So I’m happy to say I’ve just finished Possessing me: A Memoir of Healing by Jane Alexander. Thank you to bookshare for adding it to your collection! (especially as I requested it) LOL!
Anyway I’ve had an interest in Jane Alexander since 2008 when I stumbled upon her youtube videos. I did so by typing in “life in a group home.” As I’d always wanted to know about that for some reason and had yet to find an books on the subject. One of her videos came up detailing her experiences in a couple of residential schools she was made to attend in her teenage years. I was emediately struck by this intense, very intelligent, passionate and articulate woman with a lot to share about her personal experiences.
At the time I was attending community college and not fully learning enough about psychology to fully appreciate everything she was talking about. I also didn’t know I myself had clinical depression or PTSD.
However I liked all her videos and her captivating voice. Then in 2010 all her videos were taken down. She said she’d put everything together in a book called Possessing Me: a Memoir of healing. This detailed everything from the child abuse she and her siblings suffered, to her experience with the state foster care system, to psychiatric hospitalizations, forced medicating, her downward spiral, final suicide attempt and path to true healing. I was really sad to see all her videos go. And that the book wasn’t in any kind of accessible format.
I kept an eye out for a kindle or audio version but none has come out. I think it would be amazing if she did an audio version with her reading it as I said she is an extremely articulate and engaging speaker. You can deeply sense many facits of her personality just through hearing her speak. A big one is her passion for wanting people to receive quality healing and not have to battle with the institutions and drugs that she did. To find the inner peace she has found.
The book is very complex at least I feel it is. The first two parts are the straightforward mental health memoir. They talk about her childhood growing up and how she sees her mental illness developed. And the downward spiral and chaos that often happens before a person finds solid healing/ support. The third part, rather than going into how she connected with a therapist/ support group, found meds that worked for her ETC, travels down a totally different road. It goes deeply into the principles/ practice of Tai Che and Chi Gung. Incredibly things happened within Jane that she self directed that fundamentally change her mind body and spirit. Through deep meditation, that I personally can’t even grasp the nature of, and through a process called “dissolving” she was able to systematically and precisely erase all emotional/ physical/ mental aspects of what were termed her symptoms of bipolar disorder, psychosis and PTSD. Not only did she release all these symptoms, she went deeper and combed her whole being for anything that was not purely Jane. This was at the end of the book where her last hurdle in the process was the fear she was “possessed” by a demon or other force. This process of internal spiritual and energetic work ended in her deep self-intigration, a realization that everything within her was hers. Rather than something possessing her, she was truly self possessed.
The last part of the book describes her thoughts on mental illness being professed as a genetic biological disorder, when she can see no evidence to actually support that. She as I said is extremely intelligent , intelligent enough and well versed enough I feel to battle with the top scientists out there. She discussed how many drug companies are out there to make a profit particularly what a crime it is to subject children and teens to heavy brain chemical alterin drugs. And how she feels true inner peace/ healing can not happen when on any kind of drugs street or otherwise.
She fully admits these are only her opinions and represent what has worked for her. She also says that she spent so much time in the isolation required for self-healing that from the early 90s when she attempted suicide til late 200s when she one day went on the computer and looked up bipolar disorder, she was totally out of touch with the mental health recovery community. She didn’t know about consumer organizations like NAMI or DBSA. Or long term psychotherapy, EMDR, DBT ETC. Or a new trend in the field which is something she discovered deeply within herself, the practice of mindfulness and meditation as a part of therapy. However I feel that any clinician couldn’t have given her what she gained through the intense five year in depth process of totally self directed healing. Yes she did attend retreats to do with Chi Gung lead by Bruce Frantyis who was a leader in the type of che gung meditation that worked for her. But ninety percent of the work was totally inner directed, constant deep self-awareness and spiritual healing. It wasn’t simply like she waved an internal wand and all emotional, physical and mental pain went away. For each thing to be dissolved it had to be consciously brought to the surface and intensely focused on in order to disappear. This would mean feeling the pain that had been inside all this time much of which she was unaware of. She had to bring the energetic healing to each experience and this often took a lot of work and concentration to dissolve. She became better and better at knowing her limets in the work and when to take a break. Still as she describes the process it’s clear that its grueling work to stick with. It was her convincition intuitively that this would work and was the way to healing for her that kept her going even through moves, homelessness physical injury joblessness ETC.
