Wanna know the reason I didn’t take the part-time job at Big Lots a few years ago? First of all, I didn’t know what a grocery “recovery” person did, so I went with Sean Stoudt, staff member from The Evergreen Club, to check the job out. After seeing the amount of physical labor I’d have to put into kneeling, bending, and reaching, I was afraid of having a fibromyalgia flare-up if I worked there. That’s for starters. The reason I didn’t tell people this was because I had been mostly pain-free for a long time, and wasn’t even sure it was Fibromyalgia, as I’d also been diagnosed with Somatoform disorder. But since I wasn’t super anxious about my health at the time (as I was trying to keep my mind off my physical health as much as possible), I didn’t want to have to explain that reason to others. Besides, people are ignorant about both Fibromyalgia AND Somatoform Disorder.
Another reason I didn’t want the job was because I was afraid of not making friends and being treated by other workers as being “special” for having a schizophrenia diagnosis, that or being met with disbelief, since I wasn’t obviously schizophrenic so long as I kept my mouth shut about the alleged spy-op. On a side note, I question the schizophrenia diagnosis myself and believe their WAS a real spy-op.
A third reason was that I was afraid of who I might run into while working there, including my ex-husband or his ex-wife. My ex-husband used to threaten me when we were married, and once he threatened to throw me out in the middle of the street outside the bookstore I owned (this was about three years after our divorce). Both my ex-husband and his ex-wife used to bully me, causing me severe anxiety whenever the phone rang.
As if that weren’t enough, I didn’t think the job would keep me distracted from my painful memories of the alleged spy-op, and I’d be on the bus for two hours both ways in addition to a 30-minute car ride with my dad each way (as my parents live out in the country). That’s a two ½ hr. trip each way to work at a four-hour job! And what would I spend my time thinking about while I was on the bus? But of course, the alleged spy-op. No thanks! I was much happier spending my time volunteering at The Evergreen Club doing a variety of mentally engaging activities in a safe and comfortable workplace, around super nice people.
I sound nervous half-way through this speech, but it works, because I’m talking about my anxiety. When I was on the E.W.U. panel, I was afraid of sounding anxious. Then I heard someone talk who’s speech was full of anxiety and emotion, and realized that she was the most powerful speaker that afternoon. And part of my anxiety is about not sounding perfect. To address this anxiety, I actually need to put myself out there DESPITE not sounding perfect. With time, I will perfect my skill, and hope to realize my full potential.
In this video, I explain what all consumer educators for Eastern Washington University’s Occupational Therapy Program do to help educate their students and destigmatize mental illness for their students.
Hi everyone, my name is Myra St. Clair Baldwin and I’m a Consumer Educator for Eastern Washington University’s Occupational Therapy Program.
The E.W.U. Occupational Therapy program put together a panel and Q&A session as part of an eight-session program in which eight people in recovery from mental illness, including myself, will be working with students in the program.
When I arrived at the orientation classroom, the instructor’s assistant gave us some paperwork to fill out and sign, which I completed. Then we learned more about what we’d be doing. The sessions last about two to three hours each. The next two sessions after the panel discussion, three students who I’ll be working with the rest of the quarter will be practicing doing an assessment on me, which should be interesting. So long as I don’t have brain fog from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, then I believe I’ll ace any cognitive tests they give me. I’ll let you know later how I did. The panel discussion and Q&A itself was in front of an audience of about 30 or 40 students. The two sessions following the assessments are in the Spokane community, at the locations of our choosing. I plan to show the students I’m working with the Huntington Park, down by the Spokane River, behind the city hall for one session. For another session, I plan to show them a subsect of downtown, starting with the apartment building above Boo Radley’s novelty shop and Atticus Coffeehouse, where I thought I was spied on. I will also be showing them the bus plaza and the construction for the new downtown library, letting them know what amazing features the new library is going to have, which will include a video recording studio, a music recording studio, and a broadcasting studio, all of which will be available to be checked out by the public. I may get to do this job again in future years and might book a tour with the students of the new downtown library after it reopens, as that would be exciting! There’s a couple more sessions after that, including a session about completing a discharge plan and ending with a presentation the students give that we’re invited to. I plan to wear my t-shirt for mine & my partners’ blog “The Deep End Northwest” to one of the assessments as well as to the student presentations, in the hopes that the students will decide to take a peek at our blog out of curiosity.
After the orientation, we were escorted to the classroom where the students were. It was a small classroom, but the class was jam-packed. There wasn’t one empty desk. I went first, so I could get it done and over with, as I was anxious. This ended up being a good idea, because it freed me to listen more intently to the other panelists, whose stories were powerful. Although I knew most of them, I wasn’t familiar with their stories. Even though I was nervous, I think I did all right. Not perfect, but I don’t have a lot of experience yet on stage, so my talk wasn’t bad, considering. I ended up having to catch my breath a few times during the speech, but I wasn’t as anxious as I had expected.
