All The Damn Lies

:::: Before you read the following post, please note that I do believe that murderers belong behind bars. I feel that anyone who can take the life of another person falls in the category of the vilest type of human being. I had a close friend of mine murdered and watched the heartbreak and pain of another friend deal with the murder and loss of her niece. I am well aware of the ripple effect that a murder has on family and friends of the victim. And I do believe that anyone who is capable of taking a life should be locked away from society. This is not about freedom or sympathy for murderers. It’s about understanding humanity as a whole and our willingness to get revenge–even when innocence and mental health are obvious. ::::

I recently finished watching “Confessions of a Killer” on Netflix. I knew nothing about Henry Lee Lucas. Which was nice. I was able to watch the documentary roll out as if I was a juror in a trial- remaining unbiased while taking in all the evidence.

Initially, when hearing that Lucas had murdered his own mother and supposed girlfriend- I thought to myself that that was clear cut. After all, he confessed. But then when I started seeing the video clips, it became obvious that things were not what they seemed.

Lucas was not only mentally ill but, he was being manipulated by the authorities to confess to not one murder but somewhere near 600. The hardest bit, for me at least, was the fact that he was put on death row for a crime that he didn’t commit. And there were those who were more than happy to cheer on the fact that an innocent man was going to be killed for killing.

Why are humans so eager to watch people be executed? I think that’s for another post.

This post is about how quickly we are to assume one side of a story. I am not saying that this is true of all cases. It’s not.

Was Lucas guilty? Of course. He killed his mother.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative–  for every 9 nine people executed, 1 is innocent. I am not going to get into the death penalty debate in this post, but you can assume from this that I am strongly against capital punishment.

No. This post is about how mentally ill prisoners are treated by authorities and the justice system. About how easily we are capable of only looking at criminals through a pinhole rather than looking at the whole picture. A person is either innocent or guilty-no one wants to see the gray bits that wade in the middle. Five to ten percent of prisoners on death row have a severe mental illness. I have already discussed the wrongfulness of placing prisoners with mental illness in a prison in my post on Ed Gein.

How is it ok to place a criminal with severe mental illness on death row?

My guess is that we live in a society that already places a stigma on those who have a mental illness. 

It’s easy to dismiss any discussion or talk on mental illness (and yes this does count even those with major depression and anxiety) and psychiatric care. I am often curious about whether the execution of a mentally ill inmate is more about getting rid of society’s “burden” than it is about the crime itself.

People here “he murdered…” and quickly brush off a defense of insanity. Yes, there are a lot of criminals who try to use that defense. But honestly, someone with a diagnosed mental illness like schizophrenia really is pleading insanity.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. No one chooses to be mentally ill. And no mentally ill inmate should be placed in prison, let alone placed on death row.

Its time society starts to look at the gray in between guilt and innocence.

Xanax and Caffeine

I am really good at introverting. I think I have surpassed the skills required to be an introvert. Wait? How could I be an introvert? After all, I am a performer. I am a professional dancer. I have performed for audiences between 10 and 500. I am also very outspoken. I say how I feel and fight for what is right. So maybe I am extroverted???

Whether introverted or extroverted, I know one thing for certain: I have an anxiety disorder.

I wake up with it. I go to bed with it. I perform with it. I work with it. It’s always there. Anxiety is a part of me. I am not defined by it. However, I do not believe I would be me if I didn’t have it.

Yes. There are days when my anxiety is so bad, its almost impossible to even walk out the door of my house to go to work. There are days when grocery shopping makes my heart race. There are days when I hate driving because my brain keeps telling me something dangerous is going to happen. Do I BELIEVE that something is actually going to happen? No. But anxiety thinks I should believe it. And that is what helps me live my life with anxiety.

Anxiety makes me want to believe that at any moment, the floor is going to fall out. I experienced this daily. But I do not let it control me. When it tells me something it wants me to believe, I have to mentally challenge myself to realize it’s a lie.

960x0

Do I require benzodiazepines? At one time, I thought I did. I was hooked on Ativan. It was my lifeline. I became dependent on it because my anxiety wanted me to believe that if I didn’t take them- then something was going to happen. It took me years (and therapy) to learn how to control my thoughts and feelings. How to talk myself down from panic attacks. Not that I do not have one here or there. I do. And I do have Ativan to help me. However, I only take it when I really need it. When I can’t control my thoughts. And that’s ok.

