Speaking With Your Demons
21: A Caring Intervention
Our lives are defined by opportunities,
even the ones we miss.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“All right, what’s so important that you’re taking me away from my other priorities? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still mopping up operations. I’m talking to hundreds of curious creatures, fending off the media until I have a better grasp of where we stand, and I’m nervous about leaving that little weasel, Desttr, alone for too long.”
“That’s not a very ‘accepting’ statement,” Sweizzr reminded him.
“No, but I’m being honest. I still don’t trust the bugger.”
Ignoring the distraction, Ethan answered. “Frankly, I have no idea, but I was asked to bring you. As you know, it’s difficult for my aides to explain complex issues, so we’ll have to see.” Ethan led his friend to another room where Emma was hunched over her laptop, typing away.
“Since when did demons become proficient with our technology?”
“They’re not,” Ethan answered. “They simply told me to get you and Toni together, and this was the best I could do.”
“Phil glanced from his shoulder to Ethan’s, viewing their dragons skeptically. “It wouldn’t have been your dragon who suggested this, would it?”
“No, actually it was my demon, though I’m not sure where he got the idea from.”
“Now that you’re here, give me a second and we’ll be set,” Emma said. She clicked on a link and a Skype window popped up, revealing Toni, who looked as confused as Phil.
“Do you know what this is about?” He asked, though he wasn’t looking at Toni as he said it.
“I’ve got no clue, Emma called and asked me to Skype her, telling me we needed to discuss something.”
“And why couldn’t you have asked me yourself?” Phil asked his newest dragons.
“What did they say?” Toni asked.
Phil shrugged, turning back around and facing the camera. “They refuse to say, only saying I need to hear this.”
“They want you and Toni to discuss your past,” Ethan explained. “Apparently it’s part of your treatment.”
“She knows all about my history.”
“Does she?” Zchezzlr asked. “Try telling her about your mother?”
“What do you know about it?” he snapped, crossing his arms.
“Ooh, seems we’ve touched a nerve!” Emma cooed.
“We were told. How we know, you’ll have to ask the Tzoxhols,” Sweizzr said, proud to drop the term any chance he got.
“Don’t worry, I will. But Toni already knows about my family history.”
“She might, but does she know the emotional cost it had on you?” Ethan pressed.
“I thought you didn’t know what this was about?”
“They gave me the gist, just not the specifics, which I’m still eager to learn.”
“As am I,” Toni said from the screen of the laptop. “I’d love to hear what his newest additions are saying about it. All I know, is that his mother had a mild case of depression and his father drank occasionally.”
“Hardly,” Sweizzr said. “His mother was unable to function for most of his life. He not only had to care for himself since he was in diapers, he was responsible for keeping her functional. The stress exacerbated his father’s alcoholism, and he largely emotionally withdrew from his life. To hide his own shame, he had to cover for them both by lying about his home life. Why you think he no have a single childhood friend?”
Toni’s mouth dropped open. “You won’t believe this, but I’m getting a word for word translation from Trillan.”
“Geez!” Phil exclaimed, holding his hands up and glancing at the ceiling. “You guys are no help at all, until you see a chance to embarrass me, and then it’s all hands on deck.”
“What did they say?” Emma asked.
“They said his childhood was much more disturbed than he’s ever let on. He’s never said much about his younger years, which I always took to mean he’s just extremely private and closed. All this time, I’ve thought he never loved Mom and I, and now it turns out he’s as emotionally crippled as those he’s treating.”
“That’s because I discovered a means of dealing with it. No one needs to hear about my whining, just like no one wants to hear about what a plumber deals with during dinner parties. You simply learn when not to say anything. And your mother always loved the fact I never monopolized conversations, letting her speak uninterrupted for hours.”
Before she could respond, he leaned forward, hitting the mute button.
“Your response kept you functional, but it continues to impact your family,” Zchezzlr scolded.
Phil reactivated the sound.
“ ... and I always wondered ... hold on a second,” Toni paused, seemingly listening to some silent voice. “Yeah, she’s right, you did hurt us! If you’d talked about it, I might have had a father who cared about me, and you and Mom might still be together.”
“Damn creators. It seems they’ve mastered our wireless communications. You invested the time to figure that out, when you can’t figure out basic social protocols?”
“Perhaps you’d like to address the question,” Ethan pressed.
