Stories of Metamorphosis: Josh’s Bipolar Adventure

Stories of Metamorphosis: Josh’s Bipolar Adventure


{Music} You know, might be valuable…Josh: Oh look there I am! Oh yes it’s me, ok that’s great Hi guys I’m back, I’m back. That was fantastic, very well done guys! iHeart is such a rich resource. I’ve been asked to share my personal story so I wouldn’t go into my
iHeart Participants with all of this stuff necessarily. This is my story and I’ve framed it “Stories of Metamorphosis.” And I’m going to break my talk into three
different parts. The first one is me as a “Colorful Caterpillar.” You can see that’s
me over there. The second part is “Psychosis: my Bipolar Cocoon.” And the third part
is “Continued Metamorphosis” because it’s perpetual process of transition and my wings
are hiding beneath there, they’re not properly out yet but they’ll come out
eventually, so it’s continually a process of growth. So the reason why I chose
stories: this is a beautiful blend of the spiritual space as well as the
psychological space and just the human space and so stories are powerful in
both psychology and in theology. I’ll quickly touch on why. In psychology our
narratives, the way that we see the world, the lenses that we look through, that
determines what our reality is. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is very focused about our
thoughts direct our activity, direct our behavior which directs our outcomes. So
thoughts are very important and stories that we tell ourselves are important in that.
In terms of spirituality I’m going to talk about the Christian tradition today,
although I recognize the rich diversity of wisdom that there is in all the
traditions. In Jesus’s life He spoke in parables that’s what He did. He told
these stories that could reach people on multiple levels depending on where
they’re at. And He did that for a reason. The nation of Israel, they would tell
themselves their own story time and time again: where they’ve been, where
they’re going, who they are, establishing their identity in God and in their destination that they’ve been called to. And I think the destination we’ve been called to is a big powerful factor. There’s also multiple
levels of interpretation of stories is literal and allegorical/metaphorical
interpretations. And so for instance the scripture that I put up here is
Galatians 4 where Paul talks about the children that he had through Hagar, who Abraham had through Hagar and through Hagar and through Sarah, they’re actually analogies, they’re metaphors as well for the Law that was given on Sinai and the freedom that comes through Christ. So the stories that I’ll be telling, see them as stories. And there’s literal and metaphorical interpretations. And if anything I say offends anyone I’m sorry about that, and I meant it the other way. Just go with that, just go with that. Ok so let’s skip on. So this is Romans, and we’ve already heard from Romans today: a powerful letter by Paul. He says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That way we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing, and
perfect will.” Now the Greek word for transform is metamorphosis. It’s this
development into this higher dimensional being. You know what if the world is one big womb and we’re being transformed into a high dimensional creature. Maybe we’re all in the process of metamorphosis. We ARE all in the process of metamorphosis. So although I’m talking from a bipolar perspective,
guys this is human consciousness we’re talking about the nature of reality here.
So please take what nuggets you can and ditch the rest. So the first section is
me as a “Colorful Caterpillar” and my story it doesn’t start with me we’re all
part of meta-narratives that transcend us and work through us, and it comes
through our genetic line and it comes through our spiritual line, and so my
story through my genetic line came from bipolar and schizophrenia on both sides of my family. And do you know what? I’m actually going to…my mom can’t be here today so I’m gonna ask Monica to film this, cos she would loooove this, just one sec… Because she’ll especially love the part
where I call her a saint. She was gonna e here. So yeah on my dad’s side he had bipolar that was mismanaged, unmanaged, as well as substance abuse which affects 75 percent of those of us
with these diagnoses. That actually ended up costing him his own life. He couldn’t
take his own narrative any more and he ended his narrative when I was 18 years old.
On my mom’s side, she is a saint. Mom I love you! She is. She single-handedly raised my brother and I in South Africa on minimal income in a third world country, she pulled it off. And she has such a deep spiritual roots. I was raised Catholic, I went through
catechism and got confirmed and did all that thing. I was born and raised in
South Africa which is a rich country of spirituality. It’s called the Rainbow
Nation, there’s 11 official languages. It was in the process of its own metamorphosis at the time, transitioning out of Apartheid and into an era of
reformation. Guys metamorphosis involves mess. When a caterpillar
goes into his cocoon he has to dissolve into the cocoon to emerge as the butterfly.