There are still days when I have to cancel plans last minute or think it’s just to peoplely out there. I know those days will always come. But I have worked hard to recognize when I am able to talk myself down from a panic attack. I have recognized when my anxiety is trying to make me feel scared- and I have learned how to quiet the noise.

Whether I am introverted or extroverted who knows! What I do know is that learning how to live with anxiety so it doesn’t control my life is what is really important.

The Butcher of Plainfield: Ed Gein’s Case for Insanity

I originally wrote this for my Forensic Psychology class (which I loved by the way!). I decided to post it here since I feel it’s important in today’s society; especially the stigma of mental illness and inmates. Oh yeah, and I got an A in the class….


On a cold November day in 1957, in the little town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, Bernice Worden, owner of the town’s hardware store, was visited by a little man with a crooked smile. Edward Theodore Gein was known to everyone as being a nice, friendly, quiet man with a little bit of strangeness to him. Bernice was not surprised to see him that morning since he had been in the day before inquiring about antifreeze. While Bernice was filling up a glass container with antifreeze, Ed noticed a rack of rifles for sale behind the counter. After paying for the antifreeze, Ed asked Bernice if he could look at one of the rifles; he was interested in trading his in for a new one. Bernice removed one of the .22 caliber rifles and handed it to Ed. While Ed was examining the rifle, Bernice looked out of her shop window to the gas station across the street. Quietly behind her back, Ed had placed a bullet cartridge in the rifle and shot Bernice in the back of the head.

            Later that evening, Bernice’s son and the town’s Deputy Sheriff, Frank Worden was told that the hardware store had been closed all day. Finding that unusual Frank entered the store to find blood on the floor, the cash register gone and receipt for antifreeze. Frank was aware of who the suspect was; he was in the store the day before when Ed had come in inquiring about that antifreeze. Immediately, Frank alerted the Washuara County Sheriff’s office who put out a notice that they were looking for Ed Gein in suspicion of Bernice Worden’s disappearance. The first place they went to find Ed Gein was his home; an old run-down farmhouse on the outskirts of town. When the officers entered the house, they were not prepared for the horrors that lurked inside. Bernice Worden, hung upside down by her ankles on a crossbar and arms tied to her wrists, sliced open and dressed like deer. She was decapitated, her head lying in a nearby bag with hooks going through her ears, ready to be hung as a trophy. And that was not the only gruesome discovery that the officers would later discover. Ed Gein’s house was full of human remains which were fashioned into morbid household items. Refurbished furniture and lamps; masks, gloves, belts and even a mammary vest– all made from human skin. There were also skulls as decorations on his four-poster bed, skull caps used as bowls and boxes of female body parts filled the cramped and tiny rooms. Finally, a call came in that Gein had been taken into custody after being found at a local grocery store (Schechter, 1998a, p. 72). It would be later revealed that most Ed Geins “trophies” were from nine-eleven corpses dug up from various local cemeteries. Thus, began the story of America’s most bizarre and influential murderers of all time. But, was Ed Gein a truly devious and deviant criminal? Or was he the result of a life of social isolation, a fanatically religious and strict mother and an undiagnosed mental illness?

Ed Gein was born on August 27, 1906, the youngest child of George and Augusta Gein. Living on the outskirts of the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, the Gein’s were recluses from the rest of society. Ed Gein’s father was an alcoholic, who would spend most of his pay at a local tavern and abusive to both his wife and children and died of liver failure in 1940.

August Gein was a religious extremist who made her home her own self-contained little world. While Ed grew up with his older brother Henry, there would be no companionship that could change the influence of a puritanical mother who would frequently shame her children. She would preach to her two sons about the evils in the world and did everything in her power to keep them away from the hurts of society. She would physically abuse them if they made friends at school; making it clear that they should stay away from those who would turn them from their piety. She would read to her boys nightly from the Bible, quoting scripture and reminding them that society is full of evil, more specifically, that women were sinful. Her most significant proselytization was the Book of Revelations which specifically discusses the Whore of Babylon; a reference she would use to describe corrupt and sinful women. These specific teachings would have a profound influence on her youngest son.  To Ed, his relationship with his mother was the most important relationship he would ever have. When his brother Henry died, and Ed had his mother to himself, and he did everything he could to make her proud of him and doted on her morning through night. Ed loved his mother completely, regardless of whether she reciprocated her feelings or not. In his eyes, his mother was the most pious and magnificent woman in the world. Whenever asked about his mother, Ed would tear up and reply “she was pure goodness(Schechter, 1998b, p. 14).

