psychology, true crime

True crime bonanza… Gabrielle Petito, Brian Laundrie, and Alex Murdaugh…

The featured photo is an idyllic spot in Germany… I posted it because both of these cases involve idyllic places where crimes were committed.

This morning, I woke up to the news that it looks like the authorities might have found the body of 22 year old Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito in a “remote, but popular” camping spot in Wyoming. I will admit, I haven’t been following this case very closely, but I would have to be living under a rock not to have seen her young, hopeful, smiling face on the Internet, as worried friends, family, and authorities have been searching for her.

At this point, it looks like her fiance, Brian Laundrie, could have done something terrible to the pretty young woman. She was known for driving around in a tricked out van and vlogging about her experiences, seeing the country. Gabby and Brian were traveling across the United States, documenting their experiences on social media. At one point, they were stopped by the police near Moab, Utah. Gabby was almost cited for domestic violence because Brian had visible injuries, but police ultimately decided to just separate the couple for the night.

Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, says that she and her daughter last communicated by FaceTime on August 23rd or 24th, and there were a few texts after that. Petito and Laundrie were visiting the Grand Teton National Park when Petito disappeared. And now, a body matching her description has been found. Laundrie has evidently lawyered up and isn’t speaking to the police. He’s now back home in Florida. His family members have offered “thoughts and prayers”.

Bill and I were talking a little bit about this case yesterday. While it’s very suspicious that Mr. Laundrie has lawyered up and doesn’t want to talk to the police, we both came to the conclusion that getting a lawyer is probably the smartest thing Laundrie can do, even if he’s innocent. But it sure doesn’t look good for him. He’s now a “person of interest” in a potential murder. It does look pretty certain that the body found in Wyoming might very well be that of Petito’s.

Gabrielle Petito’s case is a compelling story, and one that I would probably avidly follow, if not for the other stuff in the media. Also tracking in the news right now is the very weird story about prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh. Mr. Murdaugh, who is 53 years old, comes from a long line of lawyers in the Low Country of South Carolina. A few months ago, he came home to find his wife and son, Paul, murdered. Or, at least that’s the story he was telling.

Recently Murdaugh was sitting in jail, having turned himself in after he admitted to hiring a hit on himself. He allegedly paid a client to kill him, so his older son, Buster, might get a $10 million insurance payout. Murdaugh recently resigned from the law firm that bears his surname because he allegedly embezzled money to pay for his supposed addiction to opiates. Younger son Paul, who was found dead with his mother, had been facing criminal charges at the time of his death. In 2019, Paul Murdaugh caused a drunk boating accident that left a young woman dead.

It’s possible that the drunk boating accident and subsequent murders are related to the senior Murdaugh’s legal troubles. One day after Alex Murdaugh resigned from the law firm, he was shot in the head. He claimed that he was changing a tired when someone opened fire on him. Later, it turned out that Murdaugh had hired a former client named Curtis Edward Smith to kill him for insurance money. Murdaugh mistakenly believed that his son, Buster, would not be able to get the insurance money if Murdaugh took his own life.

The “hit” didn’t go off as planned; the bullet merely grazed the attorney. Smith has admitted to shooting the lawyer for money, and he’s now in trouble. He faces a number of criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, assault and battery, assisted suicide and possession of drugs.

Murdaugh did go into rehab for his drug problem, prior to turning himself in to the authorities. I would be very surprised if Alex Murdaugh doesn’t go to prison very soon. At this writing, after posting $20,000 bond, Murdaugh has been allowed out of jail temporarily, as he continues drug rehab and awaits his legal fate.

If I were the type of person to write true crime– and maybe in another life I would have been– either of these stories would make for compelling subjects. I think I’d probably be more interested in Murdaugh’s story. It sounds like there’s a fascinating family dynasty history behind the perfect storm that led to where he is right now. I would guess he has had a privileged life up until this point, but for some reason, that wasn’t enough. Next thing you know, he’s hooked on powerful opiates which have ruined his life. How does a high-powered attorney from a long line of high-powered attorneys wind up facing prison? I’m sure greed, a thirst for power, and succumbing to basic instincts have a lot to do with it.

I would also be interested in knowing if his son, Paul’s, troubles were related. They probably were, in some way. Obviously, boating while drunk is irresponsible… but driving a boat when you’re as young as he was indicates a privileged lifestyle… and perhaps an attitude that one is above the law. Of course, I’m speculating. It could be that that the truth is a lot weirder. I’m sure some ambitious writer will eagerly take on researching this case. I’d also be interested in the Murdaugh case because I used to live in South Carolina. I can pretty much picture the type of people the Murdaughs are, having worked in a country club near Columbia.

Adding to the intrigue, of course, is the death of Murdaugh’s long-time housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, back in 2018. Satterfield was 57 years old when her life ended. Murdaugh had said at the time that the housekeeper died after tripping over Murdaugh’s dogs and falling down some stairs. An autopsy did not conclude that Satterfield died due to injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident. And Satterfield’s sons have complained that Mr. Murdaugh never paid them damages after their mother’s death.

Ever since the Murdaugh story broke, I’ve been watching with interest. From the beginning, I thought it sounded like a story that would make for a good true crime book. But now, it seems that everyone’s talking about Gabrielle Petito’s tragic story. I think that story will also end up being covered by a true crime author.

True crime is an interesting genre. It’s based on tragedies that come about from the worst impulses and instincts of humans. It seems immoral to be “entertained” by stories about crimes perpetrated against other humans. And yet, true crime is interesting, because in incorporates so many fields within it. The stories are also true, which means they weren’t necessarily dreamed up by someone with a vivid imagination. I usually find myself drawn to them because I’m interested in psychology, and true crime stories almost always have an element of psychology within them. I’m always intrigued as to how people, often folks who were previously law abiding, end up in so much trouble. And I always wonder what makes them think they will get away with their crimes.