After we each spoke, there was a Q&A. I managed to make the students laugh a couple of times, which reminded me that I sometimes have a sense of humor, which is what helped me survive the alleged privacy invasion that I endured. After the questions, the instructor said we were free to do a meet & greet with the students, but I was dying to go pee, and blurted out “I…I gotta take a leak!” That made the students laugh. There’s a backstory to why I now say “I gotta take a leak” rather than “I need to use the bathroom” or “I gotta go pee.” I’ll save that story for another day.
It’s really cutting edge what the instructor is doing, having some of us in mental health recovery work with the students. It helps humanize mental illness for the students. It’s an invaluable and cost-effective way for the students to “get it.” We each get paid $300 for the full contract. It was the instructor’s idea back in 2007, and there’s only a few universities now doing it. She’s presented at conferences and tried to sell others on how cost-effective it is and how it helps destigmatize mental illness for the students but hasn’t gotten a lot of buy-in yet. Perhaps in time, more universities will implement similar programs.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave the following speech to a classroom of Occupational Therapy students at Eastern Washington University, to whom my mental health history and medications were relevant. I will be working with three of the students for the remainder of the quarter as a consumer educator. Since I gave the speech, I’ve decided to wait until spring to participate in the writing group mentioned.
May I present…the one, the only…Myra Sue St. Clair Baldwin (that’s me)!
Hello everyone! My name is Myra St. Clair Baldwin. I have a bachelor’s degree in Humanities from E.W.U., am a former AmeriCorps Vista project coordinator for SCC, write for a blog, attend the Evergreen Club, and have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, PTSD, ADD, anxiety, plus chronic fatigue syndrome and Fibromyalgia and/or somatoform disorder and have chronic insomnia. In the past I had a problem with depression that manifested as sadness and later as anger. I still have issues with anger sometimes from the PTSD, but most people wouldn’t know it, unless they see my Facebook posts in which I lash out at some family members who I believe out of ignorance spied on me and subjected me to psychological torture for suspected drug use (and indeed I had been taking drugs for a few months), as well as suspected malingering. The real or imagined spy operation eventually led to my diagnosis of schizophrenia, which may be a misdiagnosis. I believe family, former neighbors who wanted me out the apartment complex for being a so-called “nuisance neighbor”, apartment management, the maintenance guy, and some family members of my controlling ex-husband were all involved in the alleged spy operation. I actually have a blog named “The Deep End Northwest” which includes a page with posts about the spy operation or schizophrenic episode, named “The Privacy Invasion Collection”, in addition to some pages discussing some leftist-leaning socio-political issues and mass consumerism.
I take Neurontin for Fibromyalgia and anxiety, Prozac for Fibromyalgia and depression, Risperidone to help with hypomania (which I started taking due to the Schizophrenia diagnosis and continue to take for hypomania), Amitriptyline to help prevent migraines, Xanax to help me sleep, Montelukast for hay fever, Flonase & Cetirizine to help with allergies, as well as Thera Tears and some kind of eye drops. Occasionally I take Sumatriptan for migraines.
I am currently attending the Evergreen Club through Frontier Behavioral Health in which I do unit work in the business unit such as working on some of the PowerPoint presentations, Facebook posts, and phones, plus I am involved in committee work. Additionally, I attend social activities with the Supportive Living Program (which I prefer to the social activities at the Evergreen Club) and am receiving counseling through Frontier Behavioral Health, in which we’re going to be focusing on systematic desensitization to prepare me for public speaking, engaging with the greater community, and pursuing a lengthy court battle with the potential for negative publicity as I intend to pursue litigation against my alleged spies. Although I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a couple of counselors at Frontier Behavioral Health and a few friends believe it’s possible I really WAS spied on. I’m extremely terrified of suffering under the stress of a lengthy court battle as well as the stress of any negative publicity I might receive. I also plan to start attending a couple of groups at Frontier Behavioral Health: one for anxiety and one on emotional expression & reflection, called “Rise Up!” based on the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown, PhD and LMSW.
I’m currently working on preparing a case report in which I’ll be sharing my whole story as well as laying out circumstantial evidence to present to a legal team in the hopes that they will further investigate my case and help me bring my alleged spies to justice as well as help me receive substantial compensation for months of illegal spying in my home along with psychological torture as they said a lot of cruel things to me. The alleged privacy invasion lasted for quite a few months.
I am an aspiring writer and speaker and started attending a few writing group sessions on Zoom available through Spark Central Library, a nonprofit library in Spokane. Now the group is meeting in person, and I keep skipping out on it, due in part to my anxiety as the last time I was in group it triggered my anxiety and my muscles got really tense and knotted up.
