“Death is a Door…”

“… we all acted alone, we were caught alone, and every one of us will have to die alone. But that doesn’t mean that we are alone.”  (Hans Fallada, 1947)

“Every living creature on earth dies alone.”  (Donnie Darko, 2001)

Donnie Darko and Roberta Sparrow

Donnie Darko and Roberta Sparrow

“Everybody dies alone.”  (Firefly, 2002)

“Son. Everyone dies alone. That’s what it is. It’s a door. It’s one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone.”  (Dead Beat, 2005)

Are you afraid to die?  It seems like a simple question, but it requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.  What are your beliefs?  Are you religious?  Do you actually believe your religion’s tenants on death and afterlife?  

I suppose it could make a difference to you if you genuinely felt God will be with you when you shuffle off the mortal coil.   But I imagine some people clutch to their ideas of an afterlife specifically to keep at bay the terrors of death.  What happens when we die?  Do we just cease to exist?  I for one can’t conceive of not being aware, not being able to think.  

Have you ever had a serious illness or injury and felt that black stab of panic?  Am I going to die?  Maybe you’ve just been in a significant amount of pain and felt like you would die. (If you’ve ever had a migraine, you might sympathize with the thought of wishing for death, or at the very least, a long narcotic induced oblivion.)  I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks sometimes as well, which can make even a non-life-threatening situation feel exponentially worse. Suddenly, you think that migraine may actually kill you…just give you a stroke or something.

In these moments, that’s when our true feelings about death surface.

I’d like to think if my family was on a plane and it was going down, I’d be okay as long as my last moments were spent with those dearest to me, my husband and child.  But it’s been my experience that when you are in that moment of fear, panicked, you are completely alone.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Not every death is untimely or traumatic.  You may die of old age, going peacefully in your sleep, or surrounded by loved ones, but death is a door and it’s only one person wide.  We all walk through it alone.

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Can We Make Our Schools Safer?

*edited 

Oh, look.  Another school shooting.  Dismaying, but not surprising.  If you’re a regular reader, you may have already read a bit about my feelings and theories on Newtown and similar senseless and sensational crimes.  People are tempted to bring all sorts of political opinions  to issue, even if they have little (or nothing) to do with the crimes in question.  Many people spout rhetoric as an almost knee-jerk reaction, but a lot of people are just plain scared and are looking for an answer- any answer- to the problems plaguing our country and the world.

I don’t know what to do about guns.  I do believe access to guns is too easy.  People that don’t have guns of their own seem to be able to still procure them with relative ease, sometimes simply by stealing or “borrowing” one from someone they know.

Kern County sheriff Donny Youngblood said at a news conference Thursday night that the 16-year-old used a shotgun that belonged to his brother and went to bed Wednesday night with a plan to shoot two fellow students. (source)

I don’t think Mental Health Care reform is the problem, and at any rate, that seems to take the focus off the victims and hand the perpetrator an excuse.

Letting “God back in the schools” won’t do it either.

But one thing I think we can focus on is making our schools safer.  I don’t want to hear that it’s expensive.  The money that goes to inflated Congressional salaries and frivolous expenditures can and should be re-routed to make our children safer.

One thing that would help is to “treat schools like we treat courthouses,” as my hubby says.  I think metal detectors would be a great investment.  Every unsecured, public entrance to the school should have one.  (Really, ALL entrances should have one, but let’s not give the guys that write the budget simultaneous coronaries just yet.)  And a security guard posted at each entrance, especially during the hours of the day when there is high volume traffic.  If a metal detector is triggered, the guards can be on hand to handle the situation, and if a metal detector goes off at any given time during the day and is not immediately shut down, there should be a school-wide protocol that directs all teachers to lock down their classrooms.  Any students in the halls during a lock down would be directed to hide or make their way to a predetermined safe location.  Security officers should be specially trained to handle crisis situations.  We’re not talking a supermarket cop collaring people for trying to smuggle candied hams out in their drawls, we’re security personnel with the training and the will to take down a kids with a gun.  These little punks aren’t playin’ around and they need to know that the schools and the cops aren’t either.

