Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

(1) Curtis Reeves and the Popcorn Shooting
Curtis Reeves

Many of us have been known to throw popcorn.

It could be that Chad Oulson, out with his wife at the movies in sunny Wesley Chapel, Florida, after texting the babysitter, really did throw popcorn at an irate 71-year-old retired police officer. The retired cop, Curtis Reeves, shot and killed him.

The two men had an altercation about noise in the theater and the illegality of texting just moments before Lone Survivor was about to begin. Lone Survivor is a film about the Navy Seals. Shots rang out. Violence in vivo.

The victim happened to be a former U.S. Naval officer who served his country from 1990 to 1997. The perpetrator, a retired captain of the police. Two veteran officers facing off, only one carrying a .380 automatic pistol.

Blood gushing from his mouth,Oulson cried, "I can't believe I got shot!"

Incredible. It could have been a mint or a peanut butter cup, just a theory, not popcorn, because Richard Escobar, the defense attorney, insists a heavy projectile hit Reeves in the forehead, triggering his reach for the trigger. Not one to be disobeyed, Reeves popped off that .380 pistol, and dutifully shot Oulson in the chest, ending the argument.

It is a story worthy of The Onion. Ridiculous. How could such a thing really happen?

Police records praise Reeves for his work ethic and leadership. One evaluation from 1979, however, indicates a show of temper when dealing with supervisors. This is all we need for a quick and dirty assessment and diagnosis, keep in mind, purely conjecture.  Reeves had a critical father, worked hard to please him, but displaced his own anger upon other authority figures, even as an adult. The choice of career is not unusual for those born to such family dynamics.

The psychiatric diagnosis is likely to be Intermittent Explosive Disorder, 312.34 (F63.81), based upon the history. But we need much more information to make this call.

The criteria for Intermittent Explosive Disorder (for full details, read the DSM-5):
A. Recurrent behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses
B. The magnitude of aggressiveness expressed is grossly out of proportion to the provocation or to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.
C. The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not premeditated.
D. The recurrent aggressive outbursts cause either marked distress in the individual or impairment in occupational or interpersonal functioning, or are associated with financial or legal consequences.
E. Chronological age is at least 6 years
F. The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not better explained by another mental disorder, a psychotic disorder, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and are not attributable to another medical condition or the effects of a substance.

Mrs. Oulson, now a widow and single mother, instinctively tried to block the bullet intended for her husband with her hand, but the bullet went right through that. She wanted Oulson to stop arguing with Reeves. She could probably sense something going on behind the glare, real trouble.

Reeves has neighbors who had no idea. Perhaps they never saw him angry:
"I just can't imagine," said Elnora Brown. "I can't imagine what happened that he would do that." Brown has been a family friend of Reeves for the past 45 years. She described him as a good Christian man and a loving grandfather. "I thought it just can't be. He's just not that kind of person," Brown said.
The sentiment echoed down the Brooksville street where Reeves and his family has lived for years. "Curtis is a good guy. He's always been very nice to my wife, myself, "said Reeves's next door neighbor Bill Costas. "Personally, I'm very shocked."
"You just never know what's going to happen anymore. The world is getting more and more evil." said neighbor Joann Spence.  Read more: http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/wesley-chapel-movie-theater-shooting-suspected-gunman-curtis-reeves-jr-makes-first-appearance#ixzz2qPR1gCAW
You never know. Watch the video of Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper patiently hearing out the defense. She isn't buying Escobar's claims that this is not murder in the second degree. Escobar tells the judge that Reeves is a model citizen who regularly attends bible study, who has been married forty-one years, who has raised two fine children, one a police officer. Reeves is a grandfather. He has arthritis. A regular guy. He retired way back in 1993, after 27 years of service.

It isn't clear if he's still working security at Busch Gardens. Likelihood is that now he'll be let go.

Retired, yet still carrying a .380 pistol. And a toddler has no father.

Remember James Holmes, the man with schizophrenia who dressed up as The Joker and killed a dozen people, injured seventy, in a Colorado movie theater? We doubt Curtis Reeves suffered such psychosis. All we know is that he didn't like being thwarted. And he didn't like that Oulson scoffed at the rules, at authority. 

