Although it may seem like binging and purging down a sink in a roach infested apartment is a likely a low point for a Where’s Waldo person born to such mainstream, Caucizoidal privilege, it wasn’t really that dire. Indeed, it would take me seven years for a catastrophic incident to happened. Then, I would find myself buried me in a state hospital as I suppose the psychometric testing predicted. So, the question remains: did the psychotherapy help, or was psychotherapy part of the problem?
Though I had some hard times, psychiatric medications and life-term psychodynamic therapy worked for seven years. Psychopharmacology was a booming industry and there was a big push to get people on medications. My goal was to fit into the mainstream and be like everybody else. It was as if I could take medications and wear name brands and maybe some people would tolerate me. I worked and worked at it. I guess the premise of this therapy was the same as it was in phase one and two, fir a square peg into a round hole.
Discharged from the state hospital to the streets with a month worth of medication, I learned that professional work was out of the question for a homeless, drifting, targeted individual. When I finally managed to arrange a life sustaining situation for myself fear of failure and chronic homelessness prompted me to reconnect with family. In order to receive financial support that could make a low-wage job sustainable, I was forced into a dehumanizing rendition of narrative therapy for three or four years.
There are many things I learned during this decade of treatment for binging and purging and schizophrenia. Was it really wise to trust psychotherapy during these twists and turns? I highlight eight things that particularly hurt me during this time.
Lesson Number Eight—Don’t Use Treatment to Attack a Political Ideology:
In my senior year in college, I went voluntary to the hospital at the urging of my new therapist because I just could re-calibrate myself into my school routine. In the hospital I was able to contain my raging eating disorder, so I avoided that diagnosis. Instead, I was diagnosed with Schizotypal personality disorder and started on three medications.
In another sense was a trusting and genuine fellow. I took the Rorschach and expressed Marxian concepts. I continued to say “yo” and dress in casual inner-city garb. One might argue these just aren’t wise things to do in an American Psychiatric Hospital.
But the worst thing I did was challenge the AMA for banning Thomas Szasz. This really concerned my doctor and he started me on medications before the results of my tests were up.
The doctor said I was impulsive! I had never heard myself being referenced in that way. It is true my emotions go from one to one-hundred, but I usually don’t act on them unless I am in life or death circumstances.
Upon my release, my therapist told my parents that I really wasn’t college material and encouraged me to go on SSI. She put me into a very repressive day program with extremely oppressed and mistreated people from a state hospital. Instead I took on a couple of seasonal jobs and got back into the next semester. I ignored the quality of her advice. I felt like I owed her for putting me in the hospital.
Lesson Number Nine–Don’t Let the Basis of Your Trust Be Credentials:
In my gut, I never trusted my therapist of seven years even though I made strides in my professional and social life under her care. I stayed with her because she had a Ph.D. from Cornel University and because I was afraid to hurt her by cutting her loose. I was dependent on her as a sounding board while I waited for the next medication cocktail to kick in.
Perhaps if I had known what she told my parents about me when I gave her permission to talk to them, I would have fired her. However, my parents and I had poor communication that even if they told me, I don’t even know if I would have believed them.
I recall repeatedly talking back to myself about my care during this time and deciding to use my mind to trust the credentials. My intuition told me I shouldn’t trust her from the start.
Case in point: I didn’t trust the entitled way she treated the security guards at the site where she first worked. I’d worked in the inner-city and seen that kind of arrogance lead to beloved cars getting keyed. I felt going up the chain and getting all dysregulated about the lack of response it in front of me was treating the security officers like slaves. I knew she’d be more successful if she talked to them like human beings. But she was the Ph.D. And she eventually found an office where she didn’t have to fight that losing battle.
Lesson Number Ten–Don’t Make Decisions for the Client:
Over the seven years, therapy never went into my past. This was my choice, but maybe it could have been contested. Instead, therapy was only about my current depression which was always getting worse and worse. As I stated before, we were constantly waiting for her latest psychopharmacology professional to fix me.
I would need therapy and medication the rest of my life. “The only way to manage a personality disorder is through an intensive psychodynamic relationship,” she would say. She lowered her price, so I could afford the sessions myself. I saved all my decisions for her to make.
Meanwhile I excelled in my profession of a mental health counselor and put myself through graduate school with accommodations for diagnosed ADD and Dyslexia. Persistent hard work always kept me out of trouble. Even though my GPA dropped from 3.9 in undergraduate to a 3.7, things were different because I also put energy into creating a social life.
Still, it was very hard to wake up through the medication fog in the morning and get into work. I would gulp 32 ounces of Coke, so I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel. But I was a good worker once I woke up. Also, I really worked hard on my social life and making relationships with people who rejected me. It was like the old Morrisey song: the more they ignored me, the closer I got.
Lesson Number Eleven–Don’t Presume Everything in a Paranoid Person’s Life is Paranoia:
When I graduated, I wanted to get into the Peace Corps and many other alternatives, but every program rejected me after consulting with my therapist. I didn’t want to be paranoid, so I maintained faith in her. She taught me a lot about my paranoia. I stopped trusting my intuition.
Finally, I settled for moving to Seattle and continued my treatment via phone. Within six months I took a risky job in a high-profile section 8 housing authority job. I kept making legal and ethical decisions that guided my conduct amid extreme social violence toward going against the grain.