Garrett-PD6500i-walk-through-metal-detector pic-11

Speaking of which, I know I can’t be alone in calling for stricter laws on media reporting, especially in the first few hours after a crisis.  One of the reasons that these freaks end up doing things on such a massive scale, shooting up schools and killing their whole families and whatnot, is because they think they can make a mark on the world, hurt people with their rage,  wrong others the way they’ve been wronged (in their pathetic little minds.)  I realize that people want to understand why these people do the horrible things they do, but the answers are usually more complicated than blaming guns, video games, music, or bullying.   Aside from whatever deranged, disturbed thoughts might pop out of the killers’ mouths if we were to ask them why, we usually don’t get that opportunity, because they often end up dead.  And it doesn’t really matter anyway.  What matters are the victims, and the media needs to take steps to keep the focus on them instead of glorifying the killer by validating his actions and intentions with exhaustive media coverage.

Well, the media will always cry “1st amendment “ and “the public has the right to know! so I’m sure I might as well just wish in one hand as far as media accountability, so back to the metal detector thing…it may not be a perfect solution, but it is one concrete step we as a community can take to try and make our schools safer for our children.

*see some of the stupid things the government could cut from their budget to make our schools safer!

“Mental Illness” and its Role in this Tragedy

I want to talk about this, but there’s just so much ground to cover, so many feelings and opinions about the subject.  I can’t get into all of it.  It’s just not in me emotionally.

Since the shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut, people all over Facebook (and I’m sure every other social media) are having very strong opinions about what caused this and about why we in America have more school shootings than anywhere else in the world (combined probably.)  The two main things I’ve seen are “Gun Control” and “the Mental Health Care System.” I am assuming there will be some “the answer is to get Bibles back in the schools” and “better education” coming along shortly.

The term mentally ill is already being thrown around when we know nothing for sure right now.  Probably because to most of us “sane” people, we can not conceive of a normal, well-adjusted person shooting at babies.  Bear with me, because I am so upset I am shaking as I type.  I understand the urge to blame someone, or something, especially since the killer, like so many of these cowardly wastes of skin, killed himself after he did these horrendous things.  It makes me so mad that he’ll never have to feel the GUILT he should feel, let alone pay for what he did.  I don’t believe in Hell. I wish I did, because then maybe I’d feel he’s getting what he deserves there now.

But I want to take a moment to explore what it means to be “mentally ill,” and how it may or may not apply to this situation.

Wikipedia describes mental illness as A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological pattern or anomaly, potentially reflected in behavior, that is generally associated with distress or disability, and which is not considered part of normal development of a person’s culture. Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feels, acts, thinks or perceives.

*The above definition may also be problematic because social factors can create sociopaths, people with antisocial personality disorder, which very much is in the DSM as a mental illness.  Sociopathy is highly correlated with lack of empathy, “damaged” moral compass, and violent crimes that can result from such a disorder.  Also, sociopathic personalities generally feel little distress about their lack of normal morals and emotions.

So, basically, sociological factors such as upbringing and economic factors can in fact combine with psychological issues to create a killer.  Essentially it is an play between nature versus nurture.  (edit 6/2015)

However, mental illness can encompass such things as anorexia, OCD, depression, phobias, stress disorders, and much more.  The point is, it can be said that half of America is mentally ill, under this criteria.  Mentally “ill” does not automatically mean violence, although, using criteria which measures behavior against society’s mores and parameters would naturally mean anyone who committed violence would automatically be considered “mentally ill.”  However, not all people who commit violent crimes have a mental illness diagnosable in the DSM.  At this early stage, I don’t think it’s helpful or accurate to say that the mental health care system is at fault for this.  I really can’t blame gun control or lack thereof either.  *In regards to gun control, the kind of gun control we really need is stricter fines and punishments for people like the mother (who died as a result of her irresponsibility anyhow), who knew her son was mentally unsound, yet did nothing to restrict his access to her guns.  Don’t misunderstand me.  While I do not advocate disarming citizens with a blanket ban on guns, I do believe there should be strict and definite sanctions for any gun owners who are caught being irresponsible in any way with their weapons (ie: leaving a loaded weapon in an unlocked car springs to mind, and yes, it happens quite a bit.)