If you’re doing renovations on your house you gotta make some mess, you gotta smash down some walls, you
gotta create some dust. But you’ve got a goal in mind. And that’s why I’m framing
this in terms of stories because the way that we see our diagnosis, the way that
we see reality really affects where we go, whether we’re excited about going there and what the deal is.
In Africa they also have different conceptions of mental illness, so we have
to take cultural competency in the psychology field, and one of the
conceptions that they have of mental illness is if you’re experiencing
symptoms of bipolar or schizophrenia when you’re young a lot of the time you’re
taken aside in the tribal communities by what’s called a Sangoma, a witch doctor
or a shaman, and you’re taught how to navigate these states and oftentimes
you’re trained to be a spiritual leader of the community into the future. Before
I was diagnosed bipolar, that’s me over there with my brother and that’s in a place called Transkei, with like grass huts. And the Sangoma noticed me and he took me
into his hut and he said I’m going to take you as my apprentice and teach you
how to talk to the birds and the animals, and you come live with me. So I decided not to do that. I did eat his spinach though, so I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with it. But I ate the guy’s spinach. But just to say that guys there’s different ways to do this. We can’t be chronocentric and think that we’ve been all figured out in
this day and age; we can’t be culturocentric either and think that the
West has got it figured out. So let’s keep an open mind and heart.
Maybe Africa’s got a thing or two to teach us. I couldn’t be content
without knowing what was out there so after high school I engaged on a
decade-long world travel exponanza. And that’s in the next slide. So I’ve been to, I don’t know, 24+
countries, working in many of them. It looks like a very colorful and dynamic
life. I tell you what though, I think my life is more colorful now! I’ve found
deeper riches right now than even those times. But it was beautiful, it
was a grand old time. Uh oh, uh oh. “Psychosis: my Bipolar Cocoon.” So as I said, I’m going to use stories as archetypal frameworks that we can view these things
through. Disney has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I’ve been through these things. Every story seems to be about this in some capacity. So Alice in Wonderland… So I took two peeks down the rabbit hole and
started to slip and then caught myself. One was in San Francisco and the other
one was in Cape Town. So in San Francisco I’d been smoking marijuana, which I will
refer to as weed for the rest of the talk, since I was about 16 and I was 22
when I was in San Francisco. And I’d smoked a bunch of times, but this time I prayed for the Holy Spirit in the mirror. Everything went dark, a red light came on, and I saw
everything from a different angle. I thought I could telepathically communicate with
this dog, I was receiving higher-dimensional communications that
had me pacing up and down. I could tell when my phone was going to ring and who
was calling me, I could look into my brother’s eyes and
see deep into his soul, knew when the birds were going to fly past. And the thing
with this time is that I managed to crawl back out of the rabbit hole and after the
weed wore off I came back down to sober reality. And I was like, “What was thaaaat?!”
So that blew my mind open. It pierced the veil until I realized the things that I had Iearned about in catechism, and I’d always prayed to Jesus when they
were sharks, like “Jesus save me from the sharks,” but it wasn’t a reality to me.
Now I saw that all this stuff was real guys. I read the Bible through seven times in
six months, I became obsessed with all of this, absolutely fascinating. And what I
found was that the Saints and the spiritual masters throughout the ages in
various world religious traditions validated the same experiences, and I was
onto something and it fueled my fire. It led me to get my degree in psychology
and I’ll continue to story from there. The same thing happened in Cape Town a
couple of years later. The Matrix comes into it. Those are those two hands up there
offering the red pill and the blue pill.
