Brilliant visions – drawing under the influence of mescaline

In 1936 the Maudsley psychiatrists Guttman and Macklay began to study spontaneous drawings (doodles), looking for clues to personality types and forms of mental illness, and compared them with drawing made by their patients. They realised that few of their patients with psychotic disorders had the capacity and drive to depict their hallucinations while they were experiencing them.

During the 1920s mescaline was used by psychologists to study hallucinations. Heinrich Kluver’s influential study showed that the dazzling visual patterns its subjects experienced could be reduced to a series of geometric ‘form-constants’.

Guttman and Mackay began to collaborate with artists who could draw or paint the hallucinations they were experiencing . They decided to recruit professional artists and stimulate hallucinations by giving them mescaline. They approached subjects from the British Surrealist movement, who were interested in the productions of unconscious mind.

Two of the artists left written accounts of their experience: Julian Trevelyan describe them in his memoir ‘Indigo Days’. Basil Beaumont left a written report nightmarish experience which ended with him being confined overnight in a ward at the Maudsley Hospital.

The theme was the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of the Mind, in Bethlem Hospital in London, where I was working as a locus doctor some months ago (I took those pictures while visiting the museum in my lunch break). The exhibition was co-curated by Mike Jay, author of ‘Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic’ and Kate Tiernan, and provides an insight into the first era of research into psychedelics and mental states.

It is interesting to note that there is current research going on about the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions, and the FDA has approved clinical trials of MDMA assisted psychotherapy sessions for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

Virna Teixeira

Poetry from the wards

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Suite 136 is a prose-poetry documentary book that it was published last year by Carnaval Press. This book is the result of my experiences working as a locum doctor (and as a foreigner doctor) in psychiatric hospitals in London. ‘136 suite is a place of safety for those who have been detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act by the police following concerns that they are suffering from a mental disorder’. It is a short term section to warrant medical assessment, and the suite is seen as safer place for that purpose, instead of a police station. The poems in this book are untitled and therefore 136 Suite works as metaphoric title.

My intention was to listen and to register, anonymously, and in different ways, the patients’ perception of their detainment in hospital under the Mental Health Act and their own experiences with a mental health condition. Confidentiality is preserved and narratives are slightly blurred with fiction.

This work has also been a result of my parallel activities as a doctor and a poet for many years, and of a degree I obtained in Medical Humanities at King’s College London, which allowed me to work more consciously in that direction – although medical marks can be traced along even my early writings. I presented this project in a Medical Humanities Conference in Ulm, Germany in December 2018.

The book is bilingual (English/ Portuguese), and can be ordered with Carnaval Press by carnavalpress@gmail.com

 

***

 

If you told me you were an angel, I wouldn’t judge you. An angel is a sort of innocent.

I’m an individual, I’m not a typical person so the dose of medication shouldn’t be typical.

It is affecting my angel’s rights. My naivety is being abused. In reality I was diagnosed with demoralisation and uselessness. The illness is no longer there. 

Unlike this induced state, I am blissful.

Thinking has helped my mental state, and I believe that talking is the way to solve things.

 

Se você me dissesse que você era um anjo, eu não julgaria você. Um anjo é uma espécie de inocente.  

 Eu sou um indivíduo, eu não sou uma pessoa típica, então a dose da medicação não devia ser típica.  

Está afetando meus direitos de anjo. Minha inocência está sendo abusada. Na realidade eu fui diagnosticado com desmoralização e inutilidade. A doença já era. 

Diferentemente deste estado induzido, eu sou uma pessoa bem-aventurada.

 Pensar tem ajudado o meu estado mental, e eu acredito que falar é a forma de resolver as coisas.  

 

***

 

I am afraid of world war syndrome. I am afraid of vampires. I am afraid of death. I can hear the vampires. They talk like people. Their faces frighten me. I can hear angels, demons, vampires and wolves. They are talking about me. They came to save me. The windows are closed, and angels can’t come in. She thinks I am vampire, and she follows me with a stake in her hand.

 

Tenho medo de síndrome da guerra mundial. Tenho medo de vampiros. Tenho medo da morte. Eu posso ouvir os vampiros. Eles falam como gente. As faces deles me assustam. Eu posso ouvir anjos, demônios, vampiros e lobos. Eles estão falando sobre mim. Eles vieram me salvar. As janelas estão fechadas, e os anjos não podem entrar. Ela pensa que sou um vampiro, e me persegue com uma estaca na mão.

 

***

 

My mind is mathematical
My body is electronic

Your body language tells me
you’re from SãoPaulo

Doctor you look like a patient

I’ve never been to Brazil
I’ve been to Suriname
My father was from Burma
My mother was Anglo-Indian

I fell in love only once in 1984
He is on the phone directory
He thought I was going out
with a ginger haired man

Now you can interview me

I can pretend I am Brazilian
I can be Gisele Bunchen
I failed as a model once

I can’t remember running naked
It was the first time that
policemen were nasty to me
That never happened before

How come I am so tall
and you’re so small

I am elated I told you
I am allergic to lithium

 

Minha mente é matemática
Meu corpo é eletrônico

Sua linguagem corporal me diz
que você é de SãoPaulo

Doutora você parece uma paciente

Eu nunca fui ao Brasil
Eu fui ao Suriname
Meu pai era de Burma
Minha mãe era anglo-indiana

Só me apaixonei uma vez em 1984
Ele está na lista telefônica
Ele pensou que eu estava saindo
com o homem de cabelo gengibre

Agora você pode me entrevistar
Eu posso fingir que sou brasileira
Eu posso ser Gisele Bunchen
Eu fracassei como modelo uma vez

Não me lembro de correr pelada
Foi a primeira vez que
os policiais foram malvados comigo
Isso nunca aconteceu antes

Por quê eu sou tão alta
e você é tão baixa

Eu estou exaltada eu avisei
que era alérgica a lítio

Virna Teixeira

Launch of Alba Londres 8 – Brazilian Contemporary Feminisms

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(Photo: Taraneh Mosadegh)

Alba Londres is launching an issue of its magazine dedicated to explore contemporary Brazilian feminist poetics, in association with Carnaval Press. Brazilian poets Adelaide Ivánova, Adriana Zapparoli, Carla Diacov, Érica Zingano, Flávia Rocha, Jussara Salazar and Virna Teixeira are published in translation in the habitual bilingual amazing edition of the magazine co-edited by Jèssica Pujol and Virna Teixeira. We also invited two Brazilian writers, Cristina Judar and Assionara Souza, who contributed with short stories for this issue.

