Monday, December 17, 2012

The Mentally Ill and Exceptionally Intelligent

Intelligent Crazy Killers

All of us have wondered these past few days about the 'why' of the school shooting.  Experts, politicians, law enforcement, media, and us in the public will be discussing it until another tragedy or another more interesting media created event is brought to light.  Then we will shift to it and the kids will be forgotten.  It is my belief that the core of this epidemic is mental illness.  Would any sane person shoot another in cold blood at a church, a mall, a theater, or an elementary school?  I think not.  I do not see the need for semi-automatic weapons with clips that house thirty bullets as being necessary.  That weapon is good for one thing - killing.  That, however, I leave to politicians.


I am discussing today, the relationship between high level, intelligence and mass killers.  The 'Una-Bomber, The Aurora Theater killer, possibly this kid in Connecticut, and others may give us some clue of genetic defect.  Does anyone know of any studies on this matter? Have any of you read the Blog titled, "I am Adam Lanza's Mother"?  This was written by Ms. Liza Long.  She has a thirteen year old son who has math scores off the charts.  He understands high level concepts and he is mentally ill.  She fears for her life.  When her son goes into the 'attack mode', the younger children activate the drill they practiced.  They run to the car and lock the doors.

Here is another instance of an exceptionally intelligent child who demonstrates the ability to hurt himself or others.  I have another story for you.  In the third grade, young 'Tom' (not his real name) could perform advanced algebra, understood geometry and was functioning at a freshman in college level.  He was reading at the sophomore in college level.  The gifted program he attended at school was no challenge, and there were behavior problems.  The social problems increased as he grew older.  The 'system' missed it all.  The school said the behavior was typical of some kids and they would 'keep an eye on it'.  His divorced mother had him committed to a State Mental Health Camp.  He slept outdoors in a tent, ate meals in the cafeteria, attended strict classes, and daily psychological counseling. His regimen was restricted.  He was told when to sleep, when to eat, permission was required for all phases of his life. He was in the ninth grade.

His father lived in another state and came for a series of meetings and counseling for a weekend with his son and the psychologist.  His father was told that 'Tom' was their poster child.  He was excelling in all phases of the program.  The weekend went great for both 'Tom' and his father.  It was a few weeks later he was discharged with maximum potential met.

This highly gifted, intelligent boy was placed in the accelerated classes as a sophomore.  Behavior was tense at times at home but not like it had been a year or so prior.  One day, 'Tom' stood up and walked out of class.  He walked out the door.  He walked out of the lives of his divorced parents.  He disappeared for a year.  Police reports were filed and he simply vanished.  Later the parents were to hear that he lived in a commune in another state, had lied about his age, and held a job.  The prodigal son returned married to a thirty year old woman.  He was seventeen.  Then he 'found religion'.

He appeared to settle into what appeared to be a normal life working as a plumber.  That was short-lived, as the mental illness returned with a vengeance.  He was diagnosed with apparent schizoid personality and was given medications.  He quit work and received disability.  By this time he had three children of his own.  He insisted they attend a Baptist School.  During conversations with his father he would quote scripture, tell the father he was preparing for a war against the Catholics, and admonish his father who was not 'right with the Lord'.  His wife would find him reading the Bible in the darken closet with a flashlight.  She knew he was not taking his medications.

After thirty years or more of nothing but negative stress the father hung up the telephone for the last time and disavowed his son.  The final straw was when 'Tom' said the father could no longer see his grandchildren because he drank beer.  And so it was - the grandfather cut all ties and never saw his grandchildren again.  The father refused to send any birthday cards, Christmas gifts, or answer the phone when the son would telephone.

There was no communication at all for several years.  One night the calls began at midnight.  Caller identification showed it was 'Tom'.  He called over and over - some fifteen times and the father did not answer the phone.  Then the words were spoken into the voice mail.  "I'm coming for you!  I am going to kill you!  You will not live to see tomorrow!"

Here was a once gifted, now mentally ill person who was on the verge of committing murder.  The father called his local police.  He called the sheriff and the police in the jurisdiction where the son lived.  He was told by authorities there was nothing they could do because of, "...his mental illness. People like this have more rights in this State than you or I," he was told.  Another department representative told the father, "The only way we get involved is if a crime is committed.  I suggest you get a gun!" 

