Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More Snapshots

We are deep into summer and the activity level rises. Consequently, it's getting harder to function in the morning. I feel like a drunk, but grind the coffee beans, add water from the Ice Mountain water cooler, and pretty soon, can bless G-d, check my messages, and write a little. Always in that order, naturally. (No Keurig, although I understand there's a small one for $52.00. A thought.
Bike Selfie, therapydoc

(1) FD and I try to take a bike trip on our anniversary. The day we met he won a Raleigh 10-speed in a raffle for Native Americans. He still rides it. We keep our bikes inside, no rust, and no home-invader would want them.

Frankly, fixing a bicycle, to me, has always meant filling tires with air, or perhaps grabbing a stick and getting the chain back on. That's as far as it goes, especially because FD is very good at it, and Bob, my bike guy, is a bicycle savant. One night, heading home from the office, my pedal fell off, or was that the derailleur. You can't ride very far without these things, but the bike shop loomed ahead, lucky for me, so I gathered the pieces and walked over.

Bob suggested that I leave it with him, he would work on it that night, have it for me the next day. I whined, "Then how would I get home?"

He agreed. Neither of us even considered the bus or a taxi, and Uber didn't exist. So Bob, who does look like Haight-Ashbury, rewired the whole bicycle for a song. Now, whenever something goes wrong, he's my guy. FD might be jealous, not sure.

Anyway, we're about to launch our annual anniversary trip, only a day trip, no plans to stay anywhere over night. FD has found us new bike paths north of Chicago, trails we've never seen before. Aside from the nuclear reactor a few yards away, and the black sand on the beach, it looks really great. But my bike gears need rewiring and FD is really busy. I am, too.

My only hope, Bob. So I stop in after work. But he's not there. Two of the other guys are lolling around the shop (this place is like a barbershop, honestly). One takes mine for a spin, comes back and pronounces, "It's frozen. The gears,or whatever it is, frozen. No clicks at all."

This I knew.

"So fix it, no?"

"You can't fix that."

"Bob has done it many times. Maybe I need a new whatchamacallit.  Can you do that, replace it?"

No, that's an old bike, and finding the whatchamacallit will take time. It so happens that this bike shop is a museum of bikes, and Bob can do this in five minutes, either repair it or replace the shifter. He would have known which bike to pirate it from.

"Where's Bob? Can't you call him?" I ask desperately. "I know he'll come in for me. He made me a bike once (He did). He knows this bike."

Oh, Bob doesn't have a phone. "You can leave the bike if you want. Maybe he'll be in later. Maybe not."

"Thanks anyway."

The bike gets me home with those two working gears, but riding 10 miles is going to be a drag. In the morning, the day of the trip, FD is fiddling with his bicycle. He would get to mine, surely, but I take out a screwdriver and a wrench, pry open the clicker. I pull on one thing, tighten another, squirt in a little WD-40, try it out. It works! (A reader tells me that Finish Line is better for bike chains. I'm getting it, asap.)

You would think I have discovered a cure for cancer, maybe one for mental illness, fixing my own bike.

That's how self-esteem works. Too bad it is so easy to undo. That clicker has a short life, too, I imagine.

(2) Funding for mental illness

The US government has cut back on biomedical research, so when two of my sons went into bench science, my hopes for a comfortable retirement based upon their wildly important discoveries flitted away. I have an almost daughter-in-law, also in a bench scientist at Harvard. She toyed with real estate before a fellowship made that a less-than choice. What is with that attraction to selling buildings?

But thankfully, the Broad Institute in Cambridge will receive $650 million, the biggest gift worldwide for psychiatric research ever. Ted Stanley's son Jonathan had a psychotic bipolar episode in college at the age of 18. The Stanleys decided that the best use of Ted's hard earned money is research, finding cures. He made his money marketing and selling collectibles.

Good for the bench scientists, and wonderful news for everyone else, too. Because although we're affected by everything from the air we breathe and our experience coming out of the womb, to the way our parents and everyone else treated us since then, it is biology that holds the real power for the fastest cures.

(3) And in Antisemitism news
Jewish owned pharmacy in Paris  Http://tinyurl.com/m2mldag
Technically, antisemitism should also refer to being anti-Arab, too. But it doesn't.

Due to the war in Gaza, at least one mob is breaking down doors to Jewish businesses, ransacking Jewish lives, burning stores to the ground.

Shades of the late 30's, early 40's, Hitler. Skin-heads. In Berlin the call for an end to it goes unnoticed. Politicians try, but the taste of violence is irresistible.

