Tiny Letter and NaNo Goals

I signed up for Tiny Letter, so if you’re interested in updates on my creative projects, click here https://tinyletter.com/suzannaanderson.

I made the goal to work on the drawing, painting, and inking of my NaNo 2017 script for two hours a day, for fourteen hours a week. New paper is on its way.


NaNo 2016

Ending this NaNo with 11,792 words. I didn’t make much progress this month due to illness and lack of time with school, but I do intend to continue working on this novel next year and to have a nicer draft by the end of 2017. I will also work on drawings and layouts of the graphic novel and work on the final pages.

The Outsider: A Journey into My Father’s Struggle with Madness

The Outsider: A Journey into My Father’s Struggle with Madness by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer.

  1. In his self-appointed dual role of employee and researcher, Charles tried to earn the trust of the patients. While other attendants worked hard to maintain as much distance as possible between themselves and patients, Charles actually socialized with out-patients who lived in nearby subsidized housing. Several entries near the end of the journal refer to his staying up all night drinking and talking with the patients in their apartments. He no doubt saw this as a unique opportunity to build rapport with the patients and to observe them outside a controlled hospital setting; it was, in other words, part of his attempt “to develop a new point of view of mental illness.” The fact that he got drunk with them, however, suggested that something else was also at work: Charles identified with the patients. Hanging out with the patients, a beer in hand, Charles had discovered another Dexter, Maine, in the middle of the picturesque South. H had recovered the feeling of being an outsider among outsiders. 64-65
  2. That distortion of reality was evident when Charles introduced Julie to his parents in early 1967. When Julie coughed at one point during dinner, Dottie leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Who are you resenting?” Julie suddenly understood what it would have been like to have grown up with Dottie as a mother. In an environment where every physical and psychological complaint was believed to be evidence of spiritual weakness—where nothing was ever what it seemed to be and the worst possible intention was assigned to every act—one could never be sure how to interpret one’s own experiences. 68-69
  3. It was there that they gave me one of the greatest gifts a parent can bestow upon a child: a firm belief in one’s own potential and faith that the world will yield without protest to the honest expression of that potential. My childhood was an endless procession of big plans, conceived, labored over, then forgotten. Whenever I was not reading, I was designing and redesigning the house I would live in when I grew up, searching the backyard for treasure, inventing board games that were going to make me rich, writing stories, or drawing in my sketchbook. I thought of myself primarily as an artist. Animals were my specialty. In retrospect, it seems as though I spent most of my free time sketching the photographs in my huge collection of animal books. 85
  4. All those years when I planned and dreamed without worry in the safety of my parents’ shadows and in the shadow of the house I loved, my parents lived in another world where the future was slowly dying. For my father there was no sudden break with reality; his was a gradual decline where a tendency toward paranoia and hostility, a misreading of people and events, slowly came to dominate his personality and his interaction with other people until, finally, the tendency and the personality were indistinguishable. 87
  5. Over the months that followed it became clear to my mother that her death had had a profound and enduring effect on my father. “As strange as his relationship was with his mother, while she was alive he worked very hard to keep himself in check, to hold himself together. After she died, it was as if the walls of his life had fallen away, leaving him completely exposed to the storm that was building up around him and in him. 89-90
  6. My father once described in a letter to me the theoretical underpinning of the Institute. “I tried to develop an analytic system that would prove that there is an inherent logic in situations, that, while not formal logic, still can be expressed in a similar way, and, that, while not cognitive psychology, still is deterministic of individual, and, perhaps, more importantly, of collective action, as well. I did and do maintain that this situational logic represents the true study of society in all its aspects.” When I reread this after my father’s death I realized that, like his work on the double bind in graduate school a decade earlier, his analytic system may have been a much more personal endeavor that its formal presentation conveyed. The former was an attempt to understand what impact his upbringing had had on his life and on his current behavior. The latter, which on the surface seemed to be an entirely impersonal extension and refinement of his work as the gatekeeper, may have been, in part, an attempt to discover the rules that time and time again had evaded my father as he struggled to become, as his colleague expressed it, “socially adept.” 92-93
  7. The greater irony by far was that after spending so many years studying paranoid schizophrenia and investigating the possible causal relationship between his upbringing and the disorder, my father was unable to see the transformation in his thinking for what it was—the emergence of paranoid schizophrenia. This lack of insight was not the result of willful self-destruction or a sudden lack of perspicuity; it was a feature of the disorder itself. As many as 4 percent of people who suffer from schizophrenia are, as a function of their disorder, unable to examine their behavior and thought processes independently of their delusional system and constellation of symptoms; they simply do not believe that they are suffering from a mental illness. 96
  8. My father was inviting me to enter his world, to join him in a war that he could not win against an enemy that did not exist. In imposing his delusional system on me, he was, without realizing it, committing the same sin as his mother: attempting to distort his son’s vision of the world to match his own. At the age of eleven I had to choose between him and my mother—a familiar enough experience for children whose parents are going through a divorce. But in this case, the two choices entailed radically different versions of reality. The first: my mother was who she had always been—warm, kind, and honest; my father was crazy and getting crazier. The second: my mother was a willing conspirator in a plot aimed at destroying my father’s life; my father was a maligned genius. Even as a kid, I knew, of course, which version was real. I started to cry and asked him to take me home, which he did. I could see the hurt expression on his face as he drove me back—the sudden realization that his son was scared of him. 100