My Last Vote Against California Proposition 1:

I knew in my bones that the state-wide California Proposition 1 initiative would pass on March 6th kind of like I knew that the Iraq War would start as a reaction against Osama Bin Ladden and the 9-11 tragedy. Perhaps my sense of this is something that I should keep to myself. Now, mismanaging the feelings I get in my bones, and stating that I believe my own ability to have premonitions could result in grave consequences.

This new proposition is set to mandate treatment to people with schizophrenia related forms of mental illness (not bipolar.) This proposition establishing “care courts” is matched by a similar policy starting in New York City called Kendra’s Law, or Assisted Outpatient Treatment. It is a policy that very well may spread throughout the states. What I fear is that this new power purportedly to help address the problem of homelessness becomes the law of the land. Many of us fear a return to institutionalization.

Now thanks to California Proposition 1, a person with my history could be mandated to attend treatment for two years by a judge. I could go from working in the program where I have held a twenty-year tenure as a psychotherapist to being forced to submit to treatment there despite the economic consequences. If this sounds like I am being drastic perhaps you haven’t read the details I have read or had the experiences with law enforcement and family and friends that I have had. Perhaps you haven’t had the dissociated experience of looking down upon yourself as you make your case in front of a judge’s condemning eyes just to realize that no one in the court room, not your family, not anyone, is listening to you.

Indeed, I might need to be more drastic because a lot of people don’t understand what is involved with such a catastrophic loss of status. For me personally, Proposition 1 could mean a return to a long-term dilapidated state hospital stay and years of being trafficked as an indentured servant. Perhaps you don’t believe that human trafficking is real or that it can happen to a white man from a middle-class background in the United Sates of America. But if what I am saying sounds drastic, I urge you to read further because I will provide details that at least will help you see where I am coming from. Indeed, it can and does happen and there are many more people like me than you likely realize.


My Fight to Create Safe Spaces:

In my current position on an outpatient psychiatric unit, I’ve been in a battle for sixteen years to make it safe for people like me to process experiences associated with what I call special messages in confidential group therapy. This isn’t easy to get people to do in our setting because the system teaches us that if we show signs of madness, we will endure punishment. To help others know it is safe to do so with me, I have grown accustomed to sharing my own experience.

I do work with some good colleagues, and I have also endured colleagues who have called me crazy Tim. They are good people too. One even left offensive cartoons on my desk. One has spoken to my manager about my work with the clients with grave concerns. Others have given me dirty looks its been clear to me that they have then talked amongst themselves about me. Still others ignore me and make me repeat myself because they refuse to acknowledge my words for unstated reasons. When I am treated like this, the good people I work with might end up needing to distance themselves from me just a little. Or they may need to turn their heads the other way a little. I don’t blame them. We all survive amid an unreal state of disparity on the psychiatric unit. Such is the nature of psychiatric units.

Now, with Proposition 1 out there, I fear that I might have to dig myself out of the same hole I was in twenty-four years ago.


Why Target Us?

Part of the reason mandatory treatment is a huge risk to those of us with my targeted diagnostic make-up because the public still doesn’t believe recovery is possible for us. The stated goal is to get us off the streets and into housing. Never mind the fact that in Oakland California, the city where I work, only twenty-five percent of the homeless are “mentally ill.” Also, of the people housed in Santa Rita Jail in the county 20-25% have a mental illness. It may be true that a few of us challenge the mainstream paradigm by letting others take everything away from us and choosing to live in tents rather than endure corruption in programs or low-income housing. Others of us, like me, find other ways to challenge mainstream norms. Some do come in for treatment to manage their living conditions, which, I might add, can be quite hard. I have more to say about that!


My Sensing of Violence in a Low-Income Housing Project:

Twenty-four years ago, I worked in such a setting in Seattle. The site was a Section 8 Housing Authority facility called the Morrison Hotel that was dubbed the hotel of horrors by the Seattle Weekly. I witnessed a lot of violence and graphic details of the underworld there. When a resident died of a heroin overdose, I saw enough strange and suspicious behavior to have a similar feeling in my bones that there was foul play associated with the death. I was tormented to the extent that gave the story to a reporter I met a poetry reading. I wasn’t given access to the files Seattle Housing Authority had on the residents and it never occurred to me that I was doing anything other than trying to support the residents who confided in me that they were also scared and suspicious about the death.

