Before I lost my mind, I was a successful marketing executive, business owner, husband and father. I had it all and I lost it all. A cocaine addiction led to mental illness that eventually landed me in a psychiatric hospital and ultimately left me homeless. For two years I was “lost,” literally and figuratively.
I broke my brain with drugs. Most people who have lost their minds never find their way back to tell the story; I was lucky. Not only did I find my way back (with a lot of help); I found something more; more “mind” than I know what to do with. I no longer believe insane things, but the way my brain works has fundamentally changed, and for the better.
I’m now combining my marketing skills, my first-hand experiences with mental disorders (and the facilities that treat them), and my “out-of-your-mind thinking” to help mental health marketers identify bold new approaches to their work. I understand the needs of both the healthcare marketer and the point of view of a patient going thru a mental health crisis.
So what is this “gift”?
So what does my brain do that’s so amazing and why do I consider it a gift? I’ve developed what I can best describe as a new skill, a new type of vision that I call Upsight. At any time, I can access what appears to be a different level of consciousness. In this post, I’ll discuss what I think, what I’ve learned, and what I know about this unlikely ability I’ve developed.
When I first started researching this phenomenon, the closest description I could find was of hypnagogic hallucinations or visions. It’s the waking dream state you are in right before you fall asleep at night. Many works of art and creative ideas have been discovered in this state since the Greeks first wrote about it thousands of years ago. The best-known example is that of August Kekulés realization that the structure of benzene was a closed ring. This vision came to him while he was half-asleep in front of a fire; he began seeing molecules forming into snakes, one of which grabbed its tail in its mouth, sparking his “aha!” moment.
The beauty of Upsight is that I can access this state at any time. All I have to do is shift my attention to it, and there it is, right in front of my eyes, as plain as day. However, it’s more than just the hypnagogic hallucinations that many people have.
My visions may be related, but they are something more. My hallucinations are interactive: They respond to my thoughts, I can summon them on demand and change them at will. I can think of questions and a visual answer appears, or sometimes, a visual response – a moving optical image pointing me in the direction of the answer.
I’m still trying to figure out the limits of this new skill. It’s something I’ve spent a great deal of time playing with, puzzling over, and practicing for 2 to 3 hours a day almost every day for the last five years. First and foremost, Upsight is a tool that can access another level of consciousness. Perhaps it would be better for me to say it’s accessing another part of my brain – picking up information and signals that I didn’t have access to before my mental illness. This part of my brain contains data and information I’ve found very useful. It has answers to questions that I didn’t know I knew. It’s like my own personal Wikipedia. I affectionately call this part of my brain Schizopedia. The reasons should be obvious.
How am I doing this? Where in my brain is Upsight to be found? Where in my brain is Schizopedia located? I don’t know. I’m not a neuroscientist. That’s one reason I want to partner with an academic institution. We could figure this out together and get some answers. Stick me in a fMRI machine and see what part of my brain lights up when I use Upsight and access my Schizopedia pages. Hook me up to an EEG machine and measure my theta waves or whatever. I can access these visions on demand in a lab all day long. Upsight is not metaphysical. It’s measurable and repeatable, and I can prove it.
Something was accidentally turned on in my brain that I have been unable to turn off. It was most likely from long-term cocaine use and a combination of genetic factors. I have spent a good part of the last five years researching the brain – specifically attention, awareness, and consciousness. I’ve read blog posts, articles, books and mind-numbingly boring academic papers. I’ve tried in vain to find the right doctor, neuroscientist or academic to tell me what the hell happened to my brain. I’ve had two separate MRI scans to make sure I have no lesions or brain tumors. Both scans have been clear, no signs of a stroke or damage from drug use either. Thank God. Nothing is visibly wrong with my brain.
For the longest time, I wanted validation from these neuroscientists before I was ready to show and tell what my brain can do. Not anymore. I’m tired of sitting on this gift.
Why would I want validation? I’ll tell you why. When I was on drugs and out of my mind, I spent a lot of time trying to convince the people closest to me to believe things that were not true. I wanted my family to believe the crazy and outrageous things that I believed in my altered state. Back then if I thought my son had turned into an alien (and I did), I wanted everyone else to believe it, too, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. It took me a while to accept the fact that I was psychotic, with or without drugs.
Let me be clear. I was psychotic and delusional. Now I’m not.
But something has fundamentally changed in my brain, and for the better. These visions allow me to synthesize ideas in new and better ways. What’s cool for my work as a marketer is that my brain now generates ideas the same way it generates these images – fast and fluidly, with quick leaps to unexpected conclusions.
A natural fit for mental health marketing
Before being derailed by addiction and psychosis, I owned an ad agency for 20 years; marketing and branding strategy remains a passion of mine. Upsight gives me sharper insights and inspiration for helping clients develop better branding campaigns. Partnering with mental health marketers was the obvious next step, given my unique understanding of the needs of healthcare marketers as well as my first-hand experience as a patient going through the trauma of a mental health crisis.
Give me a call if you’d like to know more about how my motivational branding and “out-of-your-mind thinking” workshops can help you identify bold new approaches for marketing mental health services.