It’s been nearly twenty years since I came out of a two-year break from reality. I am no longer faced with the prospect of homeless and unable to find work. I have a career, a marriage and a sense of stability. But in other ways I am just starting to realize how fragmented and dissociated I remain.
It’s taken a lot of work to learn to be successful and mad in a mad world. But there are still some things to heal that have been around for a long time for me. Things like feeling joy and relaxations have always alluded me. I am still developing self-compassion given the issues with which I have dealt.
Join me today as I use internal family systems theory to help me have more compassion for myself. I will examine the interplay between my manager parts and the exile parts who need to work together with better collaboration.
Preoccupied with Slander Campaigns:
I still struggle with the sense that other people have engaged in slander campaigns against me and my work. Since the release of my memoir five years ago, my efforts to promote the book and the rest of my work redefining psychosis, have failed to create the impact for which I yearn.
It’s true my book never had a release party. Turns out local people with big names on the national stage, took the free copy of the book and did not write reviews. In fact, a few started treating me with micro aggression, leading me to believe there might be a wider slander conspiracy much like what I have witnessed at work. One person did write me a review but left a shaming comment in the middle of it.
Likewise, although I am very committed to my work, I repeatedly get passed up for promotions. I have a different perspective and expertise than my colleagues and I am often undermined.
It’s true my book won awards. It’s also true that mostly the reviews I got from workshop trainings I have conducted have suggested I did well with most opportunities I have been given. Still, I have not become a sought-out speaker. And my writing platform remains relatively small.
In quiet moments, I often have the idea of a slander campaign come up. Perhaps it is a younger part of me that has been hungry and desperate in the face of financial challenges during my break. But ideas of a slander campaign go back a lot farther, back to grade school bullying and alienation from my peers that started in fourth grade. I weigh these thoughts with the fear that my presentation skills might be a bit lacking.
It’s true when I was in high school, my classmates used to count the number of ums that I made during my speeches. Even though I am passionate about what I am saying, my success often depends on the energy in the room that lifts me above the anxiety.
For example, I recently had a zoom interview about my book. My interviewer, Peg Morrison, actually took the time to read my book and ask me thoughtful questions in front of her NAMI network. She wrote, “If you’ve ever wondered how Holden Caulfield turned out, you’ll want to meet our guest Timothy Dreby (pen name Clyde Dee). I was given the questions ahead of time to reflect on and prepare my responses
To prepare for the interview, I took two hours off work so I could come home and ground myself in the questions. About twenty minutes from home, I found myself in a traffic standstill. The stand still took a great deal of time and I wasn’t even sure if I would make it home on time for the interview. My wife called me and read me the interview questions over the phone.
Since the interview is on YouTube, I have been able to view it and assess the extent to which my own performance might be part of the problem.
One aspect of enduring a break from reality is learning to live with vigilant eyes. When I was in psychosis, I picked up a great deal from serendipitous occurrences. Discharged from a state hospital, I took a Greyhound to a different state. Not only was I jobless and in need of survival funds, I was convinced I was enduring a black list conspiracy after I outed covered up murder in a section 8 housing authority.
One aspect of these observations were my interpersonal interactions with others. It seemed like I had the ability to discern their subconscious intentions so as that I knew their personal thoughts. I was always vigilantly assessing for safety, sincerity, and intentions.
I was especially vigilant to sense a persons’ connection to secret societies that may be involved in persecuting me. Maybe the secret society was my family conspiring with the treatment team at the State Hospital. Or maybe it was a black-market organization conspiring with a law enforcement agency. Or at times it was the management at the only job I could find, a job at an Italian Delicatessen that my auntie arranged for me, conspiring with my young co-workers who delighted in taunting the mad thirty-year-old with vigilant eyes.
For the last thirteen years, I have engaged in redefining psychosis. I started by doing this in professional groups. I did so in a manner I could justify interventions that are radically different. In doing so I have suggested that interpersonal perceptions of others are a source of special messages for a person in a break from reality. (Of course there are other sources like dreams, intuition, hearing voices, media, visons etcetera get added into the mix.)
It’s clearly arguable that many of those acute perceptions may come from a scientific assessment of energy waves that come off a body. For example, as I have learned through learning emotional freedom techniques, a host of energy waves that reflect a person’s spirit may be more readable with a set of vigilant eyes. There are also many other non-verbal cues that are hard to explain when someone is intensely vigilant. Voice tone, emphasis, body gestures, and posture are all intensely notable when a person has vigilant eyes.
When I was eventually able to use medication and come out of my crisis, I was able to withstand having vigilant eyes without involuntarily reacting to what I experienced. It enabled me to fake it and improve my working income and come back from a choppy year of underemployment in which I only earned thirteen thousand dollars.
As I started to feel safer and perceive less danger, people stopped responding to me with ridicule and threats and I eventually returned to being able to utilize my Master’s training and maintain positions in social work and psychotherapy. But I am not sure I ever lost my vigilant eyes.
Viewing my Performance:
I have intensely critical managers in my head who take one look at my performance in this interview and think that I should not be the one up on the podium leading the discussion. This is part of me thinks it is smart, entitled to judge, and doesn’t acknowledges that it internalizes social Darwinism. It still says that that a kid with my set of disabilities should not be allowed to bring home straight A’s even if he was up all night doing his homework. This was a remark I internalized from my father. While he might have meant it as a compliment, it was an example of a patronizing attitude that has really impacted me.