I can’t help but think there is a social component to this phenomenon of school shooting.  I look at it in the same light as the increased suicides over bullying and the increase in family annihilators.  Some people are seeing this stuff reported and are getting it into their heads that this is an effective and acceptable way to “make a statement.”

There have always been bullies.  In schools and even in adult life. But since the explosion of social media, bullied kids can’t even get respite from their tormentors at home.  The bullies continue to harrass and hound their victims on social networking sites.  Though there were school shootings before Columbine, Klebold and Harris’s names became known the world over almost overnight.  Initially it was speculated that one or both of them had been bullied in school, and the killings were some form of retribution.* (New evidence seems to suggest they were not, in fact, bullied.  Rather, they were extremely angry and to some degree, psychopathic.  Psychopathy is in the DSM, but as a personality disorder.)  Now many bully victims are increasingly feeling that their only way out is suicide.  I can’t help but feel that like copycat suicides,  public response, media coverage, and perception have a lot to do with the proliferation of mass shootings.  But what is the answer to this problem?  Stop reporting on news and crimes?  It’s not possible, and shouldn’t be necessary.

But I don’t believe there is any one answer.  That would be too simple.  It’s not JUST a gun control issue, not just a mental health issue, not just a media reporting issue.  Our country, our world, is sick.  And I wish I knew what the answer was.

But what I will say is that, as a sufferer of an anxiety disorder, I would be classified as “mentally ill.”  Even were I not medicated, I can’t even imagine ever…EVER…going into a school and harming innocent babies!  I don’t understand why people like this feel the need to make innocents suffer for their misery.  Part of the problem I really believe goes back to personal responsibility.  I think America has become a society that fosters feelings of entitlement and a refusal to accept responsibility.  

Anyway, I’ve already wrote more than I meant to.  As a mother now, I feel a gut wrenching empathy for the parents of those poor children killed or wounded.  But I also feel a sense of desperation because I don’t know the answer.  I wish I did.  I just know that spreading the blame is not the answer, and mental illness is stigmatized enough without assuming that it’s the reason for this tragedy.  Arguably, a person who would do this is “not right” in the head, but it doesn’t mean the system failed him.  I’m betting he never gave the system a fair go in the first place.  In terms of mental issues, one usually has to acknowledge the need help, and want help to get help.

As an adjunct, please feel free to share your thoughts, but as this is a sensitive topic, I want to re-emphasize my policy on comment etiquette.  No flaming, keep it civil– or your comment will never make it past moderation.  I realize I may be expressing views that are contrary to your own.  I offer them up in the spirit of expressing my feelings and maybe trying the only way I know how to make sense of this.  I respect your right to disagree.  Please don’t take my words personally, and don’t make it personal.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Monk

I can’t remember if I ever mentioned it before, but Hubs and I don’t have cable (which around here, you need even to bring in the major broadcast channels.)  We’re pretty used to it, managing with our extensive DVD collection, games, and rented/borrowed TV series.  In fact, it’s kind of spoiled me in terms of TV, because I have even less tolerance for commercials than before, and if I get into a show, I’d hate to have to wait a whole week between episodes (damn instant gratification.)

Anyway, recently we acquired access to Hulu and whole new worlds of TV series have opened up to me!

hallelujah praise the lawd

Right…so, anyway, I’ve been watching re-runs of Monk, a show I had watched before, but not on a regular basis.  Here’s the basic premise, if you’ve never seen the show.

Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub) was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb in a parking garage.

Trudy’s death led Monk to suffer a nervous breakdown.  He was then discharged from the force and became a recluse, refusing to leave his house for three and a half years.

Monk’s compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. Monk has 312 fears, some of which are milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, imperfection, claustrophobia, driving, food touching on his plates, messes and risk.  The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk and anyone around him as he investigates cases. These same personal struggles, particularly the OCD, are what aid him in solving cases, such as his sharp memory, specific mindset, and attention to detail.

Talent Names - Tony Shalhoub

Well, I like the show.  I mean, I don’t ask much from my television and movies, usually.  Mostly I just want to be entertained, distracted.  Monk is pretty much your typical crime drama, except with an added element of dark humor based largely on the antics of the main character.  And it definitely has its funny moments…

But it’s also irritating to me, on several levels.

