The “Privacy Invasion Stunt” and My Descent into Homelessness
The Fight for Privacy Rights for Every U.S. American Citizen!
Written by Myra Sue St. Clair Baldwin
Essay #1 (Introduction): A Carrie Brownstein Wannabe Tries on Different Hats!
Note: Essay #1 takes place mostly in the months leading up to me becoming homeless, while I was still residing in an apartment located in downtown Spokane, Washington. As part of this series, I will be writing about my experience with homelessness in an upcoming essay or essays. Prior to becoming homeless, I thought I was being spied on by multiple people. After I lost my home, I wasn’t sure if a couple of them were still possibly tracking me. I am writing this essay both for the people who I thought might have been spying on me, as well as a broader audience.
Forward:Thank you to all my many, many spies that gave me an experience worth writing about; making this essay (and possibly a whole collection of essays about privacy invasion and homelessness) possible, but no thank you for making my life miserable both during the spy operation and in the wake of it, when I was experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the ordeal, was obsessed with my memories of it, and feeling sad and angry!
I was planning on eventually writing a whole book about the single but long drawn-out schizophrenic episode or actual spy operation that I experienced, and also about becoming homeless one winter during a highly emotional imagined spy operation that interfered with my ability to get my jam-packed, low-income HUD (Housing and Urban Development) apartment cleaned up and organized to pass what would become multiple housing inspections. Annual inspections are required by HUD housing and I kept failing them, leading to subsequent inspections before I finally lost my home. Today, my language skills (which are typically impaired in schizophrenia) are pretty much intact, when not suffering from occasional brain fog associated with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) from over-doing it (or maybe it’s cyclical anxiety & depression; perhaps both) so I believe I may indeed, with time, be able to write down a whole series of essays and publish them in a book. I actually believe my language skills were ALWAYS generally intact (with the exception of brain fog which came and went), even during the evidently – per most mental health professionals I saw – imagined spy operation. I’ll have to look through my “Cinderella Butt” (a reference to a nick-name I had during the imagined or real spy operation) collection of “Privacy Invasion” memorabilia and see what I can unearth to see how coherent my language use was during my experience of “Privacy Invasion”. I recall writing down some quotes of many of the voices during the supposedly imagined spy operation plus some idealistic ideas I had for transforming prisons into places of healing and the world into a healthier place. I’ll have to analyze what I wrote sometime to see how good the grammar was despite my imagination supposedly going WAY off the deep end. Anyway, my behavioral health specialists never mentioned my language skills being disorganized. They just said that I had schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. So I’m not actually sure how my speech came across to real live people that really did exist, during the days when I was being subjected to a “One-of-a-Kind Social Security Field Test” (i.e. “Privacy Invasion”) as one of the voices – the voice of a neighbor-at-the-time called it. It was after all a few of the imaginary or real voices who gave me rave reviews on some of the skills they claimed to observe (that they would later say proved that I was able to work and didn’t belong in housing for the elderly and disabled) such as my “great speaking skills”, when I was in the middle of passionately lecturing them for hours and hours (while I was sitting or standing alone in my apartment) about why and how their “Mind Control Stunt”, as I called it at some point, was inhumane and unethical. I was planning on writing a whole book at once, but it’s hard to write and organize a full book. It’s difficult to write down all my thoughts on paper into a coherent, chronological format, since my memories of the episode are scattered and tend to come back to me in random order. Also, I don’t know if I have the discipline to write a whole book as I haven’t yet done so in my 45 years on this planet. I have decided instead to try and write a series of essays about my experiences with the “Privacy Invasion” and post them on my blog, one by one. Hopefully someday I’ll have a full collection of them that I can then publish in a book. If I am successful enough, perhaps I can pay the rent without any support of others. Hey…MAYBE I’ll even do some speaking gigs and traveling, if I can manage my energy and stress level and not succumb to another episode! Perhaps I’ll even someday become the famous, important civil rights activist that the voices (when they were being “nice” to me) led me to believe that I could be – and indeed I thought I was an almost-famous civil rights activist at the time. After all, I was in the middle of a battle for privacy rights that I believed would eventually lead to civil rights litigation in the COURT OF LAW, with some legal assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who I thought might help with no up-front charges because it would be such an important case. I believed I would be standing up and fighting for each and every United States American citizen who was ever told that they had schizophrenia when some of them actually were, they themselves (like me), experiencing what I thought was an actual factual legitimate spy operation (as opposed to an imaginary one)! One of the voices that I heard through the walls of my apartment or inside of my apartment – who I thought was a journalist for Spokane’s weekly paper “The Pacific Northwest Inlander” – repeatedly said that I was destined to go down in history. I believed it too, because – I reasoned – I was going to be a famous whistleblower who blew the cover on