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The Session  By  W. Bruce Watson
 
     She told me what a pretty shirt I had on as I entered her office and took my usual seat on the sofa opposite her recliner. She was my therapist and I’d been seeing her on a weekly basis for the last eight years. I think it’s safe to say I had grown quite fond of her, and she, quite savvy about me and my ways. That is, at this point in my therapy I could never be entirely sure if a passing comment from her was just conversation, one meant to settle us into a therapeutic mode, or one with a therapeutic intent in its own right. Deciding to leave this question hanging for a bit longer, I explained how I came to have such a shirt, one which, according to Wikipedia, was atomic tangerine in color, that I had been attending a conference in Silicon Valley on network computing and skipping a session in which I had utterly no interest had gone clothes shopping instead, in one of the many upscale shops that one often finds in the lobbies of conference hotels, where I’d come across a blazingly bright tee-shirt in this very color in Nick’s size and bought it and carried it with me in an open sack, schlepping it from session to session along with my briefcase, and later how his mother had been so taken with the color that she bought me two short sleeved atomic tangerine tinted shirts. These were fun shirts.

      Well I could see how I was letting my shirt, or rather the color of my shirt, become a distraction, and I was notorious in that room for my distractions, and not being able to decide if her comment was deliberately meant to send me off in a tangent, before we’d even begun, or whether she genuinely liked the shirt, I decided to just sit silently for a bit even though I was dying to tell her all about how color names evolve right along with language and always along the same path regardless of where and when it is or was spoken or who speaks or spoke it.

      In the silence I hadn’t failed to notice that the cushion in my corner of the sofa, my corner for that is where I always sat, was still warm from having been sat upon by her previous patient, a man, one who had fugged up the room with the smell of his Old Spice stick deodorant and hot cigarette breath, and this left me feeling off put. The silence was becoming awkward and painful even, so I informed her, half in jest and half in resentment that she was seeing another man, that it was my intention to just sit there quietly for the entire forty-five minutes. Ever rational and so like a woman, she wanted to know what that would accomplish; thus began our session.

      “It would be to underscore how blocked I am, I guess. Maddening.”

      “Blocked?” “Blocked. Yeah, and I’m using that stupid phone as an excuse to not do anything.”

      “The phone at work?”

      “Yes.”

      “You still haven’t gotten a phone?”

      “No, I haven’t gotten my phone. Gees.” Over a year had passed since I’d lost my security clearance at the Lab and had had to relocate offices, and they had had to move my phone back then as a consequence. But the “unresolved derogatory information” had been resolved finally and my clearance restored, and I was once again back in my old office—furniture, books, computers but not the phone; it had been left behind. Relocating one’s phone required a unique and separate work order, and though I’d submitted the phone and office move work orders at the same time, the phone move entailed changing connections in the relevant phone closet, said closet being co-located along with hazardous materials in a vault especially designed for their storage, and in the time between losing my clearance and having it restored, a beryllium spill had contaminated the vault. Only haz-mat personnel were allowed entry into the vault, and they, and they only, could grant authorization to the phone tech to enter it.

      “That’s a long time.”

      “The person who’s been assigned this work order is – long ago dug in his heels, maybe as a child, and he’s a work-to-rule type. I put in an order to have the phone moved, and then it got all snarled up in this beryllium spill. Now, whether they got past the beryllium spill – then, he could proceed with the original order, but not him. He then sends a query to the bureaucracy that oversees these work orders, to ask them should he proceed with the original order or file a new one, and they didn’t respond. For a week, they didn’t respond, so he sends out another letter to request clarification on that. That’s sort of like…
     
      – “Oh, my God!”

     “Why doesn’t he just do it?”

     I asked of no one in particular, the kind of heuristic question most often addressed to fate, and most often in moments of sheer exasperation.

      “Does he send out actual letters or do they do email?”

      “He sends out emails, but he sends them a week apart.”

      “Gees!”
     
      “He sends it, and if he doesn’t hear, he’ll wait a week, then he’ll send it again.”

      “That’s ridiculous! How can you do your work without a phone?”