The same thing that makes the show funny in one moment can make it borderline infuriating the next moment. Monk’s inability to perform even the simplest task without making a mountain out of a mole hill, and his tendency to alienate every other person he meets with his paranoid and compulsive behaviors is often cringe-worthy.  It’s no wonder Sharona (his assistant until season 3) threatens to quit every other episode.  The man can’t function without her, yet he’s often ambivalent or oblivious to her needs or feelings.


(I think that clip is in another language, but it was the only one I could find of the beer race.)  Note the dudes are chugging straight from the pitcher, while Monk is insisting on pouring Sharona the perfect cup of beer, until she yells, “It’s a race, Monk!” and snatched her own pitcher, gulping it down, and putting her opponents to shame.  WIN for Sharona!

Aside from the small annoyances, there’s another reason this show bothers me, and that is the treatment of OCD in the series.  One thing I noticed is that although one of the early episodes makes a point of mentioning that Trudy’s death pushed Monk over the edge (perhaps implying that Monk’s behavior is extreme even for OCD,) I have yet to hear Sharona actually use the technical term/diagnosis when attempting to explain away Monk’s odd or downright rude behavior to people he’s offended.  I haven’t even heard his therapist use much actual medical terminology.  As I am not even past season two episodes yet, there may well eventually be some more direct discussion of his diagnosis, but I haven’t seen it yet.  The point is, it seems like they want to use OCD as a comedy prop, but almost like they’re afraid to actually name it.  Could it be that the show’s writers are attempting to cover their asses should they offend any actual people with OCD (like me?)  But I’m not even offended, really.  I can take a joke as well as the next person.

What bothers me about this is the stereotype it spreads.  Maybe it would be different if they were writers were to make a point of specifically detailing the idea that Monk’s OCD is an extreme version.  See, half my life I’ve heard people carelessly self-diagnose themselves as “being OCD”, or having OCD simply because they have a few idiosyncratic habits.  That’s not OCD.  OCD is an anxiety disorder wherein the patient feels significant anxiety from consuming thoughts and ideas, usually only finding relief through the performance of rituals, rituals which may or may not have any logical link to the fear.  Being a little germ phobic and washing your hands often, or checking the stove a couple extra times is not OCD, not unless you feel so anxious and upset about these things that you can’t NOT perform the accompanying rituals.  So when a person in casual conversation claims to “be” OCD, I kinda have to restrain an impulse to bitch-slap them.  That’s like a person taking some Excedrin for their “migraine” and feeling better– if you feel better after some Excedrin, you didn’t have a migraine; you had a headache.   Until you are cowering in a dark corner or kneeling in front of your toilet, until you feel like you might stroke out from the pain, until your vision is affected or you’ve been to the ER, you probably haven’t had a migraine.  You wouldn’t tell a person with skin cancer you know how they feel because you’ve had a sunburn before, would you???

You see my point right?  Anybody who has seen some ridiculously false and misinformed status repeatedly re-posted on Facebook knows it doesn’t take much to fool misinformed or uneducated people.  I wonder how many people watching Monk think that all people with OCD are like Monk.  I wonder if they’d call us freaks.  And I wonder if they truly understand, as they watch this show that treats OCD like some goofy little character flaw, how truly horrible it can be for someone who does not have their symptoms under control.

The Senile Stalker Gets Scared Straight?

Could this be the end of the Senile Stalker Saga?  Today things came to a head- sort of.   I mean, I’m starting to think the only thing that will really end it is if one of us dies (preferably not me, as I’m kind of attached to myself.)

I went next door to visit my neighbor, as I often do.  Some of her family, also friends of mine, were over and I wanted to hang out a bit before they went back home.  I’d already been over there once for my morning coffee (no coffeemaker at the mo’,) but this time the Old Man was sitting on the love seat.

…and maybe it was too late for me to turn around;  I had momentum…or a brief leave of my common sense… and went into my neighbor’s apartment anyway.

And damned if the first thing he said to me wasn’t, “What did you tell your old man about me?”

He must have hit a nerve with me today…either that or my bullshit meter is red-lining, cuz I snapped back something like, “R****, I am not in the mood for your bullshit today.”

