decide to go for a run, and my quads give way. I’m not a good runner, but I’m trying. That’s all I have to complain about today—my legs are burning.
I’m on a break from work; I feel eager to write about this when I get back—but what could I possibly say about this injustice that would make a difference?
I think about “Changeling”, which is a true story. I am confronted with the horrifying treatment women endured in the asylums.
Firstly, the strip search, a nurse plunging her fingers into the patient’s vagina. Seriously, why?
And then, a lady is strapped to the chair, her arms and legs bound up as electric shocks pierce her brain.
I will never agree with the electric shock.
They were force-fed “medication,” and as Lepore pointed out, opioids, which can be damaging to the brain. Opioids are one of the most addictive substances, and they cause an array of mental and physical problems. In my opinion, they also leave people vulnerable and susceptible to control because of their weakened state of mind while being under the influence.
Again, the brain inflicted.
Women were gaslighted—by the police, the doctors, people we are supposed to trust—with false accusations and questions aimed at causing them to doubt themselves. Many of us may relate to this in our own lives if we have dealt with people who have manipulated, controlled, coerced, or bullied us—causing us to doubt ourselves or being forced to obey.
Yet again, trauma to the brain—to the mind.
While we may not be in the 1800s, there are women and people around the world who experience such violence on their bodies and minds—today. Maybe it’s you; maybe it’s someone you know; maybe it was me.
That’s the thing with deaths and abuse prevalent in our societies—it feels like it’s minimized.
As an editor at Elephant Journal, we see many articles and conversations around narcissism, twin flames, and abusive dynamics. While there may be different ways of describing unhealthy and abusive relationships, it’s evident the power dynamics and toxicity that operate in this world and the things that are silenced, or perhaps, still misunderstood.
Head over to the comments section, go on Quora, google any of these topics—the number of people talking about abuse that happens behind closed doors is enormous.
In Australia, in 2020, 55 women were violently murdered, in most cases relating to domestic violence—equaling one death each week. The statistics show both physical and emotional violence; interestedly, emotional violence is almost on par with men and women. So men are not only responsible. But again, in the context of this article (and trust me when I say this, I am not minimizing nor discounting the abuse others experience)—violence on women, still in this day and age, is outrageous.
The Guardian stated, “Consistently, the commonwealth government is largely silent on the biggest threat to Australian women’s wellbeing, safety and security. Despite repeated accounts of violence against women at all levels over the last fortnight (March 1st 2021), we have heard nothing from Australia’s minister for women. Where is the national leadership?”
There are, unfortunately, powerful forces at play in our world that cause disarray, pain, and torment. People, groups, and societies value power, money, and pride more than honoring their fellow humans. There’s also the everyday person who commits such violent acts on others. Silence which often coats pride, and the forfeiting of one’s responsibility is chosen in the place of decency.
It’s not a conspiracy—it’s the world in which we live. We share the planet, and not everyone cares about kindness, love, and fairness.
I find it interesting how people are often called conspiracists for voicing genuine concern for their fellow humans—and for wanting an open conversation about matters impacting people’s lives.
The problem is that we cannot wait for others to make the change. We can, however, continue to speak about this openly and have faith that our words will help one another be well-informed and aware. We can continue to inspire mental and physical well-being practices that allow us to be strong in the mind, body, and soul, but that also help us to create a world of awareness and kindness with one another.
We need to continue understanding or at least seek to understand that violence is not just physical.
Violence can be mental—on the mind and the brain—and it is just as destructive as physical violence.
It’s also not just a matter of someone “leaving” a situation. Emotional abuse, like physical, impacts a person beyond the physical proximity of abusers.
It may be hard to detect or see because it does not show up as a black eye, broken limbs, or even death, but it is violence nonetheless.
Emotional abuse can lead to erosion of self, of the soul, of the freedom to think. It can lead to losing ourselves and our minds, to be under the influences of forces outside of us; it robs us of life. Of the very essence that makes us want to live and be joyful in this one and only precious life.
The saying, “Sticks and stones can’t break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is untrue on many levels. Yes, I know, it can be used in specific contexts, but let’s be frank—words, just like physical violence, can damage people’s minds and brains. They can seriously erode someone’s spirit.
In my life, I have not endured the pain and torment of an asylum. I have not been tied down, force-fed medication, or violated physically. I cannot fathom what that would be like or relate to anyone who has.
I do understand, though, a mind that has been trapped, forced to obey, and I know the feeling of being led to believe that I am wrong; they are right. I understand the sickening feeling of being humiliated physically. I know the torment that comes with doubting myself and being utterly misled and manipulated by people who are supposed to love us unconditionally. I get the confusion, the utter confusion, the pain. I understand the unhealthy situations we find ourselves in with people we thought we loved and who loved us. The paths we end up taking that are filled with pain and horrible treatment because we didn’t understand that we deserved better.
I know how it feels to be involved with someone who makes you feel like you are everything to them and who drops you without an explanation, never to speak to you again. I understand thinking it is love, yet fleeing in the night to escape fists of fury.
Furthermore, the embarrassment and humiliation after leaving situations. The shame we feel when we face people who choose a judgemental frown rather than offering unconditional love and a desire to understand. I also know what it feels like for people who watch someone they love in pain, choosing things that continue to hurt them, and not being able to do anything about it.
Although part of my life was plagued with such, I have fought for the freedom of my mind. It is a battle I have won and continue to win. It’s something I work at continuously. It’s required sacrifices, including walking away from people, and ongoing daily practices and choices.
While I will never know the pain of the women who suffered in an asylum, nor can I stand in anyone else’s shoes, but my own—I can speak openly about fighting for ourselves and the freedom of our mind.
I can write about the importance of understanding ourselves, of choosing ourselves above all else, and committing to a path that may be less traveled—for the sake of freedom. It may mean walking away from people, speaking up about something, uncomfortable conversations, and leaving in the middle of the night.
I admire women with my entire being who spoke up knowing well the consequences—being thrown in asylum. Those who have walked before us fought for their freedom, and there are things we will not have to endure because of them.
But, it does not stop there.
If we have endured and battled our way to freedom in any way, we deserve to be victorious. If we experience a life of freedom, in mind and body, we have the opportunity to then speak openly and bring light to the inflictions that are so often silenced.
We must never minimize our own pain because we have not suffered the same way someone else has. We can seek to understand one another and to leave our judgments or confusion behind. We can continue to be wary, conscious, and intentional in our lives, forging the way for others after us.
To speak openly is our birthright, although this world and the unfortunate forces at play may try to silence us in many ways.
Violence on the mind being one of them.
To be angry, to feel injustice is also our right, and for women, it is not unladylike or unspiritual to be angry about things that matter, and to empathise with our fellow humans.
It is our natural way of being—to act justly and with love—and that includes being angry about things that are outrageously unjust.
Although I learned to turn the other cheek, I realized that it was a way to be silenced and forfeit my right and responsibility to express myself. Jesus showed anger where it counted— to expose ignorance, shed light, bring forth truth, and set things in balance.
I’m not someone who likes to ruffle feathers. I enjoy my daily walks and my practices and writing about nature and meditation.
But there are times when our anger is wholesomely justified, and just like Jesus who shows his rage for a valid reason, our anger about any issue that stirs us and makes us empathize with others could be our spirits calling us to speak up—to express ourselves and talk openly around the problems that are often silenced and swept under the rug.