Owning madness

I'm finding it difficult to write this last section. By arranging and combining I am creating form that may be false. I really like tidying up, but loose casual organizing into clusters is what the material calls for.

I enjoy roaming deductively, making connections, looking for links, seeing if the pieces fit together in the framework I am imagining. I do not have much inductive skill, the talent to look at the scattered pieces and imagine their frame.(1) I have looked for examples and guidance in business models and in game theory, and sometimes found conceptually useful ideas, but the pragmatics and the competitiveness discourage me. I yearn for the mission driven by lofty moral righteous goals.

I am thinking about why it was important to do this and to write this -- to match technology and mental health interventions and document that match.

I realized that my own transformation meant having a political voice; self-help wasn't enough. Years of depression were incubation, prepared my mind. Now social actions took me beyond symptom management and compliance to hope, integration, and a valued place.

As I write and speak the truths I am finding, I convince myself more deeply of their worth. I watch cognitive consonance working. To write, to present, to exchange proves and keeps enhancing the worth and correctness.

Beverley advised me to first get clear on what I am doing. I smiled within. My clarity comes in reviewing what I have done, is the last, not the first step. I need to look back with a meta view. At this sixth decade, I was burning with this need to reexamine and cull and summarize. I used my projects at Summit University to do this by pushing the envelope at Department of Rehabilitation and going forward with a life-long wish to have a doctorate. When I spoke about, and when I published, the story of the five years of the process of getting rehabilitation services, I wanted to show how the process worked now and encourage people with disabilities to improve it.

I remembered the story a friend told about her appointment to the California PAIMI Planning Council consumer seat. At the first meeting, as she was being introduced, the Chair, in a mocking of respect, asked if she wished to be titled Ms or Mrs. She replied, "Actually, it's Doctor." I also want to say that at least one time.

I expect that my experience and my new credentials will give me even more credibility. My plans are to participate in person at the county level in Santa Cruz and at the California and Western Region level, and nationally and internationally, and electronically. It interests me that the further from home, the more effective I feel. Yet I have not applied to present at three major DC conferences in June and instead am planning on attending three meetings in California, and presenting in Oregon, Santiago, and Norway. I like the image of endlessly circling the globe, regularly electronically, occasionally in person.

I expect that everywhere I will listen for the language of inclusion and respect and the related moral stance and remember "We are not worth more; they are not worth less."(2)

I expect I will continue to have underlying murmurings and rumblings and grumblings as I stay needing to comprehend and integrate. I expect that I will continue to feel angry and helpless and voiceless and lonely, struggling on the inward track even while my actions on the outward track are clear and good. I will guard against getting tipped over into reactive competition. I am seeing life through a paradigm of loss of my scripted self, a continual shedding, opening, clearing, creating more empty space to be available for grander understandings. I expect I will continue to get ready, next perhaps by incorporating People Who Net as a non-profit. I will watch to see if funding changes what I do. I anticipate a transformative personal lesson as the millennium turns. I have batteries on hand, water, and eager expectation.

I remember back to 1972 when the Network Against Psychiatric Assault was forming. I had circled an announcement in the Bay Guardian calendar describing a meeting for people affected by the psychiatric system, to be held at Glide Memorial on Ellis St in San Francisco.

I was shy, I was scared, and to protect myself, I wore my most elegantly appropriate clothes and my most reserved and controlled manner. I smiled and said little.

I listened to Leonard Frank. I listened to Wade Hudson. After the talks, I went to join one of the break-out discussion groups. At the door to the room where the group was forming, I was challenged. "What are you doing here? This is for ex-patients only."

"Do you want to see my scars?" Symbolically, I held out my forearm, palm upturned. "Yes," she said, and grudgingly allowed that three years in three hospitals, commitment, conservatorship, and shock were sufficient credentials. I stayed through the meeting, but my thoughts were not there.

For I had heard "You don't belong." It didn't matter to me that I could prove I did belong. The few seconds of questioning whether I could enter released years of memories, recollections of so many painful events, so many times that I hadn't been wanted, excluded because I was a girl, or smart, or Jewish, and most recently because I was crazy.

My surface was rejected. I heard that the non-superficial me was not worth looking for. I felt the object of prejudice and assumption. I didn't like it. I felt defensive, but I didn't know what it was I had to defend about. My haircut, my earrings, my new clothes, gray hair, lipstick -- these were the data.

I carried home from that meeting the sense of being not wanted. I did not go to more meetings. I am not one of the old-timers in the ex-patient movement.

When I left that meeting at Glide Church early in the 70's, I felt other, excluded from the movement's core, because, I thought, I wasn't poor. Now I am again not in the central current because I have not been severely abused. Learning about psychiatric shunning has facilitated me in continuing to select the stance of the outsider. The lesson of lonely is to value (and learn to build) the group.

I have traveled around the world. I am traveling now in the wired Internet world. And I am still aware of how I put on a persona with my clothes. Literally and metaphorically, I verify by trying on, seeing what fits and travels well, looks not too wrinkled when unpacked from storage. I am curious if adding PhD to my electronic signature will change how I perceive myself. And I cannot know until I complete this project. I am impatient.

In 1987, Peter Vanderveer, the psychiatrist who was managing my medications told me I had no talent. I was deflated, unclear why I should live or how. Later women taught me how I am part of giving away my power and I learned to relish connecting in helpfulness. Liking to be helpful has been socialized out as co-dependent, but the extraordinary thing I found on the Internet is that sharing knowledge and helping are valued. E writing is not a solitary process. I have grown stronger and more armored as Coordinator, The Madness Group. Perhaps the initials will lead to some softening. This transition from Owner, MADNESS to Coordinator, People Who Net to Sylvia Caras, Ph D is murky and feels out of synch. The MADNESS list is gone. I am no longer owning and growing any one interactive list. I am adrift, and still acting well. It is nothing I have before experienced.

There is anger still, there is an interest in words still, there is the hurt and the rage when I feel invisible and ordinary. As I write these last words, I feel sad, alone, emptied, calm, abiding. The Net provided an opportunity to participate. I feel an ease that follows from finding a place, and an inevitable relief from the lightening of the label's weight.

The lessons for me, not yet learned, are about planning and waiting and expecting. Getting this degree, getting the grant, getting the new equipment established -- these have all been lessons in how nothing goes forward quickly. It has felt a huge burden to have these obligations in front of me, binding me to dailiness, inhibiting the openness to other ideas and projects, stifling creativity. Balancing real obligations and responsibility with a presence in the now is hard for me. I feel the heavy weight of obligation and carry a kernel of fear that I will not stay able to meet them. It was less risky to not undertake. And less fulfilling.

Beyond my own personal inner movement, I haven't the distance to see what this will add up to. Some used to respond, when learning my name, "Who is Sylvia?" I will continue to ask and work on answering the question.





1. There are other ordinary skills I do not have: I am weak at spatial relations and kinesthetic awarenesses. I struggled and felt much shame before I learned that these were intelligences I did not have and that there were other intelligences that I did have and that I could accept myself as imperfect. I decided that philosophers and mathematicians deduce, research scientists and psychics induce, and that I would choose to be in the former category.

2. Circulating on the Internet late in 1998. Original source unknown.

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