      I explained how I’d been using the phone in the building lobby to check on my voice mail, but that this had its limitations in that you couldn’t use it to make outside calls, and this had been especially troublesome when they were moving my Macintosh back into my old office and configuring it and transferring its file, because the woman who was the tech assigned to this task could only be reached on her Lab-provided cell phone. The Lab routinely provides cell phones to personnel who are constantly on the go, but they have to leave them outside whenever they enter a classified building such as the one in which my office is located. Since there was no way I could phone her, the tech and I tried to make do with email, but this was complicated by the fact that she had yet to configure my Macintosh. Bottom line, the phone tech had a reputation for being difficult and a right pain in the ass, and never more keenly felt was this than on this occasion. I could do nothing but wait.
     
      “Are you using that as an excuse, to not do anything? “
     
      An excuse? Moir?”
     
      “What do you mean? Yeah.”

      “My journal article, I need to go down to the people who do the classification reviews and ask them if they would please review it, even though it’s a private paper and doesn’t involve the Lab. It was written by me and I can’t do a thing with it until it’s been reviewed, so I need to get it reviewed because if I don’t, sure as hell, I’ll be criticized for it later, severely criticized.
     
      “Have other people at the Lab done things like write papers or articles, or articles, or…?”

      “I’m sure they have. I don’t know that for a fact, but I’m sure that they have.”

      This was a good question. Had others written privately? And if so, how had they managed it and the matter of a classification review? Years ago the Lab had a speakers bureau; maybe they still do. I had been one of its founding members, and as a member of the speakers bureau periodically I would be assigned to speak to various civic groups and organizations on a variety of topics about which I presumably knew something, but I don’t recall any of my presentations ever receiving a classification review. I explained to her that the people in the Lab were not real literary, I didn’t think. Yet they have a lot of interesting stories, ones that could be and should be told.
     
      “Stories from the lab?”
     
      “Yes. My friend, George Michael, started such an effort years ago and he was real hip and modern doing it all on the Web. I don’t think he had any of his stuff reviewed either, and I know for a fact that he did reveal classified information.”
     
      “Well, is there a written policy somewhere?”

      “I think so.”
     
      “There must be."
     
      “Yes, there is.”
     
      “What is it?”
     
      “What it says is that – Well, it’s not real clear – ‘Anything you write, for or about the Lab, needs to be reviewed for classification content.’ Anything. You have to – this I’m not doing – you have to bind it and keep it locked up in a safe with a provisional clearance stamped on a cover sheet that says that the document is currently under review. If you think it’s unclassified, you stamp it unclassified on it. I think you have to keep it locked up until it gets an official review, so they say that. They don’t say, private, stuff you’re doing on your own time, they don’t say that. It’s implied, that anything you write, as an employee, or an employee that reflects on the Lab needs a review. I think when I get down there with my paper and lay it on them that they’ll clarify that for me.’
     
      “What’s making you hesitate to take it down?
     
      “I can’t phone them. I can’t phone them and ask over the phone, should I bring it down. I could just as easily go down there wherever they are located and lay it on their counter and say, ‘Does this need a review, and if it does, would someone do that?’ ”
     
“Well, they won’t know if it needs it until they read it.”

“That’s right. In theory, anything that a person writes on their own time about the Lab requires a review? Even though it’s gonna be published externally?

      “Yeah. If somebody is a writer and they write about the Lab, it would have to be reviewed. I need to do that. I’m using the phone as an excuse to not go down there and do it.”
     
      “Why would you need an excuse not to do it?”
     
      “You ask such interesting questions. Why would I need that as an excuse? In a way, it’s like something to do with anxiety. I’m anxious about going down there and showing it to anybody at the Lab. I’m really anxious about that.”
     
      “It sounds like it. What are you anxious about?”
     
      “The article has to do with sex. With masturbation and stuff like that, and a very personal intimate look at me during a manic moment, so that’s in there. If it was just about the trial and left out all the details of – just said, ‘Well, he went manic and’ and so on and so forth. If that’s all there was to it, then I would have no trouble with it, but the fact that it reveals my inner workings.”
     
      She responded with a suggestion that I should write an alternate version of my paper, a sanitized version, i.e., one that leaves out all the embarrassing stuff, the stuff that people don’t normally reveal to others or words it in another way. She was quick to add that she didn’t think I should or that my paper was somehow lacking or at fault, but merely to give myself the option since I was so concerned about others knowing the intimate details of my life.

