The practical history of psychiatry, or the organized care for the insane has a peculiar, discouraging and demoralizing history which for those who care to care for themselves will give a firm determination to evade capture and containment at all costs.

Which is doubly sad because then the illness gobbles up the brightest stars, dousing them with routine crisis, with fear and loneliness, with poverty and pedestrian demons.

Mad men and mad women have carefully tried to organize alternatives, but these too often suffer from a lack of imagination, of love or of patience – ironically the same virtues which institutional care cannot give. Most attempts have failed, or landed awkwardly, but in the midst of failure many individuals find their way to get well and stay well. Each prescription is completely unique, and though one can learn from another there are no shortcuts, no solutions.

So of the brightest stars, only the bravest survive. The rest perish, both body and soul.

Jessica Stein, author of A Long Walk Back To Myself, is finding what works for her – no doubt a painful process both for her and for everyone she loves. No doubt her friends and families know her odds and know her strengths. Stein’s zine is a bit of a travelogue, a bit of a Thoreau internal monologue; she hungers, she thirsts, she sweats, she finds friends and safety, a radical guardian angel gets her high, “It was so Portland,” she avoids a cloudburst in a cemetery.

The story is framed as a long walk – from Brooklyn, North through the city to Croton; three and a half days.

Stein attributes some of her strength to the amazing Icarus Project. If you’re mad too, and need both liberty and support to find your way, these are your butterfly caretakers.

You’ll probably meet some of these folk if you attend Stein’s reading from her zine at Reading Frenzy TOMMORROW on January 23 at 7 PM.

Here’s a nice MP3 of the whole event, just for you.

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