Why am I a Canary in a Coal Mine?


The title of this blog allows me to self-identify with a movie that proposes those diagnosed with a mental illness are not really medically ill at all. The thesis of the movie is that our struggles with life are not unusual nor are they abnormal. In fact, when pressed further, it’s those folks that do not feel sick at the modern project who may be ill.

The movie condenses the experiences of several people who had a diagnosis of a mental illness but didn’t respond to the “medications” they were prescribed. After months or years of struggling to conform to the “ideal” of what “normal” people look like, the people featured in the movie realized that they were going through a spiritual crisis, gave up their meds, and wrapped themselves in a loving community where they found healing by being themselves.

I’m not a relativist. I don’t buy into some of the things the movie seems to propose, but the underlying thesis needs to be examined closely.

What is the Coalmine?

I interpret the Coalmine as modern society. The relative number of “mad” or “insane” or “mentally ill” people in the world has steadily increased for a few centuries. The coal mine is a type of modern society that has abstracted itself from nature and promoted an industrialized, technological model for society that is truly sick. More about that elsewhere.

Why am I a Canary?

As of this post, I can’t answer that question definitively. The best that I can offer is that it’s somehow part of God’s plan that some folks just don’t “fit in” and I’m one of them. Since I was small, I’ve seen the world differently than most. I see things in terms of human and divine relationships. I’ve always had a deep spirituality (along with my deep religion) and when I try to “conform” to what I identify as the modern project, I show signs of being clinical.

Why is this Movie Hopeful?

This movie is the first project that I’ve seen that shows other people with a diagnosed mental illness are not sick. While I don’t agree with some of the choices made by participants in the movie, I find hope in the movie’s articulation of the radical notion that those who are identified by their families and the medical community as “sick” or “ill” or whatever are, in fact, in a spiritual crisis.

I’m going to this movie again tonight and on Wednesday so that I can participate in the discussion and see what other people have experienced. I’m also beginning research on the “Hearing Voices Movement”, an international support system for those who have experienced what medical professionals call visual and auditory hallucinations. I’ll be posting updates here in the future.

Share your comments and your stories by commenting, below. Peace and blessings to you!



2 thoughts on “Why am I a Canary in a Coal Mine?

  1. Would be interested to know what life was like before meds, what prompted you to get on them, and the road travelled to get off. Suggestions for a spouse of someone not interested in getting off meds when the meds seem to doing more harm than good? God bless…


    1. Thanks for the great suggestion. I’m planning to write about my “dark days” as I process my thoughts. Since I was the one suffering and my wife had a lot of doubts about my going off the meds, I’m not sure of what to say about the circumstance you ask about. I will share this, however: I will be forever grateful to my lovely and glorious wife who, in her own quiet way, was consistently encouraging me. She was the tangible representation of hope that was, to a large degree, a major factor in learning how to believe in myself as well as giving me a reason to change.

      My next post was going to be about negativity and how to stop negative thoughts. Based upon your comment, I will plan to write a bit about how destructive those thoughts were with me and show some of the transformations in my own life and the life of my family after I gave them up.

      I pray that Our Merciful Lord grant you peace and wisdom in your own struggles and that He show your spouse the way to break out of whatever is holding him back from the fullest expression of God’s glory. As St. Iraneaus said: “The glory of God is a man fully alive.”


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