It was not until his mother passed away on December 29, 1945, that Ed’s descent into madness began. Despite Ed’s strange affect, he was seen in the Plainfield community as an upstanding citizen. Disheveled and often wearing his signature checkered hat, Ed would work frequent odd jobs, functioned as a handyman to the citizens of Plainfield and even worked as a babysitter. He may have always been on the wrong end of a joke, but Ed was a friendly, quiet and kind man. Occasionally, Ed would say something or give a strange look that would make some uncomfortable; but they would just brush it off as Ed being Ed! However, it was shortly after the death of his mother, that Ed began to go to cemeteries with the belief that he “could raise the dead by willpower” (Schechter, 1998c, p.186). This was also the time that Ed Gein began to remove corpses of freshly buried middle-age women—women who reminded him of his mother. Ed would bring the corpses back to his now dilapidated family farm and remove the skin from their bodies. He would use the skin and other parts of the body to construct gloves, leggings, belts, masks and a vest with breasts. Later, he admitted, he would wear them to essentially become his mother.  During Ed Gein’s 1957 police interview, Gein admitted that between 1947-1952 that he exhumed between nine to eleven bodies from three local graveyards. Additionally, when asked why he not only murdered Bernice Worden but, as was later discovered, the murder of Mary Hogan, a popular tavern owner who went missing in 1954, Ed replied that they were “disreputable women with bad reputations” (Ed Gein’s Full Confession, 2019, p 68).

Ed Gein was arraigned in Washuara County Court on one count of first-degree murder. He entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and was found mentally incompetent and was unfit to stand trial. Ed was sent to the Criminal State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a maximum-security facility in Wapun, Wisconsin and later sent to Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin for his initial psychiatric assessment. It was during his stay in the hospital, that Ed Gein was interviewed by several doctors. During the interviews, he would frequently discuss memory deficits as well auditory and visual hallucinations; stating that he often saw faces in leaves, heard voices and would see buzzards flying over half-burnt trees. Most notable was Ed’s discussion of the motivation to create “a substitute for his mother in the form of a replica that could be kept indefinitely” and showed an “abnormally magnified attachment to his mother” (Schechter 1998d, p 189). The doctors finally diagnosed with Schizophrenia of an undifferentiated type. Schizophrenia is a mental illness whose symptoms can include “delusions, hallucinations, trouble with thinking and concentration, and lack of motivation” (Parekh, 2017). Schizophrenia is also marked by distorted perceptions and disordered and confused thinking.

It would take ten full years for Ed Gein to be declared competent enough to stand trial. On November 14, 1968, Ed Geins trial began and only lasted a week. He was found guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric facility.  He was sent back to Mendota State Hospital to carry out the rest of his days. During his stay in Mendota, Ed was a model patient. He remained quiet, mild-mannered, friendly and often helpful in doing odd jobs around the hospital. In July of 1978, after senility and a long bout of cancer, Ed Gein died of respiratory failure. With only four attendants, Ed Gein was buried next to his mother in Plainfield, Wisconsin.

Ed Gein’s case is a great example of secondary psychopathy and the M’Naghten rule. Secondary psychopathy creates antisocial behavior and is caused by “social disadvantage and other psychopathology” (Huss, 2009a, p 80). Ed clearly had this form of psychopathy considering not only his upbringing in a poor and abusive family but also in his lack of social skills. Moreover, the M’Naghten rule played a key role in sending Ed Gein to a psychiatric hospital for the rest of his life. Insanity relies on the person having a diagnosed mental illness (in this case schizophrenia) and being unable to distinguish between right and wrong (Huss, 2009b, p.103). Furthermore, there is a clear indication that Ed suffered from severe social anxiety and had a very difficult time relating to other people, more specifically, women. Ed’s abnormal devotion to his deceased mother made it difficult for him to have a normal relationship with a woman and he remained a bachelor his whole life. Naturally, of course, there was a public outcry over the guilty by the reasoning of insanity from the people of Plainfield. They firmly believed that Ed could have been devious enough to pretend he had a mental illness. However, after reading Geins confession, I firmly believe that Ed Gein did suffer from a mental illness and that the sentence was appropriate.