Latin America has a very high prevalence of gender violence, with Brazil occupying recently the fifth position in the world ranking of female murders. This special edition aims to reflect on this alarming violence against women in Brazil, and on how Brazilian women poets reflect about the theme in their writing.

Alba Londres is a magazine that publishes experimental Spanish, Portuguese and British poetry in translation since 2011 and this is its eight issue. Carnaval Press was created in London in 2015, and is the first small press dedicated to publish and present Brazilian contemporary poetry and lusophone poetry in translation to the British readers.

We would like to invite you to the launch, which will take place at the Brazilian Embassy on the 9th of March 2017, with readers:

Adelaide Ivánova and Virna Teixeira

…and their translators: Annie McDermott, Lotto Thiessen, Jèssica Pujol and Francisco Vilhena

RSVP essential  (culturalbrazil.rsvp@gmail.com)

Brazilian Embassy – Gallery 32. 14-16 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5BL. Phone: 020 77474500

Poetry and mental health

To celebrate the opening of the Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition, a ‘Camarade’ collaborative poetry reading was held with 24 poets associated with the exhibition reading new work written for the night in 12 pairs. The event was held on February 23rd 2017 in Surbiton, UK. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/futures

Reading at the Museum of Futures with Albert Pellicer:

Women and illicit drug use in cinema

After analysing more than sixty films for a MSc in Medical Humanities entitled “Women and Illicit Substance Use in Cinema”, I am starting a series of posts on filmic representations of female drug users.

Part 1 – Female drug users in Woody Allen’s films

After cocaine resurgence in the 1970s, Woody Allen was probably one of the first filmmakers to depict the expensive substance – used at that time by wealthy bohemian people – in a comic scene in ‘Anne Hall’ (1977). Annie, by the way, smokes weed, dresses in an unconventional style, and is open to drug experimentation:

Another interesting reference of cocaine use in the 1980s appears in ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ (1986). The movie depicts Holly (Dianne Wiest), a struggling actress with a former cocaine habit. Holly appears snorting cocaine openly in the audience of a punk rock band in a legendary club in New York,  a reference to 1980s cocaine abuse in that scene. Her date Mickey (Allen) says to her that she will develop ‘a third nostril’, takes her to a jazz club, but she continues restlessly snorting coke there:

Holly wears bold outfits, but is insecure. When she stops using cocaine she has difficulties to adjust to an occupation, has a novelty-seeker nature and a competitive relationship with a female friend. Her parents are alcoholic and narcissistic, and her sister attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and has a clandestine affair with Hannah’s husband, showing a complicated family dynamic.

Hannah is apparently a successful woman, who has a co-dependent relationship with Holly, supporting financially her new schemes to make money. However, along her self-analysis and determination, Holly grows up, becomes a successful playwright and marries Mickey. Her former cocaine abuse appears as a rite of passage, as she becomes more integrated with herself

Workshop: Phenomenology, anxiety and breath — Mental health, Ethics and Law at King’s

Friday March 17 2017, 9.30-4.30. Advance notice for this workshop, which is sponsored by the generous support of the Wellcome Trust. Speakers: Dylan Trigg (UCD), The phenomenology of anxiety Ulrika Maude (Bristol), DH Lawrence and the body Michael Lewis (Newcastle), Breath in the history of philosophy Petr Kouba (Prague), On Nancy’s ‘The Intruder’ Emiliano Trizio (UWE), […]

via Workshop: Phenomenology, anxiety and breath — Mental health, Ethics and Law at King’s

Jo Spence at Tate Britain

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Jo Spence (1934–92) challenged the way in which women were represented, and was a pioneering on the application of photography as a therapeutic tool. Drawing on her personal experiences with breast cancer and the use of performance, she commented on broader political issues. Her work is being exhibited at Tate Britain together with her collaboration with the socialist-feminist collective Hackney Flashers.

Where: Tate Britain. Main hall. Free entrance. Until Autumn 2016.

Conference: Owning Our Emotions — Emotion, Authenticity and the Self

21st – 28th September, 2016.

Institute of Philosophy, Room 349, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. Keynote speakers include: Professor Monika Betzler, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich Professor Kristján Kristjánsson, University of Birmingham Professor Denis McManus, University of Southampton Dr Carolyn Price, The Open University Professor Fabrice Teroni, University of Geneva Dr Jonathan Webber, University of Cardiff […]

via Conference: Owning Our Emotions — Emotion, Authenticity and the Self — Mental health, Ethics and Law at King’s

Real Boy

real boy

Just saw Real Boy this week at the BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival. It’s a beautiful documentary about the story of Bennett Wallace, a transgender teenager in California and his transitional journey through childhood and young adulthood, working to gain the love and support of his mother and to become a musician. The film explores issues on mental health experienced by Bennett and problems with substance misuse by another transgender friend.

Real Boy will be released soon and the trailer can be accessed here. People interested to bring it to their community center, college, conference, or film club, can email director Shaleece Haas at shaleece@realboymovie.com.