Stigma Fighters – Michelle Joni
CATHARSIS AND UNICORNS
“The Queen of Play is Depressed!”
This was my first subject line to the doctor who would soon become my first adult therapist. At 32, after years of helping clients and students open up into their pure, joyful, selves and receiving prestigious local and international acclaim for my work…. I was starting a new foray into mental health… my own.
This article marks the first time I’m truly opening up about mental health in a public forum. It’s scary AF and I don’t want to do it, and I’m also so sorry to not do it sooner — if you read my iPhone notes you’d know I never meant to hide about anything this long! I’ve always felt the calling to share my experiences to help others… but really, what I’ve needed was/is for you to help me. I just never knew how or when to ask for help. I finally reached out and… asked my Preschool Mastermind student – Stigma Fighters founder and author and mental health superstar warrior Sarah Fader to give her ol’ Ms Joni a damn writing deadline! I missed her deadline in June, as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain killed themselves, all passed while I suffered in silence. While I have allowed support from family and some close friends and doctors, I’ve mostly just hid away this dark side of the Joniverse and helped my damn self, learning – and documenting – a whole lot along the way. And it’s gone a little something like this….
I was certain I was on the Spectrum!!!
I decided I had to be, one hot humid August 2016 afternoon… a few months after I began to lose my mind, which for the record was earlier that spring, around when Prince died. Outside of Wrigley Field, I hugged my beloved teddy bear confidante Foo Foo as a flood of tears came pouring out of me (I had gotten used to this bodily function by then) — except this time not with sadness. These tears gave me such release as I accepted my proud Autism Spectrum self-diagnosis! We were outside the Cubs game, where Foo Foo (@damefoofoo on instagram) cast a spell that not only made the Cubs win the game that day in a crazy turnaround… but also their first World Series since 1908 later that year. You’re welcome, Chicago!
I’m special and I know itttttt… and I’ve tried to get professionally diagnosed on that sweet Spectrum ever since.
To no avail.
“Are you sure I’m not a little autistic?” I’ve asked all my mental healthcare providers. Between figuring out a whole new way to use our very own Alphabet, my awkwardness in oh so many social situations, my exhaustingly unstoppable inventing of realities, and my very colorful nature, I knew I simply must be a citizen of this famous and prestigious Spectrum.
“I’m sure,” they’d tell me.
“Come on… Google Japan once made me an Avatar in a ‘thinking differently’ Lollipop campaign! I am completely mesmerized by sparkles. The letters of the Alphabet literally turn me on…. Not even a shade?”
“You may be a lot of shades of things but the autism spectrum doesn’t seem to be one of them” they insisted.
Darn. What was it then!? I had started hopping around to different therapists and psychiatrists, mostly because my mom made me, to find out wtf was wrong with me, such a beautiful, talented, already-internet-famous girl not accomplishing her goals and being actually somewhat-newly miserable most of the time.
Well if it’s not THE spectrum, what is it? I’m a rare bird for sure… but must we label me? I have always felt very aware of all the circumstances that lead me to the dark and betwixt places I’ve found myself. I’d never been much into labels, but I figured if it helps to understand my brain chemistry, what’s happening inside my juicy fineapple, my poor overthinking keppelah, I could totally get into it!
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I began to take my mental health more seriously as I got more (dynamically, frequently, and shockingly depressed, errr) curious about what’s going on in my brain chemistry…. And honestly curious about the industry of mental health at large. Such an gargantuan dominating industry, sales reps winning vacations for selling prescription meds to doctors, something must be going right! I got skeptical at how some psychiatric doctors meet you for 15 minutes and prescribe a pill for what they called… depression and anxiety…. An early diagnosis of mine. Ugh was that really me? How… depressing.