Now intelligent, mentally ill people can be masters at quickly changing roles and behaviors.  The police did offer to go by the son's house and see if he was in a state of distress and not taking his medicines.  They called the father back after some time and said he appeared quite normal and was doing fine.  The phone calls stopped.  Oh yes, and the grandchildren - they were home schooled by the son and his wife!  How can any state in America allow the mentally ill to educate their children?

I don't know about the gun laws, but I do know the mental health laws and medical coverage should be examined.  How do I know all of this?

'Tom' was my son!

Want to help others?  Drop a line and pass on your experiences.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stress and Chaos Are My Friends

Stress and Chaos Are My Friends

Abuse From Alcoholic Parents Creates Learned Behavior

In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir, I write about the physical abuse eight year old Krame experiences from his alcoholic father.  His mother is of no help as she too is an alcoholic and and mentally ill.  In the 1950s, tranquilizers were often prescribed as the drug of choice for 'nervous breakdowns'.  Keeping a person almost lethargic was a common result.  Today, that term 'nervous breakdown' may be described as Clinical Depression.  Krame's mother had severe depression and combined with the alcoholism created an individual incapable of nurturing her children.  Krame had to fend for himself for survival.

A common trait in an alcoholic home is stress.  Children never know when they will be beaten or emotionally abused.  They live in constant fear twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  Any person living in a constant state of stress will actually find that the stress 'feels' normal.  Eventually they may not know how to behave in a 'stress-less' state.  Therein lies the paradox.  The very feeling they despise as a child becomes more comfortable for that child as he/she grows. Neurologically, what is happening is that a neural pathway has developed. This pathway is always in the brain.  It is reactivated any time there is stress for that person regardless of his/her age.

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle?  After several falls and more attempts, you achieved success.  You could ride a bike!  What happened in your brain is that you developed a neural pathway for successful bike riding.  Imagine, that you have not been on a bike for several years.  When you first attempt to ride, you might be a bit shaky and unstable.  After a few moments you will be right back riding like you did as a kid.  You reactivated the neural pathway that was laid down years before.  Emotions, reactions, and behaviors are exactly the same.

 Krame at age eight, set himself a goal of one day getting out of the house, the neighborhood, and the town never to return.  It was his method of developing a sense of control.  He wanted to control his destiny.  There was one place in the book where Krame promises himself, "Nobody will ever hurt me again."

Some 'adult survivors' from alcoholic parents  actually revert back to exactly what they wanted to run from as children.  They embrace stress and chaos because they are so familiar.  They find relationships that are destined to fail, they might seek stressful jobs, or they might become alcoholics like the parents.  Krame met his goal of running away and becoming a success.  But one must wonder, at what price?  Adult Children of Alcoholics can also become over-achievers who are relentless in their lives to never fail.  "You are a no good, dirty, son-of-a-bitch," is a phrase many of these children hear day in and day out.  Consequently, the child then begins to believe what the parent says must be true. A low self-esteem is set in concrete.  As an adult, that child then has to keep the demons away by appearing to be a success in the eyes of society.  Outsiders look at the person as being excellent at multitasking, solving problems, being in control, and stable.  In reality, that person can never allow the 'dog of defeat' attack his achilles heel and confirm what was told to him/her as a child - "You are a no good, dirty, son-of-a-bitch!"  They become successful in business, they might be senior managers, and two have become Presidents of the United States in the past forty years!

In The Shade Tree Choir, Krame is respected by his friends a the 'Great Thinker' who analyzes everything so they never get caught.  He already is an overachiever who never rests.  The reader can gather that Krame struggles with lots of inner turmoil.  Getting caught pulling pranks would be a sign of failing.  Krame would never allow that to happen.