an elaborate spy operation that was set up in a way that I’d come across as schizophrenic if I ever dared to tell my tale to others! One of the voices (the voice of my apartment manager at the time, Mary Hurst) said she was going to get me put in a straightjacket for years or even permanently; so I feared opening up to counselors (I had already started counseling before the spy operation at my mother’s request) and telling them ALL of what I was experiencing.. I was afraid they’d diagnose me with a severe mental illness and send me to Eastern State Hospital where I envisioned myself wasting away (like people used to in insane asylums) in isolation in a room with nothing but boring blank white walls, no stimulation, and nothing to do but think for hours on end, with no end in sight. Now, I wasn’t initially one for wanting to increase the United State’s highly inflated prison population by putting multiple people behind bars for their participation in the alleged spy operation, as I had some anarchist ideological leanings and wasn’t a big fan of our prison system. Yet, when I was being subject to a psychologically torturous “Mind Control Stunt” as I called it, with multiple actors, I was really wanting a LOT of people to be held accountable for what I believed they were doing to me and I wanted it all to STOP! If they all got busted, and were locked up in prison – then it would all end – or so I reasoned. It also felt good to imagine my sisters (who I thought played a major role in the “Spy Operation”) being dragged off to prison in handcuffs with grimacing faces. I often felt like I was being attacked by an angry hate mob, as there were the voices of many (who were apparently afraid of me, as I was afraid of them), that I believed were all in the “Spy Operation”. I recall one of the voices through the walls or in my home early on repeatedly asking “Is this a citizen ON the attack, or a citizen UNDER attack?” to which I kept replying “A citizen UNDER attack! ”Originally, when I thought about writing about the spy operation, I was going to write an “exposé”, believing that the whole spy operation was real (I still sometimes believe it was all too real). I believed that some details about my life, such as identifying as solo-polyamorous at the time, being a heretic atheist who was smoking rollies made out of “sacred” Bible paper (I couldn’t afford papers back then), living rent-free at the time in government-subsidized housing despite having a 4-year college degree, being a former Spokane Radical Cheerleader with some Anarchist leanings plus a former owner of a so-called anarchist book store, and being a hoarder which neighbors may have viewed as a fire threat, would show that I was “at high risk” for an actual spy operation. I believed the “exposé” would convince some others that I actually was spied on and continued to be spied on and would lead to a famous investigation and civil rights court battle and maybe even a highly important case in international court regarding the use of psychological torture, as torture is against international law. The voices treated me like a dangerous anarchist or communist revolutionary or even a potential terrorist, and also as someone who was faking my disability who didn’t even belong in HUD housing for the elderly and disabled in the first place. At first, the voices were just trying to chase me out of the building, and I was adamant about standing up to them and refusing to leave my home for the streets or even for another apartment complex. Then, they (the voices) were determined to find me guilty of a crime by spying on me to collect evidence against me and put me away behind bars where I would be doing time. That, or put me in a mental health institution. Or just get me kicked out of my apartment onto the streets to give me a “hand up” and not a “hand out” like some of the voices liked to say. One of the voices, the voice of my ex-husband’s father (Glenn; a wealthy, conservative stock broker who believed in the essentially unfettered reign of a free market) said they would put me at “Ground Zero” where there was only one way to go, and that was up. The latter – getting thrown out of my apartment – really did come true. I did end up homeless after a few months of battling the voices rather than de-cluttering my home with its accumulations of random stuff including gobs of books, over 20-years of collected paperwork (though some of that had been in storage that I lost due to not footing the bill), and gigantic unfinished multi-media art projects made from leftover packaging and leftover boxes that had overgrown my living space. Oh, how I desperately yearned for a small home with a big junk yard surrounded by brick walls decorated with lovely and intriguing murals painted on them (to hide the hideous junk collection outside where I’d be free to make stuff like big and small papier-mâché movie props from upcycled junk). I felt constitutionally entitled to my art projects because – I reasoned – I had a first-amendment right to freedom of expression. That, and it was really important to me to not throw anything away but rather to figure out how to upcycle stuff (although I was no longer saving my smelly food waste in the fridge to rot for a long time with the good intention of eventually taking it to the compost bins of a community garden located over a mile away that I rarely made it to on foot). I was going to help end “The Age of Garbage” by being a role model for the WHOLE WORLD of someone who was transforming all their junk, including washed and sanitized packaging, into beautiful (and interesting) works of art. I was even trying to make a “papier-mâché” cupboard out of leftover boxes (which I obtained from the nearby the dumpster out back, behind O’Doherty’s Irish Grille), to store my art supplies on, and was trying to convince my reluctant father to drive me to the incinerator to get some free leftover paint that would have otherwise gone to waste. I couldn’t talk my dad into it, because he had seen the condition of my apartment and wasn’t going to be an accessory to increasing the “mess”.
