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Laura Delano: Recovery from Psychiatry and Reclamation of Inner Compass

Guest: Laura Delano
Host: Preeta Bansal
Moderator: Rina Patel

Every Saturday we host conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life. Speakers whose personal journeys awaken and inspire our innate spirit of service. Thank you for coming together to plant seeds for a more compassionate society.

Preeta: So good morning, good afternoon and good evening depending on where you are in the world. My name is Preeta and I'm really excited to be your host this morning for our weekly global Awakin call. So today we're grateful to have a remarkable guest speaker with us - Laura Delano, whose personal journey is not only inspiring but it has had a tremendous impact on many people and she's only just beginning. In a few minutes, our moderator Rina Patel will engage in a deep dialogue with our speaker, Laura Delano. So this week's theme is about recovery from psychiatry and reclaiming inner compass. It's a really powerful theme, this idea of reclaiming our own connection with our own minds, our own bodies, our own spirit, our own heart and moving away from the kind of diagnostic or pathologic labeling that can sometimes occur through our mainstream institutions including medical and educational institutions. Our guest this week believes that it is imperative that we reclaim the sacred connection to our own inner compasses within the institutionalized bases, especially our educational and mental health system, that often teaches the false story that suffering, mental breakdown and spiritual crises are medical conditions, requiring professional and pharmacological treatment as opposed to signs of an illness, sensitivity and spiritual connection to what's happening in our world that requires our attention.

So we've asked as a question of reflection, we've asked our audience to consider when has distress and breakdown been a sign of awakening rather than an illness requiring suppression or treatment in your life.

So we have the great pleasure of having Rina as our moderator today. With that I'd love to just have you pass it on, introduce Laura and have a deep dialogue with her and we'll rejoin up at the top of the hour.

Rina: Thank you so much Preeta. Let me just start by saying that it is such an honor to be able to moderate the call with Laura. Laura has had a remarkable journey. She's a community organizer, psychiatric liberation writer and activist; she advocates for fully informed choice about psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, for the individual's right to access alternatives to the mental health system. She recently founded and serves as Executive Director of Inner Compass Initiatives and ICI's The Withdrawal Project which are launching this winter. She has spent the last several years working to advocate for those who are lost in the mental health system, most of her work is fueled by the fourteen years she's spent in the mental health system. And she's been on a journey to making this her life's work since 2010 when she chose to leave behind a mentally ill identity and the various treatments that came with it. So this is just a quick introduction, but as we go through the call, I'm just going to ask several questions I think that'll unroll, unwind Laura's journey, and the incredible transformations that have taken place. So Laura, I'll just start with asking you, is there any specific way you'd like to introduce yourself to our audience? And then maybe we can to dive into the questions.

Laura: Thanks so much for having me here, it really is an honor. Hi Rina and hi Preeta. Yeah, I mean I think your lead-in was great, and I don't know what else I could add, because I think what you said about me was perfect, so we can call it OK, diving in.

Rina: Awesome. So, I'm just going to start by asking you, what does recovery mean to you?

Laura: That's a great question and a big question. I think my understanding of the word has definitely evolved over time, and so maybe I'll share what it means for me today, but touch a little bit on what it meant to me over the past few years, as it's changed. For me today, recovery I think about the word not as recovering from a condition of some kind or from a state of unwellness or sickness. I think of the word recovery more as a process of reclaiming myself, of recovering myself from various stories and systems and institutions that I got lost in, really that’s how that word works for me. So I think in the past, I thought about recovery as this journey I was on, to become normal.

Having spent all of those years in the mental health system, I really came to see that the experiences I was having that got me into the mental health system, this profoundly difficult emotional and mental struggle because I've seen them as these problems that needed to be fixed, I thought, "Oh, recovery will be this end objective I get to, when I feel happy and balanced and put-together and I'm functioning well in society and I like sit right back into how I'm meant to be", but that's changed, as I realized that those very ideas that I was carrying about recovery were actually keeping me trapped in many ways, and that if I really wanted to recover my authentic self and recover a connection to the deepest part of myself, I'd have to let go of this idea of normal and happy and whatever else and really just reclaim who I truly am, like pain and all. So I'd say that's how the word works for me today and I use it in my website, Recovering from Psychiatry, I use it in that way because I mean it's much broader than psychiatry that I feel like I've recovered myself from. Yeah, that's how it works for me at this point in my life.

Rina: Yeah, and I think many of us and many in our audience will be able to really relate to that feeling or that expectation of being normal, and also going through that question, that process of questioning, what does it mean to be normal. Can you, just taking a step back, can you take us through to parts of your childhood and some of those experiences that really led up to your point of the catalyst that led up to the tapering off of your medication and what led you to even coming into the mental health system, because I'm sure a lot of our audience may not be familiar with that as well.

Laura: Sure. You think it makes the most sense to start with how I got into the mental health system first, you think? Ok yeah, so I was a child, I was thirteen when I first met the mental health system and I say the word 'met' because it really was the kind of relationship that I was in for a long time. The kind of kid I was prior to meeting the mental health system was - you know I grew up in an upper middle class family, I had access to a lot of resources and privileges and opportunities. Any and all of my basic needs were met. I had nutritious food, I went through "top private schools", I played sports, I was a well-respected kid, on the surface, I met the criteria for a full, rich childhood. So, on the surface I had this kind of these various measurable things going for me, like I did well in school and I was an accomplished athlete and this and that, but internally, I was a very sensitive, and I see now, a child who was in the process of waking up.

I always felt a deep sense of connection to the world around me as far back as I can remember. I have vivid memories - one memory in particular - going into the woods actually right around this time of year probably, as the leaves were like vivid orange in the Northeast United States, and I just remember like a lying down in the woods in this big pile of leaves and like covering myself in the leaves and looking up at the tree, at the branches swaying in the wind and feeling the insects crawling in the leaves, crawling on my skin, smelling the soil, hearing the wind and just feeling the sense of oneness with everything, and realizing just how much life there was around me.

So, I think many, if not all children, are in touch with that level of awakeness and so I've kind of carried that with me into this very highly pressured environment where, yes I had amazing opportunities given to me, and I was afforded a lot but I was also like very, very sensitive and so what ended up happening, I think was that the clash of the more superficial, observable realm of existence where I was in this top school where we were meant to study really hard and get straight A's and take honors classes and this and that and my competitive sports and all the things I had, I was operating at that level, but internally I was just feeling, I just felt the world so intensely.