But the few things I said to him today in response to his passive-aggressive routine, he acted like he didn’t hear.  I told him Hubs was mad and asked him what he expected.  He said he didn’t expect anything.  Deliberate obtuseness.  Great.

About that time Marie’s sister-in-law called to me from the bedroom.  Saved by the bell.  She knows how I feel about the Old Geezer.  About that time, her little girl, who had been taking an extra long time in the bathroom, slipped into the room, also trying to evade the Old Man.  I offered them safe haven in my apartment until the Old Man left and I went back to my apartment, and the little girl came over shortly after.  She said that R**** had told them all he didn’t like that I told my husband everything he says to me.

Hubby heard that and then he went outside to smoke…and apparently to go next door.

"Put 'em up!"

“Put ’em up!”

I guess he’d hit his bullshit quota for the year too.  He told the Old Man not to ever talk to him, me, or the baby again, that he didn’t want to see his face again.   And all the Old Man said was “Okay.”  I wonder if he pissed himself a little.

That still didn’t stop him from asking my friend and her little girl if we were over here talking about him at my place, and what all we said.  But I doubt he’ll be speaking to me anytime soon.  He gets all indignant and pissy when you’ve had enough of his shit and you tell him off.  Then he gets over it.  But hopefully he’s smart enough to know better.  If he starts coming around us again, I have a feeling the cops will be called…hopefully before Hubs stomps him into Old Man compost.

 

Help! I’m a Compulsive Multi-tasker!

My regular readers probably know by now that compulsions are no new thing for me.  I was diagnosed with OCD over 18 years ago.  That and my studies in psychology have led to a lot of introspection and self-analysis of my behaviors.   I sometimes wonder where my OCD ends and my real personality begins.  Or maybe I’ve dealt with it so long, in ways it’s shaped my personality.

This isn't me...but it may as well be...

This isn’t me…but it may as well be…

That said, I’m not sure if my propensity for multi-tasking is rooted in OCD, or a conditioned thing.  It’s probably both.  Or maybe it’s more closely related to an addiction-type disorder.In any event, lately I’m finding it all but impossible to do only one thing.  The two main culprits are the television and the internet.  I started watching back episodes of Grimm lately.  I’m really into the show…yet I tend to miss a lot of little things each episode because I am usually seated on the floor in front of the laptop, either bouncing back and forth between Facebook and this blog, or I’m playing Fishdom.  Fishdom, for crying out loud!  It’s actually burned into my brain!  My art has fallen by the wayside in the wake of other things, but when I draw, I often have something on the TV…like white noise.

I’m practically incapable of just sitting on the couch and watching TV now.  My blog is like my baby, so my compulsive stat checking and commenting is excusable.  What is not excusable is that my two year old finds it necessary to climb in my lap and sit in front of me to get my attention.  I’m not saying I ignore her, and all parents need and deserve a break sometimes.  She is by no means “neglected…”   But I do spend a lot of time on the computer during the day.  And maybe part of it is just that she’s accustomed to us showering her with attention or that she’s just being a normal two year old.  I dunno; this is the first time having one of my very own (a toddler, I mean.)  And even though I love playing with her and seeing her laugh and learn, it’s hard to have an extensive conversation with a two year old…especially when they barely talk…     I mean, she’s a chatterbox, but her conversational topics are few.

I find myself sneaking peeks at the computer screen even when I’m playing with her or doing other things.  Sometimes, I just have to shut the damn thing, so I leave it alone for a bit.

I’ve lived without cable TV for years.  I’m the point now where when I do watch TV, usually over other people’s houses, commercials drive me more crazy than ever, because I am so used to watching DVD box sets or downloaded shows with little to no commercials.  So I know I can live without it because I do.  Elementary, right, my dear Watson?

I’ve lived without internet before.  But these things are like many other habits, easy to form and hard to break.  When our internet connection was gone, I didn’t mind not having Facebook access so much as I hated not being able to access my blog regularly… yet I still find myself compelled to check Facebook often now that I have regular access to it once again.

One of my main concerns is that I’ve basically conditioned myself have a sort of attention deficit disorder.  I don’t mean I fear a clinical diagnosis of that, but more that I am annoyed by my need to be entertained so constantly that I need to do not just one thing, but multiple things.