      “Because then you could, at least, make a decision and still have a good paper too – because the issues of being unclassified because of that are still there, whether you reveal your inner workings or not. Do you know what I mean? There’s still the topic of mental health and its implications for trustworthiness, and your behavior while manic and how that might make you vulnerable to being blackmailed – all the things that were the principles of the thing – are still in the paper. See if you can make it interesting enough or juicy enough without all that intimate stuff.”
     
      “I don’t know that I can, but that would be a good project. To see if I could do that. That would be a good project. I could allude to the juicy stuff without being explicit.”

      “Exactly. You can find ways to say it that let people know that, not just that there was something, but you could even say it, but in a more clinical way, a more sanitized way, not with the internal intensity that you felt. You know what I mean? Try to be conversational with it, put it in terms as if you were saying it – this is what you did because of the – basically as if you were telling it to somebody that you didn’t want to reveal all those inner workings to. I think what you did should be there, but it can be said in a way that isn’t as revealing.”

      “Leave it, people wonder about it. Leave people wondering about it.”

      “That could be interesting. ‘What did he do? He probably did this and did that,’ but they won’t know. That might make a more intriguing paper out of it.
     
      “Then, – okay, I’ll see what I can do.“
     
      “Well, I’m not saying that your purpose here would be to make it intriguing, more to grab people, to make it readable.”
     
      “It has to be interesting.”
     
      “There’s another aspect to your paper, one you might want to consider, to incorporate and that is that this business of revealing yourself and making yourself open to judgment is and has been for a long time an issue that looms large in mental health. That is, as you reveal it you’re not suggesting that you feel your behavior while manic was totally normal, that this is what manic people do, but more that you feel it is very self-revealing—not dangerous, mind you, but scary and risky, because it reveals things that people don’t usually reveal. Include in your account a voice which speaks for the audience – someone to play the dummy, so they ask all the dumb questions, like ‘Well, what’s mania?’ Not literally of course, but you know what I mean?

      “Yes.”
     
      “By ‘a voice speaking for the audience’ I mean that part of you that’s the Lab reading your article, whatever way you want to look at it, so that the prose presents it in a way that makes the difficulty in revealing it more understandable, like when you weren’t totally forthcoming about it during your security reinvestigation, leading the investigators to think of it, and you, as ‘so weird’ without really comprehending all the implications of the discomfort inherent in self-revelation. Do you see what I mean? Maybe that’s already implicit in your paper. I can’t remember, I haven’t read it in a long time. I’ll have to go back and look at it and see.”

      “Only if you feel like it.
     
      “It really is this—but maybe it is implicit – Do you think it’s implicit, what I’m saying, anyway? See, in some ways you’ve written it as, ‘this is just totally normal; this is just what you do when you’re manic.’ If that were true, there wouldn’t be any problem in publishing this, or in letting anybody read it.”
     
      “Revealing things that one doesn’t normally reveal, that’s sort of pivotal, crucial, that really is what it is about. The fact was that I revealed it to the doctor that I went to when I burned myself, I revealed it to the doctor, I didn’t have to – I could have made up some cockamamie story and let it go at that, but for some reason or another, I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head.”

      “You could have just said, ‘You got out of the shower and there was a wire loose or something.’ “
     
      “I was soldering on my stereo and the soldering iron fell into my lap and burned me in a most delicate place.”
     
      “Right, exactly, and all this would have been avoided.”
     
      “That’s right. Who says telling the truth is the best policy always. That’s an interesting observation. It might be interesting to weave that into the narrative somehow. That’s really a delightful idea.”
     
    “Yes, even when you were looking back, ‘Why didn’t I tell the doctor that I had dropped a soldering iron?’ ”
     
      “In my lap.”
     
      “Oh, God.”
     
      “No I didn’t. There is something about me, my psychology, we could explore it, sometime, that compels me to reveal these things. I’m sure you’ve noticed it. Maybe I have a compulsion to be outrageous. I do have a need to be outrageous from time to time. It could be, I noticed that in myself. I noticed that in my twin sister, a need to be outrageous from time to time.”

      “What do you think that’s about?”
     
      “I don’t know what that’s about. It’s an itch.”
     
      “That’s an unusual thing. There aren’t many people who are willing to do that.“

      “To be outrageous.”