And so, I think I began to struggle with keeping that integrated and I ended up having a very profound experience at thirteen that was what led me into the mental health system, where I was brushing my teeth one night, getting ready for bed, looking in the bathroom mirror, and I remember thinking about how I was in the next day, or the next couple of days, I was going to have to lead the middle school assembly, because I was president of the middle school and I had all of these responsibilities on my plate, and I remember thinking about that and then I just started to look into my eyes. And I just started to look deeper and deeper and deeper into the eyes, in my eyes in the mirror, and I began to like lose touch with my hands and my arms and my legs, and then I lost touch with my whole body and everything around me began to go black, and then I was just looking down this dark tunnel at the face in the mirror and I suddenly realized this is a stranger, and I just had this encounter with this stranger looking back at me for I don't know how long but I was terrified.

And I see now, I was having a profound spiritual emergence of some kind, you know, I was like transcending self. It could have been this profoundly meaningful opportunity to dive into what that meant, but I was thirteen, I was in this like highly-pressured environment where everyone was put together all the time and like high functioning and all of this and that, and suddenly here I was, like not understanding what was happening in the mirror. The best I could do to make sense of it was I must not have a real self, like I'm an actor performing this life, performing these grades, being president, being an athlete, but I don't have a real self. I'm fake. I'm a fraud. It was like the only framework I could find to make sense of what had happened, and so I left the bathroom that night convinced that I was a fraud, and that I didn't have a real self and I was trapped in the life of this stranger and I couldn't get out because, what was I going to do, how was I going to find my real self? I didn't even know who, I wouldn't have known where to start.

So I ended up continuing on, pretending like everything was OK, but it was only a matter of time before like everything I was holding within me began to come out and at home. So I would keep it together at school, but I'd come home and I began to explode into rages and I'd yell and scream and curse and I got physically aggressive with my family. And I like hated the world and I just began to cut myself and I began to think about death and I just completely flipped. It was like a Jekyll and Hyde transformation at home, and my parents understandably were just terrified. They didn't know what was happening to their eldest daughter, so they eventually did what all, what most parents in American society are taught to do in these kinds of situations. They said, "We're going to have to take Laura to a professional for help. Something's wrong with her and we want to help her."

And so, I met the mental health system at that point. I was sent to a therapist and I remember feeling so betrayed, because what I had come to see in that experience in the mirror and in the aftermath of that experience was that, yes, I was this fake performer, but the reason why I was performing was because of all of these powerful forces around me that had like brainwashed me into thinking I needed to be a highly accomplished kid in order to be worthy. So I kind of like I had this critique of society while I also felt completely imprisoned in this fake life, and so, to then be told you're the problem, you have to go to a therapist and get fixed because you're the problem. I know now of course that my parents were just doing the best they could and from this place of love and concern, but at the time, I just took it as this profound insult and so I didn't really "get better.”

I continued to have all these issues and so it wasn't too long before that therapist referred me to a psychiatrist, who in one appointment, so in the span of fifty minutes told me that my anger and rage were symptoms of mania, and my despair and the fact that I was cutting myself and thinking about death were symptoms of depression, and that I had bipolar disorder, and she then handed me two prescriptions for a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant, and said have your mom call me to schedule an appointment for the next week. And so that was the beginning really of my life into what I called mental patienthood. At that point I was fourteen, when I first saw a psychiatrist, I was fourteen. So that was how I met the mental health system. I keep going on and on because there's so many layers to it but that's it in as small of a nutshell, as I can get it into.

Rina: Yeah, thank you so much for telling us this journey. And we've spoken to you a number of times, because it took you until you were twenty seven years old, fourteen years after these experiences, to have these profound experiences that led you towards tapering off your medication. Can you tell us more about that?

Laura: Sure. So, I'll keep it as brief as I can but because it plays such an important role in how I ended up leaving the mental health system, I'll just quickly touch on, kind of, how things changed for me over the years, that I really became deeply invested in thinking of myself as mentally ill. In high school, I rejected the diagnosis largely. So, from like fourteen to seventeen-eighteen, even though I had this bipolar diagnosis, and I was told I needed to take these medications, something deep in me rebelled against it. I ended up going to Harvard University, because I was still stuck in this game really, that I see now as this game I was playing, a performance. So, even though I knew something, it didn't really mean, it didn't have a sense of meaning to me. I couldn't extricate myself from this game of performance.

So, I ended up finding myself at Harvard as a freshman in 2001 and at that point because I had this last sense of hope that maybe if I got to Harvard, maybe I'm wrong and it really is just, I've got to get to this good college because that's what I've been taught is what you do with your life, and once I'm there, I'll feel happy and I'll feel OK and I won't want to die anymore, and my life will make sense to me, but I got there and nothing changed. I still felt like a fraud, I still felt empty, I still didn't know who I was, I still wanted to die and so, at that point, I became so overwhelmed with my emotional pain and my mental pain that I ended up, in a short matter of time, voluntarily going back to the mental health system because I was convinced, I've made it to Harvard, I've done everything I've been meant to do and I still want to die, they must have, that psychiatrist must have been right, there must be something wrong with me, I must be mentally ill.

So age eighteen to age twenty seven, that became my entire sense of self, I am mentally ill. That's who I am. I have this mental illness that lives in my brain, it's a chemical imbalance and that's why I have these mental and emotional experiences that I'm going through all the time and that's why I have these intense high and lows, and I feel emotions so deeply and I can't integrate them, and I stay up late at night with my mind racing about the meaning of life and you know what is space and time and language. And so this framework of mental illness became how the sole way through which I made sense of who I was, and I became very good at becoming a patient, because this was the only framework that I had, and so I took my medications as prescribed and I was like diligent, you know just this diligent patient coming to therapy, I would check myself into the hospital whenever I was thinking about killing myself. It was like my career really. I became a patient.

Simultaneously, even though I had invested all this hope in, "If I just do what the doctors tell me to do, maybe I'll feel happy one day" at the same time my life continued to fall more and more apart, with each passing year of being a good patient. I lost a lot of my physical health, I had chronic pain and headaches and gut issues and weird things going on with my body, I had cognitive struggles and couldn't remember things and my emotions were more out of control than ever before. But I was thinking about this all as "oh this is my mental illness" and in fact all of these doctors that I was seeing were saying, "yes you have treatment resistant mental illness because you're getting all this top treatment, but you keep getting worse so you're just going to have to accept that your life, you may have once had all these dreams for yourself, but you're very mentally ill and you might never be able to work or have a family or take care of yourself." So that was what my life became and I really, really fell deep down into this dark vortex of despair and hopelessness and alienation, and I eventually tried to take my own life as it was the most logical thing to do. And, still to this day, I see my suicide as this sacred thing. That I made this choice to end my life because it was not a life worth living. And I can see now that really what I wanted was change, but I just didn't know how else to change.

