Sides

I don’t really like people, in general. As a species, I often hate us.

But my hatred is not strong enough to outweigh my compassion and overall kindness. I ignore what I don’t like, more often than not. I don’t have the need to randomly call people names, especially if they are complete strangers to me. I have all sorts of my own biases – racial and otherwise – but they aren’t so ingrained in my psyche that I feel the need to act out as a result. Or attack someone because of them, or anything else. I don’t think certain people deserve more or less than other people, and certainly not because of something superficial that is out of their control.

I think people in general should stop couching their hatred in politics. It’s not a political view. It has nothing to do with Liberal or Conservative, left or right, political parties or perspectives, nor even individual candidates.

Being “politically correct” has nothing to do with politics. It’s about not being an asshole.

If you want to talk about, say, abortion, and whether or not it should be legal…that’s more of a political issue. Though, even that one is tricky because it involves a person’s right to choose – specifically a woman’s – so often sexual politics come into play in those discussions. I have my own views on that, and to me, there really isn’t any other way to see it, but many folks try, anyway.

As is their right. The difference is, I don’t try to legislate their opinion.

So…another topic. Say education. That’s something that could fall under the realm of politics. People will forever quibble over the details of how money should be spent, where it should come from in the first place, whether sex ed has a place in a public school classroom or not…that’s what politics are for. Quibbling over the details, and sometimes even having an actual discussion about them.

It is not, however, a place where a majority group (I’m looking at you, straight white guys) should exert pressure to ultimately deny members of minority groups the same rights they themselves are afforded.

We have so many laws and regulations which were created to curb the number of incidents in which stupid people hurt themselves or others. We have so many more which were crafted with the intention of stopping people from being cruel to one another.

But you can’t legislate kindness. Hatred is there whether there are rules against it, or not. People just couch it as a freedom of speech or some other such policy in a political forum, and continually seek the “right” to openly express it. We’re seeing more and more of that right being exercised after the US election fiasco last week. So many people chose not to vote at all, or voted independent, or just voted the party, without actually thinking about what it meant.

It’s not about being Republican or Democrat this time. From what I can tell, there are two kinds of people, and the categories do not fall into the political realm, but rather into the personal/social/emotional one. And I’m not sure that anyone is able to change which category they fall into, let alone if they’d want to change it up. I’m pretty sure I can’t, as even though I have hatred and darkness inside me, it’s just not strong enough to overpower my basic, better-natured instincts. I don’t have to curb it because it’s the law or uncouth or even politically incorrect. It’s just who I am inside. I am in part both kinds of people, but one ultimately outweighs the other.

The way I see it, you’re either a kind, caring, compassionate and ultimately flawed human being…

Or you’re an ignorant, intolerant asshole.

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Don’t Read This One

Seriously, I’m just ranting – you don’t need to read this one.  I feel like I say too much, but not nearly enough, and am just trying to get out of my head for a moment.

It’s okay to give this one a pass.

I’ll write something else later.

Either way, here goes nothing…

To say I am frustrated and disappointed with the Fire Marshal would be an understatement. There really are no words, yet at the same time, there will never be enough words. I can’t wrap my head around what appears to be a flippant dismissal of the loss of life, and responsibility, and justice…and while none of that can bring back those kids, I feel like a half-assed investigation only adds insult to injury. I mean, isn’t the main function of a Fire Marshal investigation to determine the cause of a fire? Not just call it inconclusive, sit on it for over two years and then say, “Oh, I don’t know, it was probably caused by (this first guess). Case closed.”

I don’t think a Coroner would just wave his or her hand and say, “I don’t know…the person probably died because of (this first guess). Case closed.”

Or maybe they would. I don’t know if anyone is doing their freaking job anymore. I have lost confidence in the people who hold such positions to carry their share of the responsibility in determining what happened, and how similar tragedies can be prevented in the future.

They didn’t even interview the lone survivor about that night, let alone any of the people who were at the apartment so often it was like a second home to them. Yet apparently felt it was fine to ask me questions through a friend. For the most part, though, they just made an assumption and called it a day. An assumption that was quite likely incorrect. Didn’t even look into anything else; any other possible cause.

