Over Everything Brain

Oh, 2am anxiety and your devilish sleep-stealing-ness. I’ve not had a chance to miss you yet! Perhaps try staying away for longer next time?

So freaking tired today, but still upbeat, because after this I am of for the rest of the week. The construction guys were louder than usual this morning, so I don’t anticipate being able to sleep in tomorrow or Friday, but we’ll see. I have some things on the go that I will probably do better getting up early for, anyway.

Met up with a friend for catch-up drinks last night after work. So much fun! And really nice – I feel like our conversation covered a lot of territory in a relatively short period of time, and that’s always a good thing when it happens. Hopefully we’ll do it a tad more regularly now that the weather is nicer, so that we have less catching up to do next time!

Sucks that my brain wouldn’t give me a break in the wee hours this morning, though. I hate not having a place to go to in my mind when stuff like that happens. It makes everything more difficult, really. I’ll have to figure out a new one soon, I guess. It’s like my subconscious knew the whole time when I lost my usual go-to…maybe even before I realized it myself…and now it’s toying with me at every opportunity. Lame brain.

I used to want to be some kind of detective when I grew up. Not like a cop, exactly, but more like Nancy Drew. I read a bunch of Nancy Drew as a kid. Maybe all of it. I had a library card and my mom and I would go to the library quite regularly and I’d sit on the creaky wooden floor in the children’s area and pore over all the yellow-spines of the Nancy Drew hard-covered series and try to figure out which ones I hadn’t read yet. It smelled like books in there. I still love that smell.

When I’m rich and famous and design my own house, there will be a library and a movie theatre, and I’ll collect old books so as to always have that smell when I want it, and I’ll have a big air-popper for perfect theatre-style popcorn and hire someone else to clean that mess ’cause I ain’t doing it. There will also be an observatory – perhaps in some kind of tower – and a huge plot of land for all the animals I rescue.

Indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub, sauna, small private gym that I almost never use but when I do it plays 80’s music a lot of the time.

You guys can come over and visit sometimes, and we’ll have full scale murder mysteries to play when we’re feeling particularly feisty. There will, of course, be secret passages and the like, as well.

It’ll probably be on an island (which I’ll also own), but I’ll charter various modes of transportation so you can get there easily, don’t worry.

What was I talking about? Ah yes, detectiving.

I liked all that cool mystery stuff – invisible ink, puzzles, codes, fingerprints, and a trail of clues to follow. I used to try and make up mysteries for myself to solve (this was way before the interwebs, kids, so I couldn’t just Google shit; I had to use my imagination) using old photos and documents and…just anything laying around. I liked calculator watches and anything with hidden compartments. I mean, even now, the deluxe Lost DVD complete series collection boxed set is one of the coolest things I own. I still haven’t discovered all the goodies hidden inside that beauty!

‘Cause therein lies the problem with my career as a private detective. I suck at it.

My brain just doesn’t work that way. I either don’t dig deep enough or, more often, I over-complicate everything. Over-think. Over-analyze. All the overs.

I love, love, love whodunits…wow. My maternal grandmother did, too. That just hit me. She was always reading murder mysteries and such. I never made that connection between her and I until literally just now, as I was typing “whodunits”. In my mind, I was thinking of TV shows and movies more than books, but as soon as I typed that word, I had a vivid recollection of her bookshelves and the jokes about how such a nice, tiny, elderly lady could love reading about such grisly subjects. Nothing to do with whatever I thought I was going to say. Just a sudden link between her and I.

Aww…I miss you, Nanny. ❤

I’m sorry about the stuff I lost. I know you know that, but I also know you know that knowing you know doesn’t make me less sorry.

Anyway. Mysteries. I love immersing myself in them; suck at solving them. That’s kind of why I like the TV series Motive so much, too. It tells you who the victim and killer are right at the beginning, and then it’s all about learning the how and, most importantly, the why. Also, I’m not sure I could love actress Kristin Lehman more than I do already, but you never know. I guess anything is possible.

As I got older and ran out of classic Nancy Drew to read, I spent some time with The Three Investigators, though only in book form. I of course watched Pamela Sue Martin as the girl detective as much as possible…and I think I still have a book at home called Susan Super Sleuth, now that I think about it…Sue is such a good detective name, and yet…I fail. At any rate, I’ve hosted a couple of boxed murder mysteries in my day, and was blessed to have friends get completely into their roles each time. I loooooved all the Carmen Sandiego games, both on the computer and that TV game show thingy. I really want to check out some of the city’s escape rooms someday, too, though I will probably suck at those, too. The brain, the braaaain! The over everything braaaaain.