So that's the kind of backdrop for what my life looks like leading up to 2010 when I ended up leaving the whole mental health system. It's just important to say that because all of the awakenings and realizations and learnings that began to happen for me in 2010, really what they did was they helped me to step out of the story I was telling myself "I'm Laura Delano, I have treatment resistant mental illness. I'm never going to be able to be a full member of society because my brain is sick and I need this medicine and this is what my life is going to look like."

In 2010, a series of events happened that forced me out of that story. The first was basically was being made to take a medication, that I didn't want to take. I was in a hospital and they told me that I needed this particular psychiatric drug, and I don't even, and I didn't want to take it because of the side effects, but they made me take it anyways. And that really jolted something in me. I realized like, "Wait a minute, how do they have the right to do this to me?". Because, up to that point I'd always said yes to everything, so I never had to have an encounter with a doctor that had some conflict in it. So suddenly I was having this encounter that, where I realized, "Wow, I don't actually have the right to say no here".

And then the next event that happened was, um, I was out of the hospital in a day program, and a psychiatrist got the sense that I was thinking about suicide, which I was, and he said, "I'm sorry I can't let you leave my office, you have to go back into the hospital." And I wasn't even against the idea, I actually liked being in the hospital because it helped me feel safe from myself. But I wanted to be able to go home first to get my belongings, and he wouldn't let me leave and I got kind of angry about that, and he called security guards on me and these big security guards came and they escorted me to the unit and they gave me the so called choice of going voluntarily or involuntarily. So that second experience forced me to face the fact that this doctor had the right to strip me of my right to fresh air. And I had one other encounter that was a similar, kind of experience where a therapist called the police on me to do a wellness check, quote, unquote, because I had slept through a therapy appointment.

So I had these three encounters with, what I really now see as force, the kind of legally -sanctioned, and the socially and medically-sanctioned right that clinical, licensed health professionals have to use force, to make their patients do things that they don't want to do. And those lead me up to what was my profound a-ha moment that really got me out of that story. And that was actually finding a book. I found a book by accident in a bookstore that had a really compelling title, a cover, and that was the only reason why I bought it. I didn't even know what the book was about. It just has this head on it with all these different psychiatric drug names and the head and I had basically been on all of those medications so I was like, "Oh, interesting, I've taken most of these meds, I might as well get this book.". I see now that it was some, you know, divine something that was at play here because I was on five medications at the time, and I hadn't read a book in a long time because I cognitively couldn't absorb information.

But I actually went back and read this book and it blew my mind. The book's name is Anatomy of An Epidemic and the author is Robert Whittaker and he's a science journalist and basically in a nutshell, this book explores the question of, "Why is it, in the United States over the last 20-30 years, that we've had this surge in all of these sophisticated psychiatric medications for all these different types of conditions, why is that rates of disability due to mental illness are actually skyrocketing? You would think that the opposite would be happening, because we have all this new type of treatment, you'd think that disability rates would be going down?". So this journalist set out to find the answer to that question. And what he found is that, in a nutshell, is that the story we've been told about psychiatric drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, and really by the mental health system, more broadly is just not -- the truth is very different, than what we've been told. The science is actually telling us that long-term use of psychiatric drugs is actually making us sicker. Like, physically sicker, increasing rates of diabetes, of obesity, heart, liver problems, a variety of physical things, like cognitive, emotional, um, dysfunction, social disability, inability to work.

So I'm reading this book, on five medications that I've been on for over a decade at this point, and it's all clicking and I'm realizing that the moment that I, that freshman year of college when I really embraced being mentally ill and taking medications for the rest of my life, that was the moment that my life really began to fall apart. And it all fits. And I realize, "What if it hasn't been treatment resistant mental illness this whole time? What if it's been the treatment, in large part, that's been leading me to this point where suicide is the only logical solution to my life?" So that's what began, that's what ignited the fire in me, of both hope and curiosity, because I realized, if this story isn't true -- that if I don't have to have take these medications for the rest of my life, that if I don't have them, I'm going to die, that I won't be able to function -- if this story isn't true, then it means I might stand a chance at a different future.

And, I began to wonder, "What could that future be?" And so this combination of hope and curiosity, even though I was terrified at the same time, that's really what began to propel me towards, to really propel me on this quest of self-education and of self-discovery that's lead me to where I am now, seven years later. And oh, I'm talking way too much. I really want to engage with you a few times. I'm going to stop talking at this point.

Rina: No, thank you so much. I think that the background that you provide is so important. What I see from you, what I hear from you. Just some background, we had met at the Space Between Stories workshop, that Charles Eisenstein holds about two times a year. And, it's just so fitting that it's how we met at this space, because in this Space Between Stories Workshop, Charles talks about and what he writes a lot about in his work is that we are leaving the story of where, you know, this old story of where we are playing into fear and greed. You know the story of separation and how our world is moving into this awakening. This awakening of consciousness and how where we are awakening into the inter-being and the inter-connectiveness in the collective of the world, and we are really now we are starting to see this awakening happening. know we have explored these themes of a more beautiful world...our heart, it’s possible. And what I hear from you, is that after these profound experiences, you really start to wake up the this more beautiful world that’s possible, not just for your life, but all all the things that you can do, which is just so incredible.

I feel like this journey, it took you to so many changes and one of them was lifestyle changes. And those lifestyle changes led you to the founding of ‘Inner Compass.’ And so, a lot of these lifestyle changes kind of go back to listening to our bodies and the sacred process of taking care of our bodies which indigenous cultures really paid attention to. They paid attention to the rhythm of nature. And essentially your recovery process was very much going back to the rhythm of nature, and taking care of oneself in a non-consumerist way. I’d love to hear from you in terms of how those lifestyles changes have played a role in your life right now, and the work that you are doing.