In my own neighborhood, Chicago, Illinois, death threats: We know where you live.

No, we don't have the right to be happy, not when people are dying, when stores are burning, people dying. Palestinians need to get out of their homes, let the Israelis find the tunnels, the rockets, disarm them, stop being human shields. It should be a war of words.

Easy for us to say. But if Canadians tunneled into Minnesota armed with grenades and explosives, ready to blow up the mall, taking down hundreds of Americans in one blow, Americans would stop them. This is insanity, waiting for terrorism in Israel. So the innocents die, convinced they will go to Heaven. My guess is that they will.

There was a pro-Israeli rally in downtown Chicago today. My colleague, the woman who shares a suite with me, asked if I would go with her. She'll drive.

Someone guilts her into going, she guilts me. Despite FD's warnings to consider other ways to show support (worried), it seems like the right thing to do. It is too hard watching the war online. Even Palestinians want an end to Hamas terrorists yet some lie down and die for them.

At the rally, about fifty Palestinians, held back by police, shouted at Jews waving flags. We made eye contact, although I kept walking, didn't stop. But I could see that these people were not violent, they had fears, concerns, likely relatives back home under fire. They pleaded, expressed their feelings, needed, it seemed, understanding. I didn't take a picture of them. I felt it an invasion of their privacy. Wouldn't it be something if we took 5 of them at random, and 5 Jews, and sat down for a conversation?

The rally was over in 30 minutes. When it is a Jewish thing (and I don't mean this in a bad way) it is back to work. Or lunch.

Rally in Chicago-pro-Israel


Pro-Israel rally Chicago

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sugar Daddy

A screenshot of Alix Tichelman's Facebook page
KSBW News http://tinyurl.com/nxvkxjd
All set, once again, to write about guilt and psychopathy, when Alix Tichelman's court appearance pops up in the news. Feast or famine. 

On November 13, 2013, Alix Tichelman became famous as the prostitute suspected of murdering Forrest Timothy Hayes, a Google exec who worked on Google Glass.

Alix is the one on the right. Who is she? A 26-year-old woman from an upper class Georgia family, her dad a CEO. She left home and lived on her own awhile, ran out of money and became a call girl, a prostitute with a heroin addiction. Not so unusual, that association, heroin and prostitution.

We don't know if her addiction to drugs came before or after her decision to make large sums in the sex trade, but it would seem that heroin came first. Hayes, owner of a yacht (The Escape) lived in a 4 million dollar home with his wife and 5 children. He found Alix, or she found him, on a sugar daddy website, Seeking Arrangement. Tichelman injected Hayes with heroin, his last dose ever, and watched callously as he fell into a stupor and died. Security tapes tell all. You would think people would know that they are everywhere, certainly on a Google exec's yacht.

The first thing a sugar daddy should know, obviously, is that you can't go sleeping around with just anyone. Get references. I'm sure there's a reference website for that. Coming soon.

Ms. Tichelman's previous boyfriend, Dean Riopelle, owned an upscale nightclub in Atlanta. Her Facebook posts express love and passion for him, they lived together. When he, too, died of a heroin overdose, it was ruled as an accident. But someone put two and two together, the common denominator in the deaths, aside from heroin, is the call girl.

Riopelle, who died two months prior to Hayes,  played in a band.

"There is no way that guy did heroin, no freaking way," bandmate Allen Vine told CNN.
Well, he did at least once. 

On Facebook Alix writes dark poetry about heroin addiction and how she admires serial killers. She has tattoos, Hell is Love and Kiss or Kill. Her favorite book: The Satanic Bible.

She also posts her poetry, and some of it is really good

"this private downward spiral-this suffocating blackhole
makes you feel so warm inside,
yet makes your heart so cold.
each day takes it's toll,
your thoughts become emotionless
your soul feels too old.
the demons whispers to me ever so lightly,
he never let's go of his hold,
taking everything from me, I'll end up dying alone.

and some of it is gruesome.

"Sick of the lies and all the pain you have given me,
Wrapped up in a bow like I thought it was supposed to be
But now you're laying in a box, waiting to suffocate,
Saving your last breath as you scratch at your coffin case.
I know I'm crazy, but vengeance is mine,
The dirt that pours in your mouth into your eyes,
Never thought I would see you so surprised
Cause im watching up above as you choke on the dirt, 
Bury th elies and the memories cause all you've done is hurt.

Can we diagnose from poetry?

So Yes, drug addiction is really bad for the personality. In fact, when we diagnose, we have to add information about organic causes, medication. Even prescribed medications can cause psychosis.