So how does an adult confront those old demons?  I say embrace, accept, and rejoice in it!  It is who you are.  It is a part of your total being!  You are one of a kind!  You are special!  All the turmoil in the past has allowed you to live to this point.  If you are at a point where you are still on the 'pity pot' and want to blame others and are upset at your parents there is one thing some folks find healthy.  Write a letter to that person who is still upsetting you.  Say anything you want in any way you chose!  Even if they are dead, you can still do this activity.  After writing, feel the paper, smell the paper, and crumple it up.  Then burn it!  Those physical acts can often relieve inner stress. 

* Allow yourself to fail at something.  Take up golf.  That will humble you quickly
* You do not have to know all the answers.
* You do not have to always be 'right'.
* There are erasers on the "Pencils of Life" for mistakes.  In the movie, City Slickers, it was called a 'do-over'.  We can all have do-overs in our lives.
* Give yourself fifteen minutes a day for quiet time.  maybe try meditating.  Take up Yoga or Tai Chi
* Learn a new hobby.  Something that requires deep concentration can be helpful.  Some examples might be painting, creating stained glass, punch needle, etc.
* Give thanks!  Thank your Higher Power.  Thank your significant other.  Thank your inner child who still needs attention.

Want to help others?  Drop a line on what you do to manage stress.  Someone reading your comments might learn something new and find relief.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Reduce Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress 

Did you ever find yourself being 'thankful' that the holiday was over?  Do you find yourself stressed with all the new activity, crammed schedules, and so many changes from your normal lifestyle?  Did you ever wonder why we try to stuff happiness into one day a year?  Did you ever feel sick after receiving your credit card bill for all those purchases you made above your budget?  If so, you are not alone.

One definition of stress is simply, Change.  When the body is put into a new change or activity there are certain results that occur.  Some of these include:
  • Blood Pressure Rises
  • Cholesterol and Fats are mobilized in the Blood Stream
  • Sugar Output is increased to fuel muscles
  • Blood Clotting time is reduced   
  • "Stress Hormones" are increased
  • Muscles become tense and tight
  • White Blood Cell count is reduced making us susceptible to infections  
  • Depression increases 
Here are some simple Stress Management Techniques you might try during the Holidays:
  •  Do Fewer Activities.  Do you really need to send Holiday cards to people you don't really know?  Do you really need to make cookies and other foods?  Do you really need to spend money on gifts for co-workers?  Is that larger tree really necessary? Do you really need to decorate the outside of the house and yard?
  • Learn to Say NO! Set a budget and stick to it.  Avoid high ticket items you really can not afford.  Don't give small gifts to co-workers and distant family, as the costs add up.  Why decorate outside?  What are you trying to say or prove?  Decline what you perceive as 'mandatory' attendance at Holiday parties - if you really don't want to be there.  Do you really need to send those cards?
  • Do something for othersA great Stress Management technique is to do something for the less fortunate.  'Giving' is what the Holiday should be about.  How about skipping that big expensive family dinner and volunteer to serve food at a homeless shelter.  Maybe, you could get permission and then go to a nursing home on Christmas Day just to sit and chat with older folks who have no family.  Maybe, you could budget an amount where you know of a deserving family and give them the cash.
Here is an introduction to my Christmas Poem I wrote many years ago and can be found in my book, Campfire Collection of Cowpoke Poetry. Soon it will be  posted on You Tube where you can see me performing it for a television show in Nashville, Tennessee.

Everyday is Christmas Out on the Range

A cowboy workin' a line camp job on a cold December day
Finished ridin' fences, spreadin' salt, and keepin' cows from goin' astray.

He melted ice on the cracklin' flame to make a pot of brew,
And sittin' on his haunches, pokin' the coals with a stick, he said, "Lord, this day's for You.

I don't have no turkey, the stuffin', and all the trim.
Just some beans and coffee. And some might think this meal slim.

I've got You all around me & with this here Good Book, that's all I need.
And my gift to ya, Lord is a few chapters I'd like to read."

So he read aloud of Mary, Wise Men, Shepherds and such,
And when he finished he gazed into the Heavens and said, "Thank you, Lord, oh so much.

For Everyday is Christmas here upon the range,
And some some hearin' me talk like this might think I'm plum strange....

I do hope each of you has a 'stress-less' Holiday.

David 'Buffalo Bill' Nelson

The Shade Tree Choir Book Trailer