There were twenty-five other people in the theater. He could have moved.

(I'd love to know the punishment in that house if Little Curtis accidentally on purpose spilled popcorn or had a popcorn fight with a sibling.) 

(2) A 12-year-old Shoots Two Other Middle School Children, One in the Face

In other news, a student opened fire this morning at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico, critically wounding a 14-year-old boy, his intended victim. He put a 13-year old girl in the hospital, too, in serious condition, a bullet to the shoulder. A student witnessed it. Odiee Carranza described the shooter as a "smart kid and a nice kid."

A sociopath, probably, a child with Antisocial Personality Disorder, we might think, initially. (Search APD here on the blog, we've talked about it before). But no, he was likely depressed, and turned his rage outward. There's some discussion (Robin Meade, HLN Morning Express) that he had been bullied. The most interesting part of the story is that a social studies teacher, John Masterson, talked him down, walked into the barrel of the gun and talked until the boy put the shotgun down. He's a boy, after all.

Oh, just one more story. It has been a busy day in January.

(3) William Golladay is Fed Up with People Who Abuse the Express Checkout Line
William Golladay

In yet another southern town, Punta Gorda, Florida, William Golladay, a 77-year-old grocery checker, fed up with people who check more than fifteen items in the Express Lane, finally let loose. He unleashed his rage by yelling at, then hitting a 65 year-old man in a motorized cart. Not finished, he pushed an empty metal cart at the object of his wrath. (FD says the seventies are tough for men).

The victim isn't denying his guilt for going over fifteen items; he had twenty. He noticed the employee counting before the altercation began. 

Enough stories, the lessons are obvious.
(a) if someone tells you to quit texting, maybe quit texting.
(b) best not to mess with 14-year-olds who may be nice but have access to guns, 
and finally,
(c) never, ever go over 15 items at the Express Lane. 

How I wish this were funny.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Two Snapshots: The Cold and Promise Land

Before we begin: Are the ads on this blog getting in the way?  I had to ask. Anything I shop for on Amazon automatically is advertised here! And what about this Dynamic Views Blogger format? Yes? No? Who cares? 

It's been awhile since we had any snapshots.

(1) The Cold and Saving Lives
Chicago Cross-country skiing

The wise among us, I am told, will not leave home today. That's how cold it is.Nobody's flying to Florida; the planes are grounded. Subzero temps cut a wide swath and it is dangerous, moving about out there.

I was at a birthday dinner last night for a couple of really small but well-padded toddlers, and it was all anyone could talk about, think about, worry about, surviving the deep freeze on its way.
I can't help but text my daughter (I am a Jewish mother, after all):
Please tell me you aren't driving downtown tomorrow to work.
She quips back:
No, gonna WFH.
The salt is getting annoying
This makes me happy. Then again, only a day or two ago, at three degrees below zero, her father and I trotted out our cross country skis and had an amazingly great time. We heated up within minutes.

This morning, predictably, television news people shivered outside to tell everyone else to stay inside. It will be 45 below if we factor in the windchill, and in Chicago, we do.

FD has his towel in hand, ready to swim at the community center nearby. We both try to swim several times a week, rain or shine. Swimming keeps us young and one of us is sorely in need of young.

Never one to waste energy, I suggest we call to make sure the pool is open, rumors have circulated to the contrary. Yes indeed! I bundle up to go out, because frankly, if I'm doing therapy on the phone all day (nobody's coming to the office and everyone seems to need therapy) the prospect of eating uncontrollably between patients (because I can! WFH!)  is very likely. Maybe I will bake.

I meet someone new in the locker room, always a good thing, and do something I have never done before, try out the shvitz. I stand in the center of the tiled steam bath in my bathing suit and wait, thinking no matter how hot it gets in here, I won't sweat, it is too cold outside to sweat and it isn't what I do, anyway. Then it happens, beads, oceans of salt water, and this feels better than anything else possibly could on a day like today.
the Schvitz, a wet sauna, winter self-help

Predictably, I am one of two people in the pool and the lifeguard chats idly with me as my feet dangle in the water. She likes it, she says, when it is empty and there aren't many lives to save.

