JIVESH: I think the… the description, the word, that best was used to describe mental illness or any kind of neurodiversity would be something like “nerves.” “They have nerves.” Um, or: “Their nerves are acting up.” Something like that.
Uh, if you had nerves you would go and see the pandit. Basically, you would go and see somebody, uh, whose spiritual practice might not be recognized, I suppose, by the state and culture that the state was pushing… well, in this case – if you go far enough back – that the Crown was pushing.
It does sometimes feel like nerves, at least for me. And… there is something about going to see a pandit, or – since I didn’t grow up really being able to do that – like some kind of spiritual piece, um… whatever it is, and those also come with medicinal practices too. It’s not just like: “I go, I pray or something, and I’m good.” There’s… there’s other factors to it. There’s medicine. There’s process. Um… a lot of those things we don’t really have access to anymore though, because we maybe just didn’t have much autonomy over how we, uh… how we lived our lives, um, because… we were there to do a job.
The conditions that, you know, really up till recently, um… in the Caribbean, for my people, were not awesome. Um… there was stresses involved and there was isolation involved and, um… you know, they did have community, but they had left a lot. A lot of people had left a lot. And… all they really did now was work. You get up. You go to the field. You cut the cane. You set the cane on fire…
I suppose, like, I trace, you know… my non-spiritual, but maybe more secular ways of thinking to a lot of… scholarship, really. So people like Frantz Fanon, I think, are interesting. And people like Fanon really brought something new to that field of… I guess, psychiatry, um… his clinical work in Algeria and then later trying to apply that as a way to understand the… the impacts of colonization on, uh… a subject of colonization… um, yeah. You know, like talking about it as “double consciousness” from Du Bois. Talking about it as “a nervous condition” from Fanon. Yeah.
And mental illness, right, it’s a thing where… I think, at least for me… the framing part is what really matters, ‘cause… yeah.
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