Ed Gein is probably one of the most complicated killers I have ever researched. To the residents of Plainfield, Ed was viewed as a kindhearted and always willing to help kind of guy. Although he was a bit strange and remained an outcast, he never gave anyone the impression that he would commit the crimes that he did. While reading his confessions as well as Harold Schechter’s book, it was impossible not to feel some type of sorrow for him.  I would never condone the murder of an innocent person nor the desecration of corpses, however, given Ed’s upbringing, I feel that he was set up for failure. From a sociological perspective, Ed was kept from establishing normal peer relationships growing up and did not have many if any close friends. Peer groups have a significant influence on psychological and social adjustments for individuals (Schaeffer, 2013, p. 261). Peer groups also have an influence on a person’s gender role-something that often comes up frequently in the Ed Gein case. There is no doubt, that aside from the pitiful, sad and lonely person that was Ed Gein, there was a darker side that he could not escape from. With his complex and twisted crimes, it is no wonder the Ed Gein has become one of the most influential killers in American History.ed-gein-680x1024-680x675

References

Ed Gein Full Confession. (2019, 5 10) pg 68. Retrieved from Serial Killers Ink: http://serialkillersink.net/skistore/ed-gein-full-confession-226-pages-pdf-instant-download.html

Huss, M. (2009a). Forensic Psychology: Research, Clinical Practice, and Applications. pg. 80. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

Huss, M. (2009b). Forensic Psychology: Research, Clinical Practice, and Applications. pg. 103. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

Parekh, R. (2017, 7 1). What is Schizophrenia? Retrieved from American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/schizophrenia/what-is-schizophrenia

Schaefer, R. (2013). pg. 261 Sociology: A Brief Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Schechter, H. (1998a). Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein the Original “Psycho”. pg.72  New York: Pocket Books.

Schechter, H. (1998b). Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein the Original “Psycho”. pg. 14. New York: Pocket Books.

Schechter, H. (1998c). Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein the Original “Psycho”. pg. 186. New York: Pocket Books.

Schechter, H. (1998d). Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein the Original “Psycho”. pg. 189. New York: Pocket Books.

 

 

Let’s Get P.C. on MENTAL ILLNESS!

When is society going to start getting politically correct when it comes to mental illness? When are words like “crazy,” “nutter,” “looney ” going to become just as offensive and disgusting to use as the words nigger and fag? When someone utters those words everyone stops and stares–it defines that persons way of thinking. But when someone refers to a person with a mental illness as a “looney” no one even bats and eye. As a friend said, “its much more acceptable to be an alcoholic than mentally ill.”

We have a friend who is a paranoid schizophrenic. He refuses to get real help, even though several people have talked to him about it. And yes, sometimes he is a bit much. He has rants and conspiracies–talks to otherworldly beings etc. (and as a Shamanic practitioner–I do not doubt that he does!). His reality–what he sees — is not our definition of reality. His reality is defined by his illness. The schizophrenic mind does not agree with reality. It is a psychosis. And, he cant help that. He is a good person with a good heart who is very intelligent. He cant help having a mental illness. No one knows what deck of cards they are going to be handed when they are born into this life.

Yes his behavior can be erratic and yes you do have to constantly redirect him during conversation. But he is not a bad person. He recently has been kicked out of a cafe for his rants, and has had altercations with other folks. In the past, he has had the shit kicked out him from police and people in society who don’t understand the simple fact he is sick. I am not saying that he should get away with every little thing–and that his behavior is always justified. But he is ill. His angry outbursts are not out of malicious intent; he can not help what is brain does. Outbursts and angry rants are par for the course. Its part of the illness which is schizophrenia. And like cancer or any other physical illness, schizophrenia varies from person to person.

What upsets me, is the reaction people have about him. Not compassion. Not empathy. But utter disgusting hypocrisy and hateful words. For example  (and these are direct quotes):

” I can read a loon as soon as they open their mouth to speak.”