I would tell myself that I would be paranoid if I thought that what I was doing would be frowned upon. I told myself that drugs and violence were illegal and not sanctioned by the government! People like me were not bribed to look the other way!
Indeed, maintaining these delusions in this setting was very dangerous. However, I blamed my fear of retribution and defiant behavior on my paranoia and tipped off the press on several occasions.
Still, I became very popular among the residents. My boss who I lost respect for when she started showing up to work high, threatened to fire me. The management company spied on me. There were many veiled threats that I pretended not to understand. Case in point, they tried to bribe me with free concert tickets and I didn’t get it. I hosted a community event instead in which I invited the clients out to the concert.
Lesson Twelve–Don’t Predict Permanent Warehousing for a Person in an Emergency:
I finally started to question the reality of this hold my therapist had on me and went of my medication. The violence I encountered was real and was never resolved. When coincidences started to seem suspicious to me, and my best friend from college made a direct and credible threat on my life, my therapist contacted my parents and got them to put out a missing-persons report out on me. I fled towards Canada.
“Tim will be in and out of the hospital the rest of his life,” my therapist told my parents.
With that advice my father begged me to stay on the chronic ward in the state hospital for another nine months. He promised me that if I returned to the community, I would keep on getting followed.
After a three-month incarceration in Montana State Hospital, I took a Greyhound bus to Fresno California with four thousand and five hundred dollars of assets. My Mom refused to give me access to the ten thousand dollars I inherited from my Grandfather.
Still, I stayed in touch with my mother, but not my father. I wanted to be sure the following did not return as he had predicted. Indeed, I interpreted his words as a threat.
I managed to get a job and get housing until I ran out of medication. Then, I tried everywhere for any kind of legal income. I’d resisted many outlaw recruitment efforts in the state hospital. I was sticking to legal work!
I finally got a professional job when I was down to one thousand, five hundred dollars, but even I had to admit that I was not able to work in a professional capacity with what I’d been through.
Lesson Number Thirteen—Don’t Collaborate with Imposed Treatment:
To reconnect with family, I had to move to the bay area, get a job at an Italian Deli, and see a therapist. I had come to believe that my best friend from college was not only bipolar and an ex-addict, but also an Italian mafia boss. He worked as a longshoreman as a gang leader in the ports of Philadelphia. His stories of corrupt cops who paid his way through college for under-cover surveillance took on new meaning as did the coincidences that had followed me throughout.
Nevertheless, I was the delusional person working at an Italian Deli with a two-hour bike and BART commute. I concluded that my family was a mob family. I begrudged having to fit two hours of therapy into my busy schedule. But to eat I was forced to go to therapy. I sought work that would enable me to move away and start over again free.
I begrudged the small amount of financial support I received and led an impoverished lifestyle of twelve hour work days. At work my seventeen-year-old bosses would mock me. Many came from wealthy districts. And this therapist was part of Italian family practice. “I too shop at A.G. Ferrari’s she would tell me.
Lesson Number Fourteen—Don’t Expect Psychosis to be Suppressed:
I didn’t trust or like the therapist I was forced to see in the least because she was not interested in my experiences of being followed. I did everything I could to conceal them from her because I was afraid if she knew about them, she would hospitalize me.
I was extremely angry about the $225 weekly cost of therapy when I was making nine dollar’s an hour. My therapist would sense this and get defensive. This would force me not to share any experiences of being targeted with her in a genuine way. I had some very disturbing things happen that I was forced to conceal from her.
In fact, when I finally admitted to her eight months in that I believed I was being followed and called the FBI, she became fiercely angry and threatened me. She looked like she was considering the hospital. Oops!
Lesson Number Fifteen—Don’t Impose Your Economic Reality on Your Patient:
Fundamentally, this therapist had no empathy for how hard my twelve-hour days were and how my paycheck barely covered rent. She insisted on the two-hour amount of time she felt I needed. I told her that the sessions were of no use to me. Yet they continued.
My therapist did not encourage me to find a professional job even though I sprayed resumes and had many interviews. She said, “I believe you are working hard in your head, but believe me working at a Deli for nine dollars and hour is not so hard,” “What is really happening is you are letting teenage kids bully you, you shouldn’t give away your power.”
Can I get a witness? I had a right to be angry.
This therapist didn’t believe in medication and expected me to fix things on my own. Then, she judged me a failure when progress went at a snail’s pace. She seemed to feel bad for herself and the poor kids who had to work with me. The harassment and abuse was intense because I was intense. Some of it was so bad that it would probably make anyone wonder.
When my year of support was getting close, she finally referred me to a psychiatrist and my work performance vastly improved. Then, she criticized my success, “I think you’ve lost your creativity.”
After ten months, I started to use my medications to more effectively snow her. Additionally, I needed her for rational support as I tried to get back into the professional world. Acting with professional entitlement didn’t come easy to me with rules that didn’t match the defenseless abuse I received in my state hospital training.
“Your parents are paying for these sessions because they love you, why sweat the small stuff,” she argued. “I am not being a greedy capitalist,” she said, “I have an ethical responsibility here.” “Don’t be a wounded healer,” she said.
Luckily, she wasn’t around for future family financial discussions. It wouldn’t matter. I would be financially stable by then, just hurt and angry.