      “Yeah. A few actors but they do it in the guise of being in a different roll. They aren’t even being honest.”

      “When we were in junior high school, my sister, Wilma, we were twins. We were in the same grade because there wasn’t a policy to separate twins back then, but I don’t think that…we were just not on the same track. Early on in the semester, we’d just started junior high school, because we were in seventh grade, maybe it’s the eighth grade, but anyway, she would – we would be going down the hall between classes, to our next class, and she would see me and like as not run over and give me a big kiss on the mouth. No one realizing that we were twins, everybody would just be shocked. Just be shocked. She really got off on that. She just really thought that was the funniest thing, shocking people, being outrageous. I was not willing to be that outrageous, but I went a long with it because she’s one of my sisters. I thought, it’s her cause, I‘ll support her in it.”

      “Is that where you got your first name? So that you guys would have similar names because you were twins?” “I’m sure that my mother named my sister…no, I don’t think so. I’d like to think that she named my sister Wilma first—um, her middle name is not ‘first’. She named her Wilma Ann and then she looked down at me, ‘Oh what will I name the little prick?’ and…Oh, that‘s not what happened. What happened was, they had a pact, my mother and her 3 siblings. She was the youngest and was the last to have children. The pact was that they would name their children after their father, and their mother, and after each other, as they each had kids.”

      “I see.”

      “My Grandfather’s name was Wilbert and all his children hated him. I think it was my Aunt Irene, who came up with this idea that they should all name their kids after each other, and after their mother, even though she had abandoned them, and after their father, even though they all hated him, and did so with good cause. But pact or no pact, when my mother first started having kids, she named the first boy George, and that just pissed my aunts and uncle off because nobody in the family…”

      “Because it wasn’t named …?”

      “Right. Nobody’s named George! Then her second child rolled around, and they were looking at her real hard, but she ended up naming her second child after herself, so they said, ‘Well, that’s not exactly what we meant when we said we would name our kids after each other.’ Then they really put the pressure on her. Then when I came along, she said, ‘Oh, God. I will have to name him Wilbert,’ because I had an uncle Wilbert, and a grandfather Wilbert and so she settled on ‘Wil-mer’ – to mollify the family. They sort of thought ‘Hmmm’, and then she gave me the middle name, Bruce. She never, ever called me Wilmer, she always called me,

      “Bruce” .

      Everybody always called me, Bruce. The aunts and uncles tried to call me Wilmer, but it just didn’t go
      because everybody else was calling me

      “Bruce.”

      I can’t imagine what she was thinking when she named me after the one person in the world she hated above all others.

      “Then she named Wilma Wilmabecause we were twins. She named her Wilma after me. Partly, in some sense, after her own father - the Will, the Wil-sound. Wilma always hated her name. I think that’s part of the reason why she embraced the 3HO Cult thing, so she could change her name. It really broke my mom’s heart, when she changed her name.”

      “Well, Wilma? You can’t grow up with the Flintstone’s and have the name Wilma. Nowadays, it could pass, but that wasn’t that thoughtful of your mother to name her after somebody in the Flintstones.”

      “Wilma’s middle name is Ann. We always wondered where that came from. My mother’s mother’s middle name was
     
      “Anne”
     
      but through all the years of my upbringing she never told us that. Never said a word. She knew what her mother’s name was. Her mother’s name was Myrtilla, like Myrtle, only Myrtilla.

      “That’s a little prettier.”
     
      “Among her siblings she was very possibly the only one who knew what their mother’s name was. A lot of the other members in our family thought her name was Matilda, but my mom said, ‘No its Myrtilla.’ You can go Online and look for it, and find it. She was born in Los Angeles, in 1502, or whenever it was.
     
      “1502?”
     
      “1602, maybe, but a long time ago. Her name is Anne, A-N-N-E. Myrtilla Anne McFerran. She ran off. My grandfather was so hard on her. He, basically, drove her off. As soon as my mom was twelve, and the whole family was moving to Los Angeles, she, on the pretext of cleaning up affairs back in West Virginia, selling the house and so on and so forth, stayed back there. When the opportunity came, and – all the property – when everything was resolved and stuff like that, instead of joining the family in Los Angeles, she ran away to Florida. They never saw her again. I wonder if she kept the money. Both of my wives, when they learned of this piece of family history, wanted to know the same thing, ‘Well, did she ever write? Did she write them or anything?’ I told them, ‘Probably did, but I’m sure my grandfather intercepted the letters.’ She never remarried and died at 53 in the flu epidemic of 1933 or so.
     