Ask the alien race hes hangin with…they might be able to shed some light on the dysfunction.”

a0549a470e6a7b35b59c09ae5c61cc5a

“Loon”—“dysfunction.” Would you say this about a person with cancer? Parkinsons? Would you tell them they are full of shit? Would you call them names? Absolutely not–because its WRONG.

And yet, when it comes to mental illness…people say whatever they want about the person because they think, “well,  they are just crazy.” And that is why society can be a disgusting hypocritical beast. Its not OK to use racist or bigoted words, but it is OK to use hateful mean words to someone with a mental diagnosis? How is this acceptable? And people who find it funny, should be ashamed of themselves. No matter how a person is reacting with mental illness–no aspect of it is funny. No one makes fun of mentally disabled people–Asbergers, Mental Retardation, Down Syndrome….because they can SEE the disability. Well guess what–mental illness is no different!

I cant tell you how many times I have been called “crazy,” “emotional,” “full of shit,” “faking it.”—And you know..that used to really hurt me. It hurt because no one understood the battle I deal with every single day of my life. When I am a happy person and and yet my brain is full of despair and anxiety. Now, I get pissed off. And I get pissed off when people in my tribe are called these things because society thinks its okay.

Its about time that society start getting PC about mental illness. People should think about their words before they open their mouth about someone who is mumbling to themselves on the bus, or crying all the time, or fearful of going out to go shopping because their brain is on constant fight or flight–or any of the other mental illnesses out there that appear to be “crazy” to society.

 

The Dark Side of the Light Keepers

Living with depression is not easy. I mean, no chronic illness is easy to live with; but depression doesn’t always show “physical” symptoms. So when you tell someone you have an illness, they are looking for obvious symptoms. It’s not always easy for me to tell people when I am feeling depressed. I have been masking it most of my life, its what I have become used to. I mean, sure, I will tell someone “hey if I seem quite or off its because I am going through a bad bout of depression,” and they either get or they don’t. I have gotten so good at crying in the bathroom at work, or pretending my contacts are bothering me when people ask me if I am ok because my eyes are puffy and red from secretly crying. I have become so good at telling people I am not feeling good when I get asked to hang out because telling people that my brain has decided to crap out on me is easier.

I have been fortunate enough that my last two employers understood what was going on and allowed me time off when I just…well…when I just couldn’t. When I felt that getting out of bed wasn’t worth it. When all I wanted to do was sit in my pj’s on the couch and cry my eyes out for no goddamned reason.

But it still doesn’t make having depression easier. I have become really good at hiding the darkness within my light on a daily basis. I have depression all the time, but some days…or weeks…its worse than others. But I try, damned hard, to push the light through. Its hard for people to understand….that there is a dark side to the light keepers.

I have one of the most bubbly, cheerful, happiest personalities. I LOVE my life. I LOVE myself. I worked hard to get to where I am…and now that I am finally here…I could not be happier. A great partner, awesome family, great job, beautiful home, a great wellness practice, my dancing, my coven…everything I have dreamed of is now a reality. But that reality includes the fact that I live with a mental illness. An illness that sometimes, despite KNOWING I am happy, makes me feel like some dark storm is enveloping me and will not  GO AWAY.

th

I AM A LIGHT KEEPER. I hold the love and bliss that the Universe has given me deep within my soul and heart. But sometimes its hard to keep the darkness at bay. People have a hard time understanding—depression makes you sad FOR NO REASON. Despite being a light keeper…..my brain likes to let the darkness in. Its like fighting a battle of good and evil on a daily basis…and sometimes the good will come and last for weeks. Other times, the darkness wins and eats the light until the light can finally get enough courage to battle again.

And its EXHAUSTING. I am constantly exhausted. In addition to the depression–the anxiety that goes along with it!? Imagine being in a grocery store and having to leave a full cart of food in the middle of the aisle because you are having a panic attack so bad you feel like your heart is going to come out of your throat! I have!!!

But through it all…I still manage to hold onto the light and push forward. This was the deck of cards I was handed and its the deck of cards I am going to play with for the rest of my life. And if I have learned anything, its that Light Keepers have a pretty good poker face when it comes to playing with depression.