But it made sense… depression and anxiety live on a spectrum of too… you can parse out that sadness and angst out into all sorts of unprocessed despair, hopelessness, dissatisfaction, self-hatred, apathy, stuckness, anger, shame and other distractions! That spectrum of pain from your throbbing heart to your womb, the spectrum of icky unnameable feelings… yes come step right up and sit right down in the first row of the theater for your all time most addictive traumas, playing on replay in Shakespeare fashion for the first 4 hours of your morning! Yeah, my ego did notttt want to identify with “depression” in the beginning…. I am the most fun person ever I thought!? Meanwhile I was at war with myself.
The first antipsychotic medication that was ever prescribed to me was Abilify. The aforementioned 15-minute-scrip-whittling doctor practiced on the Upper East Side a block from the park, his brown-furnitured office stale and standard. I didn’t trust him, even though he was recommended to me by a sixties rockstar.
The appointment was right before the very first Ecstatic Dance at Judson Church, where I was tasked to build a squishy cuddle shrine on the balcony of the church with my fierce Sparkle Kitty crew. The Squish Sanctuary came alive and I danced and cuddled the night away with hundreds of my closest friends! Wasn’t this lifestyle enough to make anyone able to find their bliss without a pill assist!?, I reasoned. Plus this was wayyy better than the previous month’s Ecstatic Dance where I ended up in the emergency room instead due to my first major nervous breakdown!
I tried Abilify for 3 days.
And then read the internet about it and I got a queezy feeling and stopped – who knows if it was from the pill or not but I freaked out… I couldn’t be the person to abandon my guts — that humans wouldn’t need psych meds if we just did the natural things our bodies and minds need and crave, if we danced, sang, made art, spent time in nature, meditated, did kundalini breathwork, did responsible ceremonial psychedelics and sacred plant medicine! If we could all just go skipping on Thursdays, elicit the kindness of others regularly, and abide more by our own instinctual time schedules… we would tackle the issues from the source wouldn’t need to be fixing problems with robotic happy-pills! If anyone could figure it out on their own, I asserted, it was surely the Queen of Play.
The thing is, society has not caught up, we do not live in Utopia (although I did live in Youtopia over the summer!), and as much as I feel like I’m already graduated to the next dimension, as it tuuuurns out I’m still very much in this one. Where you have to get agreement with people and clunker around the planet making sense of things in between sleeping, and especially while sleeping. I yoga’d. I joined Landmark’s top leadership program. I livestreamed myself sleeping. But fuck shit’s hard out there and I proceeded to spend the next 2+ years trying and abandoning various prescription medications. There was the ADHD hypothesis early on, yes gimme that Adderall! But not every day. Just for occasions. Wait that’s not how this works? I then decided I didn’t want to be on Adderall. That was so college. I think my ADD snowballed as I couldn’t/didn’t finish things and didn’t reach for help to finish them… and the anxiousness and depression flooded my soul at my lack of output and trust in myself.
I finally met a Psychiatrist I liked and trusted! (Her Sacred Heart letter was S, grounding my Outward Shining S), and she landed on my diagnosis:
OF COURSE I’M BIPOLAR.
Bipolar. Manic-Depressive. Another spectrum, ay! Well okay, this made sense. Flowing back and forth between a Manic State — my rainbow sparkly superhero self, the divine child of Unicorns, one with an endless supply of confi-dance and inspiration and getter-done-ness and glitter-dope-ness, the one I truly do believe in, who’s blissfully creative all hours of the night. She’s also convinced she is supposed to save the world by fully activating all the projects she’s ever started and running for President in 2020, because she can clearly envision a government run more like summer camp, a world that is like full time Burning Man… she sees a future that is fun and fabulous for all people, and a way to get there! I dunno bout you but Manic State seems like a state to wanna run for congress in, at least! <<<———->>> And then there’s the that deep dip into depressive canyons of the soul, the clouds turned to hurricaine, the unrest, the side that tries to hide from everything and everyone, and just might sleep and cry all day. She’s confused, angry, feels worthless, lonely, fraudulent and full of shit, and she’s likely writing for help in a way she knows she won’t actually ask for. There is a cavernous broken swelling of sadness in the void of her heart. Her stuffed BFF Foo Foo disappears on the bus to Burning Man along with her shrine box, and then she herself doesn’t even make it to Burning Man, too many times. She’s sabotager out to ruin everything that her awesome superhero self set up on a good day. She’s the one giving away her power and imagining that all this had to be leading to something terrible.