You can take the blue pill and you’ll wake up as if everything was just a dream; you take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and you see how far the rabbit hole goes. So
I started to see Matrix themes and a nightclub in Cape Town and there were
all these signs that were leading me in various directions, synchronicities as Carl Jung would call them and I followed the signs until my mind took
off without me. And it was this exciting endeavor:
I saw the cycling of karmic energy, the people who I was with were with were changing back and forth between various different people, I thought that I died as I was crossing the street. But this time I noticed a malevolence to the
higher-dimensional communications that I was getting, a darker side and that scared me, and I stopped smoking weed for eight years after that. I thought I needed
to research this more. So I traveled, I came to San Diego, California, the best place in the world tied with my hometown of Cape Town, South Africa Met my beautiful wife Bri over there…she’s been through a lot of this with me. So actually because I validated that how real theology is I went to seminary up at Fuller Theological Seminary and got my master’s degree in theology
and while I was studying that I was praying to God I was fascinated with
psychedelics and the intersection with the spiritual realm. I felt like I was being led by God and my professors to smoke weed one more time and see what I could do. So this time I went up into the mountains of Crestline, beautiful landscape, smoked weed then and this time I didn’t come
out of the rabbit hole BAM! Pierced through the veil but when the weed wore off I was still stuck there for a month and a half, cruising around in psychosis. Ok so here’s the fun side about it: The line between my inner world and outer world dissolved until the Self-Other dichotomy was gone: I was the world and the world was my lucid dream and I was every one
of you guys and you guys were all me; There was only one entity in the room
experiencing itself through multiple aspects. It blew my mind! I was able to access psychic phenomena which were actually externally verified; how is this
possible? So I told my best friend something that happened to him when he
was 11 years old that he had never told me, very much in detail! I was able to
predict the phone number while I was in jail of the guy who was trying to call his girlfriend I was like, “No, you’ve got the phone number wrong, it’s this one.” And that one worked. My brother said that I was reading his mind verbatim. So that was fun, that was very interesting, and was leading me, it had
a mind of its own. It was all a lucid dream. Law Enforcement doesn’t necessarily like that. (laughter) I got arrested up in Crestline cos they thought I was on LSD, so I got throw in jail that time I got arrested again when I was in
Pasadena because the spirit of my dead grandfather told me the steel a plate.
Either he was trying to get me hospitalized or arrested, or something else, but I ran straight into a cop as soon as I left the door, bam, straight into a cop so I got arrested for that. I’ve been 51-50’d six times. It’s devastating each time; it’s also very interesting in
there: there’s an alternative society in there, it’s very interesting. I blew $86,000. I had to sell the house that we owned. In my mania I was giving it
away to homeless people and I was spending spending it on creative pursuits.
In my depression I couldn’t work and I had to pay the rent with this money. There goes 86 G’s, plus my student debt. So there’s also a dark side to all of this. side to all of us So that’s me in my mania. Alice remember
she’s in the house and she grows so big in her grandiosity that she destroys everything around her.
Then that’s me in my depression when you go so small that even the
flowers are scary, depending on the fruit that you eat. And the dark side was a
confusion between light and dark. Dark seemed like the most potent form of
light, and I was flitting back and forth between being Jesus and Satan. And I later came to learn that the Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers, which is what I believed at the time. Demon oppression and demon possession, that’s a bit of a catch-22: we don’t want to
see these states as evil, we don’t want to label them as that and yet there was
profound wisdom in in the Bible and in spiritual traditions to say that there’s
some sort of phenomenon that was valid there. My eyes changed, my wife can attest,
my voice was different, the way I was acting, I started smoking cigarettes and
swearing which is so uncharacteristic of me. I changed my name, I was someone else. So I really felt like I was demon possessed. I called my mom who was in South Africa and said, “Guess what Ma? I smoked weed and now I’m possessed by a demon.” So I think we need to address these from a sophisticated point of
view combining psychology and spirituality because there’s something
up with that. At one point I was so out of my mind, and so stressed about what to do about that, that all I can do was pick paint off a trampoline, frantically just pick off the paint. And my chain would fall off, my cross would fall off every time I would get into these states. It never falls off, what’s up with that? When you’re 5150’d typically they put you on antipsychotics, that’s what happened to me. They put me on a certain type of antipsychotic and
when I took little doses of it I felt normal, I could function, I could
write my papers. But what often happens is that when you’re 5150’d they put you on a really large dose, maybe for liability reasons, and that shuts down all your cognitive functioning.
So I couldn’t do school, I lost all my creativity, I had to drop my classes at
Fuller, I couldn’t work, I didn’t want to engage with anyone. Life felt so dull.