So long as there aren’t actual lives on the line, or anything, though, puzzling through various types of mysteries is really very fun for me. Be it a book, TV show, film, or something more personally and/or physically involving like murder mystery dinners or escape room puzzles – even games like Clue or those insane word puzzles that I always have to draw a chart for in order to figure out. I love all that stuff, even as I fail at it most of the time. It’s the puzzle, the questions, the awesome gadgets (I love gadgets), and that rare sense of utter victory when you actually figure it out without being told.

I guess that might be part of what makes me a good detective at my job, too. Even with this new system in place, the things I can do can’t really be taught. It’s kind of impressive. My talent in that area only exists here and holds no value in the real world, of course, but at least it exists. I’m feel accomplished – extremely gratified – when I’ve solved one of our little mysteries and sorted everything out.

Then I usually write a lengthy email to document and share my own brilliance, but that usually falls a bit flat. Nevertheless – I know when I rocked something, and I know when I’m one of the only people who could.

In other news, I’ve lost just over 15lbs in just under 4 months, and that ain’t bad. It at least explains why it seemed so much faster than picture memories on Facebook would have me believe.

So that’s good.

Edited to add: I just found this. OMG. The 8-year-old me is squeeing her 8-year-old squee.

On The Need For Mental Health Reform

So, back in 2008, a guy named Vince Li got on a Greyhound bus and, seemingly out of nowhere, started stabbing the young man sleeping next to him, 22-year-old Tim McLean.  Li would go on to sever his victim’s head, show it to the horrified passengers who were huddled on the side of the highway, and then not only remove other parts of McLean’s body, but eat them, as well.

In court, Li was found not criminially responsible for the crime, and sent to a high security psychiatric ward.

Less than 8 years later, he has legally changed his name and is preparing to live on his own again.

I have to say, I am really struggling with this whole thing. On the one hand, I understand that mental illness is a legitimate reason to not be held responsible for committing a crime. On the other hand, this man took the life of another, and while he may be feeling better now, the other passengers, the bus driver, the trucker who stopped to help, the police on the scene (one of whom has since taken his own life) and most of all, the friends and family of Tim McLean, will carry this horror and loss with them for the rest of their lives. I’m just not sure how I feel about someone causing – deliberately or not – so much pain and suffering to others, being able to just move on and live out the rest of his life.

I think this whole scenario serves to highlight the many issues and problems with the way mental health is handled, both in this country and possibly around the world. I think, even though great strides have been made, at its heart, we still don’t really know what to do, what to think, or how to feel. We can couch our thoughts into PC wording, or spread clever memes and hashtags on social media, but I am not sure anyone actually has any real understanding of how best to deal with mental health issues. I’m not sure it’s even possible to really understand, not for those suffering, and not for anyone who is not.

It’s not that people aren’t trying hard enough. I think it’s just such a vast and complex issue overall, and the fact that mental health is completely intangible, and invisible – we can’t touch or see the problem itself, only the external effects of it – that all makes it even more impossible to truly get a grasp on. In addition, actual focus on mental health – in terms of the wider public, at least – has really only come about in recent years, comparatively speaking. We hear horror stories of drilling holes in skulls to release the demons within whenever someone had a headache (along with pretty much anything that happened in asylums around the turn of the 20th century or so), we shake our heads in dismay at tales of electroshock therapy and the mishandling of postpartum depression. Even the effects of addiction and withdrawl haven’t been fully investigated and treated as of yet. There’s still so much more we don’t know or understand than we can claim to have a handle on, and that’s kind of terrifying, if you think about it.

We have procedures and punishments for those who break the law outright, deliberately and knowingly. Those have changed a lot over the years, too, as we learn more about incarceration and rehabilitation. We aren’t sure what to do with the criminally insane – those who seemingly can’t be rehabilitated and released back into the wild (aka civilization), so we keep them locked up indefinitely, for the safety of themselves and others.

But we have a very vague line drawn where accountability and responsibility is concerned, and that is part of the problem. We agree that some people shouldn’t be punished for crimes that they can not be found criminally responsible for. But…what can be done, instead? Can justice still be served if the offender can’t ever be held accountable for his or her actions?

