Seizures in the News

This article concerns me. The headline and the lead-in speak of the seizures that Brian David Mitchell, the man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, has been suffering. The article quickly moves on to discussing Mitchell’s mental health.

Mitchell’s lawyer, the article says, is presenting the “insanity defense” and talks about both Mitchell’s, and his family’s history of mental illness. I find it curious that the author, Jennifer Dobner, chose to take the article in this direction, since after all, the headline is “Elizabeth Smart kidnapper suffers seizure in court.” By taking the article in this direction, it seems to imply a connection between seizures and “mental illness” or “psychosis disorders” which is not the case.

I do not and will not engage in armchair diagnosing of Mitchell—that is no place of mine. That is between Mitchell and his doctor.

My problem is with the tendency to equate bad deeds, such as kidnapping and rape, to mental illness, thereby implying that anyone with mental or psychological problems is a bad person—a ticking time bomb, if you will. It marginalizes those of us with epilepsy, depression, bipolar disorder, and many others, for no good reason other than different=bad. In fact, throughout much of history, those who were different were often deemed “mad” and power was wrested from them, and they were killed, or left to rot in a hospital, prison, or later, a “mental institution.”[i]

This also implies that if you do something “bad” then you must be “mad.” It implies that no good, normal person could or would ever do bad or terrible things—so if one could prove one was normal, then they could not possibly be guilty of any crime or wrongdoing. The wolf in sheep’s clothing, if you will, feeds and benefits off this idea.

This line of thinking is intellectually lazy, it is bigoted, and it has dire consequences for society.

Mitchell did a horrible thing to Elizabeth Smart, and I hope she will find peace, closure, and healing. But Mitchell’s deed does not make him mentally ill. If he does suffer from a “delusional disorder” or some other mental illness, that mental disorder does not make him a bad person. If he is ill, I hope he is able to find a way to live peacefully with his disorder—whether or not he accepts treatment. As of now, he has been deemed competent to stand trial, so he will face justice for his deed—but only that. His deeds. Not his illness.


[i] And this is why I’m skeptical of a family history of mental illness—because science and medicine wasn’t where it is today, and so differing from cultural and religious norms were often used in lieu of science. The victors write the history, so we have no objective basis for diagnosing people long dead of mental disorders.

A Glimpse of an Employed Epileptic

When I started my new job[1] back in August, I was excited—I was getting health insurance! Yay! The insurance company couldn’t deny me based on my epilepsy! Yay! Then I started to fill out the paperwork, and read all the information packets. And guess what I saw? That any pre-existing condition-related doctor’s visits, medication, etc wouldn’t be covered for a year. A year.

When I informed my manager about my epilepsy, and told them that if I had a seizure, I’d have to sleep it off, therefore possibly missing a day of work, and asked what I needed to do—they told me I needed to bring a doctor’s note[2] (with that doctor I can’t see about my epilepsy with my insurance for a year), or call in and take a point. A point is supposed to be a penalty for not coming to work just for funsies. No mention of making up that work once I recovered.

When I told my supervisor that if I had a seizure at work, I do not want an ambulance called unless I was bleeding from somewhere I shouldn’t be, and to instead call my emergency contact to take me home, I was told they’d call one anyway because “if you have a seizure I’ll probably freak out.”

Oh, the equality is overbearing. The sensitivity to the neurologically atypical is gut-wrenching.

Welcome to America.

Now, before I get any lectures on How The Real (American) World Works, let me say: I know. I’m saying it’s wrong. I’m saying that the hoops one has to jump through, if neurologically atypical as I am, just to ensure you’re not fired because of being neurologically atypical, is ridiculous. That I should first have to reveal my medical history (which is private) to my managers, then explain to them what epilepsy is, THEN explain how it affects me, to finally say that it might prevent me from coming into work someday in the future, maybe, is ridiculous. That my supervisor grills me on what it’s like, out of curiosity, with several co-workers in earshot, is insensitive and, well, ridiculous. That I’m grilled on what medications I’m taking, and gosh, why don’t I have a medical bracelet? Is ridiculous.