One smoke detector had no battery, the other was probably not working – they’re not sure. Just that everyone reported that no smoke detectors were going off when the fire was discovered. One was located above the stove in the kitchen, and one outside the boys’ bedrooms at the front. So…I guess the one in the kitchen also served as the regulated-by-law smoke detector that is supposed to be outside of the girls’ sleeping areas, as well? A little double duty from over the stove in the kitchen?

That both exits were on the same side of the building doesn’t seem to have raised any concerns about the apartment being up to code, nor the fact that walls were added to turn the space into a 4-bedroom instead of two. I have a screen shot of the rental ad – well, a rental ad for that apartment. Not necessarily the one the kids answered when they found the place. But basically the same. It wasn’t turned into a makeshift 4-bedroom for them specifically. It was advertised as such. Are two smoke detectors really enough for a 4-bedroom when one of them is in the kitchen area? Above the stove, for Pete’s sake?

That the landlord is not legally responsible for maintaining the smoke detectors is frustrating. Apparently we as a society feel it is up to a group of kids in their early 20’s to dutifully check to ensure everything is in proper working order when they move in, rather than the owner dude renting the space to them in the first place. I didn’t check mine until this all happened, because I know that the landlord checks them regularly, but when I found that things like this can not only happen, but also be my fault, I became a little more paranoid than I was before (and I was already really paranoid). I am not in my early 20’s, though. Not on my own for the first time. I was 41 when I started testing my smoke detectors more often than the landlord was doing it.

The kids’ landlord didn’t do it at all. Not in the time that they lived there, at least.

And apparently the Fire Marshal doesn’t deem that an important factor, either. Doesn’t think any of it is, really. So what if three kids and a little kitten lost their lives? No one need speak for them. No one need determine the reason how any of it happened. I used to believe people in those positions would fight to do their jobs to the very best of their abilities. That not knowing wasn’t a suitable answer. That guessing was never the way.

Which means I watch too much TV. Turns out to real people, it’s just a day job, and then they go home, without giving another thought to those who will never get to go home again.

I get that everyone’s just doing the minimum required. I get that nothing can change what happened, no matter how much investigation is done. I understand (almost) all of it on a reasonable level, but that doesn’t change my frustration and sadness and disappointment and anger and hurt and…just…overall upset-ness. The minimum effort raises more questions than it answers, and those kids deserve more. The families deserve more. Ethan deserves more. He at least deserves the chance to fill in some of the blanks for those investigating what happened. He was there, after all, and he’s the one who has to live with those memories for the rest of his life. At least ask his side of it, if it’s your job to determine what happened. To me, that actually falls under the bare minimum, but then again, I’m not the Fire Marshal. Just someone who, on some level, will never really understand any of it at all.

I go over that night in my head constantly, you know. Constantly. I wasn’t there. I’d never been inside the apartment until after everything had been taken out. I didn’t even know any of them but Alysia. But I picture it over and over; my mind is full of unanswered questions about how everything happened, trying to fill in the many, many blanks. I feel like if any one thing had gone differently that night, they would all still be alive.

If even just one smoke detector had gone off, for example.

I had a dream last night that I was choosing between…like, it had something to do with Spanish, even though I don’t speak it. But essentially, I had to choose whether I would learn to help Spanish-speaking people in a legal forum, or a musical one. I know. But hey, music speaks, too. I had the impression that either I would be working for people’s rights – the rights of those who could not communicate effectively due to the language barrier – or if I would help in a more spiritual/emotional way through the implementation of music and dance programs.

I chose law, and even in the dream I couldn’t believe I was picking the more difficult road.

I just felt it would be the one where I could be most effective and make the most difference.

I chose to speak for those who could not speak for themselves.

Rambling Mind

I don’t understand what’s going on. At all. Maybe nothing. I have no idea. There is, of late, a huge disconnect between my inner and outer realities. Add a healthy dose of PMS into the mix and the confusion is overwhelming. So isolating. Perhaps I am just succumbing to my usual paranoia and uncertainty. Though it’s often been right in the past – can it still be deemed paranoia if it ends up being correct?

Meh. Questions without answers, really. Better to just keep plodding along and wait for my next break.