So what have we here? A personality ruined by heroin? A woman with an antisocial personality disorder who has no guilt (is that so enviable?), no regard for others? Does she have a mostly borderline personality,  Abandon me and I'll kill you; or a narcissistic personality, Fail to admire me and likewise?

And who is Dexter, anyway, that she should find the show so amazing? She loved a good serial killer. So perhaps it is a case of transference.

We don't know. I'd love to hear about her childhood. My guess is that there is childhood sexual abuse of some kind. Often, with prostitutes, that is the case.

I remember speaking with one who had no feelings for her clients. None. They were a means to an end. She told me that's common.

And I remember speaking to someone who had no interest in prostitution but wanted the benefits of offering himself/herself to a rich man/woman. Wanting to leave a 9-5 corporate job to marry a sugar daddy/mommy isn't uncommon. My patient's thinking? He/she could provide for his/her lover, and the lover could reciprocate. Age no object. Nobody cares.

But what if this person is married, I asked.
"Oh, in that case, forget it."

One day my friend found the right one, felt great, stopped therapy. I never saw the patient again.

But there have been other cases, too, of high class women, mostly, seeking rich men, women paid for their services, tipped in lavish ways, who are delightful and wonderful and have had several proposals for marriage. But they turn them down, won't settle down, not with any one of them. Why? Missing self-esteem. Instead, a sense of unworthiness, and the fear, unwillingness to bring a lover down.

Alix Tichelman apparently isn't like that.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Today's Snapshots

The look of fallen rockets in Israel

I had a perfectly good post ready for you on guilt, but decided against it. That can wait. Today's stories are just too rich. 

(1) Comcast Belligerency Gone Viral

I'm working my remote control, looking for something to watch in the bewitching hour, dinnertime. Before the dishes are done I'm scrounging around in the freezer for something, anything, truly bad for me (we call this dessert). Success, I take a sliver of cheesecake to my nest and flip channels only to find a new one: Can Israel Win the PR War?

This looks good, but of course, when something looks good, I am not a subscriber. I determine to call RCN tomorrow, won't make financial decisions under the influence of milk products.

Wait a minute?  Why RCN?  Doesn't everyone subscribe to Comcast? Crazy coincidence, but I had recently cancelled Comcast, made the switch only a few weeks ago. Comcast seemed to be bleeding me. But the real reason for the switch? The customer service person at RCN seemed so nice.

Interrupting my search for something mine-numbing, the concerned folks at Comcast happen to call me just then. "But why did you really switch? We really want to know. Why?" I hang up at the second question,  I get it. My Spidey sense smells a predator. I find Jane Eyre on Netflix (perfect), a service RCN includes with the package.

Then this morning, on HLN's Morning Express with Robin MeadeI hear that a phone call gone viral from a Comcast representative to customers who happened to work for AOL. The customers taped the ten minute conversation which sounded suspiciously like the one I could have been stuck in last night. Having conversed most of the day at the office, that wouldn't have been fun.  (Just an aside, 20 minutes of HLN morning news is all anyone needs, but it does fill a gap in one's life and I know someone who works for the network, so show my support. And if you're interested in hot car incidents (child neglect), there's one a day. HLN will cost you on Comcast, naturally.)

Here's a link to that viral video. We hear: "If we don't know why our customers are leaving, how are we supposed to make it a better experience for you next time?" Not our problem, Comcast.

So it is likely, since others are experiencing the same telephone harassment, that Comcast reps are trained to push the product hard, that this is a systemic sales approach, no different from any retailer offering you a dozen incentives to buy a product. The guilting the hard sell, could be on its way out.

The question for me becomes: How does the rep feel, pushing the product to the degree that he is harassing the customer? Will I be seeing him in therapy?

Yes, as a matter of fact, yes. Thanks so much, Comcast.

(2) Joshua Corbett and Sandra Bullock

As a marvelous actress and movie icon, Sandra Bullock has many fans, yours truly among them (nothing like 28 Days for those of you trying to stay sober).

So it is no surprise that she has her stalkers, what Dr. Phil calls erotophiles (or did I hear that wrong), people who fantasize about stars and become delusional, come to believe they have a relationship with them and the right to violate social boundaries, like doors and windows.

Joshua Corbett did that, broke into Ms. Bullock's home to continue an imaginary relationship. He apologized, but as Dr. Phil suggests, it is likely he won't stop, hat he is incurable. He could be a psychopath, in that case, and we're going to be discussing being a psychopath in the next post, the one on guilt. Because psychopaths don't suffer guilt like the rest of humanity, neurotic humanity.  Just one theory why.