      “Gees!”
     
      “He was a ‘Son of a bitch.’ He molested his daughters, the theory is. I’m sure he did because they were all kinda strange sexually. My mother says - she would never come right out and say that he molested her, she would say things like, ‘Many’s the night, I had to sneak out my bedroom window and spend the night at the neighbors.’ The neighbors were all in on it, and took her in and protected her. He’d come home drunk and would want one of his daughters. He was a little shit too. He was about 5 feet 2, maybe. I don’t know how tall he was, but he was little. He was so little, he could climb inside – he worked in the Pottery Works, dishes and things. They packed them for shipping in big barrels with sawdust. They would stack them in there very carefully in a very special way. He was so little he could climb into the barrel and stack the dishes from the inside, in layers of sawdust. That’s the story. That’s how little he was. Maybe he had a Napoleon complex.
     
      “Sounds like it.”

      “The whole rest of the family, my grandfather’s family, the rest of the family consisted of writers, lawyers, doctors, professors. Professional people, definitely middle-class, but he was the black sheep. I think he got my grandmother pregnant. Fooling around and had to marry her. He was in his early 30s, she was like 14. It was kind of a shot-gun wedding. He was forced to marry her. I don’t know. It’s a lot of history that had never got written down. It was in some peoples’ memories, but never shared. “This was your mother’s mother?”

      “Mother.”
     
      “Mother? You’re mother’s mother was the one who went to Florida, so she still had enough contact with her family to name her children after the family, even though they all went to California and she never saw them again? “

      “Well, she went to California with them.”

      “Oh, I thought she went to Florida?”

      “No. My mother’s mother.”

      “Oh, her mother. Oh, I see. The wife.”

      “My grandmother ran away to Florida.”

      “I see.”

      “My grandfather decided – my mother was twelve – and he put her in charge of the household, with the cooking, and the cleaning, and the laundry for the five of them.”

      “She was the youngest?”

      “She was the youngest. He put her in charge of everything.”

      “Gees.”

      “She got her revenge though. She had to make his lunches, and she’d make him bean sandwiches.”

      “Bean sandwiches?”

      “Or spaghetti sandwiches.”

      “At least it didn’t have arsenic. Oh, God.”

      “It’s sort of …a spaghetti sandwich.”

      “Sounds pretty good to me, actually.”

      “It does sound like a bean sandwich should be pretty good, but it’s just so unconventional.”

      “Not in those days.”

      “Especially for 1920s. “

      “Yes.”

      “What is it? What were we talking about? My reluctance is anxiety-based – okay, we talked about that, and revealing so much of myself in publishing the saga of my defrocking, banishment and subsequent vindication. I think that’s what the anxiety has to do with, and I think it’s justified.

      “I guess there’s one thing, a lot of times, I think that anxiety is not justified, and it’s something that one needs to address, or face, or whatever, to go on with whatever you’re doing. In this case, I don’t know. I don’t know. Because you are revealing…”

      “It’s mixed.”

      “Yeah.”

      “You’re right.”

      “It’s not as clear that this is something you want to reveal quite as dramatically as you felt it, let’s put it that way. Even if – although there might be some audiences where that’s what you’d want to do. It really depends. It gives you options of how you would write it. Because the story is a good story, without that, it’s still a good story. With a lot of important underlying principles, so to speak, or ways that these issues, the political issues, of it all, played out.”

      “I wonder if I’m a good enough writer to do that. To do the things that you suggest. I’ll find out. I’ll have a whack at it.”

      “You’ve got the whole story written out.”

