Christina Culverhouse & I sat down the other day, in a creative conversation, I listened to many insights that Christina has learned on her spiritual journey! These learning are based on her-reflections; Christina is a good example of someone who has integrated many of her prior experiences, and along the way, developed the quality of resiliency, the “staying power” to hang in until the process ends.
Christina Culverhouse is a visual artist, poet, and author of her own book of poetry. Please check out her website at: http://www.christinaculverhousefineart.com. You’ll find some samples of Christina’s visual art on her website. And you just might find more poetry.
As we conversed, we came to a common conclusion: spirituality needs to be one of the core focuses of recovery, healing, & creating healthy relationships.
I asked Christina about her own Lakota background that’ has been the epitome of her spirituality; Christina told me her Native American influences have offered healing through rituals, practices, chants, drumming and her Lakota culture.
We also concluded that much more needs to be done around the “Medical Model,” in terms of utilizing both western & indigenous healing practices; I hope this blog revolving around Christina Culverhouse’s life in recovery will also be a part of this new wave of consciousness that will add to the conversation about the Peer Movement and alternative therapies.
A good example of implementation of this kind of “blended” service is when the Veteran Affairs Department looked at evidenced-based studies & research for Mindfulness, and found that Mindfulness training was a very competent piece of many western-eastern therapies-now being offered by the VA.
In relation to her mental illness, Christina was diagnosed two years ago with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and what that looks like in her life. She explained that DID used to be known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Well, all that’s changed.
Initially, when this new label was applied, it was felt that DID was used as a survival mechanism-for example, people may fall into a pattern of protecting their egos with these identities; the stresses or the initiating circumstances may also be looked at as adversaries and we also might be called upon to adapt in extreme, changing conditions of life. All mental health behavior has evolved from the need of humans to survive!
However, one of the Medical Model components and/or motifs is that using a portal lens that views mental illness as a gift, not a deficit, Christina explains, because it’s helped her to create her own boundaries which has been to connect with a positive spin-off, helping her to see it as an enhancement, not a dismemberment.
As mentioned above, the VA developed group therapies around Mindfulness, and this has been one of the most effective parts of my own coping mechanisms for my own constellation of diagnoses: Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar II, & PTSD.
Christina has learned through her DID how to highlight her own attributes & recognition of them with relevant insights, she’s working on figuring out her gifts and how they could be manifested.
Another topic discussed in our free-flowing conversation, had to do with the place medications play in the lives of those who deal with mental illness. In Culverhouse’s experience, there have been times (as is true of all of us) of great shifting on her insides; often when a person encounters a mental “break-up” or goes through some kind of decompensation in a radical way-these rocking-horse from the ceiling to the floor, changes can happen in our brain chemistry very rapidly or without a person’s awareness when an episode will hit (have you noticed we aren’t’ God yet?), because of the force behind the hit will gradually lessen, so a peer can learn to take the episodes with a more steady gait.
This blog isn’t about telling anyone about what she should do about their health care and how to manage it. Rather, it’s Christina’s story.
One alternative that’s recently made its debut as “add ons” on the shelves of providers, marketers and pharmaceutical companies, is he decision to discontinue medications in their treatments, but to work towards become a person working on their recovery with an alternative treatment plan with very clear and specific protocols for treatment.
Please check out Harm Reduction Guide to Coming off Psychiatric Drugs, The Icarus Project and Freedom Center: http://www.theicarusproject.net; http://www.freedom-center.org to obtain a copy of a very helpful resource. They’ve published a guide called Friend Make the Best Medicine: A Guide to Creating Community Mental Health Support Networks.
This means we need the courage to stand up in the face of corporate gremlins and letting your foreheads be like flint that they can be! You see, there’s something about the head that’s valuable beyond comparison that’s hard-core hardiness.
This moral is about seeing something negative and turning it to something constructive, healthy and effective.
Christina shared with me that she tries to pray with, play music to, to meditate on, and to write poetry to her inner being. She concluded with her practice of meditating each day on the Lakota’ Four Virtues: 1. Generosity; 2. Wisdom; 3. Respect; and 4) Courage.
Christina Culverhouse lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter; she has two MAs-one in Teaching and the other in College Student Development; in addition, she is also a website designer.
Resources: Christina wanted to let people know that she has a studio available for use by friends in the community; if a person would like make use of this resource, contact Christina; options include being alone and doing art, learning more from Christina about artistic methods & techniques, and any other consulting options.
©Christopher Bear-Beam April 29, 2016