In short, I’m saying the insensitivity, the ignorance, and the spectacle made out of my disease is appalling, and that it should not be so.

[1] An office job

[2] An epileptic doesn’t need to see a doctor every time zie has a seizure.

A Message From a Divorced Kid.

Recently, I heard a story about a family. This family, you see, is on the verge of splitting. The couple is teetering on the edge of separation and divorce. Alcohol, separate sleeping arrangements, and fighting are part and parcel of their family life. Caught in the middle of this situation are two teenagers. Hearing this family’s story is eerily like my own. While I felt compassion for the couple, my thoughts throughout the telling of this story were with the teenagers.

Throughout divorce proceedings, you always hear about everyone’s concern for the kids. Frankly, I say bullshit and poppycock. It’s not about the kids. It’s about the parents, the property, the he said, she said, the money, parental rights, visitation rights, custody, child support, and a number of other things, but it’s not about the kids, no matter how much the adults involved pontificate about it.

The kids are stuck. They’re not adults. They have no rights. They have no choice. No choices, but to go along with whatever their parents decide. Or the judge. Or the lawyers. Or a therapist, or social services worker. Unlike the adults in this situation, they can’t just say “screw this,” drive off, and start anew. What should be their safe haven, their home, becomes little more than a prison.

No matter how much they speak out, rebel, or fight for their rights, their wants, their needs, someone else always knows better. “It’s what’s best for the child.” Let me tell you, as a divorced kid, that phrase makes me see red. The behavior of every adult involved with a divorce makes me see red.

In this story, and in mine, we weren’t children. We saw everything, no matter how many doors you closed in our faces. We heard everything, no matter how many ceilings you put in between us. We know what this means. We brace ourselves for the next week, the next day, the next minute, because we never know what’s coming next. We see the anger, the frustration, the hate, and feel afraid for what former lovers might do to the other in revenge.

We aren’t children. And our parents took advantage of it—using their children to vent frustration, to pass along messages, and to poison the mind of the child against the other parent. We know. We know the other didn’t throw a vase at you last night, so to speak, because we could hear it all. We know you didn’t refuse the screaming match, because we could hear you over our stereo, our TV, and the hands covering our ears.

When parents divorce, they don’t treat their children as people, with their own thoughts, feelings, desires, and humanity. We are a prize, the ultimate victory over the ex, mere possessions. Divorced parents everywhere pretend they are the one exception—you’re not. And us kids? We can see that, too.

This isn’t a tirade against divorce, let me make that clear. My family would have been a lot better off had my parents divorced a lot sooner.  From what I know, the same is true of the family I spoke of earlier. No, this is a tirade against the way divorce often plays out, and the way that children are treated. No matter how much adults think they’re shielding the children in the middle, they’re not. We are people, and people in the middle, at that. We see, we hear, we feel, and we hurt. We dream, we pursue, we want, and we need. Remember that.

Take Heart.

In the wake of Rand Paul’s election, and the resulting gloating of conservatives, I discovered Tim Wise’s essay, An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum. And it is beautiful.

Despite the numbers–that the Tea Party wasn’t as successful as they were predicting, that, as Tim points out, the birthrate points to racial minorities becoming the majority in a generation, and every other indicator that Americans just aren’t interested in Tea Party America, they just won’t shut up.

Reading this piece gives me heart, especially after so many bloggers and pundits repeating the assertion that Democrats are hopelessly spineless, that a progressive agenda will never come to fruition, and so on. We’ve lost before. We’ll lose again. But in the end, justice, equality, and freedom will come out on top. Americans are legendarily bull-headed, progressives as much as conservatives. Might doesn’t make Right. Right makes Might.

We survived Bush. I’ve no doubt we survive the cowardly Rand Paul. As we get another taste of the bitterness that was forced down our throats during the Bush years, we’ll regroup with a stronger resolve to end discrimination against our LGBT brethren, to end the enduring discrimination against women and racial minorities, and to repair the damage done in the Bush years.