      “This story, it just fell out. I sat down and I wrote it in one go, in the order in which it happened, and I got it all done, and I looked at it, and it was in my estimation – maybe it still is – but in my estimation, it was kind of boring. Dry. I thought, gee, it’s such a dramatic story, why is it coming out so stodgy? Without even thinking about it, or lamenting how I’d done all this work, and that I was going to have to redo it. I set about redoing it, They tell you in writing, when you redo something, take the original and throw it in the trash. Just throw it away. Don’t look at it and write fresh from the beginning. I didn’t do that exactly. What I did is that I started writing fresh from a different perspective, then as I got to parts that I needed, I just cut and pasted them in. “Somewhere I have the original paper, I can go back and look at it, see what I missed, but I don’t think I missed anything. Then, I embellished. That’s the way I did it, and it came out much better. This would be a real challenge to do it the way you said. I’ll have to think about it. The trial part? Well the masturbation is really central, in a sense that it’s what got me into trouble, so called trouble, what got me noticed, it’s what the …I don’t know what unctuous means, I won’t use it, but that couple that interrogated me.

      It was what they were getting off on, the electro sex. That is so over the top to them, and they just couldn’t leave it alone, and wouldn’t leave it alone. It’s what got the Code Of Federal Regulations in an uproar and its criteria stirred up and got them fastened on my case, so it’s really germane and central. In fact, in the trial, at some point, the prosecuting attorney made a comment about it, he said, “The Department of Energy has no interest in Mr. Watson’s sexual practices.” Because up to that point, it sure looked like they did. It just did, and he knew it, and he knew that that’s really an untenable position.”

      “I was there when he said that. It was very clear. ‘Let’s put this away, here.’ ”

      “He had to make it very clear, that officially, they’re not, but unofficially, they were.”

      “Is there really any other reason? Once he put that away it was basically done. There was no other reason to be checking you out. That is why it was outrageous to begin with. There wasn’t any way, to address this. They can say it was because you were bipolar. That’s not the reason, you’ve been bipolar all along. It’s because of that…”

      “Right. It’s the ‘Puritan Ethic’.”

      “Once you dealt with that, there wasn’t any other way you fit the criteria of being a security risk.”

      “It’s the

      “Puritan Ethic,”

      basically.”

      “Somehow or other.”

      “Some type of modern 20th Century version of the ‘Puritan Ethic.’ I got my ‘Scarlet Letter,’ my ‘Pariah Badge,’ for all to see, and to wonder at. Speaking of badges, I still haven’t gotten my new badge. I wonder what the big delay is now. Oh, I got an interesting phone call a few days ago, I get phone calls if I go and check my voice mail. I got this phone call, I’m really gun-shy, or I’m sensitized. This woman I didn’t know says, ‘Bruce we need to meet soon, I know, we’ll see each other this afternoon, in a meeting this afternoon, but I want to get together with you before then to go over the incident, and the letter of warning.’ I thought, ‘Holy, shit! What did I do now?’ That’s what I felt, ‘God, Almighty! All this stuff that was going on and I find out…’ what? What finally calmed me down was this woman had said, ‘I know we’re gonna meet later this afternoon,’ and I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about a meeting,’ and according to her I’ve been told, so she’s got the wrong Bruce Watson. There’s a Bruce Watkins at the Lab. “Oh, gees! “

      “I was telling that to our Security Administrator, she’s a nice lady. Anyway, I was telling her about this and she was reassuring me that they had the wrong

      “Bruce.”

      She said, ‘That woman should never have left that kind of message on voicemail. Never. Without really knowing for sure that she had the right person, she should never, never have done that, that was, so…’– I tracked her down and sent her a voice mail of my own saying, ‘You have the wrong Bruce Watson.’ I gave her my email – my phone’s not working – I haven’t heard from her, I’m sure she’s totally embarrassed. I started saying…, How much time do we have? I have another story.”

      “We have time.”

      “I get an email from Vira, she’s a deaf person – this is not really relevant to the story, but she likes me. I like her a lot. She’s a really nice person. We have in the lobby of the building, a little chalkboard, about the size of that picture on your wall there, maybe a little bigger, and it’s ruled – whiteboard ruled, and it has our names in a column down the left, and opposite of each name there’s a blank space, and you’re supposed to write where the hell you expect to be every time you leave the building for an extended period. When I lost my clearance and was banished to building 141. Someone had it written in there,

      “Building 141”,

      that’s where I was. Then I came back, I’m moving in, and everything like that. I happened to notice the other day that the board still said building 141, so I erased it and I was gonna put nothing, at first. I thought—I never leave well enough alone—I thought, ‘I’ll just put something silly in there because I like being silly, so I was gonna put in ‘President.’ You know how when we were kids and they used to call the roll, and you were supposed to say, clearly, and audibly, ‘Present?’ The boys thought it was always hysterical to say, ‘President.’ All the boys would laugh and chortle and the teacher would glower. She’s trying to take the role and just ignores it, and I go and - so I put ‘President’ in there. It was funny. Vira, a week or so later, I forgot all about it, and Vira sent me an Email, and asked, “Why does it say, ‘Resident Evil’ by your name?”

