Thursday, April 10, 2014

No easy answers

As of late, some troubling, disturbing, sad, tragic, and altogether unexplainable events have occurred in and around the Burgh. The reaction to these things has leaned more towards the vengeful side; there is a dearth of empathy, if hundreds of Facebook comments are any indication. And I, like so many others, want answers.

But I just don't think there are any easy ones.

Last week a seemingly "normal" mother drowned two of her kids. This mother lived on the same street as two families I know (one very well). A street I have been on numerous times. A street that has block parties and goes Christmas caroling. Although I did not know this woman, according to my friends, she seemed to be a typical, loving parent, who appeared to be that very way while they were waiting for the school bus the morning it happened. It can be really hard to reconcile what you know with what really is. And for someone like me, who is very non-judgmental and who hopes never to be on a jury, I struggle mightily with something like this. Yet unlike a lot of people, I don't believe in an eye for an eye. Yes, what she did is so wrong, but obviously something is so wrong with her. 

Then you have the 16-year-old kid, who could easily pass for 14, who stabbed over 20 people. Whether or not he was bullied does not excuse his actions, but if he was, a lot of people, children and adults, should really do some soul-searching. Yet I also don't feel he should be stabbed by each of those people, as some have suggested. (Note that as a parent, I do NOT fault any parents of the stabbing victims who feel this way. As non-violent and anti-revenge as I am, I am guessing that my forgiving nature would disappear.)

I think our mental health system is sorely lacking. But there are so many factors at play. There is the stigma. The cost. Access. Time. Pride. Lack of professionals. Fear of someone finding out. The unknowns about medication. People's unwillingness to open up. The complexity of the human brain. It is so easy to say that these people should have gotten get help, but did you read what I just wrote?!

People say that mental illness is an excuse, that the lawyers will use it to help their clients avoid jail time. But clearly something was not right in both of the above cases. What makes one mother with postpartum depression somehow cope, but another snap? What makes one kid who was bullied or ostracized live with it for years and eventually "move on" and another go on a rampage? If the extremely educated, well-studied people don't know, why does John Q. Public think he does?!

A friend's father has to be on medication for the rest of his life in order to stay "normal." Years ago the dad threatened to kill himself and his family; it was a nightmarish scene, though I don't know or remember all the details. I do know if you knew this guy, you would never believe that could happen. But I can guarantee that we all know someone who is on medication. But what works for one person does not work for another. And, well, see my above point about all the reasons why people don't just see a psychiatrist. Plus, just a hunch here, but I am pretty sure you don't just walk in one morning and then walk out sunshine and lollipops an hour later.

Just today at another local school, parents found a hit list in their kid's room, and they notified the school. Reaction to that was varied as well. Some praised the parents, whereas others thought it was no big deal. Me? I think parenting (or lack thereof) is a big factor in violence in younger people, so I applaud their taking it seriously. Yet how many times do people take it too far the other way? A six-year-old points his pencil at another student and says, "Bang," so we better suspend him. Sigh. Did that mother accidentally run over her kids a few years ago, or was that the first sign of a problem? I DON'T KNOW. And neither do you.

Clearly I am meandering in this post. But one thing I do know for sure: We can all stand to be a little kinder, more inclusive and sympathetic and a little less judgmental. Don't you think?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

I often "mark" or delineate my life by certain points. Moving to Pittsburgh 18 years ago next month is one. Getting married, having J, and my company (old job) moving locations were others. 

Five years ago last month, I was laid off. In several and great ways that marked the end of one life and the beginning of another. When I try to remember events, I often ask myself if they came before or after that. I had wanted to write a post to mark that five-year anniversary, but did not get around to it. I am quite certain I will remember that date for years to come, though that it was Friday the 13th is probably a bigger reason. Regardless, for several years, much of my blog was colored by that loss.

Just a few weeks after that gut-punching, life-changing event, I was affected more profoundly by the death of two children, Kate and Peter. I have written about that over the years as well. Today marks five years since their tragic passing. I never go more than a week or so without thinking of them or their mother Amy. For the first year or two, I thought of them daily.

Five years ago this month, another tragedy happened, the death of three Pittsburgh police officers. I can honestly say I don't think of that too much, but at the time, that weighed on me heavily, and made me view the work of officers in a different light. 

But even though I will remember 2009 for mostly sad things, I also have a handful of wonderful memories and events that also linger in my mind. That was the year both the Steelers and the Pens won their championships. When your two favorite teams do that within four months of each other, it is just amazingly wonderful. I remember the final moments of both games. I especially remember standing on a ladder to watch the SB parade. I also remember the palpable joy and excitement around town and the constant wearing of championship shirts.

Personally 2009 (and several years after) allowed me to spend time with my daughter. We lived at the park, worked on reading skills, and just were together. It was great. We even took a family vacation, which I uncharacteristically planned months ahead of time, before the job loss. If I could turn back time, I would definitely go to those moments. I want my little girl back sometimes!

Maybe years down the road, I will no longer think of things before and after that period in my life. In fact, now that I celebrated one year at the current job, a job I still really like and that in many ways I feel as if I have had for years, I find myself using that as a new "marking" point. I cannot say how long I will be there (due mostly to funding issues), but I am hopeful that having gone through 2009, I can get through a lot, and find the positive. 

I wish I had a profound quote to end on, but I got nothing. Have a good one!