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Fighting for proper mental health care like a warrior
Welcome to the asylum.
Welcome to Emilie Autumn’s sanctuary where all things of beauty, health and power exist for those who need a safe space.
Autumn is an author, songwriter and classically trained violinist (since the age of 2) who combines glam rock, classical violin, cabaret and electronica. She will be performing at 8 p.m. Monday at the Granada in a show fueled by her own experience with bipolar disorder.
Her asylum is unlike the modern day psychiatric ward she was sent to in Los Angeles in 2007 after a failed suicide attempt, detailed in her thriller/autobiographical novel “The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls.”
“It’s cautionary tale, in a sad way, of telling the truth to your therapist, and what can happen when you tell the truth,” Autumn says. “Just how easy it is to get locked up and how difficult it is to be let out.”
This frighteningly accurate depiction of the inside of an insane asylum through Autumn’s diary entries also delves into a Victorian psychiatric ward from the 1800s. Emilie keeps finding entries from an alternate version of herself in the same position as her, battling bipolar disorder in what is supposed to be a treatment facility from 200 years ago.
“What happens over the course of the book is that these diary entries become so close that you can’t really tell anymore which century there are coming from,” Autumn says. “The whole point of that is to show how very little has changed from then and now. In that sense, it’s an exposé and critique on modern day mental health care or the lack thereof, and how little things have changed. And how frightening and deadly and dangerous it is.”
Medical books have been published on bipolar disorder, but it’s rare to find an account of manic depression penned by someone in the situation, and incarcerated for it, she says. Oxford University uses her novel for psychology courses because of the scary realities presented.
Autumn speaks on the historical asylum for girls and how common it was for them to act as prostitution rings, among other madness and medical experimentation. The high-security mental health ward she was sent to, however, was for both men and women as “that’s where the bad people go.” It was essentially a prison.
“There was no treatment,” Autumn says. “There was nothing good about it. And very bad things happened. I could sue, but that would ruin any bit of good I had left in this life, which after that was very little. He’s a doctor with a million-dollar education, and I’m a crazy girl. Who are they going to believe.”
So she took to honest writing, both with a novel she hopes to turn into a musical, and the soundtrack and current tour name, “Fight Like a Girl,” or F.L.A.G. Autumn took something horrific and destructive and very personal, and turned it into an empowering mission.
“A part of you wishes it never happened; a part of you just wants to save yourself,” Autumn says. “Or I can help other people. I think that’s the point of existence.”
On her current tour, she performs music from the album, which tells the story of one-third of the novel. But rather than perform song after song, she will be joined by the Bloody Crumpets, her female backup burlesque dancers dressed in corsets, and other theatrical flamboyant apparel.
Onstage, they fight like warriors.
“To me, it means you’re fighting to the death if need be,” Autumn says. “But it means you fight while never losing your humanity or yourself. You fight for real reasons. You fight to help people. You fight to help and you fight to save, and those are the only reasons.”
It’s about going to war and taking back the asylum. It’s the journey from being a victim to being absolutely victorious.
“The revolution is about to begin and I hope that everyone is ready to fight.”