Laura: Sure, I’d love to share about that. This idea of taking care of oneself outside of the kind of consumerized self-care industry is an idea that I got really fired up, and excited about because it just played in such a vital role in my own process. I think it started the way, the changes that I have made in my life definitely began within these stories I was telling myself, within the ideas that I was carrying about: who I was, what my emotional and mental pain was, and what I should do with that pain, who and where I should turn to to help me to navigate that all really began know, in because once I realized I have been sold, not just told the false story, but sold the false story about, like the safety, efficacy of psychiatric drugs, I realized what other stories have I been carrying that aren’t true and I think the biggest one that i kind of eventually, kind of evolved into, was realizing the story that if you experience emotional and mental pain, it means that there is something wrong with you and that you have to modify yourself, change yourself, to get rid of that pain in order to be acceptable again. Or in order to be normal. I realized, like holy cow! This is really the story that’s sitting at the heart of how I’ve lived my life, as if so many years of feelings, such intense emotions that often times hurt so much, and having such profoundly intense and oftentimes painful thoughts.

All of these years I was just terrified of these aspects of myself, and I’d really bought into this idea of like I need to take these medicines to get rid of these emotions and thoughts, and I need to talk to these professionals, and I need to go to these hospitals and this and that. And I realize that if I am going to reclaim myself, if I’m going to find out who I might be, beyond the mental health system, I have to start listening to my pain. I have to start listening to this profoundly raw, and agonizing and oftentimes debilitating emotions that leave me immobilized on the couch for 8 hours straight sometimes. Like I have to listen to them. I have to walk through this fear that I have of them. So, it really began this transformation of how I lived my life. And once I began to do that, once I began to, it was terrifying, like holy cow, nothing scared me more than being with myself. Being with myself and all of that darkness. Um, because I hadn’t been with myself in that way in so long, and so once I started doing it, I began to listen, and I also began to listen to not just my mind and my emotions, but also to my body. Because it all began to become clear to me that there is not this whole mind body dualism thing. That is just not how it really is. My whole being is interconnected just as we are all interconnected more broadly on this planet. My being is this interconnected being. I can't differentiate my body from my emotions from my mind.

And I began to really listen to my body. To see that it was sitting at the heart of my consciousness. How I was treating my body. And I came to see that I was really harming my body. I kind of been aware of that for a long time. I had many years of struggles with what would be diagnosed with eating disorders today. So I don't use that language anymore. Many years of self-injury--cutting myself, burning myself. Many years of really seeking profoundly self destructive relief in alcohol and drugs. And I realized these injuries that I have caused to my body because I haven't ever learned to be with myself. I have to heal these injuries.

So what that has looked like for me has been like hugely about nutrition and learning to take care of my body through food and how to listen what my body communicates to me about what I put in it. Not just with food, but even hair and skin products. I remember back in 2012, I kind of woke up to the isn't just the pharmaceutical industry that create these products that can really harm us. All these different industries. And I began to look at the ingredients in my shampoo bottle. And I'd be like, "What the heck? This is like a carcinogenic gas product." And I've been putting this on my scalp and the skin is our biggest organ.

So I just began to realize all these ways that my body had been so profoundly injured oftentimes in the name of care. Because, of course, we get told, "Take care of yourself, buy this product. Buy this skin lotion. Buy this shampoo. Buy this deodorant and take care of yourself." The more I listened to my body, the more I realized I actually should stop listening to all of the advertising that is telling me how to take care of myself and kind of do the opposite.

And I know you and I have talked about that in the past too. And that has been a part of your journey too. And I know we are far from alone.

Rina: Yeah, what are the alternatives. I remember you telling me for your hair product you used baking soda. Are there any other alternatives that you have been using?

Laura: Well, my favorite product are baking soda, apple cider vinegar. I'll use certain oils. I love coconut oil. But it is pretty basic for me. And the same product I use to clean my kitchen, I use on my hair and on my skin. I do love Dr. Bronner's soap also.

It is very simple. That is what you come to realize. That it doesn't take a lot to take care of yourself in a day to day way because you just get so indoctrinated in thinking that you need to buy, buy, buy. You think you need these cabinets of products to take care of yourself. You realize, "No, you don't."

Rina: Yeah. Wow. I feel there are so many points that we can go from here. So we had talked about some access points in not just reclaiming our bodies, but being free of some of the constraints that are in our society. I know one of these is definitely self-care. Are there any other access points that come to you?

Laura: Yeah, I think one of the things that I have come to see is that the way much of American culture today constructs what we think of education and learning. You know, I’ve come to see that...As someone who grew up with access to socio-economic privilege, like I grew up in this, kind of, “elite education world” where it was all about how you performed in school, and your test grades, and your S.A.T. scores, so that you get into a good college, so that you get a good job, so that you could da-da-da (mimes a long list)...And of course, I want to name that my experience is a tiny sliver of -- the perspective I come from, with my socio-economic race, like, you know all these different pieces -- it is just one sliver, and of course, many people didn't have this kind of experience with schooling and education.

But I have come to see that, so much of the way, much of schooling, seems to have evolved in our culture, is that it trains you to become a passive recipient of information. That really serves to turn you into a good producer and consumer. Not necessarily a good critical thinker, or a good activist or revolutionary. And so I think, beyond the psychiatric, pharmaceutical, mental health industry, the food industry, and the self-care industry, I think it's also true that the education industry -- that we've really, well almost lost, like a sense of meaning in learning, because it has become this performative process, of getting these certain milestones met, so that you can feel like you've arrived in society. But like I think, now I look back, and like no wonder, I felt so lost and ungrounded through my adolescence, because the way I was learning -- it didn't have meaning to it. It was about memorizing and regurgitation, and grades, and so I think, I don't know -- I'm really excited -- the little that I know about home schooling or de-schooling or unschooling -- I think that's another arena that is important for our society, for communities to make space for. It's like how do you, how can we create alternative spaces for young people to learn and how can we reclaim learning from this idea of grades and test scores and classrooms and all that! But that's been a big discovery for me, I would say, to...

Rina: Yeah, yeah! And moving away from, and definitely in the face of of education, but also in the face of health-care and pharma, how has that played a role in the founding of ‘Inner Compass’ and where did that idea to create a nonprofit -- how did that arise?

Laura: Yeah, so the idea came...Actually a friend of mine, posed the idea to me. I mean, it had been a fantasy, in the back of my mind for a long time, that maybe one day, I could be a part of founding an entity of some kind, that could be a part of cultivating change. But the world hadn't synced up in such a way, that it had happened yet. And a friend of mine basically said one day -- You know, I really believe in what you're doing and...You know, this is a friend you who had a foundation. And the friend said -- We want to support, we think you should start a nonprofit and we want to support you, we want to help you get off the ground. So that's how it happened.

