The Freedman Archives

The following is a collection of letters written by Gary Freedman to his imagined friend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

An Artiste Manque


September 13, 2004

Hey, buddy. What have you been up to? I'm in the pre-Indian summer doldrums: that still-summer, almost-fall feeling -- that feeling of being neither here nor there. The feeling that accompanies faded summer hopes and the sight of withering sunflowers.

My thoughts go back twelve years to early September 1992. On September 8 of that year I had a psychiatric evaluation at GW, prior to commencing my ill-fated psychotherapy at that institution. That was so many psychiatric diagnoses ago! Those were the days when I suffered from manic depression. That was before the onset of my paranoid schizophrenia (in February 1996), the later spontaneous remission of that illness, the return of paranoid schizophrenia (in February 1999), the later spontaneous remission of that illness, and the emergence of my delusional disorder. And of course my narcissistic disorder has given way to schizoid disorder. Funny thing. After all these different diagnoses, I still feel the same.

I've concluded that all these psychiatric diagnoses are simply artifacts. Yes, they are artifacts of a sensitive, intelligent, curious and questioning mind that has the means and motivation to describe his various environments; family and employment environments that in both present and historical contexts have been disturbed. To really understand me, to grasp the nature of my experience one must consider it within its environing medium. One may study a plant, a sunflower, say, by separating it from the soil, sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and other features of the environment in which it lives and is in perpetual exchange. Useful data may emerge from such a study, but they are incomprehensible unless viewed in the context of the sunflower's necessary environment. The very tissues constituting the sunflower have been drawn from the environment and cannot be understood apart from it. Likewise, the very stuff of experience, the ingredients of individual functioning is composed of relations with others, past and present, real and imagined.

The separation of a "personality" from its network of interpersonal configurations is merely a verbal trick, an act of "perverted ingenuity." The individual who describes a disturbed environment with insightful particularity will risk being seen as disturbed himself, if the essential nature of his environment is denied.

The initial assessment chart written in 1992 records that I felt "trapped and hopeless" at that time. My, how things haven't changed in the last twelve years! I still feel trapped and hopeless, though I have to admit I now feel a little more hopeless than trapped. Twelve years of psychotic illness have given me my freedom. I'm free to do and say things I'd never thought possible before. Twelve years ago at this time, I was still a naive babe in the woods. At that time I had not yet learned that I had been determined to be potentially violent by my former employer. I had yet to learn that my former supervisor was afraid I might kill her. You live and you learn.

In any event, though I feel hopeless -- though I'm convinced things will never change for me -- I have the freedom that goes with being psychotic. And for that I'm thankful. For me life is just one big joke. And you know why I'm free to feel like that? I'm crazy! And how do I know that I'm crazy? They (the paranoid "they") told me so. I also have the financial freedom that goes with my eligibility for Social Security disability, something that I never dreamed of qualifying for in the fall of 1992.

Why did things end up like this for me? I had so much going for me. I'm an artist, I suppose. Definitely a failed artist. An "artiste manque," as they say.

From my childhood years to middle age, I have been a solitary and lonely man. Repeatedly I have identified throughout my life with the miserable and the forlorn, and I have clung with a death grip to whatever person, place, or belief that seems the current answer to my anguished and ceaseless search for orientation and structure. You know that death grip well, don't you, buddy?

I was not an easy child. According to family lore I was indulged by "tender-hearted parents" but still proved "troublesome and self willed." Schoolmates who knew me before I was twelve, years later particularly remember my apartness: "He did not play like other children but read all sorts of books insatiably. . . . He liked to go by himself on many long walks across the fields. . . . He went off on his own for most of the time and wandered for hours alone around West Oak Lane and even quite a long way from that Philadelphia neighborhood." My sister recalls that as I grew older I was "perfectly unconscious of having distressed his parents in that he never joined the happy family group, never met people, but always sought solitude." Struggling constantly with melancholia, I as a child and man was an observer rather than a participant.

As an adult my dream of happiness has posed an insoluble paradox. At the same time as I see the world of everyday events and people as infinitely appealing, I see it as overwhelmingly threatening; every corner in the "dizzying tangle" of nature reflects my own internal chaos. The best I can do to keep my tumultuous and unstructured fears and longings at bay is to withdraw from social contacts, retreat rather than merger consistently characterizes my efforts to establish satisfying relations or settle on a career or a job of any kind. Only after committing myself to the art of psychosis -- psychosis, if done well, if done properly as psychosis should be done, is, after all, an art, perhaps the highest art -- did I seem able to overcome a pervasive sense of inadequacy and disillusionment; but even then only in the work of letter writing do I experience feelings of adequacy and fulfillment.

I recall writing to you, Brian, at one point: "The worse I get along with people, the more I learn to have faith in my work of letter writing. The daily work does not change, and it is less dangerous to be absorbed in it than to stare into the fathomless everyday. If I am alone--I can't help it, but honestly I have less need of company than of unrestrained letter writing, and that is why I am rashly purchasing paper, envelopes, and pens."