She also looks absolutely fabulous in either scenario, so it’s VERY hard to tell the difference!
Even in my greatest depression I didn’t WANT to die and never thought of purposefully killing myself. I’ve had friends who did and it’s just the worst. If you ever feel that way, slide into my DMs, K? But there were times I didn’t know why I was even alive, and pretty sure that my subconscious was suicidal.
Like this past summer when I got super bad….
….that time I started microdosing on Ayahuasca on the same day I started taking the newly prescribed Lithium (LITHIUM, like whattttt even with a name like that, surely the heroin of prescription meds) but somehow…. A combination of the two seemed balancing and exciting and both mystically and muggley empowering! Best of all worlds. Then I realized during a massage that it felt like my brain was melting…. and googled through the face-hole to find the combination is actually deadly!!! WTF JONI. I texted my psychiatrist for evidence in case I died as two firm hands dug into my calves. Ayahuasca coffee with your new scrip cocktail ru forrealz? I was relieved to make it through the massage, and I put my little brown bottle away in my pink plastic drawer set, and soon after stopped that L train too.
…. and then there was the time I was going to get a blood test for all this stuff, and the place I went to had a 2 hour wait, so I hopped on a transit bushwick-ridgewood bus to another blood lab not too far away…. A bus that Google said would drop me off right there, but instead dropped me off at the entrance to…. a Jewish graveyard. “LAST STOP!” the driver howled to me, the only passenger left on the bus. GULP. It was 2 days before my final Swimming in Rainbows summer concert at The Bitter End… an omen I was worried about when I booked… Anyway, it made for a great selfie promo shoot for the show, and I made some notes that would be helpful for friends and family to find should I be hit by a transit – or even more hilariously, a psychedelic bus.
NO NO NO don’t even think about this!!! How morbid of me. Subconscious artful suicide attempts, is this even a thing?? It got close there, my friends. But thank gosh.. Because deep down I knew I was sent on this mission into the underworld of the Joniverse because I would do a good job documenting it and processing it into something useful and productive for society, something readable and funny and helpful to bringing people together. So yeah, I couldn’t die!
I’m not saying my mental health trauma journey is over… but I am here in a good place of strength here to share some of the things I’ve come to learn as true.
** Depression and mental “dis-ease” is largely a result of not living your best life. It’s of not expressing yourself. Society as stands is not congruent with our natural flow connected to the earth, stars and the moon’s cycles; society’s agenda disconnects us with our bodies’ natural rhythms and desires!
** We MUST MAKE ART. Every single person is an artist and creator and any blockage of that expression – conscious or unconscious, manifests in dis-ease. So, the way we’re used to acting now as a society gives us an unsteady groundwork to start from, and no freaking time to create! It’s leaving people confused and entire households and cities inherently depressed.
** Fear and Love truly are the guiding forces! Confirmed. But money is easier to count.
** Our mental state is directly correlated with state of the world. Only in each of our minds can we come into a better state, and the ripple effect is real. So we really have to do the work individually to serve the whole. And acceptance of others is everything.
** We are all on the Unicorn Spectrum.
So, my birthday month arrived AGAIN this year, Mental Health Awareness Day (October 10) came and went, and I STILL hadn’t gotten in my article to Fader!! Enough is enough. I had worked through this enough times, if I wanted to change a LOT about the world, I had to change a LOT about myself! Which means I had to change a lot about my life! (This is manic-speak for the more endearingly depressive: HALP ME STOP FUCKINAG UP!) (And not Landmark speak because we musn’t be out to “change” things, so really EXPAND is a better word, and speaking of which…)
By mid October, right before my birthday, ALL AT ONCE:
I started The Artist’s Way program with an amazing group
I started a Kabbalah class
I started entering the Dance Lair every weekday morning at 10am
I started livestreaming every morning from Dance Lair
I started…. Taking a tiny little baby dose of Abilify.