Introduction: It all began in July or August of 2015 in a former apartment building called “The Coeur D’Alene Apartments”, located in downtown Spokane, WA on the corner of Howard and Spokane Falls Boulevard; above some local shops, including ones named “Boo Radley’s” and “Atticus”. I thought some neighbors and family had set up tiny cameras in my apartment as well as a microphone that they could see and hear me with, plus speakers that I could hear them with, and I thought I could hear some of the voices through the walls as well. I believed that they were gathering together in a nearby apartment to shout at me, boss me around, poke fun at me, interrogate me, control me, and test me. Before the “Spy Operation” even started, I fancied myself “The Princess in the Attic above Boo Radleys and Atticus.” The Princess in the Attic” was a reference to the book “Still Life With Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins. The names of the local shops “Boo Radley” and “Atticus” were based on two well-known characters in the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I lived on the 5th floor of a six-story building and had started to pretend that my apartment was an attic, kind of like the attic in the book “Still Life With Woodpecker”. My energy level, mood, and pain level had all improved for some time, so I started making art from junk. This included scraps from cigarette boxes I had saved. I had a thing for an exciting guy named Josh who was always in flight that would occasionally stop by to visit me – who LOVED the book “Still Life With Woodpecker” (it was, in fact, his most favorite book of all times). In the book there is a quirky modern-day princess who lived in Seattle who was forced into the attic of her home for a few years by her parents after she dropped a “bombshell” to an audience, including her parents, who were in the audience. She had a miscarriage in the middle of her high-school gym while cheerleading for a game. During the time she spent in the attic, she started reflecting on the packaging of her Camel cigarettes and developed an intense interest in the moon. Later she was let out of the attic and in time, became an activist with the planet’s survival and the unity of all the world’s people at heart. She also fell in love with some crazy guy nick-named “The Woodpecker” who she would later find out was a violent one-time bomber on the run who had managed for years to escape being caught. I was mostly a shut-in in my apartment while experiencing the privacy invasion, so the “Princess in the Attic…” nick-name seemed fitting. The guy named Josh that I was attracted to identified with the Woodpecker guy – always chasing after excitement – although he was no bomber (not that I’m aware of, anyway). At the time (before the “spy operation” began), I was attracted to excitement as I stayed inside the building much of the time, welcoming drama and surprise visits into my life. Back then it didn’t bother me to chase after a guy who would randomly show up and didn’t stick to a schedule as, for a while anyway, I had thrown out the calendar and the schedule planner, as I was feeling better at the time without a schedule. Actually, the calendar was on my wall being ignored, and the schedule planner was buried away in a box somewhere, as I didn’t throw any random paperwork away, not even years and years of crossed-out to do lists and lists of health symptoms, plus various other paperwork, including years of mail (a lot of it unopened). It was all somewhere in my apartment, requiring hours at a time to do an archaeological dig for some piece of information I was looking for that I could have probably found online at the nearby library (I didn’t have online access at home at the time). I acquired a great many nick-names during the “Spy Operation”. I coined some of the nick-names, such as “The Carrie Brownstein Wannabe”, based on my desire to be an actress playing an assortment of hipster-like roles just like Carrie Brownstein, who took on an array of characters in the Portland, Oregon-based show Portlandia, and who was also a member of the band Sleater Kinney. Other nicknames were coined by the voices; including “Cinderella Butt” – which was coined by the voice of my sister Joyce. “Cinderella Butt” stuck and I started calling myself “Cinderella Butt” as well, as I could envision myself wearing a spectacular full-length patchwork gown made from upcycled fabric scraps, and I also had lots of chores needing to be done to pass an upcoming housing inspection. Later, when I started making wise cracks during the perceived or real spy operation, I exclaimed that “…Cinderella Butt Wisecracks are clues…for the police department!” I was under the delusion that the police department would notice that there was what I thought to be a genuine, highly illegal spy operation against me occurring in that apartment building, and would come to my rescue, despite me being a former radical cheerleader with some anarchist leanings. I even envisioned a SWAT team landing on top of the roof of my apartment complex, and entering the building to investigate the spy operation. The voices were afraid of me (I guess for threatening loudly through the apartment walls to start a revolution if they kicked me to the curb), so I started identifying as more of a harmless moderate / somewhat liberal non-threatening Green Party person rather than a radical leftist. I also became less and less opposed to the idea of my “spies” going to prison to do some