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Is Your House A Castle or a Toxic Dump?

Mental Health Humor - Is Your House A Castle or a Toxic Dump - by Chato Stewart

Sign in Yard: [Toxic Emotions]

Sign On Door: Home Sweet home

Written On the Door : Hurt, Sadness, Shame, Fear, Anger, Hate,  Jealousy, Envy and Rage.

Caption: Is Your House A Castle or a Toxic Dump?

I grew up in a Toxic Dump! No, really. It was rumored that back in the 50s, the projects I grew up there was an illegal toxic dump site. Back  then the housing development was just a swamp.

I grew up in an emotionally toxic environment as well. My father had uncontrolled rage and anger issues stemming from undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder. (He was not diagnosed until a few years before his death.)  Along with this undiagnosed mental disorder, my Father was also heavily medicated on painkillers from an accident that happened at the post office where he worked. My father was a US mail carrier. On his day off of work, he went in to help unload the trucks and one of the sliding doors came slamming down on his head…rupturing three Intervertebral Discs in his neck. (“Normally, the disc remains firmly contained between the vertebral bones.  The disc can, however, rupture.  Ruptures occur when the fibrous covering of the annulus is torn” see:  Intervertebral Disc).  Needless to say, this added more pain to an already difficult, toxic home environment/life.

Yes, I grew up in both a literal and figurative toxic environment.  With the external environment of growing up in the projects, you quickly learn how to fight. (Usually because you get beat up all the time. In order to survive, you have to defend yourself.)  Until I was 13, I was a scrawny little thing; that meant the weakling.  So, I got beat up a lot.

You learn hate. You learn rage. You learn prejudice from all the toxic education.  Escaping, fleeing that toxicity overload takes a lot a work!  It took my family close to 17 years.  But by then, a lot of the damage was done!  What safeguarded me and started my mental detoxification was being introduced to the Bible at the age 14… By then, I already had a nickname (in the projects) “Psycho Stew” and a reputation for causing trouble.  While I was not the worst-case scenario of a troublemaker, I definitely was on my way to becoming a real thug.

When I say the Bible saved my life, I really mean it.  I started studying with a local religious group.  For the first time in my short life, things started to make sense.

For example, I had a diluted view of other people’s property. If I wanted it, I took it.  Why? because that’s how it  was in the projects! You got a look out for yourself. My father taught me this twisted lesson. This is the same man that all my life called me stupid, retarded, worthless, and a host of other insults.  The same man who showed me that a belt wasn’t just for holding up your pants and that it makes a useful disciplinary tool.

When I started studying, one of the first things I learned was that lying and stealing was wrong.  It hurts others.  It’s pretty sad that you have to learn that at 14 and not before then — I was taught deny, deny, deny and lie, lie, lie! How foolish I was back then.  That was part of my toxic education; learning negative coping skills that hurt myself and others.  Even though I was studying the Bible, I wasn’t totally getting the concept of stealing being wrong. I think this is where the mental illness took over.

I truly believed I was doing good by stealing. If I was giving what I took to other people, it was as if I was Robin Hood!  I never took cash. Why?  Because that would “really” be  “stealing.”  Again, that was what I believed. The deluded mind taking over and rationalizing that I was doing good and not ultimately being selfish, unloving, unkind.

No, I’m not getting all biblical on you right now.  I’m just trying to explain where my mind was during this point of time in my life. The things I was learning from my Bible study, I eventually and gradually began to make practical applications of.  I was learning to treat others the way I want to be treated. To show love.

If I didn’t want my stuff stolen, should I be stealing other people’s stuff?!  If I didn’t like being beat up, should I beat others up?!  If I didn’t like being called stupid, worthless, etc., should I be calling others stupid, worthless, etc.?! I was slowly eradicating and detoxifying myself both physically and mentally from my childhood.  I was able to come complete circle from my old, troubled way of life.  And at the age of 18, I made a dedication to my new biblical training.

I left that toxic environment behind. I was on a new road that was cleansed from my old ways.  At least, that’s what I thought.  You see my faith was a shield from the world’s toxicity and hate.  My faith was the detoxification from my former hate and rage.  I was able to keep my self-loathing and self-hatred controlled to some degree.  My mood swings, when I was younger,  usually leaned toward the manic side. I did have a number of crashes, but, I had my faith to rely on and I did so.  It got me through it.

Moving forward to my thirties, I had what some would call a major psychotic episode.  I totally lost touch with reality and my faith, my shield was lost and many toxic emotions erupted like a volcano exploding!  I sank into a very deep depression with moments of psychosis.  Ever since then, I’ve been trying to detoxify/recover…making small progress forward on my continuing journey of recovery.  All along trying to “recapture” my faith and hold on with just  my fingertips.  And at times, just wanting to let go and end all the suffering.

What pains me the most at times is: that my mental illness may have, most likely has, created a toxic environment for my own children because for part of their life, unfortunately, my symptoms were uncontrolled.  I am working hard to better myself and create the loving home environment that I needed/wanted as a kid.

I used to work for a guy who always liked to say: “if it ain’t broke DON’T fix it.” What worked for me when I was 14 was building an appreciation for the Bible and practical, life-saving principles I found therein.  So, ever since July 2011, we implemented a family Bible study once a week.  I can’t tell you how much this has helped our family grow and for my kids to freely express themselves and their appreciation for God/spirituality!

I normally don’t write about religion or politics just because of the type of subject.  Today, I wanted to share with you a little bit of my background. The toxic environment I had growing up and how I detoxified and continue to detoxify toward my recovery by keeping my faith.  I’ve been feeling really depressed over the last few days and the self-loathing was starting to corrupt my thinking.  I talked to a friend and he shared with me a Bible verse to encourage me.  When I read it, I cried.  It moved me away from my depressed thinking and reassured me at the same time:

‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness.’ (Isaiah 41:10)





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Is Your House A Castle or a Toxic Dump?

Chato Stewart

Chato Stewart has a mission, to draw and use humor as a positive tool to live, to cope with the debilitating effects symptoms of mental illness. Chato Stewart is a Mental Health Hero and Advocate. Recovery Peer Specialist board-certified in Florida. Chato is the artist behind the cartoons series Mental Health Humor, Over-Medicated, and The Family Stew - seen here in his blog posts. The cartoons are drawn from his personal experience of living with bipolar disorder (and other labels). [email protected]

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APA Reference
Stewart, C. (2015). Is Your House A Castle or a Toxic Dump?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Mar 2015
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