All I could do was lie in a park in Pasadena and read the Book of Job over and over. It was really the worst time of my life, the worst time of my life. I can normally think my way out of stuff, but I just couldn’t think my way out of this. So some of these archetypal stories that can provide patterns for this: Alice in Wonderland. So she’s falling asleep in the realm in between sleeping and waking, in what’s called the alpha state, and she notices that a rabbit shouldn’t have clothes on. And so that noticing that something was off, she follows it down into a world where she asks for directions but they say, “Well where are you trying to go?” And she says, “I don’t really know.” So they say, “Well then it doesn’t matter where you go.” If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter where you go. We need to have purpose and direction. Depending on the substance that you eat you can either grow smaller or you can grow larger. That’s to do with medication; that’s to do with psychedelics as well. In the Matrix he’s exposed to a world that is a higher dimensional version. He’s outside of himself and realizes that society is all a social construct and that he’s on outside of it. And actually it’s a mutual dream that he can tweak and he can develop superpowers if he’s able to engage with it. So some of these archetypal themes run through these stories. And there I am, don’t worry guys! There was a metamorphosis that happened, it’s all good. There’s me as a butterfly, or that’s who I’m becoming. So what helped? With my mania medication helped. Like I said, when I was on a small dose of antipsychotics I was able to function very well; medication really did help me. I saw, I’ve come to see it, as we’re both animal beings and angelic beings, creatures of the mud and creative spirits. And medications can be the tool that helps
you to gravitate at just the right altitude. And so they helped me
with my mania. What also helped was: “It’s more glorious the more you drag it out.”
That came to me during my manic episode. I’ve been very interested in Near Death Experiences and there’s a lot of overlap with psychosis. And we’re gonna find out
all this stuff anyway, and we’re gonna see all of these revelations and epiphanies anyway, so I’m just gonna enjoy my cruise in this spacetime continuum and go deep, deep as possible because we’re going to get to have our cake and eat it
anyway. Investments in this World. See my imagination is a fascinating place and it’s really fun to be there. Now, this world is a fascinating place and it’s really fun to be here! This field, I think we’re on the forefront of some sort of revolution of consciousness here, and every day is magical to me. Magic is real, it really is. And it’s the placebo effect as well as faith: if you believe it is then it becomes real. So my reality is really magical. So that made me not want to become manic anymore, and to actually accomplish real stuff within this spacetime continuum. What helped with my depression? Again medication. So I didn’t mean to put medication at the top of both of those lists. I think it has it’s uses, when we see it in the right framework as a tool that can help us swim, that can help us gravitate, cutting-edge neuroscience, And if it’s framed in that way and we can use it as a tool then it can be a beautiful thing. But medication did help with depression. Normally they won’t prescribe an antidepressant to people with bipolar 1 cos it’ll send them into mania. I found someone who was able to prescribe it to me and it…sent me into mania. But it also got me out of my depression. The Right Environment, the Right People. This is the right environment. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people and people who are ambitious and entrepreneurial and getting things accomplished…I don’t know if you saw earlier my brother and I had…we cruised around in South Africa selling cookies and fudge door to door There’s an entrepreneurial spirit and a calling on all of us to belong to something larger something that transcends us, something that’s going to change the fabric of the cosmos for the next generation and the generations after
that. So that really helped me with my depression. As did shifting my paradigm. I
started to think about my spiritual heroes and I thought about Samuel lying
in bed and hearing a voice calling out to him and him going to Eli saying,
“What’s up, what’s up?” and Eli was like, “That’s God, listen to Him. Say, ‘Here I am,
speak Lord.'” Now I think what about in a Western paradigm what would happen if
that same situation had to happen? I think about Jesus. I think about the great career He had lined up as a carpenter and then He comes up out of the water of baptism and He goes into
the desert for 40 days not eating anything. That’s criteria for “grave
disability” right there. (laughter) These understandings, these apparitions, these hallucinations that are telling Him He could be the king of the cosmos and of the universe? Sounds like “grandeur.” He’s being told that he can jump off the temple and fly
and “don’t worry, the angels got your back?” These are the types of things that I was
being told. But what does Jesus do? He submits in humility. And He chooses to die to…the call to ego gratification instead he dies to… (humility) …to that. And accepts the will of God. And these are the people who can teach us how to
navigate these states of consciousness which are, I’ve experienced, very real. So