In point of fact, the above description is a paraphrase of some paragraphs from a paper on the personality of the artist Vincent Van Gogh. I guess Vincent didn't speak Hebrew. "Go to the synagogue, Vincent. You'll meet people. People at your level. You can make friends, I'm convinced of that -- as long as they are at your emotional level." I guess that was Vincent's problem. He should have invested in some Hebrew lessons; he could have saved an ear.

I really don't have much to write about this week, and that is truly sad for me. I need to write. To paraphrase Van Gogh: "The emotional support I derive from writing to you, buddy, has been a hedge or screen between a hostile world and me, and, comparatively alone, I can think with the necessary calm only about my letters and my thoughts are not extinguished by fatally overwhelming material cares."

The Mad Monk, the source of so much of my material these days, canceled my last appointment; she had to attend computer class. (I wonder if they warned her about the dangers of icon manipulation?) She's also canceled my upcoming appointment for this Wednesday for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. You see the irony, Brian? I'm a potentially violent psychotic, and yet The Mad Monk thinks nothing of taking two weeks off with a cavalier "See you when I see you" attitude. Only in The District of Columbia!

In any event, I'm running low on material. "Letter writer's block," I guess you'd call it. Though I did dash off a letter to Williams & Connolly (Ellen's old firm) about a secretarial position. It's been a lifelong ambition of mine to work as a secretary at W&E. Maybe I can take dictation for David Kendall, Esq., former legal counsel for Burpee Seed Co.

Actually, my ultimate goal is to goad Dennis Race into rehiring me. It was the intelligence you covertly provided me back in the summer of '92 that convinced me that it's doable. Do you remember how you and Debra went wild that summer, when I was sending out letters to employers per the requirements of the extended unemployment benefits law? "I want my name taken off that letter! I want my name taken off that letter!" You were re-enacting Dennis Race's temper tantrums. You made it clear (symbolically) that Dennis Race is vulnerable. Thanks, buddy. We make a great team, don't we? You for the acting, me for the brains. We're like Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.

This Twelve-Year Exile has got to end sometime. I've never given up hope that Akin, Gump ("the lost object") will have me back. Yes, I long for reunion with the lost object. That's all I want. That's all I've ever wanted for the past twelve years. I want my job back. I figure, now that Glickman's gone, there's an empty office just waiting for me. Dan Glickman, as you know, is a former Akin Gump attorney and served as Agriculture Secretary in the Clinton Administration, where he was known affectionately as "the seed-Meister!"

What are my terms for a return to Akin Gump? No back pay. Just a starting salary that's competitive with the market. Remember: I was described as being "as near to the perfect employee as it is possible to get." Can you beat that?

Or, in the alternative, maybe Vernon Jordan could make some calls on my behalf. He's good at that. What I can't understand is this: one five-minute telephone call from the firm's former managing partner, Larry Hoffman, to any of the major firms in the city (and there are tons of them) and I could have been working the very next day after my termination, October 30, 1991. I just don't get it.

What I picked up from my old psychiatrist, Dr. Palombo, is that very early in my treatment in 1990, Dr. Palombo questioned Malcolm about why the firm didn't offer me an associate position. And Malcolm shot back with an earful: "This is a business. A law firm is a business. If we thought it was in our business interest to make him an offer, we'd do it. But it isn't in our business interest. A law firm is a business." Anyway, that's what I picked up. But, again, maybe that's my psychosis kicking in again. And make no mistake. I'm sick. And how do we know that? Because Dennis Race says so. That's how.

Just how was it Akin Gump's business for one of its partners to be calling corporations all over the country to locate a job for a former White House intern, otherwise known as the President's own personal seed repository? (WOW!!--that's a mouthful isn't it? "The President's own personal seed repository.")

The whole Monica Lewinsky thing. Figure that out! Yea. That was the last straw for me in a big box full of straws. I couldn't believe it when I heard about that. (Eric couldn't believe it, either. He was at a basketball game when he got a call on his cell phone. They told Eric about the whole thing while the Deputy AG was at a ball game.)

They kick me out onto the street, and I was a loyal employee -- then they have the balls to say that I was a homicidal maniac! Monica Lewinsky didn't even work for the firm, and they were scrambling all over the country for her. Yessirree, Bob. I will never get over that one. I've got a virtuoso collection of wounds and angers against that firm.

My hope for the fall TV season? "Extreme Makeover: The Law Firm Edition."

Check you out next week, buddy. Mind you, I have no plans to cut off my ear or any other part of my anatomy. By the way, it was really good seeing you this morning on Connecticut Avenue. "Hey, Mr. Freedman." Nice touch.

P.S. Dennis, I'm at 202 362 7064. Make me an offer I can't refuse. In President Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains, Georgia, neighbors said of the one-time peanut farmer that after an hour you love him, after a week you hate him, and after ten years you start to understand him. I figure by this timetable you should have started to understand me in about October 2001.

P.P.S. Message for President Clinton: Stick with the non-fat yogurt. You have to watch it in Manhattan. A lot of places that advertise as non-fat aren't really non-fat. Ask Rudy Giuliani.


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