I think it was this amazing gift. I mean, talk about a gift -- this is someone who believed in me, who believed in the work that I'd been doing, and in this vision, this idea of what would it look like to build a society beyond the mental health system, how do we take our own personal experiences, because I'm so far from alone. I should say there are so many others out there, who've been in the mental health system for many, many years, who’ve been on medication for many, many years, who realize, like, I don't know if this is who I want to be anymore. And they've made their way out -- there so many of us, and so yeah, this amazing opportunity was presented to me, a couple of years ago. And that's what I have been working on, with a few others.

Our mission, really, once we launch -- we were meant to be launched by now, but such is life! We're soon to be launched -- our mission is really to help people get information and resources, so that they can make more informed choices regarding all things mental health. Because that's one thing I never had access to, was truly informed choices. Like no one told me, when I started taking psychiatric medication that they are studied, on average, for six to eight weeks, before they are approved by the F.D.A.. And yet, we’re told to take it for the rest of our life! They've never actually been studied for long-term use -- for long-term safety and efficacy, which is why we're finding that, you know, they are actually not effective in the long term. No one told me that, and so the so-called choice I made to take psychiatric medications, I don't think was really a true choice, because it wasn't informed.

So we want to help people make more informed choices about the mental health system, and we want to help people connect with each other, locally, in their communities, so that people who realize that I want to find a different way forward, beyond the mental health system -- so that people can actually, at the grassroots, the local level, like kitchen table, coffee shops, park benches, can come together and begin to think about -- how can we reclaim, not just our our own mental and emotional pain, from this diagnostic framework, but also the right and the ability to take care of each other. Because I think that's another piece of the mental health system, that has, I believe really disempowered us. This idea that you can only really help someone in a serious crisis, if you're a trained professional. Like the number of times I've heard someone say, “Oh, my friend was suicidal, but I'm not a licensed mental health professional, so I said that they should go to the emergency room, or they should call their therapist.” As human beings, we have a tremendous ability to be with each other, in times of deep, deep, terrifying confusing, scary distress, but we've lost touch with that. So we want to help people reclaim all of these different facets of what it means to be human.

And a lot of this is also around helping people come off psychiatric drugs safely, because that's actually a very critical issue, that unfortunately there's no research into. Doctors are not trained in how to help people safely taper, so they bring people off way too quickly, and then people have serious problems because these medications really change the structure of the central nervous system. So we have an entire website that we've built, that helps people get information on how lay people have been tapering off safely and successfully, because we have this huge anecdotal evidence base, of people who've kind of figured out for themselves, that doesn't -- you can't find in the research literature and the mental health system. So we want to help people get access to that information. So yeah! And we're not anti-medication, I should say. We believe that each of us is the only expert on ourselves, and we each have the right to make our own decisions about our bodies, but that choice, true choice is only really possible, if it's fully informed. So we want to help people get more informed.

Rina: Yeah! So we have just a couple of more minutes before we move into questions. Before, we had been talking about what it means to be women -- having conversation and listening to ourselves more deeply. And you know, just, I guess, regardless of gender, there's a need in our society to listen to ourselves. But also as women, you know there’s inequality, we often don't know the true side-effects of a lot of the things that we're putting into our body, such as -- birth control could be one, anti-depressants could be another more common one.

I just want to leave our audience with some tangible points -- that we can really start making these changes in our lives today. So what from your perspective, what are some of our options? And how can we start just making these little changes every single day, to start kind of reclaiming ourselves and our own power, and stepping into the place of really just love for ourselves and the rest of the world?

Laura: Such a beautiful question! And I mean, I definitely won't even pretend to think that I have any kind of concrete answer like -- If people just do this, we'll figure it all out. Because I have no idea. Each person’s past is their own past. But I would say that, for me, the critical first steps were, beginning to ask questions. Really, I got to the point, where I was questioning every belief that I was carrying, about myself, about what it means to be human, about what I was being told by the media, and by advertising, and by the school that I went to. So I would just say question everything, and unpack the layers beneath the belief set you carry. It's been so helpful for me to come at a belief and say, "Where did I learn this belief? Who taught it to me? Where did they learn it from? Who actually constructed this idea? Did they have profit to gain in constructing this idea?” I questioned everything. So I would say be gentle with oneself and fully allow oneself to be wherever he/she/they are at, is critical.

Especially as women, we are -- talk about being self-critical! I think we're trained to be constantly critical of ourselves. It's radical to me, to just allow myself to be who I am, where I am, without needing to change myself. So starting there, practicing, allowing oneself to be exactly where one is, and then asking questions, digging into the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are, and not taking anything at face value; going on a quest, a self-education quest.

That's really what I've been on the last seven years. And that's what then helps free up space for me to learn how to listen to myself again. These two pieces, the mental/intellectual level, educating myself, then at the deeper, more somatic, spiritual level, creating space to reconnect with myself again. And reconnect with my inner compass. That's why we named the organization ‘Inner Compass’ because of this idea that we have the answers that we need within us. If we look within, if we feel within ourselves, there's this wisdom there, that knows what we need. A lot of it, is just this common sense level of knowing, but we get so trained into ignoring it. And so that's really what the journey has been for me. But it is unique for everyone. It's unique. But I think questioning, and making space to learn how to be with oneself, are two of the cornerstones, I would say, for me.

Preeta: Fantastic. Laura, thank you so much. We already have a bunch of reflections, questions from people who have been listening to live-stream. But I wanted to remind people who are live on the phone that if you have a question, to press *6 and get into queue. Or you can send an email at And in the meanwhile, before we jump into the questions that have already come in I wanted to take the host prerogative and ask you a couple of questions, Laura, if that's okay.

Laura: Sure.

Preeta: Your story is so compelling and you convey it so powerfully. It's pretty riveting. I wonder if you could, I was really curious about the process of recovery. I think you started touching on this a little toward the end of your conversation, about how it's important to go slowly, that there are methodologies to start weaning yourself off medications. It sounds like, to understand your process, if I get it right, if I understood you right, it sounds like it started initially with your body, with leaning into your emotions and being comfortable, if it took 8 hours lying on the couch, and just feeling all that you were feeling and feeling your pain. And then that slowly led your toward some lifestyle changes. I'm just wondering if you can talk about the kind of weaning process in terms of the medications, but also the reactions of the mental health system. These systems don't let go easily. What was your physician's response to all of this?

