Monday, February 25, 2008

Oh, well never mind, then.

A post script to the "Shooter Off Meds" story. When the medical information was made public (why, oh, why is that OK?), those meds turned out to be not very damning after all.

What medication was Steven Phillip Kazmierczak taking--what psychotropic proof of his mental derangement was waiting to be revealed?

Kazmierczak was taking...Ambien...Xanax...and Prozac. He must have been very relaxed. He went off of Prozac, but it's not an anti-psychotic. Shit, Prozac and Ambien are so mainstream they're practically over-the-counter medications. Ambien is advertised on TV, for cryin' out loud. Xanax, well, he didn't stop taking that one, and god knows, plenty of upstanding American citizens are walking around with their next alprazolam hit right there in their shoulder bag, next to the laptop.

How the hell is a journalist supposed to make a sensationalistic drama out of this med combo, this pharmaceutical Happy Meal? How do you do that without alienating millions of people who will be quick to tell you that if Kazmierczak was taking these drugs because he was unbalanced, then that means they are unbalanced, and well, they just aren't. Right now they're thinking, Oh, it looks like being off of Prozac wasn't the problem after all. Right? Please say we're right. I mean, I would never...I'm not crazy. Hey, how about those Academy Awards?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Well, obviously. Right?

Another shooting on another campus. A tragedy for the students, a tragedy for their parents. Who would do such a thing?

In the 24 hours after the shooting, the question was everywhere. Who had done this? What was his motivation? Why did he do it?

When the name of Stephen Kazmierczak was made public, he seemed to be as random as his crime. His friends were shocked and swore he hadn't shown any signs of being ready to snap. His family declined comment. Nobody knew anything and details coming to and from the media were few. Except for one:

He was off his medication.

While I was reading this in a news story online, my husband was doing the same. When we each got home from work, we compared notes. None of the articles we read mentioned anything about which meds, prescribed for what, in reference to any diagnosis. It didn't matter, though. Kazmierczak could have been taking Pepto Bismal and stopped, and the fact would still hang in the air: He went on a rampage because he stopped his medication. He was nuts. Or, he had heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea... In either case, he had had enough of it because he stopped taking the medication and became homicidal immediately after. Enough diarrhea will do that to you.

I am not making light of Stephen Kazmierczak's actions, so don't bother to send me hate mail. What I am doing, however, is pointing out how quick this nation is to blame every abberation of human behavior on mental illness, medication, or lack of medication. If the criminal hadn't shown any signs of illness before, it was obviously just an oversight because, as we know, only the mentally ill act irrationally.

According to the Associated Press, Campus Police Chief Donald Grady said investigators recovered 48 shell casings and six shotgun shells following the attack in Cole Hall. ... Kazmierczak...was taking some kind of medication, Grady said. "He had stopped taking medication and become somewhat erratic in the last couple of weeks,'' Grady said, declining to name the drug or provide other details.

Well, apparently details don't matter if you can announce to the world that someone was "taking medication." Isn't the implication obvious?? Damn that Pepto Bismal. Everyone knows it only works if you take it, but it's so tempting to stop once you start to feel better.

It seems that at one time, journalists had to back up their comments with actual, oh, hell, what are they called...facts. According to ABC News, The NIU gunman reportedly stopped taking medication, and the Virginia Tech gunman had a long history of mental health issues.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but are they implying that Kazmierczak was suffereing from the same illness as the Virginia Tech shooter? They didn't say it, but they said it. Read that quote as two separate sentences and then tell me how the meaning changes when you add a comma.

The story that disturbed me most, though, came from the AP on Friday. The story stated that the shooter had a "long history of mental illness." Without providing details. Of course. Later in the story, though we get to the truth:

A former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center said Kazmierczak had been placed there after high school by his parents. He used to cut himself and had resisted taking his medications, she said.
Kazmierczak spent more than a year at the Thresholds-Mary Hill House in the late 1990s, former house manager Louise Gbadamashi told The Associated Press. His parents placed him there after high school because he had become "unruly" at home, she said.

Gbadamashi couldn't remember any instances of him being violent, she said.
"He never wanted to identify with being mentally ill," she said. "That was part of the problem."

So...Let me see if I have this straight. Unruly behavior = Mental Ilnness.
Not embracing one's mental illness makes you...unruly?

The kind and well-meaning folks at NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, believe that we, as a culture, have made admirable progress in our ability to, if not identify with, at least empathize with being mentally ill. Type in the search term "stigma" on the NAMI website and what you'll find are dozens of articles and campaigns meant to convince the world that there is no stigma attached to mental illness, nor should there be.

I want to believe that's true, really, I do, but reading the shady ambiguity with which the NIU shooting was reported leaves me feeling less than optimistic.

More than once, it has been suggested to me (it doesn't matter by whom--critical details are irrelvant, remember?--it's innuendo that counts, dammit) that I "come out," and let people know that I am mentally ill. There is a belief there that if people know that I, May Voirrey, over-achiever and personable person is actually sick in the head, then the world will change its attitude toward mental illness forever. People will suddenly be enlightened and forced to admit, "Well, if May is the face of mental illness, then we've been wrong about this thing all along."

Yeah. Nobody would change their opinion about mental illness, they would only change their opinion about me. ("I always thought she was a little off. That must be what those good days and bad days are all about. Everybody knows that only the mentally ill express their bitchiness.").

To reiterate earlier posts: We are not mentally ill. We are just ill. It's not in my head, it affects my head. Fuck off if you disagree. If you disagree, you wouldn't be reading this blog, anyway.