      “Somebody had changed it?”

      “Somebody had changed it from ‘President’ to ‘Resident Evil,’ so I said,

      “I don’t know what that’s about.”

      She says,

      “You’re such a nice person, why would you put that by your name?”

      As if, I had put it by my name. I said,

      “No, I didn’t. Somebody else did it.”

      I let it go, and then I thought about it. There’s a stigma, a terrible stigma, and a stereotype, we get both, that goes with being bipolar. I’m not sure that it’s not justified. Part of me thinks that it’s unfair, and part of me thinks, it’s to be expected, and the stereotype goes something like this.

      “We can’t be trusted, can’t be believed, we’re not reliable, and we’re violent.”

      Things like that. Whoever put that up there, my feeling was, they were responding to the stereotype, that stigma, voicing it. I really took exception to it, and I went and erased it. While I was erasing it, our Security Administrator went to get a drink of water from the water cooler nearby, she says,

      “Oh, you’re taking down the

      “Resident Evil.”

      I said,

      “Did you see it?”

      She says,

      “Yes.”

      I said,

      “I was insulted.”

      She said,

      “Don’t you think they were just joking? I said, “Maybe they were just joking, but in a sense, they’re giving voice to the stereotype, the stigma. I explained to her what the stigma was, and I said,

      “I’m really insulted by that and am taking it down, and if it shows up again, I’m seriously going to consider filing an harassment suit, or charge, or investigation, or something to do with harassment because it would be harassment if they kept doing it. Her eyes got all wide, and she said,

      “Really?”

      I said,

      “Yes.”

      She says,

      “Well, she could see how it was harassment,”

      but she really thought the person that did it was joking around. It’s not like the

      “N word,”

      but it’s getting close. While this was going on, I noticed down the hall, Chuck was listening. He got a real sheepish look on his face, as if to say

      “I did it.”

      There’s normally three men present in the building, but one of them, had a death in the family, so he’s away. It’s just me and Chuck and three or four women in the whole building, and I’m sure this is not something a woman would do. It could be somebody from the outside because we have one of the main meeting rooms for the whole section in our building, so somebody could have done it from outside, but chances are, since that chalkboard is just for the residents of the building, that it was Chuck.”

      “He heard the whole thing?”

      “He heard me saying I considered it harassment. It hasn’t happened again, I haven’t checked lately, but…”

      “It won’t happen again.”

      “I sure hope it doesn’t happen again.”

      “Well, it probably was just a joke.

      (“Just a joke”)

      and they might have been responding a bit to your writing down what you wrote, you were being a little provocative.”

      “In a jocular mode.”

      “Exactly, and they might not have understood the reference you were making to the taking of role. They might have been thinking, ‘Bruce thinks he’s so cool, he’s the President!’ like that. This other person might have issues about people claiming themselves to be something they’re not, or something better than them, so, in their mind a put-down was called for. Do you know what I mean? It might have nothing whatever to do with your being bipolar, in that sense. I can see that happening without it being anything more than the other persons need to put you down. They might also be somewhat narcissistic, but other than that, they might not be responding to anything else.

      “However, part of what your paper is about is this issue of your being bipolar, and how comfortable you are with others knowing that about you, and, as well, what people think bipolar disorder is. I’m generalizing a bit here, but there’s the idea that with people who’re bipolar, ‘You never know. Oh, he’s bipolar. Well his behavior, it might be erratic, unpredictable, we don’t know what’s gonna happen.’ That’s more the stereotype than –“

      “That’s right. It is. I’d forgotten the words I wanted, but they are included – In my paper I wanted to conclude – I’m glad you said that because I did include it in my paper, at the very end of the paper, –

      “I am not qualified to make the following pronouncement,”

      but I wrote,

      “The basis for friendship is you have to be able to believe the other person, what they say, that they tell the truth. You have to believe, or feel, or be sure, know that they are not going to hurt you. If you don’t have those two things in place, there’s no basis for friendship, really.”