Now, with the benefit of reflection and couple of years of experience being unemployed and underemployed, I sense in my bones that that resident might have been an undercover agent of some sort and that outing him may have shined a light on some operations that were covert. There was a change in management that resulted and that affected Seattle politics and drug trade significantly.

Several months later I received a personal threat from a friend when I admitted to him that I had given the story to the press. He seemed a little grandiose about his power when he told me he could do me great harm. Another friend warned me not to flee. I chose to challenge this threat and flee. I ended up getting harassed by State Troopers and hospitalized in a State Hospital in Warm Springs Montana with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It wasn’t until I was released three months later and had moved to Fresno California that I learned that I was right about the suspicious death and that it helped lead to the housing project getting managed by a different company.


The Sense that Things Are Wrong:

I now have fifty-three years of dealing with premonitions/intuitions like this. Yes, I know it is possible that I can be wrong just like I wonder if only 73.3% of the votes have been tallied at the time I am writing this, why the Washington Post has determined that the California measure has passed when there is only 50.3% yes votes. Perhaps there is math out there that enables the Wahington Post to call the election in this way, but it just doesn’t seem likely at first glance. Often, many of us in America take articles like this for granted as being truthful. The Washington Post is reputable, as is our voting system.


Details About What It Was Like Being Blacklisted and Indentured:

By the time the world trade towers were attacked, I had moved to Antioch CA and was hired at an Italian Deli food chain in the bay area for nine dollars an hour. I had a four-hour commute to get to the Deli on an old beat-up bicycle and BART. I could not find any other work, though this was not through lack of effort. I tried to work at professional jobs in social work. I tried many local minimum wage positions like Subway or Dennys or Walmart to no avail. On days off I would attract homeless looking white individuals who would follow me as I rode my bike dropping off applications at seven eleven, a hardware store, a restaurant. No job ever called me back. I had to put up with a job that I believed was corrupt and had several worker coworkers who were harassing me with mafia ties.

I was off medication and under the impression that I was being monitored during my bike/BART commute to my job at the Deli where I was often tormented by seventeen-year-old rich kids who mocked, or worse tried to mentor me. Most days I could identify a person on the train who I believed was there because of me. Once, I saw a resident I knew from Seattle sit across from me on the BART on my commute. Back in Seattle he had confided in me in a non-confidential circumstance that he had killed a man. He wore handcuffs and wore a label on his jean jacket that read, CIA officer. I was inundated with these kinds of coincidences or experiences I have since learned to ignore and call special messages.

I maintained this commute and schedule for ten months before I was able to get hired back into social services. Finally, I returned to taking medication and was able to improve my relationships with the less menacing of the rich kids to keep my temper at bay. The mafia kids who seemed to be in the know mostly quit and moved on.


Using These Experiences for the Positive:

Now in an Outpatient Psychiatric Unit, I share my story and encourage others to process theirs. I convince them that there can be safe places where they can share what they’ve been through. And over sixteen years of doing this, I have heard a lot of stories that may seem hard for many to believe. We have also shared laughs and good times. Once traumatic material is told, processed, and validated, it becomes easier for participants to compartmentalize their trauma and engage in other types of activities.

I also offer training for providers, family members and survivors who want to help others tell their stories and get relief. There is a lot that can be learned so that people will want to talk and relate what they have gone through as targeted individuals, spiritualists, people with voices, alien communicators, dissociative identities, scuttlebutt spies, and somatic sensors and other manifestations.


Ongoing Senses About War and Genocides:

When the towers fell twenty-three years ago, I knew right away that the United States would start wars in the middle east to avenge the approximately 3000 dead in the tragedy.

By the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, I was aware that there had been a lot of preparations for war. I had heard that a pipeline had been constructed to make the war possible. George W Bush’s dramatic threats toward Sadam Hussein seemed like theater to me and I presumed the war was inevitable. Indeed, by 2007 there was an ORB (Opinion Research Business) survey that estimated that 1,033,000 died in the war. This doesn’t include all the losses of life endured during the Afghanistan War which were worse.

It’s true my sense that Proposition 1 was going to pass has been propped up by a great deal of data. As I work in social services, I often see the pipelines going up and the preparations being made. I could pretend I was a rich white liberal instead of a progressive one and read the material, the messaging—treatment, not tents—the propaganda. I could figure how someone who is majority white, liberal, Californian, and uniformed might respond to the issue. For years I have interacted with the public and seen eyes go glass with the belief that schizophrenia is a medical illness rather than a spiritual journey. It is a dominant narrative in our culture.