I have a passion for navigating these terrains from spiritual angles. And what helped me get off weed was again investment in this world. Now it’s stopping me from being as good at stuff. I wanna get good at stuff so I can do stuff, real stuff that’s gonna change things. And so I’m invested in this world, I’m excited by this reality. They did a study
with rats where they’ve put them in a cage with nothing but cocaine water and
regular water, and they would drink themselves to death on the cocaine water. Then they made rat paradise. And they
put a bunch of female rats in there they put balls and beautiful things, little slides and stuff. They put the same cocaine water and the regular
water and the rats hardly ever went for the cocaine water. So your environment, the reality that you build yourself with other people, the connection, we’re isolated in Western Individualism, that helped me to feel “I want this over the weed;” I saw something higher. And then an awareness of the dark and deceptive of these psychedelics. It’s like the Disney apple that’s really shiny on the outside, but poison on the inside. There’s a deception that comes with these things. So I wear multiple hats. There’s me as the Mad Hatter. Pouring tea in my ear. And then there’s me graduating from Fuller Seminary with my Masters in Theology. (applause) Thank you very much! 3.82 GPA and that was when I went through all my ups and downs and so we can wear these multiple hats And it’s enriched my life! It’s maybe not the best career goal to get a Masters in Theology, whatcha gonna do with that? But it’s made my reality soooo magical, helped me see these meta-narratives that are the best thing I could have done. So these are, just quickly, some of the things that did help me with this continued metamorphosis, like I say it’s still
happening: being involved with church, the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance
(DBSA), connecting to like-minded individuals, non-judgmental people,
Clubhouses and the mental health events like this. The WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and the Peer Employment Training classes. I started a movement named Azlanz Rainbow which has given me much purpose and direction and introduced me
to a lot of interesting people. There’s Facebook groups that explore these types
of things that can give you alternative perspectives, and then iHeart, working
for iHeart I get to do this and I get paid to do this, it’s ridiculous, it’s beautiful!
I get to cruise around and connect with the most interesting people in reality and help them
accomplish their own goals, it’s absolutely fantastic. So that’s actually
in a real aspect of my wellness. What helped me is looking at psychology through the
lens of Carl Jung and other people. Of spirituality through non-duality. And
of the future…I think that, like I said we’re on the brink of something big here.
Psychedelics are being legalized left, right, and center. As you know a bunch of
states have legalized weed And all psychedelic plant medicines have been
decriminalized in Oakland and also in Denver magic mushrooms have become legal. There’s a very close link between psychosis and psychedelics. In fact
psychedelics were originally named psychoto-mimetics because they’ve mirrored
psychosis so closely. So with this legalization wave we’re about to see a
huge wave of psychosis wash over America and of the world. In fact South Africa
they’ve just they made weed legal too. So if people don’t have any frameworks to
navigate these states they’re not going to know what to do.
Joseph Campbell, the famous mythologist says, “The person in psychosis is drowning
in the very same water that the spiritual master swims with delight.” So if
we can teach people how to swim we could be on the brink of something beautiful: a
wave of prophets or frontier-riders. If we don’t have conceptions of how to
navigate these spaces in the West, like we’re taught we’re just atoms bumping
into each other, but yet we’re supposed to find our own meaning, but we told
there’s no meaning? So we need to balance the Western reductionist approach with
some different models. And so, and also a model of neurodiversity that helps people to appreciate diverse brains and the way that we made, instead of sticking people
in boxes. I’m a champion for these types of things: to help people feel that they
have talent and they have gift to offer the world. And to bring that out and to
fan their own flames into fruition and set the world on fire for that! (Yeah!)
And that’s a beautiful thing right there. So here’s the last slide. And some further things that helped me to look into. In Depth Psychology there was the thinking of Carl Jung and Stan Grof. In science: quantum physics, panpsychism, biocentrism, and Rupert Sheldrake. In philosophy: Idealism, that everything is
mind, and postmodernism, the appreciation of diverse perspectives.
From the spiritual angle: Richard Rohr, Rob Bell Advaita Vedanta, Meister Eckhart, and St John of the Cross. And there’s a bunch of geniuses and creative
geniuses throughout time who’ve had diagnoses. I think we’re on the brink of
something beautiful here guys and it’s happening right here in this room!
And it’s an honor and a joy to be a part of it with all of you guys! And thank you very very much! Well Josh, I’ve never met anyone with your talent. You need to go on the speaking circuit. Sold, sold, I’ll do it. So let’s give Josh another hand.
I’m rarely speechless but I’m speechless right now.