(3) That PR War between Israel and Hamas

Is every war really a battle of the media, all about image, public relations? This one is, above all. It is not about children being kidnapped and killed, or some wise politician, someone like Solomon the Wise, the Jewish king of Israel, no, make that Palestine, over two thousand years ago, would offer a a better solution.

Solomon, if you recall, when two women came to him arguing about possession of the one surviving infant (the other had died during the night), suggested that they cut the surviving baby in half. The true mother cried, "No! Don't! She can have it!" Solomon gave the baby to the one who cared, the proper mother.

Were he here today, Solomon might have suggested an alternative to missile launches (the Hamas response to the death of a Palestinian child) or an invasion in Gaza, the Israeli response to the missiles. The order of events: Hamas operatives in Hebron, near a Jewish school, kill three Jewish teens. Jewish renegades retaliate, kill one Palestinian youth. Solomon might say that to make it square, Hamas should kill three Arab kids, Israel should kill another Jewish child. The score, four to four.  Even.

No? A bad idea? Surely it is, because this isn't about children. It is about making Israel look aggressive and evil to the International community. The war is for sympathy. Having an excuse to power off more Syrian, Russian, or Iranian missiles, Hamas pounds Israel hoping for a response in order to accuse Israel of genocide, another Holocaust.

The international community doesn't know who to believe, for calls of genocide are to be taken seriously. It sounds strange, Israelis shouting to Palestinians to leave their homes, they must be bombed to destroy arms and missiles, route out Hamas. Homeless, they are hapless victims. It is a terrible situation and it looks, on the surface, as if Israel is made of heartless leadership, oppressors beating on a defenseless people.

The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu (I think Harvard educated, not that it matters, but his English is impeccable) explains the problem. Hamas, a terrorist organization,  hides in Palestinian homes. Missiles are stored in tunnels that ordinarily would be used as bomb shelters for people in times of war.

Netanyahu eloquently describes the situation: Israel uses missiles to defend civilians, Hamas uses civilians to defend missiles It has gone viral.

The story is worth reading in its entirety. 

My experience with social media (and I have about ten FaceBook friends, so you know I'm well-versed), is that Israel is doing a nice PR job, although losing, as usual. Groups such as United with Israel, Stand with Us, the IDF blog (Israel Defense Force) and the World Zionist Organization help people like me feel connected with what goes on behind the scenes. The Jerusalem Post, the Anglo newspaper, is up to date, and we have eloquent Arab Zionists like Mohammad Zoabi, shatters myths with his public FaceBook page.

(Friend me! I have no friends! Therapydoc Doc), but first check out Zoabi.)

What has this to do with therapy? Well, those of us American Jews who wish we lived in Israel, who feel emotionally, spiritually, nationally, genetically, phenotypically, archaeologically, and all kinds of other ally-connected words that connect us to the holy land, feel guilty that there isn't much we can do from afar, aside from sending money for bomb shelters for either side. We would like to support the country, Jew and Arab alike, and we certainly don't like that the Arabs who are called Palestinians are victims of terrorist organizations. But we hear stories that they teach their children to hate Jews, any Jews, and this is upsetting, too, tickles our catastrophic fears of gang warfare, many Arab countries coming down upon Israel, and nukes from Iran.

So an Israeli public relations success essentially means, work the guilt. Disseminate the other side. Write. Post on FaceBook. Tweet. We're good at all that.

Oh, let me ramble on just a little more. Some people don't even know where Gaza is, what it means, why the Palestinians are even there!  Israel traded this fertile coastal territory, Gaza, ten years ago, for peace. Land for peace was a political solution to the terrorist problem. Jews left their homes, synagogues, their irrigated fields and farms, profitable kibbutzim, handed it all off to the Palestinians relocated to tents in Israel proper.

I have pictures of my cousins, prior to what was called disengagement, smiling teenagers working in Gush Katif, a kibbutz. I remember touring the Gush proudly, before Ariel Sharon handed it off, determined it a good trade. Don't let it die, the Jewish farmers begged the Palestinians in 2004. Land for Peace. You take the land, we'll take the peace.

So in return, ten years later, from their new homes, these residents are subdued or influenced, perhaps even side with Hamas, the bully in their midst, and send rockets as thanks.

No pity from the Western press for Israeli farmers, their fields blown to bits by these missiles, their children running for shelter. Loss of Jewish life has begun. A man bringing sweets to soldiers fell this week. And all the while, as the anti-Israel press speaks of a holocaust.

