In my experience, being singled out and excluded from the discourse because I don’t fit in is what causes me most pain. It is taking me a long time to realize exactly how and why this happens to me repeatedly.
For me it is not a simple process. It seems to do with people who seek to manage me. My managers get internalized in my mind. I have had managers in my family, managers throughout my education, mangers in the mental health system, managers at work, managers amongst my peers, and most recently I have encountered managers in the recovery movement. Fundamentally, the needs of managers are about power and control. They define what is appropriate from what is not.
As a result, I opt to avoid power and control as much as I can.
I am not jealous that managers have the power and control. It’s just that the hurt that come from their use of it keeps smarting and preoccupying my neurodivergent mind.
It’s arguable that being excluded and politically marginalized is the very action that made me experience “psychosis” in the first place. And yet casting people out of the group is so often a cultural norm in the modern world. It can seem like if you don’t cast out a few misfits out you are likely to be seen as someone who fails to take care of yourself.
Throughout my life I have felt cast out. To get back in I have had to learn to work with managers who have tended to wrangle and control my behavior. I have never felt good enough to get noticed or acknowledged. And then, there is a part of me that is so angry about the whole process, that when I do get acknowledged, I have to fight not to want to spit at the manager in the face.
But this ultimately isn’t the story of what happens when I am cast of the ship, it is the story of trying to live a good life while the factions and politics that surround me seem to demonize and marginalize me. It’s about going to my managers and advocating for better treatment. It’s about assertively teaching them that they are wrong about me.
I’ve gone to great lengths to keep politics and factions out of my recovery. But what I’ve noticed is that others don’t. Therefore, after years of letting people play politics, and use factions against me, I am writing today to envision a different outcome. Indeed, this post is about knowing and accepting that these things will happen. It is ultimately about letting it happen and then confronting those who have done this with assertive self-advocacy.
We All Have Trigger Words:
In dealing with experiences associated with psychosis, there are as many triggers. Even when I am out of emergency and able to function optimally, when I am not attentive to my work I may get struck with flashbacks. In fact, it can happen so frequently that I don’t notice that it is happening. I just feel dissociated and depressed. It is when I take care of myself later when I realize that the political hits I have taken actually hurt. It takes time to allow myself to feel and understand them.
It can feel like every managed group with which I associate slashes me. Just persisting and working through the politics and factions is a good thing. For me, there is the medical model unit where I work, and the family of origins relations are constantly surfacing. But the worst experience for me is when people in the recovery movement do it. I had so hoped it wouldn’t happen there, but it has yet again.
For many of us in the mad movement, the words normals use to define associated experiences are triggers. The word psychosis is one itself. I call it the “p” word and put it in quotes as often as I can. I do this because it is so misunderstood and misused that it triggers cultural delusions that are eugenic and ridiculous. And sure enough, it is a word that even if you use quotes around it, might trigger a manager to correct you. I have been corrected and told that madness is really a much better word to use than the “p” word.
There are a lot of trigger words in the “psychosis” community! There is the “d” word for delusions, the “h” word for hallucinations, the “s” word for schizophrenia. The ‘p” can stand for either psychosis or paranoia. All these word trigger misunderstanding and cultural delusions about the “psychosis” experience. A medicalized perspective is most commonly used.
We all have trigger words and we all do our best to deal with them. In some cases, we might use one to reclaim it or redefine it or craftily address a cultural delusion.
Case in point, one time I used the “d” word in the title of a post: “How to help when you think someone may be delusional.” It’s true I used the “d” word a number of times without quotes. I used it a lot and then I started to add quotes around it to accent the point. Some readers got it and responded that they too were triggered by the “d” word.
I had been fishing for mainstream people to read the article and come away from the post using quotes around the “d” word. However, it provoked the ire of a highly regarded speaker who confronted me that using the word delusional was stigmatizing. When I responded to his issue by identifying myself as a fellow survivor and accenting my intention, he was unimpressed leaving bitter and what seemed to me to be superior words.