I am sure that in the next few days, all HIPPA laws will be circumvented and we will learn copious details of Stephen Kazmierczak's personal anguish, medical history, and mental abberation. He will be pointed to as an example, no, a reason why people like me should be kept on a short leash and under close scrutiny.

No stigma? Where's the drama in that?

Friday, February 15, 2008

The sweetest day

Valentine's Day 2004
13,000 feet elevation

Although it was a challenge to ski in a gown, the dress turned out to be surprisingly aerodynamic.

We were up really high--above the tree line--and although the photo flattens out the slope, it was definitely not flat. I'm the dot in the middle. Pretty awesome freakin' view.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Replace a bad habit wih a good one?

Sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar,sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar,sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar.

This reading selection was about as satisfying as eating a piece of fruit instead of a Hershey bar.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'll be back soon

I desperately need to vent my brain, but alas...I've been so busy, I barely have time to sort my thoughts let alone express them.

Between my real job and the start-up nonprofit (which is on my own time), I'm too exhausted to write intelligently anyway. I haven't even been able to check on any of the other blogs I read regularly.


Sophie update: She doing great and has her spunk back. She's jumping up on the bed, couch, and credenza (where her food is kept away from the dog) without any problem at all. Her stitches are out, the onesies are gone, and my husband has almost forgiven himself. Purr.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Is it just me?

Customer service--or lack thereof--seems to be a black cloud that follows me through life. I don't think I do anything to bring it upon myself, yet the problem persists.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped to put gas in my car. It was bitter cold out and windy. My husband got out of the car to pump the gas, using pay-at-the pump. He swiped my gas card and the little screen said, "See attendant." He tried again with the same result. We figured it was a glitch with card reader, but since the weather was so bad, we skipped the trip to the cashier and just used a different card.

On Sunday we were running errands and the fuel light came on. We stopped at another gas station in the same chain. Again, my husband swiped my gas charge card, and again the message appeared indicating I needed to see the attendant.

I pulled out my cell phone and called the customer service number on the card. After hearing an automated attendant tell me my balance, credit available, date of last payment and that no payment was due at this time, I pushed zero to reach a real, live human. Except...they don't work nights or weekends.

I got out of the car and went in to see the cashier. "The card reader keeps telling me to see the attendant."

The young woman behind the counter took my card and said, "Well, I don't know what the problem is. I can run it from in here. How much do you want?

Me: "I need to fll it."
Her: "Well, how much would that be?"
Me: "I don't know. I won't know until I fill the tank."
Her: "Um, I can't run the card without an amount. How much do you want?
Me: "I'm not sure because I'm not psychic and I can't foresee how much gas the car will need for a fill-up."
Her: "Oh, OK. I'll run it for $40. Do you think that will be enough?"
Me: "Well, if it's too much, can you refund back the extra?"
Her: "I'll try it."

She swiped the card and said, "Oh, it says to call for special authorization." I looked at her for a second, waiting for her to pick up the phone and call for the authorization. I finally said, "Go ahead and call. I can wait."

She handed the card back to me and said, "Oh, we don't do that. We don't have an authorization code or anything like that. We don't call for authorization. We can't do anything like that. You have to call."

I was stunned. I was using the gas company's credit card, yet the station couldn't get authorization to run a credit card for their own company? It didn't seem possible. Again we used a different card because the customer service line was closed on Sunday.

When I got home, I noticed that the gas card is actually managed by Citibank, my sworn enemy and nemesis. My husband thinks that somehow I have managed to tweak the nerves of someone at Citibank yet again, but I assured him that I haven't called or written regarding this account in at least three years.

I really don't want to call. I'm afraid I'll just lose my temper, and the last time I did that, it didn't turn out very well for me.

I think I'll just cut up that card, close the account, and leave it at that.

Dear god...the gas station attendants have no way to authoize a card? The number to inquire about it as a customer is not available on the weekends?

What the fuck?

Monday, February 4, 2008


I really have a lot to say, but I went to the eye doctor a little while ago, and my eyes are still totally dilated.. I can't see very well, and the light from the computer screen hurts my eyes. On the other hand, all of the lights outside look like sparkly stars. The headlights on the ride home were nothing short of psychadelic (my husband drove).

Since I can't write much right now, I will leave you with this thought to ponder by poet and musician Leonard Cohen:

There is a crack in everything,
that's how the light gets in.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Britney, Part II

I walked in the door at the end of a very long day. It was 7:30 and I had been out seeing in-home clients across town. That is draining in and of itself.

My husband met me at the door. He was visibly agitated. "Did you see this shit with Britney Spears?" I had to admit that whatever the latest development was, it hadn't been covered on National Public Radio, the only station I listen to in the car.

"Oh my god, May, they admitted her again for a 72-hour hold. Half the goddamned police force came out for it. There were like 50 cops in a procession to the hospital. That is just wrong!"

I shrugged off my coat and looked at my husband. "Why were there so many cops? Did she do something?"

He told me that according to the news reports, no, she hadn't "done" anything. I am not a big Britney fan, but I could see that my husband was very involved with the incident. He was upset. Agitated. Emotional. It had nothing to do with Britney.

My husband sat on the sofa and shook his head. He said that some things in life are sacred and there is a time when discretion and privacy come before all else. It's the decent and humane thing.

When we talked some more, we agreed that the obscene coverage of Britney Spears's mental health crisis goes on unchallenged because it speaks to a larger issue: the attitude this culture has regarding emotional and mental problems. Somehow, it's OK to respect a patient's privacy under all other circumstances--including cosmetic surgery--but tabloid frenzy is perfectly acceptable for mental illness. Why is that? Why is it OK to point and gawk at anyone in Britney's situation? Where is the respect?

Scandalous laughing stock. What an incentive to seek help voluntarily.