There are more good links, good videos. Try Israel in My Heart, or  Dennis Prager's  easy on the eyes Middle East Problem. Detractors call Prager's propaganda, but it is all true if you know Jewish history. And here's a nice one about bringing comedy to the troops. Because war isn't supposed to be a drag, constantly.

Prefer a good book? I look to Berel Wein, when it comes to Jewish history. He writes clearly, has great wit, a very wide lens. Try his crash course, 5000 years in 5 hours,  or the Miracle of IsraelPaul Johnson's History of the Jews is excellent, too..   

The Western media doesn't tell you much about a 5000 year Jewish presence in Israel, three Jewish states, the many kingdoms, the constant battle against extinction. Nothing about the constant presence of Jews in a land they irrigated, farmed, and modernized, on their own. Nothing about the Palestinian Liberation Organization's constitution that vows to send their cousins packing, driven to the sea, sans boats. The Palestinians are the vulnerable population in Gaza. But the Jews are vulnerable, too. Always have been, although we like to think less so.

The Israeli offensive to rockets in the backyard

Young men with small children, like my nephews, will be called up for service to put an end to the missile launches. And yes, people will die, will lose homes, are losing them as you read this. And for what? Because there is no amount of land that will buy peace in Israel, unless it is all of the land. Not happening.

I have a ticket. Just a visit to see family, to recharge my battery, and no, have no intention of not getting on that plane.

I watched as neighbors packed boxes into a huge van, dozens of boxes, their entire lives lifted by skinny muscular guys into a truck. They are moving to Israel this week.

There will be, contrary to the news you hear on the radio, an airport, a place to land, when they get there.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Camp We Go

Some kids take off to catch that bus with barely a good bye, letting their parents shlep their trunk. No big hug or kiss, no "I'll miss you!  Love you!"  The words, Don't forget to write, fall on deaf ears. Gone and good riddance. I finally get to be me.

Then there's the opposite extreme, the kid who has panic attacks that begin as the bus begins to pull off the lot, or perhaps they are delayed, he holds them in until the second day of oatmeal that just doesn't taste right. Food issues never thought possible rise from the cafeteria. Some forget to eat out of excitement, some refuse to eat, too anxious.

And there's always the one with anorexia.

One kid is on too much psychotropic medication, newly prescribed, and feels dizzy. Another isn't on enough. Upon examination the camp nurse hears that his family is in the process of a big move, or his parents are fighting, one is threatening divorce. "Have fun, sweetheart, we'll miss you."

So many issues, so many kids. What to do?

And there's the kid who sewed pot into the lining of his jacket, another who cuts herself. There's always one so depressed that everyone knows it. The others don't know what to do. The counselor is beside herself, worries about a possible suicide.

Three to eight weeks, depending upon the sentence. Parents searching camp websites for pics of smiling kids, many rightly rewarded.

I remember my daughter, probably all of fifteen, working as a camp counselor, calling me every night to consult about one kid! Just one with a diagnosis can deter a teenager from a career in mental health. What do I do when. . . .  I still hear her voice, the fear. So over her head.

FD is the doctor for an in town summer sleep-away camp. He has hours, sees kids a few times a week. Already . . .  one week into the session, the counselors are calling him for emergencies. Some need attention, if not emergency attention. Some kids need therapy, right away. No surprise, but what camp has a therapist on call? He's looking into it. Perhaps there is one.

It isn't that the children who need a little support (or a lot) shouldn't go to camp. Sometimes there's nothing better than camp. I have a patient with a kid who is only good (mentally) at camp. For me, there was nothing better, but that letter from my mom (why do I think daily?) iced the cake.

Counselors really need a mental health in-service before the summer begins, what to expect, how to handle the expected disasters. Most summer camps are born of some type of a community, and that community really should sponsor a therapist, a young person who, although new to the trade, has expertise, at least a master's, and wouldn't mind a few weeks on-site, roasting marshmallows on green sticks, plying away at the trade a few hours a day. I'll bet she would be busy.

The best sum up, of course, for most kids at sleep-way, is the Alan Sherman song, Hello Mudda, Hello Faddu- a Letter from Camp Granada.  The abridged lyrics below are from memory, although the best experience, surely, is to get the album and listen to the song on a turn table, mono, preferably.

Hello Mudda, Hello Faddu,
Here I am at Camp Granada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.

I went hiking with Joey Spivey
He developed poison ivy.
You remember Lynnard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.