I plan to begin sharing my story of recovery through the Evergreen Club to civic organizations in Spokane for the Public Relations committee, in hopes that some civic organizations will speak well of us to area businesses, as we need to gain additional transitional employment positions in the community to be in compliance with Clubhouse International standards. This is important because Clubhouse International provides us with our accreditation. Others from the Evergreen Club will be sharing their stories to civic organizations as well. Systematic desensitization, including speaking to occupational students here at E.W.U. should help with my anxiety about speaking and sharing my personal story with others and further help prepare me for the fight of my life in court and in the public arena.
One of the committees I’m on at The Evergreen Club is the Social Justice committee. This provides me with meaningful work, and providing meaningful work is a key component of Clubhouse International, of which The Evergreen Club is part of. Furthermore, I have a history of civic engagement in the community. In the past I helped organize Service-Learning fairs for SCC as an AmeriCorps Vista project coordinator and sustainability-related events for the SCC Hagan Center for the Humanities. I resigned due to severe pain and fatigue, and it was a few years later that I experienced a real or imagined spy operation that left me feeling traumatized and led to my diagnosis of PTSD.
In the weeks ahead we’ll examine in depth the local elements and public figures of right-wing movements that have become prominent in the region and nationally. While many of these organizations and causes have roots as deep as the initial European colonization of the Americas, the past decade has been fertile ground for the explosive growth of ideologies built upon religious fanaticism, paranoia, authoritarianism, and white supremacy. The election of the nation’s first Black president and subsequent antidemocratic backlash provoked the public emergence of virulent strains of hatred masquerading as “liberty”. As with any serious disease of the body politic it is important to understand the causes and symptoms alike, and we hope this series helps illuminate for our readers the parasitic growth of these ideologies upon the margins of our communities.
Four essential threads run through contemporary American far right movements, and these are interwoven to the extent that it’s increasingly unlikely to see an individual group or protest in which one of these threads is absent. I’ll introduce each in the sequence they’ll appear over the course of this series:
Christian Nationalism, also referred to as Dominionism, is an increasingly ubiquitous feature of American far right movements, and is a common indicator of participation in movement causes without specific religious aspects. Dominionists operate on the notion that Christ has commanded them to seize the organs of government, law, education, popular culture, and more with the aim of imposing what they view as God’s law upon the United States and ultimately on the entirety of human civilization. This fringe approach to Christianity is generally inconsistent with that of mainstream believers, just as much as the extremist elements of other religious traditions are unrepresentative of those faiths. Dominionist thought and strategy is found among Evangelicals and Roman Catholics alike, and has spread insidiously among low-information believers who often have little understanding of the tenets of their own faith. The corrupt focus on domination, subjugation, confrontation, and even violence appeals to adherents and nonbelievers alike who are attracted to these approaches, and is the primary interconnection with our remaining threads.
Conspiracy Theorism, once called the paranoid style in American politics by Richard Hofstadter, is a burgeoning element of many far right groups. The phenomenal growth of the Trump-centric Qanon (“Q”) movement is effectively exponential, mirroring the development of any number of religions, past or present. The general public climate of the past decade has fostered the growth and popularity of conspiracy theories, loosely defined as (irrational) beliefs in hidden but powerful organizations and individuals which supposedly control and shape the course of human events outside of public view. Declining education, anti-intellectualism, white supremacist backlash to the Obama era, widespread use of social media platforms, the reality-warping presidency of Trump, and ever widening socioeconomic inequality are but a few factors that have helped propagate a new dark age of unreason. Within each of the movements we’ll consider here, at least one significant conspiratorial claim can be found.
In recent years, and especially recent weeks, Americans have witnessed their own government very publicly take on the very attributes and policies of the fascist regimes the nation once ostensibly opposed. While authoritarianism has been present in US society for centuries in quite real and pernicious forms, it is now embraced wholeheartedly by American far right leaders and movements (and the roughly one third of the population supporting them). Numerous quasi-military operations have sprung up in law enforcement and civilian spheres alike, and at the fringes a genuinely seditious movement which hopes to spark a new civil war. The worship of firearms in US society binds these disparate groups as well. Even among the rank-and-file of American police departments, it is all too common to witness open, abhorrent favoritism toward right wing protesters and paramilitaries during public demonstrations. Naturally, these public and institutional authoritarian leanings lead us to the final thread this series will explore.
The vastly overdue conflagration ignited by the brutal murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other Black citizens has cast a harsh light on the white supremacy that is root and branch of the American right (and much of America itself). Far right movements in the US attempt to disavow their own evident racism on occasion, but of all the ties that bind them this is the oldest and the key. Fear and hatred of others galvanizes and unifies these movements, and behind those raw emotions is the terror that the dominance, power, and privilege conferred by white supremacy will be lost. We hope to in some small way add to the spotlight glare being thrown on racism in this country by examining regional expressions of these behaviors, ideologies, and movements.
Misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are far from beyond the scope of a thorough examination of far right movement attitudes and ideology. The upcoming article focusing on religious aspects of these groups covers these poisonous hatreds in considerable detail. It is worth noting that much like systemic racism, these issues are so prevalent in broader society that they’re very much worth reflecting upon independently.