time, despite my dislike for prisons as a form of punishment and despite my “spies” being family, neighbors, and community members, many of whom I had held so dear and in high esteem prior to the spy operation. I heard lots of voices, including the voices of family, my ex-husband and some of his family, neighbors, and apartment management for the complex and possibly the regional manager for Goodale & Barbieri that the apartment management fell under (though I wasn’t very familiar with her voice, so I couldn’t be sure). I also heard the voices of previous employers and co-workers, local activists that I knew, people I knew from my previous work as an event coordinator for the Hagan Foundation Center for the Humanities, plus from my work in Service-Learning at SCC, SFCC as an AmeriCorps Vista. I even thought that someone I knew through the AmeriCorps program from the west side of the state (Bellingham, WA) showed up. Additionally, I heard the voices of other community members including someone who was a local KYRS Community Radio host, some people I knew from college, some people from the underground “alternative to the alternative” zine “The Finger” that I had helped with back in 2004, and people I met through the kinda-leftist bookstore I opened back in 2004 called “Myra Sue’s New and Used Books and Things”. Other voices I heard included the voices of some people I had gone to church with back when I was a child and pre-teenager, some of the guys I had crushes on during my life, plus a voice I associated with a journalist from “The Pacific Northwest Inlander” because I thought I heard his voice say something about being from The Inlander to neighbors, but who’s voice actually sounded like a former college professor from when I was a student at EWU (Eastern Washington University; located nearby in Cheney, WA). I even thought my sister Joyce and her husband Tony, who were (and still are) financially “comfortable” (they take trips all over the world), flew in some people from outside of Washington State; including a couple of people I had met while working at Diedrich’s Coffee in Irvine, California (located in Orange County) years ago, during my early twenties. The voices tried to figure out if I was indeed disabled as I claimed to be, and just what my disability might be; watching me in my home and trying to determine if I was bipolar or had multiple personality disorder (as their accounts of what I was like all differed). The reason I came across differently to different people is because I have always been a work in progress – evolving over time and trying on different hats – and also due to the different roles I played in life, such as mother, girlfriend or wife, daughter, classmate, neighbor, co-worker, church member, atheist, friend, radical leftist, and so on. The voices of my sisters Joyce and Karrie – who were the ones I believed were conducting the outreach to others I knew and also ones that I didn’t know, bringing them into spy on me, and questioning them about me – were calling me “fake” (which I guessed was because I presented a different persona to different people during my lifetime). I could only imagine why the voices were testing me for bipolar disorder. I guessed that it was due to me having periods of fatigue when I would crash and periods of time when I would excitedly plan ahead – writing long detailed to-do lists of things I was going to get done – and was sometimes a person in action (though I often moved in slow motion).The voices were also doing a skills-assessment on me, while watching me in my home and interacting with me. My sister Joyce’s voice didn’t understand how I had become such a failure in life. During the so-called “Spy Operation” her voice was often sarcastic, and in that tone said “It’s as if she was set up for failure her whole life!” I didn’t catch on to the sarcasm in her voice until later during the imagined (or maybe real) spy operation. I heard some of my “spies” discussing articles that I had written for the SFCC (Spokane Falls Community College) Communicator (the school newspaper) when I attended community college at SFCC plus for The Finger, as well as papers I wrote in my four years of college, with one of the voices (a male voice) exclaiming that I had beautiful writing. The voices also praised my perceived acting skills. My sister Joyce’s voice spoke about my “star power” plus the voice of my ex-husband’s sister Jennifer would say something along the lines of “it’s more role rehearsal” whenever I took to repeating myself to the voices to explain myself or to tell them over and over that they needed to stop the abusive spy operation. Another thing they praised was my speaking skills whenever I took to lecturing them about how their “Spy Operation” amounted to psychological torture, plus I lectured them on other relevant topics including privacy rights guaranteed by the constitution, human rights, International law, etc. and about the book “1984” by George Orwell). They praised my singing and dancing skills – one of the voices called me his “star entertainer”. To psychologically survive the imagined spy operation, and try to convince my alleged spies to stop what they were doing, I tried out some different methods of coping and demonstrating to the voices. At one point, I started dancing and singing to an Oingo Boingo cassette tape I had which had some songs on it that seemed relevant to me at the time with a song titled “Wake Up! It’s 1984” as well as a song called “Who Do You Want to