(2) Promise Land

This is a self-help blog, I suppose, and people find it looking for almost anything. A topic is Googled, a link is followed, the searcher finds the answer (or not) at this smorgasbord, an all you can eat, help yourself to whatever proprietary knowledge you can swallow. Over seven years worth, it can add up.

The title is Everyone Needs Therapy, not The Self Help Diner, although that seems like a trendy name. The paragraph following the title advises readers not to consider this therapy, and certainly not to rely upon this advice, ostensibly protecting me from a lawsuit. I just learned that most real self-help writers post this type of warning in the front pages of their books, too. And to think I never even thought of this as self-help, not so much, until reading a new book. Oy vey.

For hundreds of years, we learn in Promise Land: My Journey Through America's Self-Help Culture, the self-help industry has provided a cheap alternative to real help, going to the doctor. (The doctor is expensive and inconvenient, comparably, getting grouchier by the moment at the thought of new healthcare proposals, how these will affect her profession.)

The self-help alternative, albeit interesting, really is the subtext of Jessica Lamb Shapiro's memoir. Ms. Shapiro didn't have it easy as a kid, to put it mildly, and as an adult took stabs at different therapies, cures for her anxiety-riddled, depressive psychology. The inside jacket, an appetizer:

“In writing this book I walked on hot coals, met a man making a weight-loss robot, joined a Healing Circle, and faced my debilitating fear of flying. Of all of these things, talking to my father about my mother’s death was by far the hardest.”

Can't wait, right? It does sound good, and it is.

The author comes by an interest in the self-help biz honestly, her dad a paragon of the industry. A child psychologist, Dr. Shapiro is the guy behind psychology board games for little and big kids, the games boasting to build self-esteem, teach children to identify and express emotions. Now he's making suicide prevention apps for the United States Armed Forces. His daughter wonders if self-help apps are destined to become the wave of the future.

I will be obsolete.

What me worry, Alfred E Newman might say. There is nothing like the human touch, a subtle glance. The slow nod.

This is a wonderful book, full of wry, compassionate (you can tell) personality folded into the snark. There will be belly laughs. Her best lines make you want to interrupt anyone who will listen. "Listen to this," you might shout to a wall, then read the entire paragraph aloud. Her story is proof positive that people need therapists, not self-help books, but she doesn't bang you over the head with that, indeed never even says it, not once.

A professional reading of her story thinks: Had the Shapiros had the right kind of therapy (family therapy, naturally), they might have been spared twenty years of sadness, avoidance, and anxiety. They could have talked to one another. But family therapy isn't an East Coast thing.

The findings of the author's research are spectacular, full of references to self-made self-help gurus such as: Mark Victor Hansen (the Chicken Soup books and The One Minute Millionaire, Samuel Smiles (Self Help, 1859), Benjamin Franklin (his autobiography), Zsa Zsa Gabor, those women who insisted that to get married depends upon following The Rules (Fein and Schneider), The Secret, Phineas P. Quimby (positive thinking ala Mesmerism), Norman Vincent Peale, Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)Henry David Thoreau, and a dozen or so others.

But it is her story that makes this a page-turner. How do you lose a mother and never talk about it with the one person who knew her best? It is a respectful distance they keep, father-daughter, mutually afraid to stir up the other's sadness. This love, too great a sacrifice.

Funny, but a few months ago a fellow by the name of Leif Gregersen wrote to me asking if I might want to read his story, Through The Withering Storm: A Brief History of a Mental Illness, about growing up with bipolar disorder. As opposed to the Simon and Schuster expensive, glossy, freebee, this work had less initial appeal for me. It is what a therapist does, frankly, during working hours, listen to stories of severe mental illness. Some feel like audiobooks, stories of illness unfolding over a lifetime. Nor did his offer come with the rave reviews on the back cover.

And yet. I am about half-way through, and must thank Mr. Gregersen for sending me his book. He has a nice voice. I like him, and I think most readers like him, and his interests are interesting (collecting army uniforms, for one). And from what we read, most of his peers did not like him, did not appreciate his sense of humor as his story unfolded. That's how misunderstood mental illness can be.