Laura: Thanks so much for asking these questions, Preeta. They're so...and the tapering question is especially so important. Whenever anyone asks me, "What did it look like as you came off and healed?", I always try to start by saying that I was basically afforded, I just have such deep gratitude for all of the gifts and resources and privileges that I had access to, when I came off. Basically I was able to live with my extended family so I didn't have to work, and I didn't have to pay bills, and I had access to nutritious food. I didn't have children to take care of. I was in this optimal situation that I think is really important to name. That being said, I have many friends who come off medication successfully without those things. So it's not like a necessity, but it always feels important to name that.

Basically, the way I came off medications is not a way that I ever recommend to people. I came off very, very, very quickly, because I didn't have access to any information on how to do it safely. And my psychiatrist and my whole treatment team, they were not only totally unsupportive of the idea, I can see now that my psychiatrist didn't know what he was doing either. So I came off five medications in five months, which is basically cold turkey. And just to contextualize what slow and fast really look like, what we have found; when I say, we there are so many of us around the world who come off medications and found each other largely online, so there's this kind of lay-person withdrawal community online, forums and groups.

What we have found is that the rate most people, most of the time who've been on these medications for a few years or longer, is that tapering between 5 and 10 percent per month of whatever your previous month's dose was, so that the cut per month is progressively getting smaller. That's a rate that many people find allows them to participate in their lives pretty much meaningfully along the way. Going faster, many people find, ends up causing disruptions that can be profound enough where people can't work anymore or take care of themselves. That was my experience, and I just happened to be lucky enough where I could basically be a mess for three years, and be taken care of in all these different ways. So for people out there, just to know, there is a way that people are tapering off that allows them to continue working, to continue taking care of their families. It's just this slow rate. So a lot of people are tapering off over years. That's what it takes because these medications are so powerful that the central nervous system really needs time to re-acclimate to their growing absence.

Actually our website, once we're live (I'm happy to share this information on the call but right now it's behind a password), but all of this information, we have like a guide that we've written, it's all there for free, everything is freely available, it will all be there. I talk way too much. But tapering, there is a really careful methodology that people are using that's important to get informed about. Very quickly to say, the mental health system was not supportive of me at all. The people that I was engaged with in 2010 as I was coming off medication, they thought I was crazy. They couldn't make space to allow for this to be my truth. So I ended up just leaving them, because I didn't get emotional support from them.

Preeta: That's amazing. And what, just out of curiousity, are you also going to have, as you taper off medicines, do you also suggest that people start experimenting with some of these positive lifestyle changes? And is that going to be part of your website as well?

Laura: Yeah, we have a huge section where we gathered, we crowd-sourced tons of different coping strategies for withdrawal symptoms, and for the whole process of coming back into your body as you come off these medications. Because many of us find that it's not just about getting the drugs out of our bodies ,but it's about coming back into our bodies, and discovering once again what it feels like to be in our skin, to feel our feelings that may have been suppressed or inhibited by the meds. So we have a huge section with tons of different resources that people have found helpful for that process. We have information on nutrition, on exercise, and moving the body.
It's such a variable experience. Some people find intense rigorous exercise is critical to their healing process, whereas other people find their body is so sensitized, as they come off medications that walking up a flight of stairs sets off a fight-or-flight response. Then some people find that eating a high-fat, heavy meat diet is vital, whereas others find raw vegan is vital food. So there's many different, there's just so many variables at play that there's no one way through it. But our website will have all of this kind of information there for people, along with actually a connecting platform that we've built for people who are thinking about coming off medications, or are in the process of coming off. You can actually register a profile and then find other people in your local community to connect and provide mutual support to one another around the process.

Preeta: Thank you. So I'm going to get into some of the questions and conversations. Linda writes. She says my daughter is a high achiever in a small liberal arts college where the health center and the general environment is very pro-meds for dealing with anxiety, stress, etc. I've tried to convince her to try all the alternative methods for a long time now, but her school counselor continues to advise her. And she believes as well that she should be on meds to help with the pain she experiences from anxiety.

She pushes herself like crazy, doesn't sleep enough, exercise enough, etc., but it is a lifestyle she chooses. At this point, I have to let her do her journey. She knows all the alternatives because I've shared them with her endlessly. And she has gone back on meds for the second time. Any suggestions for a concerned parent who has to let go in this area?

Laura: Oooohhh! Yeah. Man, that is a really tough spot to be in. It sounds like Linda is bearing witness in a really wonderful way. When I was deeply invested in this idea that I needed meds and the reason why I was having experiences was because my brain was sick, there was no reaching me by those around me. I don't think people were necessarily awake to problems with the medications at the time, but even if they were, I wouldn't have been ready to hear that message. If anything, if some concerned friend or family member came up and said, "Maybe these medications are actually causing the problem." I may have even cut off ties with them and gone deeper into the mental health system as a result.

So I think it sounds like Linda is doing a really good job of just bearing witness, being there, making sure that the information and resources are available and accessible, but they are not being pushed. But they are there and they are visible if and when her daughter is ready for them.

I often say to parents who ask me these kinds of questions, that yes, it is about bearing witness, making space, allowing their kid to go on their own journey, but getting curious when there is a chance to engage in a conversation about these deep questions of like "what does anxiety feel like in your body?" or "Have you ever wondered about why the school system is set up in this way?" Even these kind of open-ended curious questions shared from a place of love and compassion, can oftentimes spark new ideas in a person who might be deeply invested in that story.

So whenever there is a subtle moment, if you have these kids of deeper questions of anxiety--where do you think it comes from? Those kinds of curious questions might end up going somewhere. You don't know. Just being there, being available, and getting as informed as possible as you can yourself. So reading books like Anatomy of an Epidemic. There are tons of different books that I can share them with people. But the more informed you are as a supporter, the better resource you will be for that person if and when they are ready. It is a tough spot, though.

Preeta: Also, I know Laura has some beautiful YouTube videos where she talks about her own story and we've linked to them on her bio page of Awakin Call. So if there is an open opportunity of sharing those videos or stories of Laura's experiences, maybe that will slowly trigger that thought in someone.

So we have a question from Washington D.C. The person says, "I practiced meditation for almost a decade, and all of a sudden I felt sick and was diagnosed with bi-polar disease in my forties. I was not able to continue my meditation practice after that for many reasons. With medical intervention and with the support of many family and friends, I'm leading a normal and productive life now. I've tried to stop medication a couple of times, but fell back sick.

I believe now that medications are inevitable if I want to lead a productive life. Isn't leading a productive life the goal of any life? If taking medication helps one with that, then what is wrong in living on medication?"

