Dangerous Compassions

taunting NAMI

When I saw the NAMI table at the SWANfest, I started daydreaming about taunting NAMI.

Taunting NAMI is a fantasy more than a reality.  But NAMI represents the powerful standard belief that the system is good, and we just have to try harder to adapt ourselves to it.  Normal is desirable and within reach, if we “mentally ill” people take our meds and work harder to do what doctor says.

content warning: brief mentions of violence

Yes, everyone has their struggles.  But according to NAMI, if we stay positive and do life just so, according to mainstream medicine and values, we’ll find the American Dream.  Everything will be ok.

Ignore police violence, climate crisis, racism, war, patriarchy, hate against queer people and trans people, poverty, disrespect of children, domestic violence, hate against fat people, pollution of Mother Earth, and the violence of psychiatry itself.  If you take your medicine and obey, you’ll find success.  You’ll never be force medicated, restrained, imprisoned, or otherwise violated in a hospital again.


Taunting NAMI occurs to me because they invalidate me.  According to NAMI, my differences aren’t a normal variation found in countless humans–they’re problems to medicate away as quickly as possible, so I can get back to work and be a cog in the machine.  NAMI fights stigma and claims legitimacy for “mental illness” by calling it brain disease.  But I know my brain, and it’s ok.  No blood test or imaging test ever told me there’s something wrong with my brain–I don’t believe that.

There’s something wrong with a society that doesn’t protect its most vulnerable.  There’s total denial about violence, emotions, and what people actually need.  Then the society blames us for turning out unable to work full time or act normal within the tiny acceptable range of normal.

born to do something new

People who want normal, I’m sorry for them.  Money is helpful, and social standing appeals to some.  But I wasn’t born to make money and continue business as usual–I was born to do something new, speak my truth, love Mother Earth, and love one another.  I see things others don’t see, and feel things others can’t feel, which is a gift, not a problem.

Well, that’s my radical mental health philosophy in a brief.  Just like I love my body and will never apologize for my size or disabilities, I love my mind.  Crazy is valid.  Sometimes my life is hard, with big moods, hearing voices, social differences, and intense sensory needs.  But I like myself, and the world needs my voice.  There’s nothing wrong with me.

family of

Another big issue with NAMI is how they’re for the family of the person who is considered “mentally ill.”  So NAMI will support the supporters.  I love for caregivers to get support–I have no problem with that.  What’s bad is when the family of the person with the issues is valued more highly than the person with the issues.

I’ve gone to meetings where the actual crazy persons such as myself were ignored in favor of family members who ask questions about their “out of control kid” or “how do I make my child do such-and-such?”  It’s from the mentality of the family member being oppressed.  And because the family members are seen as non-ill, they have a bigger voice in the room and more legitimacy.  They matter.


The family members, often parents of an adult with “mental illness,” are looking for a way to control their kid or make their kid act normal.  The few NAMI meetings I went to were mostly parents ranting about the behavior of their kids.  It hurt to listen to all of that.  I left a meeting crying because I was trying so hard to get help and still not getting any.  The meeting taught me further that I didn’t matter.

I love radical mental health for so many reasons.  But one reason is the people at the meeting have all experienced extreme states, big feelings, voices, visions, and alternate worldviews ourselves.  I’ve never left a radical mental health meeting hurting because my voice was ignored in favor of the voices of family members.

joke acronym

There’s a joke acronym about NAMI that I heard from another person who’s crazy such as myself, someone also hurt by family members being centered at NAMI meetings.  The joke acronym is Not About My Illness.  The family members are pretending the person with “mental illness” is bad and ill, while they (usually a parent) are good and normal.

The othering can be painful, and of course the dichotomy is false.  Often the family member is crazy also, just in a different or less obvious way.  In order to shift attention away from their own issues, the family member points fingers at the less-powerful person who was just locked up in a hospital and harmed there.

The family member can distract from their own issues by focusing on the wildness of the “mentally ill” person, in denial about their own part in the family pain.

gang signs

I told Ming we should run by the NAMI table and flash our Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective gang signs.

taunting NAMI

We would need to collaborate because there are too many letters for me to do them all on two hands.  I formed the LV with my hands, but Ming was laughing and didn’t accomplish RMHC with his fingers.  We need more people.

I said that when we ran by the table, taunting NAMI, flashing our gang signs, we could yell something provocative like “Biopsychiatry is a scam!” or “My brain is not diseased!” or “Crazy, not hazy!”  I made up a lot of slogans actually, writing them in a notebook to amuse myself as the women on the stage thanked and thanked.

taunting NAMI

you are valid
  1. what drug company is funding you today?
  2. locked facilities conceal hostilities: free them all
  3. disabled by norms
  4. disabled by psychiatry
  5. face the enigma–go beyond stigma
  6. free hugs, not forced drugs
  7. never relent in the quest for consent
  8. your desire for me to act normal is not more important than my need to be who I am
  9. all minds are valid minds
  10. my freedom is sacred

These ideas I was playing with already or other people said already.

  1. unconditionally valid
  2. unconditionally ok
  3. my body, my choice
  4. to love one another, create a world where well-being is more important than money
  5. love is a skill I can strengthen
  6. shine on, you crazy diamond
  7. free your mind
  8. hard times require furious dancing
  9. friends make the best medicine
  10. community is possible
  11. family is possible
  12. love is real

Please take these slogans and make bike stickers, do street art, and design teeshirts.  These ideas are seriously important to me!

the actual NAMI person

Ming spoke with the actual NAMI person at the table.  Turns out he was an Americorps worker, not employed by NAMI at all?  Wow, something else to start taunting NAMI about.  Ming took a couple fliers and a card for their warm line.  They meet twice a month at a local hospital.

NAMI wants better lives for crazy people such as myself, but in an opposite way from radical mental health.  They want legitimacy by allying themselves with medicine–pharmaceutical companies give them a lot of funding!

NAMI also pushes mainstream values, using official language and rigid predictability.  They push the idea that if we stick to the script, we can be normal.  Work hard, make money, buy safety, and get dished a fair slice of the pie.

But radical mental health people like me and Ming mostly want a new, tastier pie.  Or maybe some cake or pudding?  Maybe pavlova, a trifle, baklava, or a tart.  Normal is killing us.  Normal is killing Mother Earth and a lot of people.

willing to feel

We may not be able to stop big pharma or the failures and violence of mainstream medicine.  Taking a pill is easier than telling the truth and changing culture.  Handing over power to “experts” is way easier than asserting our own expertise about ourselves and taking our power back.

But some of us are willing to feel and be honest about our own lives.  We all belong at the table of humanity.  We can create pockets of happiness, like with the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.  The truth is welcome, and nuance is standard.  Hopefully the happiness can reverberate out.

We don’t need a frightened, tamped down happiness of denial and sedation.  I like to create a vibrant, risk-taking, living happiness with a broader range of what’s allowed.  I’m happy to connect and love.

you are not alone

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

5 replies on “taunting NAMI”

it’s 2021 and next October will be the 20th anniversary of when we started the icarus project. i’m thinking of beginning to gather voices of folks who helped make it happen and you two are right there at the top of the list in my head. do you have any interest in strategizing about reaching out to folks and doing some kind of writing/organizing project? sending love from the early hours

5 tours in Clark County mental health hospitals. The longest was 3 months.
I can’t count the # of diagnosis, somewhere around 7 or 8 i guess.
Here i am 30 years later, no psych drugs, no more “therapy”
I now express and accept myself the way I am. I use a shitload of herbs to balance my mental and physical body. No one has my answers except me.
I love your Radical mental health. It inspires me to keep on the path I have found that works best for me.

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