A few weeks later, a local manager who I have helped and from whom I would like to get support for my work, proposed that we pay this international speaker to come and do a local training. At this point I learned the speaker uses the “p” word without quotes in a similar manner. As a result, my hurt and frustration have been thus compounded.
In this case it is because I have a training that has been well received in several contexts that my managers ignore. Additionally, in my mind paranoia is just as misused as delusional and psychosis and schizophrenic! Is it possible that he was really just trying to hurt and alienate me from his movement? Sometimes I feel like everybody I have known who are his colleagues have done the same thing. It is a small community. I suspect that people talk. Is it the “p” word starting up yet again, or is it a legitimate perspective?
Playing Politics and Creating Factions!
At some point we all have to get over our peeves and entitlements and move on with our lives. I think we can learn to do this. But we have to see what is happening and heal. We have to avoid joining in and slandering the person who has triggered us. It is best to collect our thoughts, practice using them, and consider addressing the person who is marginalizing us. Sometimes we have to make this a long-term project and repeatedly look for openings in which we can assert ourselves. Ultimately, when we are successful a sense of healing may ensue. Maybe we finally get the inclusion.
However, when we hurt, we may factionalize and fight over trigger words and who belongs in the tent. It starts to be about who has more friends, support and power. Maybe we want to follow the person with the higher degree, or the one who went to the more prestigious college. The number of factions in the mental health recovery movement are truly incredulous.
In the “psychosis” community alone, do we split up the voice hearers from those who are targeted individuals? Do we split up the people who learn to benefit from medication from those who reject it entirely? Do we then advocate for more socially acceptable remedies like cannabis? Do we look to kick out the people who don’t fit in and create norms that exclude? Do we separate those who have been on the streets from those who have chosen to live with their parents? Do we divide positive manic camp from the depressed, schizophrenic camp? Do we separate those who abuse substances from those who have been incarcerated and are on probation? Do we gaslight those we don’t like or who ask us challenging questions?
The answer to this question for many is to factionalize. “If black people want to form a group, for example, they can, “I have heard it said by the man’s colleagues. Is it not our responsibility to incorporate their cultural needs into the larger group? Indeed, that perspective is complicated.
It starts to be about how we manage who gets in our tent and who gets cast out. Every four years the nation gets into wars of rhetoric that get everyone divided. Right now, many of us are wondering if there will be a civil war based on mainstream propaganda and cultural delusions about white supremacy.
Understanding the Origins of the Trigger:
Indeed, this kind of issue takes me back to kindergarten which I had to repeat because I used the scissors backwards. Indeed, I would have been denied entrance into what has become in mind, the vile private school I attended; however, my parents both worked there.
I may have graduated cum laude fifteen years later, but they still tried to kick me out again my senior year. Even though my father, a top administrator, had left his position the teachers were divided about me. Some would argue that my spelling was atrocious. Some accused me of lying about how much time I spent doing homework. My mother was the reading teacher and yet I evaded her radar. Some may have been shocked about how low my PSAT scores were.
Maybe I just hadn’t eaten all day and just could not concentrate! I don’t remember.
I slept at tops four hours a night. I continued to achieve mostly A’s, work around the clock, organize community services, and play sports after school; but I stopped eating and landed in the hospital to avoid dying from anorexia.
I spent much of my 12th grade year in and out of the hospital. I moved in with a friend and my room was converted to a study. My mother first called me an “asshole” and then I became a writer.
My first college essay was so good the school psychologist evaluated it and said I was on the verge of killing myself. This nearly got me re-hospitalized. I continued to re-write the essay and sent it out to spite the school, the psychologist and her husband, my English teacher. I got into some good colleges. I also got excluded from ones who didn’t approve. Meanwhile, I was starting to think college would be about more of the same bullshit. I hooked up with a twenty-five-year-old photojournalist and moved to attend school in an affordable inner-city.
It didn’t seem like I made these choices. They all just kind of fell into place. When the school lied and published that I was going to an expensive school in the yearbook, I vowed never to return. It didn’t take long for me to find myself alone in a roach infested apartment in the inner-city on all the holidays from work. I wrote.