Laura: Yes, I'm so glad that someone raised this. I think some of my closest friends take medications and live lives that are meaningful and purposeful for them. It sounds like this person has found a path that totally is working for them. And that is great.

At the end of the day, human beings have been altering their consciousness with psychoactive chemicals forever, the history of our species, forever. So this idea of being like "I'm pro-medication or anti-medication," it doesn't make sense to me because I drink black tea in the morning. That has caffeine. Sugar sometimes, that has psychoactive properties. People drink alcohol before they go to a party to relax. So this idea of moralizing this doesn't make sense. And of course, it just alienates.

For me it is about getting informed. If a person is being when I was told, "Laura, this is medicine that is going to alter the chemicals in your brain that are out of balance." That is actually a false story. There is no evidence to support that claim. This has been known for many decades. The National Institute of Mental Health has completely stated we don't yet know what causes mental illness. It is not a radical statement to say that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance. Yet we are told that.

So if someone is told that, when I was told that, I was not making an informed choice about the medications. But if I was told instead, "This is a psychoactive chemical that is going to alter your central nervous system in a way that might feel helpful to you in the same way that drinking a cup of coffee helps someone feel awake in the morning, sometimes. Or drinking a glass of wine at a party helps someone feel more relaxed. This drug might to X, Y, and Z. But this is what is known about it. This is the evidence for its safety and efficacy. And we don't know what is going to do in the long term because it has never been studied."

That to me is the kind of thing that will allow someone to make a more informed choice. So that is what I believe in. That people have the right to make more informed choices. And the last thing that I'll say is that it is very common for people who have been on medications for a while to say, "I've tried to come off, and I relapsed. Things got really bad and therefore, I need to take medications for the rest of my life because that is my underlying condition coming back."

The reality is I have yet to meet a person who has not tried to come off medication far too quickly. There is so little known about how to safely come off that people will try to come off over a period of days, weeks, months, and things go really south. And they are told, "This is a relapse of your illness." But it is actually withdrawal. It is actually withdrawal symptoms that can last months or even years if someone comes off too quickly. So I would just put that out there. That sometimes people will say, "I tried to come off and it went horribly. Therefore, I need them for the rest of my life." Like that is story we are told by the mental health system. But there is actually a different story that could be true which is your central nervous system is going through a serious disturbance because of the removal of this drug. If the taper was done more slowly it might look very different.

Preeta: Great. We have a number of different questions. I wanted to go to a live caller.

Kozo: Hi, Laura. This is Kozo from Cupertino. Thank you so much for your journey and what you are bringing into this world. I was listening to another Awakin Call just the other day from Dr. Bill Stewart and he said, "Something like 70% of the population suffers from depression, they just don't know it." I think you are bringing medicine of not relying on pharmaceutical medicine to so many people who they don't even know that they don't know. So it is a beautiful journey. Thank you.

The question I wanted to ask you is like you said you weren't allowed an informed choice. You were allowed a choice, but you weren't given all the information about the different testings and about the efficacy and the effects of these drugs in the long term. If that happen to me, I would feel almost a sense of betrayal. I would definitely feel some anger at the system that duped me. But I don't sense that in you. I sense in you that you embrace it all. Your answer to the last question that we have been taking substances that alter our consciousness for humanity. I sense this openness to everything in you.

It is not like you are anti this or you have to do it this way, but I sense this openness to everything. And I'm wondering how did you come to that state of being where you don't have that anger and resentment towards psychiatric medicine and that you are able to embrace it all?

Laura: Thank so much, Kozo, for your comment and your question. I'm sitting here with a smile on my face because as you were asking the question I was just thinking back to the last seven years and the journey I have been on through that anger because holy cow was I angry. I still carry anger today, but earlier when I first woke up and realized, "Yes, I had been betrayed." And that word nailed it. It is a betrayal. I do believe that we are being at a personal and collective level betrayed by not just the pharmaceutical industry and mental health/psychiatric industry, but all these industries we have been betrayed.

When I first woke up to that, and I woke up to the fact that the most formative years of my life--my teenage and twenty-something years--where I had lost so much that I didn't even realize that I had lost, right down to...because these are the years you figure out who you are. And all I was was mentally ill during those years. Even losing my creativity and my cognitive ability, my sexuality. Like the most critical elements of who you are and of how you learn how to navigate in the world, I didn't have connection to them during these years.

So I went through a phase of pure anger that I was so overwhelmed by it because it was such an authentic anger that I had never felt since back when I was thirteen, and I was angry at society for making me be this high performing kid. I hadn't felt anger at that level in so long. And it did come out in these what I now see as these more toxic, destructive ways where I thought about things in this us and them way. And if you had anything to do with the mental health system, I don't want to come near you. They are bad and this and that. I think I needed to be there for a while because I was grieving. I grieving all of those losses. I was grieving the loss of my physical health and all of these things. I needed to be there. But I eventually came to realize, and it took a few years, that the rage and self-victimization that I was living each day was its own kind of emotional prison. And if I really wanted to free myself from the mental health system, I had to let go of it.

And I also came to see that this is not about bad people. People go into the mental health system to work because they want to help people. So I eventually I came to see that just as I had been betrayed as a patient, doctors and therapist are betrayed as well. For example, the medical textbooks that young doctors in medical school are taught from are often written by the pharmaceutical industry. Continuing education trainings are funded by the pharmaceutical industry. So the whole body of knowledge that mental health professionals are taught is itself a betrayal.

I eventually came to see that we are all in this together. This is not an us and them thing. And that is what really helped me let go of a lot of it. But I do feel anger every day because I lose friends often. Friends who die from physical health conditions caused by long term use of psychiatric drugs. Friends who are dying by suicide because they come off medications too quickly without realizing how dangerous it is. And then their lives fall apart and they don't get the support they need and they give up hope.

And I feel this anger, but because I also feel this profound love for life that I didn't feel over all those years I was on meds, I am able now to channel my anger into my work and my activism and my writing. And it doesn't feel toxic to me anymore.

I really appreciate the question because I think anger is a very important emotion. In and of itself it is not a "good or bad" thing, but what we do with it that I think can be constructive or destructive. At least that is what I've realized for myself.

Kozo: Beautiful. I just wanted to notice that there was a certain time when you were on these medications where you weren't feeling, so it is interesting that the pure anger that brought you back you back into your body and brought you back to the world of feeling. So it almost makes me happy that you get angry now because that means you are still in your body, you are still feeling. As opposed to numb. You know your friend dies of suicide and you don't have that feeling, then what is the purpose of living.