“You know,” Phil said, addressing Sweizzr and Zchezzlr, “I’d think you could pick a better time for this. It’s not smart to yank the rug out from under a successful strategy. For all you know, if you get me to cry over my ‘unhappy’ childhood, I may just quit doing your dirty work altogether.”
“It not so good,” Sweizzr pointed out. “Your acting out, before you understood what was happening, led to your opposition. If you’d taken your time, your mission would be an entire year further along by now.”
“Hey, you want me to vent, then let me friggin’ vent! This is how I express my emotions!”
“Come on, Dad, what’s going on?”
“Okay, I’ll admit it. I learned, before I could even talk, that no one wants to hear about my troubles. What I learned is to shut the hell up, fix my problems, and then I could listen instead of whining all day. That’s what allows me to relate to those I treat. Everyone else—those who ‘relate’ to their families—are the first to pass judgment. I encourage them to express themselves, explain their situation, and then I take action. Again, do you really want to stop what’s allowed me to be successful in the first place?”
“He has a point,” Ethan conceded. “When we first met, I hardly discussed my issues, knowing how they’d respond. Hell, I didn’t tell Emma most of what I faced, since she was already overwhelmed. With Phil, once he knew I had schizophrenia, he never held it against me like everyone else does. That’s why my friends took to him right away. He treated us as regular Joes, not like we were ‘special’, someone who could only be handled with kid gloves.”
“You knew you could always come to me,” Emma argued. “After all, I protected you and your friends for most of your lives.”
“You tried, but it was always clear we were a strain. We appreciated having someone we could depend on, but we never knew when something would overwhelm you, causing you to pull away.” Ethan paused. “Why do you think schizophrenics never tell anyone when they quit taking their medication? We all think we’re being rational, but we know better than to broach the subject, or else we’ll end up in jail!”
“All right, putting aside how successful his approach might be for the homeless, I want to get an explanation. Why did I spend my entire childhood, searching for your love, only to have you deny me incessantly?”
“That’s hardly the case,” Phil argued. “You know that I doted on you, and catered to you whenever I could. What I didn’t do was to drone on endlessly about how unhappy my life was. No one wants that drivel!”
“So what’s the alternative? You simply never tell anyone anything?”
Phil rested his hands on his hips, towering over the small laptop, cowering Emma.
“I did what you do with whomever has issues. I pressed you to be strong, to stand on your own two feet, to demand whatever you need, but also to solve problems rather than cry over how unfair life is.”
“He has you there, Toni,” Ethan said. “With Phil, no matter what you told him, you knew he’d only judge you by whether you were doing your best. If not, he’d ask what he could do to help, but he always frowned on anyone unwilling to improve their own condition.”
“That true!” Wakko exclaimed. “Even with us, once he read us fire act, he treat as equal afterward.”
“I concur,” Smurttle said. “Once know what do wrong, never question prior acts again. He tell us to try new, and we knew support us if we do right.”
“Damn it, he’s right,” Toni said. “Even as a kid, he always supported me. As a child I always idolized him, because he always got things done and was admired by everyone I knew. It was only when I got older that I wondered why he never discussed his problems like my girlfriends did. That’s where I learned how to communicate. It was then I realized the huge gulf between him and my mother.”
“Let me ask,” Phil ventured. “How many of your friends ended up with mental illness?”
Toni was silent, glancing down.
“You find successful strategy for self, but hurt your ability to win sympathy for cause,” Zchezzlr declared.
“She’s got a point,” Tristan insisted. “One of our main missions is helping creative people get their messages out to more people. If they can relate, our message spreads farther. Only, in order for them to care, they have to know the suffering of others.”
“Only in my case, I was always one step ahead. I wasn’t blindly pushing my agenda. Instead I got along with nearly everyone, talking honestly with those they avoided. And I let my workers know, if they had an issue, they could always come to me. But if they wanted to keep their jobs, they had to get the job done regardless of their other issues. I’d give them whatever help they needed, but they had to cope with their problems on their time. That’s how you deal with mental illnesses. You don’t reveal them to anyone you don’t trust, and you establish confidence by following through and doing what needs to be done.”
“This more confusing than we thought,” Sweizzr admitted.
“No shit! Why do you think I never mention it?”
“Hold on,” Toni urged. “It takes a long time for me to get live translations only a word or two at a time. You’ve got to limit your long monologues.”
“Yeah, what your daughter said,” Ethan agreed.