A True Outcast:
I really don’t think anyone knows what it’s like to be outcasted until you’ve been homeless, jobless, and endlessly working for your survival while others project horrible generalizations upon you so they don’t have to feel guilty.
When I was in high school and college, I was exercising the privilege of telling the people who raised me to fuck off. Oh, how that privilege washes away when you go to low-wage, entry-level work to get your life back on track after losing everything.
I am talking about my recovery from psychosis. It was a privileged recovery albeit with white skin and family money, but there was a long-term state hospital, homelessness and a constant threat of being forced back into that lifestyle.
Mustering Up the Self-Advocacy:
Talking like this makes me repeatedly lose cultural capital among people who manage me. I have the sense that I am easy to marginalize politically. I feel like I have a different background and experience, so I am easy to disregard, slander and doubt. Many blame the victim even when they think they know better. They fall into becoming like a pack of dogs chasing a puppy in a dog park.
There comes a time when I must notice that not all managers are evil. There comes a time when I must find those few weak links in the chain and make appeals.
I think approaching the managers in a negative manner is not only hard to do, it is not always wise. Managers are renown for threatening us not to do that. Thus, it is a good thing I have internalized them in my head.
When I address a manager, I need to prepare myself. I will be asked for examples that illustrate the points I am making.
Because elements in my past have been traumatic, carrying in them underpinnings of sexual abuse and neglect, I tend to lose my ability to think when pressed for examples. When I am asked for examples or overtly mistreated, it can be hard to directly address it. When I don’t address it, people do have a way of talking and targeting.
Thus, even when the manager may be reasonable when pressed, I start out afraid. Understanding the patterns of abuse that repeat themselves takes me back to a misty October day around my third birthday. It is a memory I endlessly cannot access. But through writing I have accessed others that are significant.
Maybe it was that unremembered day, or maybe it was something else.
All I know is that I just was not able to live up to private school expectations when I was so hurt. Some days I remember nothing accept repeating patterns of marginalization.
Thus, hounded like dogs sniffing assholes, I need to remember that my body holds the trauma. Many do say it is all my fault because I am too nice. Maybe I deserve all the shit I’ve been put through because I am soft. But I am still on my way. Still, I am getting closer.
Writing so helps me prepare and honor what I’ve been through. All this work is there to help me assert myself. I must practice and run my concerns through my head and ask to have my needs met. I have to be like Tom Petty and tell them that I won’t back down.
Yes, the “D” word is bad, but so are the “P” words. Also rooting out difficult people and discarding them doesn’t fix everything when there is generational genocide and good old American inequality to muster through.
It really helps that I have reached a point where the person to whom I am asserting myself can no longer hurt me. And the manager I am dealing with is a lot more than just a comment on Facebook who may not have accurately read my post.
It helps that I have achieved a stable life that will persist regardless of what they do to me. When I was threatened with homelessness and underemployment. I just couldn’t do it, but now I can. Other people can project their stuff onto me and spread slander and refuse to say sorry, but they can’t put me out on the streets again. At least for a little while.
All the times I have been hurt, gaslit, rendered speechless, red faced and marginalized will be gone. I will assert my truth and ask the questions I need to know. I will pitch my work to my manager and ask for help and maybe it just won’t be as bad as I think.
One time recently I have done this and gotten the answer that I’ve always told myself to be true, but that was so hidden from the public. Successes can build on successes and can help me try again with the hopes that I might just might be granted that which I need. And if I don’t, I know what to do. I will return again and again steady and clear voiced and assert myself until I find my own dignity. Maybe when I realize that I can do this, the “they” will change their blaming mentality.
And I don’t need an ultimate confirmation that I or my work has value. Maybe I just need to assert myself in a new manner, Maybe I can learn something that can help me be successful.
When I can do this, the factions, the politics, the stigma will clear from out of my head and all unjust managers and control will fade into the background and I will feel a sense of relief. Maybe this will happen some day! And when it is my turn to cast someone out of the lifeboat, I just won’t do it no matter what “they” say.