Etc. etc. until the refrain

Take me home oh muddah faddu
Take me home, I hate Granada
Don't leave me out in the forest where
I might get eaten by a bear.

Take me home I promise I will not make noise
Or mess the house with other boys
Oh please don't make me stay. I've been here
One whole day.

Wait a minute
It's stopped hailing.
Guys are swimming
Guys are sailing.
Playing baseball
Gee that's better
Mudda faddu kindly disregard this letter.

How I wish I could say, just let them go. Don't worry about them.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Revenge for Teenagers' Deaths and Initiation Rites

There will be blood. And who are we to judge? If it were your kid, taking a walk, ambushed by men in hoods, probably tortured before their murder, wouldn't you want revenge?
Kidnapped Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach

In today's news it is the entire Jewish world (all 13 million, more or less), and an entire country, about the size of the tiny state of Rhode Island, that mourn the senseless kidnapping and murder of children. They were not soldiers, as Palestinian news suggests. The innocent are vulnerable, the terrorist message. Hamas praised the kidnapping. Nice work, the "oppressed" might have said, slapping one another on the back. They were young: Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gilad Shaer, 16; Eyal Yifrach, 19. http://online.wsj.com/articles/missing-israeli-teens-found-dead-near-hebron-israeli-official-says-1404150423?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStoriesTheir whole lives ahead of them.

Yet on late night Chicago television I see local Jewish parents and their kids, interviewed on the street, a busy retail thoroughfare known to cater to different communities (just east of the Jews and Russians are our Arab cousins, then just a few blocks east of them people from India; Assyrians and others sprinkled within). It is the Jewish parents at the microphone, and they are saying:

"Hell no, we're not keeping our kids home. They will go for their year after graduating high school to learn more about the country, for seminary study, maybe two or more years. Maybe they will settle in the Holy Land. We will not be intimidated by sociopaths."

As you know, we have them, sociopaths, here in America, too. The reasons for blatant disregard of social norms, and there's nothing like murder and kidnap to top that list, are multivariate. But because so many young American youths are about to leave home for college, and so many of them will be pledging fraternities are likely to subject themselves to initiation rites that present serious health hazards, let's look at only one.

But first a little background.

This time of year I see college kids on vacation, home for the summer, a great time to check in with their local therapist. But some of them are new to me,  seeing me for the first time because their parents are terrified to let them go this fall. They aren't terrified because they are overly dependent, or because their marriages are in such distress that they need the child at home, although these are plausible explanation, and you would have that right on a test, but because their kids have given them reason to worry. They acted out in high school in ways that your average teenager, testing the waters of independence, acts out in high school.

And when I listen to the story, the insanity of the deed that brought a late-teen/emerging adult to therapy, the one trait that screams out is really quite normal, considering the developmental stage, adolescence.
It is omnipotence. Some kids, from the ages of 12-25, able to abstract and think for themselves, are flooded with a sense of omnipotence. Nothing can happen to me. I am a capable person, even more capable than my mother and father. I can think for myself, make my own choices. And nothing will happen to me.

We discuss that in therapy, and what it will be like away at school, and how that sense of omnipotence is likely to get them into trouble if they don't harness it, get those choices under control, recognize that bad things do happen to good people. When they will be told to drink fifteen straight shots of tequila as a hazing ritual to get into a fraternity, those bad things are more likely to happen.

What does this have to do with kidnapping and murder? When the boys were kidnapped, the Jewish world shook with emotion, first sadness then anger.  FD and I talked about it late into the evening, both of us very sad, too sad to be angry. Anger comes later. He said to me, "They are probably dead."

"Why?" I asked, innocently, hoping for another prisoner swap with Hamas.

"There is so much in-fighting among the Palestinian world, and a need to prove one's superiority. This is likely to have been an initiation rite of some kind, a way to get into the higher echelons of terrorist society."

An act of omnipotence. I can play God.

The boys were walking, on their way home, while others were playing God.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Snapshots: What makes us happy, what makes us sad

1.  Where did she go?  She was here just a minute ago.
That's me, first row, far left.

When people say, "I can't help it," meaning they can't help the way they feel, considering how they are wired and what they have experienced, I get it.

Easy for therapists to say, "Sure you can change how you feel, it's all attitude. And we have all of these techniques, you see."

But there are autonomic emotional reflexes that merely kick in when we hear things, see things, and as much as we would will them away, biology rules. Not that it isn't worth the fight. Most of us beat depression eventually, but winning and timing depends upon what kid of depression it is.