Oh yes, I was not taking any chances with THIS transformation! So really…. I have no idea what’s the strongest medicine here, and I kinda like not knowing. But man SOMETHING has taken the edge off that existential dread that crippled me, and turned it into a new groovy groove! I’m finding myself in a new place of giving and accepting love from people. Whatever it isI’m excited about the cocktail!!
I will say that somehow the last one on the list was the only one that feels somewhat shameful to share… as if I should preface with that it’s temporary, even though they all surely are! But it’s about more than just the medicine itself… it’s about the LETTERS in the medicine.
AB I LL ify
Yes… I’m here to AB ILLify!!!!
To ILLify the AlphaBet!
To make using the Alphabet a much more ill, dope awesome thing to do…. Whereas now we’re basically just using the letters to spell words that were already created for us, words that offend and don’t do our expansive minds justice! We can instead tap into the letter power we’ve created all these years (What’s YOUR Power Letter?), and do more with Our Language, while better-relating to each other by our letter vibrations and spells.
For this, Abilify was worth the try!
I’m sharing all this — because it’s time to AboliShame!
My warrior Fader is STIGMA FIGHTING, and I stand beside her to aboliShame. Plus, this was the LAST DAY I could get my story in in order to be in the Stigma Fighters Volume 4… and 4 is my NUMBER. So this is my story. At this moment. Well, a slice of it at least! I want to say that Whatever you are dealing with is fine and okay. You will get through it in your own unique storybook! It is all for a reason and you are not alone. If we all shared a little more about what we’re going through – by word or by art – we could process the pain, learn so much about true mental health, and really understand how to be there for one another. Which… oh wait, I think is what we’re all doing it! You’re doing it! Me too!
~And then suddenly you find yourself aware of and adrift in the vibrational spectrum seeking harmonic alignment in deep outer spa…
….Dipping into the Spectrum of Loopholes (a livestream interview show I made that aired 3 times)
And then you make an album called Swimming in Rainbows and get Galactivated and suddenly your chakra color spectrum ignites with ancestral answers, and your entire auric infrastructure becomes one infinite rainbow spectrum of divinity, yet your Spotify stream numbers are still meh. Is there anybody out there???
And then you forget all over again, fall down a peculiar hole in the sidewalk on johnson avenue and think, where am I again and what am I doing with my life!!?!? Should I just keep changing my hair and start doing everything in rhyme?
And that’s where the Unicorn Spectrum really begins. At least for me! ~
Yes, I found my spectrum after all my friends. I didn’t need a pre-designed spectrum, I sung my own one into existence!!! Listen to track 6, which begs the question…. Where are you on the Unicorn Spectrum?
In short, I believe our minds are really all special and needed in the Web of Consciousness. No matter how they’re labeled, or if your insurance wouldn’t cover the privilege (or curse?) of being labeled.
It thrills me and scares me to be an open storybook, but I think self-imposed thrills and scares sound pretty righteous for my mental health. And hey, I show you mine, you show me yours?
Let’s ride that wave into expansive consciousness!
And that’s what we get for having highly evolved human minds.
So tell me:
WHERE ARE YOU ON THE UNICORN SPECTRUM??
Would you vote for me in 2020 to swing the political pendulum in flavor of the Unicorns?
And how is your heart today, dear love?
STAY STRONG MY FRIENDS,
THE QUEEN OF PLAY IS HEALING
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Bio: Michelle Joni is a unicorn peacock with rainbow feathers and an unrelenting optimism about herself and others. She’s a superhero with an invisible cape, who defies labels, but accepts her strengths, and never backs down from her challenges. She is the creator of the international sensation “Preschool Mastermind,” preschool for adults, which has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Vice, Business Insider, and on The Today Show. She believes that you can accomplish anything if you trust yourself and skip down the sidewalk like no one’s watching (or like everyone’s watching, depending on your preference)
On Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, SoundCloud, everywhere!
go SWIMMING in RAINBOWS *
iTunes / Spotify