All day long while doing these things to entertain myself, I also do dishes, laundry, and take care of my daughter.  I exercise and fix food.  This type of multi-tasking is necessary to run an efficient home.  The problem comes in when I can’t devote my full attention to any one task because I feel the need to do more than one at any given time.

Anyway, last night, for my daughter more than anyone, I decided that if I’m not actively writing and article or story, I’m going to try to limit my time on the computer.  I’ll get up and do my “morning check” of all my stats, comments, and notifications on both WordPress and Facebook.  But then I’m going to step away for a while.  My child deserves my full attention.  So does my husband, and even my art and writing.  Just not all at once.

Fight Fair: When the Love is Gone

When the Love is Gone…

Healing-a-broken-heart2

What’s Left?

Most of us have been there– a relationship that just didn’t work out.  Not just someone you dated once or twice, but a relationship that actually took off, but then for some reason, began to lose steam.  Or worse– crash and burn in a fiery conflagration of suspicion and hostility after some transgression or betrayal on the part of one or both parties.

And then what’s left?  Broken hearts, bitterness, tears… and an apparent disregard for the feelings of someone we once claimed to love.

When I went through this myself, back at then end of high school, beginning of college, I simply couldn’t fathom why I was being treated so badly.  The answer soon became apparent;  the lying, the flagrant disrespect for me, disregard for my feelings, and blatant hostility, even in the face of my tears.    This was the “man” who had once begged me in tears to come back to him.  Now he was threatening to cut his wrists in front of me.  The narcissism.  The manipulation.  The threats and name-calling.  I’m pretty sure my ex had sociopathic tendencies…

Obviously, not all exes are “psychos” (incidentally one of his favorite insults to hurl at me,) however, even perfectly normal people have the capacity to be emotionally brutal to their partners.  Something I used to say often, and which I believe is true for a great many people (but at least I was upfront about it) is that when I get hurt, I get angry.

It’s a defense mechanism.  However, often, the person on the receiving end of  verbal darts carelessly slung around in an argument are often innocent (subjectively speaking) of any wrong-doing—  at least, the type of wrong doing that would warrant such emotional warfare.

You’re such a psycho…

No one will ever put up with you…

Where has [it] gotten you? You have nothing going for you…

I understand striking out when you’re hurt.  I’ve even been known to throw a punch or two, back in my younger days.  But I learned a lot from my ex.  I hate to say it, but it’s true.

I learned how I never wanted to be treated again.  I learned what I wouldn’t put up with from someone.  I learned not to fight back using name-calling or worse…giving a liar a black eye.  I also learned that I didn’t like the person I had become as a result of being with my ex…  Insecure, and abusive in my own right.couples-fighting

But this post isn’t really about me or my ex.  It’s about how people treat one another.  Relationships are complicated, and blame goes both ways.  Maybe your partner has hurt you.  Maybe you are in the midst of a break-up, with no foreseeable hope of reconciliation.  But do you really want to hurt this person you once loved, or maybe even still love?  Silence can be a very damaging and passive-aggressive form of fighting…

But sometimes silence is your friend.  If you are losing control, and you know you might say something you can’t take back, keep your mouth shut.  Don’t just walk away, but tell your partner you need a few minutes to yourself and then walk away.  And if your partner tells you they need a moment, let them walk away.  You can save yourself and your partner a lot of hurt.  Even if you see no future with them, do you really need the stress of fighting with them?

Sometimes the problem is even more basic.  Some people just don’t care if they hurt someone else’s feelings.

I can’t stress it enough– when this is a repeated pattern, especially if it’s not in the heat of the moment (and thus not an issue of self control) this is a very clear sign.  I learned it myself, after too long being mistreated, waiting for apologies that never came.  When your partner no longer cares if they hurt you, it’s time to move on.

To everyone else…   fight fair.  If not for your partner’s sake, for your own.  Being nasty to your partner is not conducive to mending a relationship.  Don’t take the bait and give into trading insults.  Even if  things don’t work out, you will know you did the best you could and stood on higher ground.  Not to be better than them, but to be a better you.