At a time when both American parties are supporting what many believe to be a genocide in Gaza, the rationale just may be that we did this in Iraq and Afghanistan, so Israel has the right to follow suit. In this manner a race is killed beneath our very eyes in a manner so as that we don’t blink. The issue seems to me to be about power and entitlement, so that the well-to-do do not have to share in the tears and blood going on in the city corners. Yes, all so some kids can be cool and safely sample a taste of the nightlife in college just as they did, there is death an mayhem in the inner cities. Meanwhile the mainstream can go on excommunicating those who dabbled too hard or too soft. It’s all about fitting in and going along to get along.


Thankful that I had a Choice:

In a like manner, now I am officially able to be stripped of my American rights as someone with a schizophrenic history. Regardless of what I do, now the fact that good people can treat me with cold, glass wickedness is supported by the law. I choose to accept this and keep the ball rolling. The content of my character becomes invisible as are my rights to privacy.

If I had been forced to attend program instead of work, I could not have afforded housing with family support. I would have had to accept a board and care or a SRO for two years. By the time I endured all that, I doubt I would have healed at all. I likely would have given up and accepted my place. I wouldn’t be married and working.

Working at the Deli enabled me to work through my issues without falling into the corruption of low-income housing and programs. At least it was the choice I preferred. I equate being subjected to such treatment as being incarcerated or being sent to war—you just don’t know if you can come back from that. Working at an Italian Deli with the belief that the mafia was harassing me was hard enough, but it was better than the state hospital for sure. At least I had a choice as limited as it seemed at the time.


The Issue of Family Support:

I have a great aunt who I learned about once I restored my role as a social worker. She was lobotomized and institutionalized for refusing to leave her bed when her mother wouldn’t let her marry her high school sweetheart. Just as it seems like it is important for my relatives to believe they come from a good family and a good background; it felt like they then had to recapitulate this historical trauma onto me because I was different and didn’t live up to their standards. I did know of my great aunt, but I just couldn’t get the complete story.

On occasions I have met with extended family, I am met with microaggressions, or signs of excommunication. I have spent decades healing my relationships with my mother and father who are finally transitioning their perspectives after twenty years of recovery and the potential of their declining health. I have an aunt or two who have been supportive, but the attitudes of my remaining relatives, like the attitudes my parents started with, scare me. Institutionalization happened before and despite my toil and labor, I fear it could happen again.

Luckily in my work, I meet with families who display sides that want more for their children. They may not always know what to do, but they would be happy to support a recovery instead of endlessly recapitulate institutionalization. Sometimes I still feel shame that I made it hard for my family because I didn’t just accept institutionalization. That seems to be what was expected of me. But now twenty years later, the blessing of working with these families reminds me not to feel that way.

One thing I am privileged to know is that different American cultural groups handle madness differently. My story and my scenario are just a single grain of sand in a big box of good old American diversity. There are families who have gone to great lengths to shield their loved ones from homelessness and the system, who endure violence and outbursts without help from the state. Others use the state intermittently to shape and guide their loved ones in their learning process. Some utilize tough love and hospitals and decide that they are mistakes and need to handle repair and a process of mutual learning. There is tragedy and hurt that abound in all directions. There is so much needed for healing.


Proposition 1 and the Losses Dealt to Peer-Run Communities:

As I brace for the changes Proposition 1 will bring, I see coworkers who seem to be open to the plight of people who are neurodivergent, mad, or have histories of trauma and wonder if they can handle the upcoming changes. Very few people out there understand the behavior of the homeless on the streets, behavior that I have engaged in in the state hospital when I was beaten, confined, ignored, rejected, slandered and denied access to meaningful activity. I worry if outpatient therapists without lived experience really will be able to understand and work with people who have endured homelessness.

With the social sin of homelessness now firmly planted like a target on a minority group, the schizophrenics, society can all ignore the other issues present. I saw a post on Facebook that all we need to do is invest 20 billion to end homelessness, a small portion of what we spend against Gaza and in support of Ukraine. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but still I ask: how are families to learn how to relate to their loved ones now that resources are taken away from recovery-oriented, peer-run communities and allocated for an increase in hospital beds, housing, and the oppression of care courts? Indeed, funding will be cut for recovery services to build more housing and impose more treatment.


The Value of the Vote:

In my eyes, my last vote against Proposition 1 may have been my last choice against the genocide and oppression that so impacts my life, work, and worldview. I wonder if my voice really matters. I wonder if voting matters in general in this exploding political system. But maybe these wonderings should just be my little secret. Oops.