      Then I wrote,

      “The stereotype for the bipolar person flies in the face of that and it’s no surprise that it’s so isolating.”

      Then I concluded,

      “The significance of my winning the case was that bipolar people can be trusted and you can be friends.”

      “And one of the ways that bipolar people can be friends is by being open about it; maybe that’s the only way. Perhaps someday people will take no more notice of someone saying, ‘Oh, he’s bipolar,’ than they do of ‘Oh, he’s black.’ In the end, not until you know a person will you know that he’s the same as you, then you’ll know what suffering he’s going through for being what he is. It’s just as you said, the basis is being able to believe him and being able to tell him the truth. If a person remains silent about their bipolar disorder, bottom line they’re not trustworthy.”

      “That’s true. Oh, good point.”

      “I think it’s true that being open about who we are that makes us trustworthy, it’s not just bipolar, it’s everybody, but this is one of the more difficult things to reveal.”

      “This is who I am.”

      “It’s the stereotypes that complicate revealing one’s bipolar disorder, but you know, self-revelation is complicated and difficult no matter what. If we were truly honest about ourselves– I don’t believe anybody is just this or just that, because people are so complex. If someone is mean, say, they’re also nice. Every person can be mean sometimes and nice sometimes, so it’s not like I’m saying it possible to reveal some character that is the truth of you, because I don’t believe that’s possible. More it’s that we all have the capacity to be human in all of its darkness as well as lightness, but that’s all right, because everybody is like that.

      “Do you think not everybody’s like that? It’s just that generally people don’t discuss their dark side, whatever it might be. Whatever it is. And it doesn’t have to be a mood disorder either. It can be laziness, or terrible jealousy, it can be – we’re all subject to the seven deadly sins; it’s no use pretending that we’re not. That’s my – and good friends, both male and female, do talk about that stuff. Of course there’re things we don’t tell anybody. I’m not saying that there’s not, but as long as you know that’s true about people, that given all the other things we know about people, this is probably not something unacceptable. You know what I’m saying? Mental health is no exception, I think.

      “The more people talk about it, the more it humanizes it and makes it trustworthy, because it’s understandable. What is not understandable is untrustworthy.”

      “You should write. You are so gifted with words and clarity of thought. Listen to me, I got it all figured out. You should have a – what do you call it? A column in one of those psychology mags, and – No, I don’t think so. You could, but I think it would be more valuable just to have it in a…”

      “General public.”

      “… in the general public and get it, in the New Yorker or something like that. Just what you just related to me would make a nice little column and people would say,

      “Oh, yeah!”

      “There you are.”

      “That makes sense.”

      “She’s good.”

      No, really, they would.

      “Well, I’m glad I’m clear. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what I say, so that’s a problem for when you want to go write it down.”

      “Isn’t that maddening?”

      “Well, I do think clearly. The trouble is remembering it when you go to put it down later is the problem.”

      “It’s maddening!”

      “You can send me the transcripts of all your session tapes – but we have to stop for today.”
 
 
The truth is, after much furrowing of brow, I can't think of anything to say by way of preface to my blog. Along the way I wondered what it's purpose might be and maybe I should say a few words about that and would, except that I don't know what its purpose is, or could be, or should be. I only know that my clock is winding down and I'm so desperate to have my mind known that I could just spit! Maybe my blog could be about that. But how depressing and pretentious that could be! But hold on a second, maybe not—my therapist commented the other day how in late adulthood (AKA elder years), one is forced to deal with the sense of loss, all the time, it's always there, and it's painful, it takes great faith to live on even though one knows it's going to end and that whatever they accomplish, if anything, is not going to matter all that much. How does one find meaning or a sense of fulfillment in life knowing that it’s coming to an end? Psychologists have not written much about this if anything. It's sort of an unexamined part of adult life. It takes a lot of self-discipline to function in spite of this sense of loss—it's so easy to give up on the constant struggle, on life. A lot of people do—drinking, TV, drugs, electrosex, So, if you'll bear with me, let us examine this unexamined part of adult life.
 
 
 
 
 
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