Grieving is one that isn't worth the fight, not in the first year of a loss. Just feel bad and accept it, the general rule. I'm coming to the end of that first year, following my mother's death. It will be almost four years since my father died, broke us in a little. There is still a certain amount of emotion, sadness and also reflection, that simply isn't going away. I don't want it to go anywhere.

It' s good sadness now, stops time, keeps us connected, keeps them very much alive. It only takes a word about either of my parents, and whatever else is going on recedes. I'm back to another place, another time, with thoughts not only of my parents, but aunts, uncles, grandparents, my brother, too (the cute kid above).

Just today I gazed at that photo and saw how much one of my sons resembles my grandfather. Never made that connection before. So you see there is value in this gazing, in the trance. With the right. . . attitude.
Don't even try to bake after this happens

2. You have to break a few eggs. . .

What's the rest of that proverb? To make an omelet?
Here's something I don't think my mother ever did, but it came pretty easy to me Friday afternoon, trying to make a quick cake before sundown.

The first thing you do after the splat hits the floor, is grab for your camera, not the paper towels. The zucchini bread fell, too, by the way.

3. The new fish

Have we discussed my aquarium lately? I don't think so. Since we've talked, Blue, my main fish, the large six year-old Niger trigger, the fish that inspired FD to buy me a 120 gallon aquarium, passed away in February. I popped him in a sandwich bag, naturally, put him in the freezer, and when the snow thawed, gave him a proper burial.

The powder blue tang below is a replacement.
Powder blue tang
He cost far more than a co-pay, and so far is a little aggressive, channeling Blue, I suppose.

4. Independence

As long as we're talking about the aquarium, tonight one of my LED lamps stopped working. Aquarium lights are a big business, and I did my best to keep it conservative, setting up this tank. But the lamps cost at least $40.00 each, and a person could buy a very nice table lamp for that. So I found a tiny screwdriver to unscrew the tiny screws, oiled up the contacts, got the switch to move, and put it back together again. It works and I'm feeling pretty good about myself.
Aquarium lights

On the same order, but so much better, my eleven-year old grandson called me on Friday afternoon.

"Bubbie, do you have a bike pump? I'm outside your house and I have the key. Can I come in and use the pump? Are you home? Maybe I should walk over to a gas station instead."

"I'm not home. Let yourself in, find the pump, pump up your tires, put back the pump and lock up after you leave."


"Call me after you accomplish this."


He calls to say he's done it, the delight in his voice difficult to hold back, even as he tries to be cool. Later on I see him and it is high fives all around.

5. Recovery from loss

We do it so predictably that it is heartening. It is good to know that when I tell patients that the depression will lift, but it will take a year, that I'm usually right. The cycle of loss is definitive for most of us, in much the same way that the cycles associated with bipolar disorder are predictable. (Even rapid cycling is predictable cycling.)

I'll bet if you look at posts from October 2010, about 11 months following the death of my father, it shows, the start to feeling pretty good. After a year of dedicated grieving, dedicated grieving being the active ingredient here, most of us do begin to really laugh, smile sincerely, feel the wonderment of living.

That's how powerful the rise of that cycle can be.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Blurring the Digital and Real Worlds: Child Stabbings in Wisconsin

People Magazine-Morgan Geyser and AnnisaWeier
I know people hunt in the woods of Wisconsin. But deer, not one another.

Two twelve-year old girls stabbed another nineteen times in a wooded park in Waukesha, leaving her for dead. The victim, released from the hospital yesterday, narrowly escaped death, a wound to the heart a fraction of an inch off the mark.

The reason? Curry the favor of an Internet paranormal, Slenderman, a monster developed or perhaps embellished (it is said to be a very old tale) by a story teller at the Creepy Pasta website. Creepy Pasta catalogs all things creepy.

It will come out, the pictures of the crime, the videotape, evidence that will incriminate these youngsters in court, for they will be tried as adults. And here they only wanted to make an impression on a supernatural being, or the brains behind a cartoon, an online horror guru, a cult leader.
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both 12, have been charged as adults with first-degree attempted homicide in the stabbing. Police say the girls told detectives they wanted to kill their classmate in hopes of pleasing Slender Man, a spooky character they read about on a horror website. Police say that after stabbing the victim, the attackers left her lying in the woods. The victim crawled to a road, where a bicyclist found her lying on the sidewalk. 
Slenderman is legendarily a skinny almost human figure who preys upon children in the forest, kidnaps and murders them. Creepy Pasta Wiki hosts many stories about scary paranormals like him.To impress Slenderman, apparently, Creepy Pasta followers must kill a child.