Be” about people putting on different personas. They praised my reporting skills (I was their “star reporter” AKA “underground reporter”). They said I could be a civil rights activist or a lawyer (apparently I proved my lawyer skills with all my counter-arguments to one of the voices that engaged me in debate that lasted for hours and hours and days and days – it was endless and extremely frustrating, to say the least).They also said I could be a philosopher (they noted that I was a free-thinker and told me I was full of wisdom – my brother Gene’s voice even called me a genius at times), a detective, speaker, a poet, and so on. One of my real or imagined spies, my former father-in-law Glenn, saw the hundreds and hundreds of books (many of them were actually unread or just barely started) stuffed in my apartment and decided I must be “scholarly”, so he called me his “scholarly Myra Sue”. I developed a keen sense of humor to psychologically survive, and yelled out random funny musings through the walls (funny to me, anyway, though one of the voices I thought was coming from the hallway outside my apartment at some point expressed how he was tired of my “Cinderella Butt wise-cracks”), including some ideas I had for article subtitles for “The Onion” which prides itself on humorous fake news. The article titles related to my experiences during privacy invasion, which wasn’t fake to me, but that I thought would make for good Onion articles if cleverly written, and might eventually lead to it leaking out to the public that there was indeed a REAL spy operation against me occurring. One of the voices had warned the other voices about letting it leak to the public that there was a spy operation in the building, and I was dead set on letting it leak, though my method of yelling through the apartment walls to leak it were unconventional (and ineffective).
In addition to some of my spies saying that I had great acting skills and therefore must be malingering, they said some other abusive things as well. My brother Gene’s voice repeatedly called me “useless” and also repeatedly said that he heard that I was as “hoe as they go”. I think his voice called me “useless” because I was just sitting and lying around much of the time during the spy operation, and also because I wasn’t working at a job or “contributing to society”. I guess his voice called me “as hoe as they go” because I was solo-polyamorous before the spy operation began and had a few different guys coming to my door to offer me their company, which raised eyebrows with some of the neighbors (though I should point out that in HUD housing, anyone not on the lease can only stay for 14 nights/year, so it makes sense to have more than one partner). The voice of my apartment manager at the time, Mary’s, asked if I was up to the “lie test” before I heard the voices of her, my sister Karrie, and my brother David start interrogating me through the walls of my apartment building (I thought they were in the office located on the floor above my apartment). My brother David’s voice kept calling me a liar and also kept saying I was “clearly clueless” for trying to learn experientially about life (such as playing pretend at being an underground journalist, underground reporter, or an anthropologist that was studying the culture of HUD housing in a downtown apartment complex that had a lot of foot traffic.) My sister Karrie’s voice was telling me to “grow up!” for playing pretend and playing dress-up. I tried to explain myself to her, saying that it was giving me a psychological boost that was good for depression and energy level. I had also been doing some oral story-telling, comedy, and theatrical play-acting with friends prior to the spy operation, calling it “drama therapy” that I benefited from psychologically. I was at my creative peak before the spy operation “crashed the party” with my self-prescribed art projects and drama therapy. Neighbors had concerns about me personally, because (before the spy operation started), I was noisily moving stuff around all hours of the day, in an effort to get organized for my HUD inspection, and also because I had a few different visitors coming to my door (I was letting a few homeless people hang out in my apartment to be nice to them and also to learn more about Spokane’s homeless population, and the culture of homelessness). One neighbor saw me one time in the elevator when I was tipsy from wine, and thought I was high on drugs, and verbally harassed me (he was known for harassing and stalking other tenants). He also asked me if I even belonged in the building. I said “Yes” and he said “We’ll see about that!” The spy operation started within a few or several days of him saying that. After the spy operation started, I stopped taking visitors into my home (except for my counselor Janelle). I spent nearly all my time alone for several months.
As far as the skills assessment, one thing I failed to do was cook regularly for myself – and they (the voices that plagued me) had brought in a local chef named Zack I had once dated to participate in the privacy invasion, to see if I had good cooking skills and could be a cook in a restaurant. I wasn’t eating much and I was losing weight. I had no appetite and couldn’t focus on the complex task of cooking, as I was an emotional wreck. All I could do at the time of the spy operation was focus on the voices of my spies and loudly defend myself and hope to convince the voices to stop their torturous “Mind Control Stunt.”