The Dark Side of the Moon: When the Light Fades

There is always a light and dark side to everything in life. And for those of us with depression, the dark side tends to be the most prominent. I have battled depression most of my life, with an attempted suicide at age 14 followed by panic attacks later in life and then several shrinks. I finally found a therapist I liked and from 2009-2013 I saw her and a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner during the darkest hours. I am very open about having clinical depression because I have to be the voice for the thousands out there afraid to talk about because they are afraid of being judged. In 2014 I was doing great—so great my social worker decided that she only needed to see me on as needed basis and my NP tapered my meds. I was feeling on top of the world.

 11109263_10205794143425678_124443065777238698_n

Then, I recently, and abruptly had a life change. Within two weeks, my boyfriend and I were packed up and heading to Arizona. There we were on a Saturday night enjoying some wine and sake listening to some old school tunes in an apartment I lived in for 15 years to suddenly packing boxes on Sunday, renting a U-Haul and driving 2300 miles away from the only place I had called home. It happened so fast I had no time to comprehend what the hell just happened. The whole cliché of having the carpet pulled out from under you—is serious shit.

Here we are in Arizona and the adjustment has been difficult. We went from a major city to a new town. We know no one. Have np physical support system here and are basically fending for ourselves. I have to find a job pronto to make sure we can pay rent which means finding meaningless work to pay the bills.

And what happens but that the dark side appears. I woke up one day in tears. I was crying to the point where I couldn’t stop. My depression had returned. YES—the move was the TRIGGER—but not the reason.

People who don’t have depression don’t understand what it’s like. Imagine that you are just moving along a bright sunny day when suddenly someone throws a pitch black can’t see shit bag over your face and never ever takes it off. It’s like that. A dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. And thoughts-bad thoughts come in your mind. And YOU CAN’T HELP IT. It’s just there.

I have had so many people tell me it’s the move. To give it time. To find joy in the things around me. Believe me…I am trying. We have gone to canyons, creeks, walked, enjoyed the beauty of the place—but my lack of happiness isn’t with where I live…it’s chemically going on in my brain.

10341402_10205794146785762_8517411146470775220_n

I think that’s hardest thing about depression–people think it’s an external thing that can be “fixed”–when it’s a chemical thing that can’t be fixed just “adjusted”….and I appreciate everyone’s helping…. but depression can’t be fixed with a walk or giving my move time…if it were…I would be walking all day every day and loving every bit of Flagstaff. It’s hard for people who don’t have a clinical diagnosis to understand that depression is not always due to outside circumstances. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and offerings of advice during times like this, but want I everyone to understand that it’s not going to “fix” what’s happening inside my head. I can’t just flip a switch and “be happy”—nor can I flip a switch and decide that all the chemical mishaps in my brain will fix themselves.

Being supportive is awesome. Being able to just be there—and listen—is even more awesome.

A Road For the Spirit to Pass Over

As most of you know, I consider all people with mental illness part of my Tribe. Suffering from a major depressive disorder and anxiety–I know the pain of the darkness. With love, support, therapy and psychiatric assistance–I have been able to move past those dark days. But some in my Tribe cant. And while its not always the case, most people in our Tribe have suicidal ideations….We think about the “S” word—often–but doesn’t mean we would do it….Some people have no idea what that’s like. During my last bout in the dark, when my meds stopped working, I was thinking about what it would feel like to just not wake up. I am open about my illness. I don’t pretend and I refuse to hide it. I am open to everyone about my battle. I am not ashamed. Now I am new meds and starting that fun roller coaster ride again……..

20121120-hermit-x306-1353426879

Sadly, while the majority *think* about suicide in our veil of darkness–some in our Tribe find it the only way out of the shadows. When a member of our Tribe dies—whether it be by their own hand, natural causes or whatever else–it hurts us all. When a member of our Tribe, whether we knew them personally, whether they were famous or our neighbor, departs this realm, all of us in the Tribe feel it differently than those who don’t suffer. We get it. We really get it. We have been there.

I will say this though, I do not believe suicide is a selfish act.  I believe its an act of desperation. When you cant see beyond the veil. Nothing forward. Nothing back. Just a wall. I never blame the person who commits suicide.