I’m reminded as I struggle with personal loss and to make my own living in a world of economic struggle, not to lose sight of the larger picture. And I’m thankful for a fantastic support network of family and friends (liberal and conservative alike) that allows me to do so. Without them, I wouldn’t have the privilege of writing. And it is a privilege–the recent events spurred my absence served as a cold, hard reminder of that. The world is cold and hard–but I will struggle to be a warm, bleeding heart in the midst of it.

Election Day

Today is election day. Tonight we’ll see if Kentucky has gone completely insane. We’ll see if we deserve the reputation we’ve gotten nationally, and internationally.

I don’t need to read the reaction to Rand Paul’s campaign staffers jumping a young, liberal woman to know what the reaction is. I know there are scores of people blaming the woman for three men beating the ever-loving stool out of her. We blame women for being stalked, harassed, raped, beaten by their partners, why not blame them for conservative, tea bagging thugs stomping on their heads?

Thing is, this incident is a lot more than anyone else has bothered to say.

Domestic terrorism.

Voter intimidation.

Oh yeah, I said it. That’s what it is. These Rand Paul fanatics, supporters and employees, beat the stool out of this woman because she disagreed with them. Full stop. Plan and simple. This woman dared to speak publicly, voicing her political opinion, taking and exercising her Constitution-given right. And these Rand Paul thugs couldn’t stand it. I bet Rand Paul couldn’t stand it, either.

We are admonished as children to be careful who we choose to befriend, because who we associate with says a lot about us. Our friends reflect our values, and what’s more, these friends influence us.

Rand Paul chose to associate with violent, fanatical thugs. He chose to associate with men who believe our Constitutional rights only apply to them, and people who look and think like them. Anyone else? Better sit down, and shut up, or they’ll beat the stool out of you, too. Sounds like Al-Qaeda. Why? Because they are very, very similar. Using violence, or threat of violence to silence dissent is domestic terrorism.

It’s also voter intimidation. Voting is the ultimate way we express our political opinions. Will this woman ever be able to attend a rally, vote, or even wear a button without checking around to make sure tea bagger, Rand Paul thugs aren’t around? It’s doubtful.

Rand Paul’s thugs didn’t just intimidate this one, single woman. They intimidated all of us. They sent a message to all women, to all liberals: here’s what will happen to you if you don’t do exactly as we say.

Rand Paul disassociated with these thugs too little, too late. He, and the tea party spent months courting these thugs, and people like them, whipping them up into a fervor, feeding them lies, telling them that we liberals want to kill America and eat their babies, especially us liberal women. I’m horrified at what happened to Lauren Valle, but I’m not surprised in the least. This isn’t an isolated incident.

Tea party candidates across the nation have themselves, or had their employees use threat of violence, or actual violence against citizens who question them. Joe Miller hired military servicemembers as security, who then assaulted and illegally detained a reporter for asking a question. Rand Paul and Dan Seum manhandled a 70-something year old man who dared to ask questions they didn’t like at the Southwest Government Center here in Louisville. This shows a pattern. A pattern of violence, contempt of dissent, disregard for our Constitution and our political process. We cannot as responsible citizens condone this behavior. Not by ignorant individuals, and certainly not candidates to political office in the United States government.

Responsible and ethical Republican and conservative friends and readers, this is not the party you believe in. I’m sorry to say it, but ignorance, hatred, greed, and contempt have infected your party, and led to these despicable events. However much you may wish for your party to gain power, today is not the time. Violence needs to be quelled. Fanatics need to be purged. Hatred needs to be expelled from your ranks. There needs to be some in-house cleaning, and that cannot happen when these fanatics believe their tactics intimidated us, and gotten them what they wanted.

I stood up in the face of Rand Paul thugs’ intimidation and violence. As a liberal woman, I stood up and voted today. Against violence. Against voter intimidation. Against silencing of dissent.

But not without checking around me for Rand Paul supporters.