I have my next MRI on Sunday. While I’m technically hoping it will be a quick session, I feel it’s much more likely that it’ll be one of the long 45-minute-IV-with-contrast-material types, instead. It makes more sense, since it’s just my annual check-up type one and they’ll want to get as much detail and cover as much territory in the scans as possible. I just really hate those ones, and am running out of ways to entertain myself while in the tube for that long. However, at least it’ll be over with, and since Monday is a holiday, I’ll be able to just relax and do nothing, if I want, the whole next day. That’ll help. Usually I feel more than a little off once I come out of the machine. I know it doesn’t do anything to me physically, but my mind feels cloudy, anyway. Maybe from focusing on remaining still while not letting claustrophobia set in.

There should be a law against cologne – or artificial scents of any kind – that I can smell even if I am not near you. Seriously people. What kind of nastiness are you trying to cover up by dousing yourself so completely in something else?

Anyway.

I’m frustrated at this whole not working Saturdays thing. I know, sounds weird, but there are several reasons why I’m feeling this way. Aside from the fact that it’s a shorter work day, and earns a longer weekday off, which is sometimes enough. But it would give me the opportunity to do other things I want to do sometimes. Like go to the zoo. I hate going on weekends, through the summer at least, because of the hoards of sweaty hairless apes in my way, ruining my Zen thing. But if I want to go on a weekday, I have to burn a vacation or sick day to do it. I got turned down for volunteering at the Wildlife Centre because the weekend shifts are first to go, and those are the only ones I could do. I probably wouldn’t be a Big Sister again anyway, but that’s another thing I can’t do. Not the in-school mentor program, at least. I can see my therapist if I book an appointment first thing and then head to work after, which doesn’t always have me in the greatest headspace for the rest of the work day. Sometimes it’d be better if I could just go home after and process. But I can’t, unless I am willing to burn a sick day, o vacation day, if I know far enough in advance that I won’t feel up to coming in that day.

Overall, it’s fine. I’ve just been feeling lately like I am having to give up a lot of the things that I’d enjoy or look forward to or benefit from in some way in order to continue receiving a paycheque. That is, of course, the most important thing, because without that I’d have far less opportunity than I do now. I guess I’m just sad that this seems to be all there is, and I am struggling to make even that much balance out. It’s depressing sometimes.

In other news, Mr. Brodykins has an appointment with the groomer on Saturday! He will hate every moment, except the ones where he gets to hang with Momma Kristi and ride in the car. Probably on her lap, if he gets his way. That’s his preferred mode of travel, after all. I hate leaving him there, knowing how miserable it makes him, but he does love being picked up after, and being told how utterly adorable he is. He likes to show off a bit, at that point. Maybe I’ll see about getting him some kind of little special treat for being a good boy. Because he’s always a good boy. He hates the whole grooming process with the seething fire of a thousand suns, but he doesn’t fight it. Instead, he freezes in his silent misery, and tolerates it all until it’s finally over. And then gets unnaturally excited when you put his collar back on.

Bless.

I love that little guy.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just so in my head I don’t really know what’s accurate or real anymore. Or maybe my instincts are good enough that I’m getting the hints being put out there, but am just not certain enough to react. Maybe there’s nothing to react to at all. Regardless, I feel dumb, so hopefully I can figure out at least some of it soon. It’s seeming pretty manic, really. I’m still here, though, so as much as I am trying to sort some things out, I’m also trying to, like, live day to day life. It’s all I can think to do, sometimes.

Long weekend coming up finally, and then next weekend is the first one I booked off for myself. Four days in a row! I don’t know how I’ll manage NOT to give myself so much to do that I won’t get it done and then be disappointed in myself…but I’m going to try not to give myself so much to do that I don’t get it done and feel disappointed in myself.

A co-worker just asked if it was Friday yet – it’s like he’s reading my mind. I was just thinking how far away Friday still is, but that it’s kind of a good thing because I have a lot to do in the meantime.

I was looking up screenwriting contests yesterday to see if there were any deadlines I could aim for but realistically meet. I realized that I’m not anywhere close to ready to start writing the updated adaptation of my first book, though. I need to sort out the changes that will be made and how they’ll all go together with the parts of the story that are being kept. I’ll work on a new outline first, and then consider starting the script.

Why can’t things in our heads just come out on paper automatically?

On Rules And Getting Therapized

Have you ever noticed how many rules, and guidelines and laws are created specifically to stop stupid people and/or assholes from doing things they should logically just know not to do? And it always highlights the possible punishment, not the fact that doing it makes you stupid and/or an asshole.

