Sunday New York Times Article Features Hearing Voices Network and Chacku Mathai

May 21, 2022 (Excerpts from New York Times Article by Daniel Bergner)

This article is adapted from “The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches,” published this month by Ecco.

Caroline Mazel-Carlton began hearing voices when she was in day care. Mornings, by the time she was in middle school, a bowl of oatmeal awaited her for breakfast next to a white saucer of colorful pills. Her voices remained vibrant. They weren’t within her head; they spoke and screamed from outside her skull. They belonged to beings she could not see…

…Chacku Mathai, whose Indian family immigrated to the United States when he was a child, works as a project director with a large New York State-funded program, OnTrackNY, which combines an emphasis on medication with the inclusion of client perspectives about their care. And he facilitates Hearing Voices groups. During one of our many conversations, Mathai told me a parable about a traveler in a foreign land coming across a bird he has never seen before, a peacock. Thinking that such a freakish creature will never survive, the traveler cuts off its feathers to correct nature’s error.

Mathai, who hears voices and has visions and was hospitalized after a suicide attempt as a teenager, is something like the peacock, except that he rejects medication that would shear away his difference. By immersing himself in yogic practices, he gives his mind a measure of rest. Still, voices stalk him, suspicious of people and full of foreboding. Sometimes, he told me, he thinks about whether, if the perfect antipsychotic existed, he would take it. “My experience is so rich,” he said, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” He spoke of having a keen empathy for the singularity and solitude of others, a sensitivity that can bring a feeling of being universally joined.

Chacku Mathai, a Hearing Voices Network facilitator, in Rochester, N.Y.Credit.Danna Singer for The New York Times

(Read the Full Article: NYT subscription required)

Daniel Bergner is a contributing writer for the magazine. This article is adapted from his book “The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches,” published this month by Ecco. Danna Singer is a photographer based in Philadelphia as well as a lecturer at Yale School of Art and Princeton. In 2020, she was named a Guggenheim fellow.

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