Laura: Totally! And that to me is the message at the heart of all this. This idea that there are "bad" emotions whether it is despair and sadness and anger, whatever it is or anxiety. That is a story that we've been told, but at the heart of it, we feel these things for meaningful reasons. The dark painful, raw, scary stuff that we fill is a message. It is conveying a message about the world we live in. This idea that 70% of the population has depression they don't even realize it. For me personally, I would set aside the medical language to that, but we are in a crisis of despair and hopelessness and isolation at epidemic levels. And that is a message to us about our world. We need to start listening to our pain because it is telling us that what is happening to our environment, what is happening to marginalized peoples...there is so much pain happening in our world that we are feeling in our bodies. We are carrying that. I feel like we are just channeling the bigger pain and we have to feel it in our bodies so that we can turn it into fuel to cultivate a different future for our society. Our pain, we have to stop pathologizing. I don't want to say we have to stop, that sounds so demanding. I really feel if we stop pathologizing our most painful emotions then they are going to become the most effective fuel to build and cultivate a more interconnected and loving future.

Preeta: Thank you so much, Laura. I want to read to you just a couple reflections that have come in because your topic obviously really inspired people, and then if we have time, go to a couple more questions coming on the web. A man writes that, I am so happy that your family gave you the time and space to heal. My family never did. I spent my entire life seeking it one way or another. Sometimes negative and sometimes positive. Ironically, I am in the elementary education field, sadly to say these environments have a tough to succeed self. You are often questioning your own gut instinct situations, your statement about medical conditions requiring professional and pharmacological treatments as opposed to binding to a life of sensitivity and spiritual connection to what's happening in our world that requires our attention and that brought tears to my eyes. So true indeed.

David writes then that we all get caught in some type of brainwashing, trusting some authority we call medicine or religion or education or military, rather than trusting ourselves. Congratulations on finding your way and yourself and your own truth. I suppose disrupt and breakdown has always been a sign of awakening in my life, including before I knew it. I was distressed because I was trying to comply with what does that mean by bringing down but also by breaking up and out. Disrupt and breakdown has always also been my awakening, though I often didn’t know it. Medicine is that which heal when treatments and drugs don’t heal, they're not really medicine. It takes a couple of awakenings to realize that so thank you.

Then somebody writes from Naperville, questions, “How does one living with an inner compass exist in a world of Affordable Care Act and assurance?”

Laura: Oh, well … laughs. It's an another important question. I mean there's so many layers to that, like I guess that the access point I'll make to that question because I'll leave aside all the kind of like political issues with our health care quote unquote care system or illness management system is maybe a better way to put it, but I think, I'll just speak about my own experience like I used to think that taking care of myself meant going to doctor.I equated those two things like, Oh if you take care of yourself I like visiting doctor, taking medications and that's how you take care of yourself and I've really come to question that in like all these other areas of my life beyond just like mental health quote unquote, like headache, body issues, thyroid problems -I've found that my own way to healing a lot of it has happened by like actually extricating myself from doctors, allopathy doctors within the health care system but that's just my own experience and of course people are in very different positions and very different circumstances and it's easy for me to say that because I DON'T have been able to reverse some of the health conditions I've had like I've had autoimmune problems and thyroid problems and got problems and things that but I've been able to reverse them without doctors like I'm not saying everyone can and should do that but there are ways outside of the health care system as well.

Preeta: Right. And I just know you have earlier in your conversation alluded to relative privilege in which you grew up but I know from other contexts hearing from you, you address a lot, kind of the extra issues that people that have less economic means and maybe different socio economic backgrounds might face. I wonder if you just feel that if you care to just touch on that tiny bit before we close.

Laura: Yeah, I think so it's so critical and my journey - thinking about how much privilege I've had access to, has left me just every day almost overwhelmed by the..just the realization that just how many people don't have access to what they need, and are getting, are having things done to them that are just such profound violations of their being, and just that this is like, that it's just so big. I mean there's just so much work to do all around us, but what I, what I guess also...I just try to keep it brief...that I think it's really important that we politicize our personal experiences like that member who said it. But the idea that the personal is political and that people who are living in poverty, who are being discriminated against because of the color of their skin or their gender or all of these different ways that marginalize people are harmed and in need in our society, the suffering and despair and anger and pain and oftentimes the physical health issues that are happening in the people who live like you don't. These are political - it's not about oh there's something wrong with you individually and you just like need to get access to treatment so that you can go fix it like this is your body, your mind, your consciousness is channeling this bigger structural systemic like forces that are so degrading and dehumanizing and oppress so many people, and so I think just even starting there by recognizing that the pain and the difficulty that one goes through is not caused by what's happening inside of them.

It's caused by the world around them and their relationship to it that doesn't necessarily change anything in the moment but as I found that it can help. It can help ignite a sense of like power and agency and that it isn't me - I'm not defective, like I'm actually awake, and in touch with the world, and that fact can then lead somewhere else. I mean that's a very limited answer to such a profoundly important question, but it's a starting point that I would say.

Preeta: Laura, this is great. This has been such an incredibly illuminating conversation and inspiring conversation. You're such a beautiful person to articulate your story and share it in such a such a deep way. I guess the final question we always ask our guest is, “Is there something that we, as a kind of global ecosystem of people focused on the idea of ‘change yourself, change the world’, is there something we could do, to support your work in the world?”

Laura: Well, I guess maybe I'll leave everyone just with with the website. I mean I am so eager to connect with and hear from people out there who are interested in these ideas, and this idea of like building a future beyond a mental health with them. We're in this weird limbo area where our website is all up there on the internet, but it's hidden behind a password, so maybe what I can do is leave people with the URL and my contact information, and then please get in touch with me, if you want to stay in the loop. So that once we launch, I can let you know, or if you're interested in being involved, because a lot of what we're going to be doing will be around like local grassroots organizing, and helping support folks in their own community to get things going, so if you're interested you can email me and our website is Again if you go there right now you'll see a password protected page, but I'll keep you posted, if you want to be kept in the loop, once we take the wall down, which we should be in the next couple of months.

Preeta: We can also send out that information to everyone on the call.

Laura: Oh, cool, cool. I just want to say thank you so much. I'm so honored to be on this call and to just have the opportunity to share my story and thank you so much, Preeta and Rina. For me it really is an honor and a privilege.

Preeta: Thank you.

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