One might think this manager part of me has enough life experience to know social Darwinism and eugenic concepts are false. It has seen me locked up for three months in abject State Hospital poverty with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It has seen me in the streets in yet another strange land trying to work my way up from nothing. It saw me fail to get jobs at McDonalds and hundreds of other franchises. It’s seen me struggling to ride my bike to sixty-hour weeks of physical labor for thirteen thousand dollars a year. It has seen upstanding citizens on the streets run the other way because of the rage in my eyes. It endured the support that criticized and cut me every step of the way. I kept trying and things did get better so one would think the manager knows better.
But when I watch the video of my interview, the manager also can see that I have just sat in traffic and am tired, slow, internal, and stressed. It views the slowness of my responses with distain. The manager in me tells me I am full of myself and not giving the host enough pleasantries. It continues to be embarrassed and ashamed to be me.
How this Manager-Part Developed:
I think an aspect of this managing part of me mistrusts other people with power but also distains and internalizes their views. I have a rich history of being vigilant when I assess teachers, therapists, trauma experts, or others in power.
Both of my parents were teachers who knew that I was struggling even though I was always one of the better students in my class. I got left back in kindergarten and I was almost not admitted because of the way I used scissors in the interview.
Early writing efforts often went unnoticed and did not result in top grades. The teacher who graded my poetry notebook told my mother my work was too depressing and only gave me a B.
When I took to writing and wrote my college essay, my parents were called into school and I was nearly sent back to the hospital because the school psychologist suggested I might be suicidal. I wrote about running a half marathon at Outward Bound and was very proud of my work. It’s true that I was, as I always have been, very self-disclosing in my writing. This particular essay I had rewrote incessantly. In fact, I continued to rewrite it. I sent it out to colleges anyway.
Even though I was shamed in front of my whole class who gossiped as I was called before the school tribunal, I sent that essay out and then I didn’t go to the schools that accepted me. Shortly thereafter I got so angry at the school, I let my weight drop and I was put back in the hospital for a second time for anorexia.
I felt intensely betrayed by anyone who had tried to teach me when the school erroneously published that I was headed off to an upper crust college. Really, I was moving in with my twenty-five-year-old girlfriend to attend a commuter college in Camden New Jersey. I raged at the whole community of teachers who failed to see any value in my writing when it came time for awards.
In college I continued to be vigilant of teachers who graded my performance. When a professor finally gave me a hundred on a take-home-exam and said he hadn’t done so in ten years, I was outraged. My other efforts were just as good as this one. On this particular essay I was just regurgitating his opinion after talking with him. My other efforts were better and more heart felt. When an English Professor wanted to put my essay up for an award, I again was outraged and never got back to him. I didn’t care about a stupid reward!
In graduate school I was working full-time and, hitting classes after a full work day. My relationship with most professors remained on a similar trajectory. I thought most of my teachers knew nothing about the things I was working through during my day job. Several made fun of me for asking too many questions.
After I graduated with my masters, I moved to the west coast without knowing anyone. I met a really nice Thai Buddhist girlfriend. We attended political speeches with regard to the WTO protests together. Later she told me that when she heard how hard I criticized the speakers and author’s we talked about she felt self-conscious and wondered what I thought of her. She was right, everybody I heard speak about a political issue I was way too hard on.
I guess the manager-part feels justified because of the way it was rejected. It is still internalizing the authorities who never reached out and helped it. Many of my teachers were managed by my father. Perhaps they looked at my dyslexic spelling, disliked my father, and downgraded my work.
I do feel bad for the little boy who used the scissors in an unconventional manner. He never deserved to be managed and criticized by a judgmental, prep school community. I do want to protect him from the managers who are now a select few of his peers in the recovery movement.
Indeed, while others were learning to socialize in college while they built skills, I was the anorectic-white-boy working at a mom-and-pop deli mart in Camden New Jersey with a Glock under the grill and a shotgun over the trash can. I think leaders in the recovery movement may not understand why I don’t have college social skills.
But to a larger extent, managers who guard public opinion rest in cliques and decide what and who they are going to support. Yet, I need to respect their role in creating community is also important. They are smart and better than me at some things. They too need to be acknowledged. It really is important for me not to bite back at them.
My father, who was often driven to rage by my slow pace, did need to help me work faster at some points. He committed his life to leading the prep school environment trying to make it a fair and just place to get a superior education. It was not his fault that I was dissociated and depressed. I believe I had some childhood trauma that made me that way. He wasn’t used to dealing with kids who failed to thrive.
His father dumped all the family assets onto him to manage in the summers. There was no rest for the wicked for my father. He worked and worked and all he had to show for it was a modest private school salary and a slow dissociated kid. All he had was control over those family resources and relationships. They would go to the kids who respected him and didn’t bite back and bring the inner-city manners up in family gatherings.
Indeed, for every manager that I have worked with there is a similar story of someone who wasn’t seen and their work not acknowledged who just has to bite back a little. So, as I work with that kid that I want to protect, I need to teach him to understand the manager and use this understanding to assert and advocate. I need to show the managers that they need to look at what the neurodivergent mind has to say even if the associated behavior is a little different.