Li claimed he’d been hearing the voice of God for a good 4 years before “God” told him to kill Tim McLean. There’s zero point in trying to find the logic in it. Like, God also said “Thou shalt not kill” – there was no caveat in that statement. And did God also tell Li to eat parts of the guy he’d been instructed to kill? To defile the body and cut pieces from it to put in his pockets? To show the head of his victim to the other passengers on the bus once he’d removed it? Did God create the aliens that he wanted Li to save the rest of us from?

Did God tell him to carry a big-ass knife around with him, just in case?

We’ll never know any of that, because we weren’t inside Vince Li’s head, and if we were, everything would make sense to us, because that’s how mental illness works. You see one thing; the rest of the world sees something else entirely. Everything you see is real, whether it’s actually there, or not.

In that way, reality is subjective.

So, basically, to Vince Li’s mind, he did nothing wrong. He was a hero, in fact, saving us from aliens, or whatever.

At the time.

But what about now? What does he think and feel abuot what he’s done now that he’s medicated and doesn’t hear voices anymore? His condition is currently not curable, so he must remain medicated for the remainder of his life. And there’s nothing to say that his treatment won’t need to be adjusted in the future to remain effective, so hopefully he’ll be closely monitored for the rest of his life, too, since he won’t be able to determine on his own if his reality is slipping again.

And that’s the thing, really, because who can tell? In the days and weeks leading up to the murder, no one noticed anything wrong or different about him. He’d been hearing God’s voice for 4 years, and apparently no one could tell anything was amiss. So how do we, as a society, know that we’ll still be safe even when he’s back out in the world, living on his own?

We don’t.

Maybe it’ll be fine, and he’ll never do anything like that again. But guaranteed there’s more people out there listening to the voice of God speaking to them and only them, every day. And no one around them can tell. There will always be more people slipping, and breaking from reality. There will always be crimes committed for which the perpetrators are not criminally responsible.

I realize that we can’t just lock everyone up and throw away the key, or hospitalize them until they die. I understand that, in this case as in many others, Li is and will continue to be closely monitored, even when he’s on his own.

But I think we need to find a better way. Some way to not only research and find new methods of treatment, but to also see that a better sense of justice is served. What Li did may never seem real to him, but it’ll never be anything but real to those who suffered as a result of his actions. There needs to be some form of punishment, some price to pay. Some attempt at atonement for crimes committed.

And not just in this case, nor just in cases where there is an added criminal element. We need to do better for mental health issues overall. Even something that seems simple from the outside – depression = sad, so therefore sunshine, laughter and hugs are the cure – is more complex to the person living with it, and to those around them who are affected by it. Hugs can sometimes be the cure for sad, but being sad isn’t the same as being depressed. Being sad is a mood. Being depressed is a condition. Hugs won’t cure depression any more than they cure a broken arm or a ruptured spleen. And that’s how we have to start thinking about mental illness in general. We need to treat it the same way we treat physical illnesses – as something that’s actually not all in our heads.

Even though it technically is in our heads, but not in a way that can be brushed off as irrelevant or easily remedied. It’s not something that can be quantified nor understood, even by the sufferer.

It’s a physical ailment of the mind.

As for when there is a criminal element involved…I just don’t know. There needs to be something in between institutionalization and rehabilitation/release. At least for the length of time a mentally competent person who’d committed a similar crime would receive in a court of law. Something that would allow for closer monitoring of the individual, as well as further research into the disease, the hopefully both understand and treat it better. Like a halfway house, but with stricter controls, medical and therapeutic monitors and less tangible access to the outside world. We don’t allow murderers out on unaccompanied day trips and the like while they are serving their sentence; the same should really hold true for those who kill while suffering a break from reality. The act is the same, the accountability is different, the punishment should be somewhere in between.

I think that might make it easier to determine what punishments would best suit others, too, like those who commit crimes of passion, or while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction is itself a mental illness, and while someone may commit a crime while they weren’t entirely in control of themselves as a result, there is still a price to be paid.

They always say the punishment should fit the crime. I think the real problem is that we’re slowly realizing that the issue is not nearly that clear-cut; not so black and white. It’s a series of complex layers that we’re only beginning to dig into.

So maybe the way we deal with it should have several layers to it, as well.