Oh, Great, Now I Need a Permanent Alibi

So apparently my physically harmless, civilly disobedient, one-man protest at the MetLife campus on June 14 has left a number of my former colleagues traumatized and fearing for their personal safety. In several sworn affidavits submitted by MetLife last week on their behalf, four of them affirmed things like like:

“…I feel targeted by Mr. Scholten and fear for my personal safety.”

“…I fear for my personal safety and the safety of my family.”

“…this post [a reference to this post], coupled with the fact that Mr. Scholten broke into MetLife and came specifically to the executive offices, cause me to fear for my safety…more importantly, I fear for the safety of the MetLife employees….”

Now, because I know for a fact that I pose absolutely no threat whatsoever to the personal safety of any human being, MetLife employee or not, at first I had serious doubts about the sincerity of these highly defamatory allegations. But in a hearing yesterday at the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh I had the chance to face three of my accusers, and after watching them testify I must say that I now have no doubt whatsoever that these folks are frightened.

My sister had come with me to the hearing and the two of us did what we could to reassure them that I am harmless and that they are safe, but in the end it was all for nothing because the District Judge granted MetLife’s request for a 1-year No Contact Order Pursuant to the Workplace Violence Prevention Act which imposes on me a long and fundamentally useless list of restrictions that…

1. Cannot possibly make me any more harmless than I already am.

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Hmmm. How could we make this cute little duckling even more harmless? Image Credit: Pixabay

I am already harmless, and these restrictions won’t make me any more so. I have no history of violence; no interest in violence; I own no guns nor weaponry of any kind; nor do I know or practice any martial arts (karate, boxing, etc.). I don’t even play violent video games. Once a gun has been unloaded, disassembled, and melted down into scrap metal, really the only thing left is to cast a magic spell over it. That’s really all this No Contact Order is: just a worthless magic spell that the Judge has cast over an already harmless person in order to make him harmless.

2. Cannot possibly even make me seem anymore harmless than I already do.

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Would this gargoyle seem less frightening with a nice coat of paint? Next to some flowers? With a duckling on its head? Image Credit: Pixabay

These folks are truly frightened and confused. Of course, they’re not really frightened of me, but rather their misunderstanding of me. I am not their misunderstanding of me. Their misunderstanding of me is an imaginary bogeyman who is so deranged that he intends to harm them, and I am absolutely not that guy. But if he’s truly that deranged, then surely he won’t let some court order stop him in his blood-thirsty quest to hurt them.

These folks aren’t thinking straight. They all believe that on the afternoon of June 14 their bogeyman stood right next to them while they were working. It was actually just me, of course, but were I really as dangerous as they imagine their bogeyman to be, they’d all be injured or dead right now. The fact that they aren’t proves that I’m not their scary bogeyman. But their fear blocks them from seeing it that way. Maybe they think that the visit on June 14 was just a warm-up. Maybe they think their bogeyman was just there on some sort of reconnaissance mission and that now that he understand the lay of the land, he’ll be coming back for the real kill.

What’s more, this court order only protects them at the MetLife campus. What if their imaginary bogeyman visits them at home? Or what if he ambushes them while they’re sitting at a traffic light on the way to work? Of course I — the utterly harmless real me who is definitely not their bogeyman — would never do anything like that, but they have no idea that the real me actually exists. For all they know their bogeyman is an extremely clever sociopath who truly exists, but who is pretending to be a harmless autistic person who has merely been misunderstood as a dangerous sociopath, etc., etc.

This is not reasoning. This is just rampant, ignorance-fueled imagination run amok, and the No Contact Order can do nothing to get it under control.

3. Makes it impossible for them to get to know the real me.

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These giraffes look pretty friendly. I wish they would get to know me better and see that I’m friendly too. Image Credit: Pixabay

One of the best ways to get over any irrational fear is to choose to encounter the very thing that frightens you. Obviously that won’t work if you’re afraid of jelly fish or hungry sharks, but as long as what frightens you is harmless (like me), then the more you interact with it and see that no harm comes to you, the safer you will feel in its presence.

Really, the only way to help these people with their fears is to give them the opportunity to face them, which is now prohibited by law. These folks desperately need to get to know the real me, at least well enough to see that I’m not their bogeyman, that I’m harmless to them. But because of this No Contact Order, such an encounter is now impossible.

4. Means I now require a permanent alibi.

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I’m fresh out of excuses! Image Credit: ShutterStock

With this No Contact Order in place, I need a permanent alibi. For the next year at least, if anything happens to any of these people and which is even remotely mysterious, I am going to be suspect number 1. If one of them gets a mysterious flat tire I can be promptly arrested, booked, charged, and tried — even if I’m totally innocent. Even if I do have an alibi, that won’t help until after I’ve already been arrested, booked, and charged. Then the real investigation will begin and the alibi will exonerate me. But if I don’t have an alibi, then what?

Because of this fundamentally useless No Contact Order, I now need a permanent alibi. And something tells me that “Sorry, your honor, I’m autistic” won’t cut it.

I really don’t understand the purpose of this No Contact Order. Is the goal to ensure the objective safety of these individuals? Or is the goal merely to help them to feel subjectively safe. Although these are not mutually exclusive outcomes, in the end, being safe and feeling safe are really two different things. For example, many people are afraid to fly in an airplane, but feel perfectly safe in a car, which is objectively much more dangerous. Many people dread kittens, while others have no fear of texting while driving. Further, the pharmaceutical industry makes a ton of money selling anti-anxiety medications to people seeking relief from anxiety that they themselves know has no function whatsoever.

The fact is that fear is an unreliable indicator of objective danger, just as feeling safe is an unreliable indicator of objective safety. The one simply does not imply nor guarantee the other, and in any case, this No Contact Order will achieve neither goal, for the reasons described above.

 

Faking It: Is This The Real Stigma of Psychiatric Disability?

Boy crossing fingers behind his back in front of dad.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

It is commonly believed that psychiatric disabilities carry a stigma. And I’m not sure about anybody else at this point, but I know that at least I have always assumed that this stigma had something to do with being weak — essentially a weakness of character, or virtue — something about being unreliable, undisciplined, infantile, etc.

But following certain uncomfortable encounters I’ve had in recent months, it has become increasingly apparent to me that this mental illness stigma may actually be a lot more specific than that. I have come to strongly suspect that this stigma may be really and really mostly about malingering — the unscrupulous practice of faking or exaggerating an impairment of some sort, in order to exploit the sympathy, compassion, guilt, etc. of others for selfish gain.

To be clear, at this point for me this is really just a strong suspicion — more opinion than fact, or maybe a conjecture, or hypothesis — that I seem to find much more plausible than its competitors. I think it’s critical we not forget that — primarily because I also believe that one of the most damaging mistakes a person can make is to confuse an hypothesis for established fact, a merely plausible idea for one that is actually true. And also because I strongly suspect that this very mistake is what’s actually causing the stigma in the first place! I think it would be tragically ironic to try to solve the problem of the stigma that burdens those with psychiatric disabilities with the very sort of foolishness that may be causing it.

So, again, I currently believe (until I encounter the sort of evidence that could change my mind about it) that this mental health stigma may be really and mostly about malingering.

What about you?