This is shocking, if not as shocking as the chilling murders of Elliott Rodger in Santa Barbara only a few weeks ago. Both acts of violence are associated with influences beyond the family, advisers on the web, film and television violence. The research tells us that a steady diet of violence has an impact upon personality.

Some psychiatrists are saying that Megan and Annisa (sweet names), child perpetrators of this crime, blended fiction and reality, that they didn't know the difference between the two. In the case of severe mental illness, perhaps auditory hallucinations, this is believable. One child, possibly, either Megan or Annisa, could be that sick and could influence the other, enlist her help.

But what we're hearing is that neither girl suffered a mental illness, which is entirely possible, and that both suffered a blurred reality of fantasy and reality. This is a new diagnostic category, perhaps, one that should be included in the next DSM. We'll call it Virtual Blurring Disorder. Elliott Rodgers is said to have merged with fantasy heroes, too, the ones who take on fantasy vendettas against mankind. Now this, children who believe in Slenderman.

They lured her into the woods to play Hide and Seek.  One girl held her down while the other stabbed her.

The victim loved school, fashion, pets. She intended to volunteer for the Waukesha County Humane Society this summer. A well-rounded, happy little girl.

Her parents:

"Our strong, brave girl loves school and her teachers. She is looking forward to the summer, but has voiced that she will miss attending her classes even more."

Pick on the kid who loves school.  Hate the ones who are the kindest, the ones who are the antithesis of the person you feel you can be, of who you are. Thus is the profile for the new antisocial personality, motive nothing new. These are kids who hate kids who are positive, who are happy.

When I was a young therapist, being antisocial meant juvenile delinquency, stealing cars, using drugs, breaking into basements. These were unhappy kids expressing their anger about life the only way they knew how. (Yes, a simplification, but it is what we heard in the office often enough. Their parents would bring them for help, we talked about what it is like to be a kid, never easy). Now antisocial means killing. The rest, stealing cars, etc., is too easy, proves nothing about one's metal. Steal a life, now you're somebody.

Is the line really blurring between fantasy and reality?  In some ways, those of us who are obsessed with our phones, who check them twenty times an hour for that fix, the electronic stimulation, are living a step removed from reality. We know it but don't care. Some of us are conscious of this, trying to curb the habit. We worry about being, glued to electronic devices, spending more time with screens than people. Our mothers shared coffee with neighbors, looked one another in the eye, laughed and cried. We have our needs for connectivity met digitally. It is good, in so many ways. Dangerous, apparently, for our children who fear nothing.

It is no stretch to think children are seeking stimulation, too, as well as attention and approval, as kids do. Whether or not people are who they say they are on the internet is not even the question, although it matters greatly that writers (yours truly, for example, for now) are so often anonymous. But it isn't only malevolent advice that threatens our kids, but the modeling, the new normal, that is the enemy. Kill and you will be accepted, admired. Kill, either yourself or someone else. (Kill yourself, is a reference to websites that recommend suicide and describe means to accomplish it. Kill someone else is a directive from the Slendermen out there, and however many there are like him.

One online psychologist tells us that by the age of two and a half we know the difference between fantasy and reality. I would say no, actually. At that age, reality is what our parents tell us it is. By age twelve, however, what our parents tell us is suspect; they become less psychologically significant, children less attached. Adolescence implies differentiating from family, developing a new self, a separate, unique identity.

No matter how their parents socialized Morgan Geyser and Annisa Weier (the girls who admitted the attempted murder), they were likely unaware of Creepy Pasta, had no idea about the competition.

In fifty states we have laws about sexual violence, and one of the more salient features of state law (most of them, not all fifty) is that a minor has no right to consent to sexual relations with an adult. Informed consent doesn't apply to minors. They haven't the capacity to consent. Such is the language of statutory rape. The thinking behind this is that until we reach a certain age we are likely to make terrible decisions about relationships, regretful decisions. Parents who care discuss these decisions when they feel they are pertinent, and hope that their children make good choices.

They won't always. In the process of differentiating from parents, becoming our own selves, we will make bad decisions, choose poor role models, hide from those who love us. It is called growing up.

But the stakes are higher, now, and what we are witnessing is a call to arms, a reason to talk again to our kids, to have these conversations, again, and yes, to stalk them, to know what websites they enter. We need to break away from our own digital lives and enter theirs, discuss reality, life, values, consequences, and empathy.

No small job, being a parent. It never was. But kids are going to need a shorter leash if we want to be sure we aren't visiting them in prison, as they seized their independence, forge their ways in this new world, real, or not so real.