I would wholeheartedly recommend Jane’s story to absolutely anyone interested in psychology, holistic studies, meditation, martial arts, psychiatry ETC. It puts a new spin on mental health recovery. Not just maintaining triggers, symptoms and trying to stay one step ahead of an illness you have for life, but totally erasing all traces of distress physically mentally emotionally and spiritually. And to have no depression even mild. Sure she had emotional ups and downs but she was totally in charge of her inner state. And there were no traces at all left of the history she had and the diagnosis that was a life sentence for her at 15.
I think like anything else it should be taken with a grain of salt. There are overgeneralizations and skewed assumptions in pros and cons of everything. I think people need to follow their intuition and what works for them. Just like she doesn’t want people to go on meds because she feels that it would be mind numbing and not fix the problem, I don’t think she’d want people to not take meds if that’s what they think they need. I think whatever works works.
And I will say that she’s not the only person who uses/ believes in healing through completely natural avenues, namely energetic/ spiritual supplements ETC, rather than standard psychiatry, psychotherapy or support groups. There’s an organization called Windhorse integrative, in Western MA. They prac tice holistically. They’re not against meds, but do have very different ideas about how to respond to people in crisis than other organizations. Their all about companionship and complete respect for a person no matter what state of mind they’re in. Something that I still remember from the founder of this o organization speaking at my holistic psychology class, was the theory of energy exchange. Kind of like when you’re around people that are in a bad mood everyone kind of somehow gets in a bad mood and things get worse rather than better. The theory is that people with mental illness, being around other people with mental illness is not recommended or something they personally do because people pick up on each others energy/ issues and things get worse rather than better. Jane too states this saying that she doesn’t believe in support groups as it reminds someone constantly that they have a life long illness rather than something they personally can get through and fully leave behind.
I totally disagree. The best experiences for me have been connecting with others with mental illness even if their issues are extremely different from mine worse better ETC. Living at Albany with its ups and downs I don’t believe has adversely affected my mental health. Even in this environment I’ve been able to concentrate on myself and my own healing and have found stability here. I do believe in support groups and I believe not everyone could or should undertake the very isolated existence Jane did in order to heal. For her that was exactly what was needed it’s not a prescription for others.
Anyway back to what I was saying. I know many others who feel as she does that mental illness or emotional pain is something that can be completely cleared/ released/ gotten away from. Not repressed or managed but completely gone. A friend of mine, ironically a social worker, believes this strongly. That traditional psychiatry has absaolutely no solid scientific evidence about what causes mental illness and how the drugs work. She believe that psychiatric drugs do a lot of harm to the mind and body. Even when I was on a small dose of Zoloft and tenex and visiting her house she kept saying “I wish you would get off that stuff!” like I was a heavy drug user. I wouldn’t want to see her reaction now that I take three meds a day that are at much higher doses. She believes in supplements, dietary changes, and energy healing. Methods like Healing from the Bodyu level up HBLU, reconnective healing, and meditation she feels work much more deeply and with permanent results than traditional psychotherapy.
I don’t know how I feel. I’ve gotten through a lot using regular psychotherapy. While the issues aren’t totally gone I’ve gained a lot of perspective and been able to share and get through a lot of painful emotions, and learned ways of managing my feelings without self injuring. I don’t know where I’d be without meds and I certainly don’t want to risk my whole stability to try vitamins, meditation herbs ETC.
But I’d love to hear others experiences. I think more than anything else Possessing Me, and Jane’s experiences as those of others, are here to bring about an important dialogue and awareness that there is more than one way of looking at a huge issue in today’s society which is how people cope with emotional suffering. So I’d love to hear your comments. And especially from Jane. And I would like to genuinely ask Jane, why the comments are turned off on your blog. Out of complete nonjudgmental curiosity. I feel like your posts, and you keep the blog pretty up to date could spark a good discussion and I know you’ve talked with many people before on youtube so am wondering why you choose to have the comments feature turned off?
Below are resources related to Jane and her book.
Blog one, the up to date one.
Book is on amazon not on kindle or audio sadly. It is on bookshare.org
Adventures of a rebil taoest