Like the emergency alarm on subway trains. It clearly states that it’s for medical, fire or police-worth emergencies. Emergencies. For when you need professional help in some or all of those areas. But just stating that much isn’t even enough, there also has to be the threat of a fine. Because it’s not bad enough that you tied up an entire line because you missed your stop, or need some air or whatever. For some, the only reason NOT to activate the alarm and grind everything to a halt is the threat of a fine. Losing money is a legitimate threat, whereas being an asshole and/or stupid apparently is not.

Don’t run up to dogs because you might get bit. Totally fine if you scare them with your unpredictable and aggressive actions – when you’re stupid and/or an asshole. But geez, you might get bit. And, of course, you’d blame the dog, but that’s a different rant. The only reason for some people to NOT scare an animal is the threat of personal harm, rather than any sort of empathy for causing distress to another individual.

How about just trying harder to not be stupid and/or an asshole, for a change? Unless you are comfortable in your stupidity and/or assholiness, in which case there should just be laws against you.

Anyway.

Finally saw my therapist again this morning! Was very late for work as a result, but totally worth it. I’ll do it again if need be, but I joked with her to stop leaving town for my days off and/or paydays. Haha

It was great to see her, as always, and her new puppy is ridiculous. His name is Cole, he’s a Scottie, and he is young, so basically comprised of fur and tongue. He loves belly rubs (at which I am expert thanks to Brody) and giving kisses. Not great at therapy-dogging yet, but he’ll get there. He’s very accepting, and somewhat distracting until he calms down. I can’t blame him, though. He did just meet one of his new best friends, after all!

(I mean me. I’m his new best friend.)

I didn’t get my list out until later in the session, just to make sure I’d hit everything I wanted to. It’s hard because we haven’t seen one another in so long. There was a period of catching up in the beginning (and doggie distraction). She remarked immediately on my hair, weight loss, and new tattoo, which was funny. Most of the stuff I just mentioned in kind of blanket statements, because there’s just not enough time to cover everything in depth. Or anything, really, when there’s that much build up. I opened several doors to several conversations that we’ll have, hopefully, over the next little while.

Some things we touched on more than others. There was a fairly big discussion about whether or not I can actually ask for things I need, which led to whether or not I feel like I deserve such things enough to ask for them. I guess that’s closer to the root of my communication problem when it comes to talking to people who aren’t being paid to listen to me. There was a similar thread about guilt, and about being “nice” and “polite”; about hurting other people’s feelings by taking care of my own and whether or not I want to do that.

In a weird segue, we talked a bit about my very first therapist. She said she liked when I talked about her because it seemed like we’d had a great connection. And we did. It far exceeded what I’d thought therapy would be like, and tested my ability to be open and do the work in the safe environment she’d provided. I talked today about how it was also the first time I’d experienced how cruddy the system can be, when decisions are made by unseen forces in offices instead of in the room. Decisions that affect lives. Both of us were affected when we were forced apart – she was angry, I was sad and panicked and feeling abandoned on some level that didn’t listen to logic. I guess it was hard to open up again after that because suddenly it all felt so temporary, and not within my control to say when it would stop. It’s hard to do all that work, and then be cut off by people who’d had nothing to do with it all along, and then try to find a way to work your way back to that space with someone else.

I haven’t so far, actually. Not quite like that. Different this time, but equally gratifying, for the most part. I know my guard is still up in some areas, but at the same time, I’m not there for the same reasons as I was almost 20 years ago. Everything is very different in my world now; I am very different. So we deal with me now, anyway, instead of whoever I was then.

Anyway, for the most part, I gave her the Cliff’s Notes on the things I want to talk about – including the fact that I want to talk at all. Maybe this way I can manage not to feel the need to burden my poor friends with some of this stuff, too. Hopefully. On the way to work after, I made notes in my phone to expand on the 4 or 5 main things I want to dig into more next time, too. Because, naturally, I thought of a few more things I wanted to say after I left. Happens every freaking time!

Oh! She also showed me a book that might help get creativity flowing again, which is awesome. I took a picture of the cover so I can look it up later, and she said that if I can’t afford it right away but want to investigate it more, she can scan the first chapter and send it to me.

But that I have to ask her for it.

#clevergirl

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.