In 2011 a coworker, who seemed so happy, left work early, went home, and shot himself. I remember the grief counselor coming in to talk to us. My coworkers all sat around the conference table and everyone had to talk about how his suicide made them feel. I was the only person who said I was angry. While everyone said how selfish he was, how he did not matter anymore.  I was angry–I said it was because it did not need to happen if people were not so afraid to talk about mental illness to begin with. If my coworker didn’t feel ashamed–if when you asked him, “how are you” — and he gave a real answer–not just one to end the conversation–he may never have made that choice.  My other coworkers didn’t quite get that. When I said that I had tried to kill myself when I was 14, they all gave me that judgmental “she’s a crazy” look.

I am going to state these statements–and they are based purely on my own feelings and thoughts towards suicide and mental illness:

1. Suicide is not selfish: Nor can it be ignored. People who take their own lives do so because they see no other option. Suicide is part of a much larger picture. Suicide isn’t something somebody does because “so and so” needed attention. Actually suicide doesn’t need to even occur. If the stigma about talking about your feelings wasn’t so blatantly destroyed in this society, less people would feel the only way out was taking their own life.

2. Suicidal talk is not just talk: If someone says, “I am thinking about ending my life,” the WRONG response is “well don’t talk about it, just do it.” When I told friends when I was in high school that I wanted to end it all–that was the response I got. Looking back-they were not my friends. The CORRECT response would be, “lets go and talk.”

3. Don’t blame the person: Blame the society we live in. Back in the 1800’s, people in my tribe were locked up in asylums and never spoken about. Why? Simple. Self preservation. How horrible would it be if Mrs. Smith divulged that her daughter was locked away in a “looney bin”? What a shame it would bring about on the family! So in the act of self preservation, our Tribe has to be made to feel like outcasts. Keep our feelings in less be judged. If a person decides to take their own life—its because they felt there was no one or no place to turn to. Imagine what that loneliness feels like.

4. No one dies in vain: I truly and honestly believe that death–any death–happens for a reason. Whether a still born baby–an elderly person from natural causes–a murder victim–and a suicide victim. The Universe does not take away without giving back--even if that giving back is hard lesson. And with suicide, most times, the lesson is about the stigma surrounding mental illness.

5. Don’t scurry around the issue: Nothing pisses me off more than when I hear: “X was going through a divorce so X was feeling really depressed,” “X had a severe drinking problem and went to rehab because X was depressed,” “X’s friend is in therapy so X just wants attention,” “X just moved to a new school so X didn’t feel like they fit in.” Lets not skip around the issue. All of those “things” X was going through—-the key word is X was DEPRESSED. It has nothing to do with mommy and daddy issues, the wife bailing and taking the dog, the asshole boss. Depression, believe it or not, typically has NOTHING to do with what is outside the person. Being put in a new situation, life stress, drinking, divorce–those can exacerbate the depression–but major depression, just like most mental illnesses are biological. People in my tribe cant help what they feel. Its like your happy as hell–your life is amazing–but your brain is telling you the opposite. Imagine a constant tug of war between your brain and your heart. Rationalism and non-rationalism. All the time. Non-stop. We cant rationalize what our brain is telling us otherwise because somewhere–our brain chemistry is on overdrive.

6. (I am going to take heat for this) There is no cure for mental illness: We can have studies up the wall. We can make members of our tribe human lab rats. But the truth is, Big Pharma knows it racking in the dollars–hell I am participating in their gas guzzling pill creating industry every time I pick up my Celexa, Valium, Ativan and Wellbutrin. Just like AIDS and cancer–if there is a cure—we will never know. Big Pharma likes the money they can make from our tribe. Whether we want to admit it or not. And Big Pharma’s know, that every drug they make–if it works–at some point people will be desperate enough to drop thousands of dollars on a medicine their insurance will not cover because its “experimental” ~ so what is the CURE. TALK. OPENNESS. When someone asks “how are you feeling”—REALLY give them an answer. Not just “I am fine.” No. Say, “I am depressed and I need to talk.” And if they really care, and if they really want to help break the stigma…….then they will listen.

No one needs to be the next Freud or Jung. All they need to do is LISTEN. Break the stigma by learning how to ACTIVELY LISTEN to how someone is feeling–don’t jump in and tell them “get over it, its ok,” or “your life is perfect.” No. 

Just Listen.

I am writing this post obviously, because of the passing of Robin Williams…a member of my Tribe. May he open the roads for the spirits to pass over……

Time for change is NOW.

robin-williams-quotes-1