But as I have found out, having blogged about other stories I’ve read about in the news, there’s always a family or friends behind every story. And those people read about their loved ones and are hurt anew. I’ve written innocuous posts about news articles I’ve read on people I don’t know. More than once, someone has contacted me. Sometimes, they’re angry because they think I’m “insensitive”, even if all I’ve done is report what was in the news and offered speculation on what *might* have happened. Other times, people have contacted me, asking me to write more about their loved one’s story. I don’t mind doing that, for the most part. I’m sure it’s frustrating to read what’s in the press with no way to add to it.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of these stories. I’m sure there are writers lining up to research these stories and write best selling books about them. I may even read and review them, although I’m finding it harder to read things as quickly as I used to, so I’m more selective about my reading material than I was in the past. I do think Mr. Murdaugh’s story will be one I’ll want to read. Hell, if it were 30 years ago, I would expect Murdaugh’s story to become a televised miniseries. Isn’t it interesting how we in America turn tragedies into televised entertainment for the masses? As my Italian friend Vittorio would put it– weird-o-rama.

Either way… it’s nice not to be writing about the usual 2021 topics today… and now I have to stop writing, because the dogs are bugging me for a walk.

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book reviews, celebrities, mental health, music

Repost: Judy Collins shares her thoughts on Cravings…

And here’s a repost that was originally written May 13, 2017. It appears as/is.

I have loved Judy Collins’ beautiful music since I was about 18 years old.  She’s recorded so many beautiful songs over the years and inspired others as well.  Although I knew she’d had trouble with alcohol and eating disorders, I didn’t know the extent of her problems until I picked up her latest book, Cravings: How I Conquered Food.

Published on February 28, 2017, Cravings offers readers insight into what may have caused Judy Collins’ issues with booze and food.  Collins’ theories may also be helpful to other readers.  The book is also about Judy Collins’ life, so if you read it, it helps to also be interested in her life story.  I suspect a lot of younger people may not be fans of Judy Collins’ music, although I think they should be.  I should also mention that this is the first book I’ve read by Judy Collins, so I wasn’t perturbed to read about her life.  Others who have read her earlier memoirs might feel like parts of this book are reruns.

Here Judy sings “Someday Soon” with Stephen Stills, who famously penned “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” in her honor.

Collins writes that when she was growing up, she loved all things made of flour, sugar, wheat, and corn.  She was addicted to sugar and would eat sweet things constantly.  That sugar obsession later turned to unsightly pounds and a neverending compulsion to eat more.  She eventually went on to become bulimic and would binge and purge to the point of developing a vocal cord hemangioma.  It almost destroyed her voice.

And one of my favorite versions. I love the piano player on this. They made a wonderful live album from the Wildflower Festival.

As she got older, Collins took up drinking and smoking.  She became an alcoholic and, for many years, would even drink heavily before and after taking the stage.  Although she indulged in self-destructive behavior, Collins somehow knew that what she was doing was dangerous.  She sought help from doctors, most of whom told her she didn’t have a problem.

Eventually, Collins realized that there was a link between her cravings for sugar, flour, wheat, and corn and her addiction to alcohol.  She eliminated the problem foods from her diet and adopted what looks to me to be a paleo diet.  She says now her weight is stable and she know longer has such intense cravings for unhealthy foods or booze.  She also credits spending time in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and employing the Grey Sheet Diet Plan for helping her to stop the insanity.

“Suite Judy Blue Eyes”

Aside from explaining her secrets to eating and drinking success, Collins writes about her son, Clark Taylor, who sadly died after committing suicide.  Collins herself attempted suicide, although she doesn’t delve too much into her experiences with suicidal ideation.  Before he passed, Clark fathered Judy Collins’ only grandchild, Hollis, who is now herself a mother.  I enjoyed reading about Judy’s family and can tell that she loves them very much.  She writes that not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about and miss her son.

I also enjoyed reading about Collins’ musical training.  Originally, she was trained as a pianist and she studied great and challenging classical works.  I never knew Judy Collins was once being groomed for the classical music world.  As she became a teenager, she was lured into folk music.  She picked up a guitar, learned how to play, and began to sing.  I was astonished to read that she once had a very limited vocal range.  Work with an excellent voice teacher eventually stretched her range to about three octaves, quite respectable for a singer.  I have always liked her voice for its ethereal quality.  I think my own style is kind of like hers.

Anyway… I thought Cravings was well-written and engaging.  It didn’t take forever to finish.  Because I haven’t read Collins’ other books, the material and new for me.  It’s also relevant for me personally on many levels.  I liked that she drew in interesting examples from history to backup her theories about diet, drinking, and health.  I learned something new in those passages.  And, given that Judy was born in 1939 and is still making albums and writing books, I figure she must be doing something right.  I recommend her book to those who are thinking about reading it.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, mental health, psychology

Reposting my review of Tina Zahn’s Why I Jumped…

Here’s a reposted book review that was originally written for Epinions.com in December 2011. I am posting it here as/is. It may be of special interest to anyone who has suffered from postpartum depression.

Last month, my husband Bill and I were watching TV in a hotel room in Barbados, reflecting on the marvelous vacation we had just taken.  I flipped through the channels and stopped on a show about dramatic police rescues.  The program highlighted the case of Tina Zahn, a mother of two who, on July 19th, 2004, dramatically attempted to end her life by jumping off the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I was riveted by the footage shown on the program, captured by the dash cams on the police cruisers that had pursued her in a high speed car chase.  Tina Zhan had climbed over the railing and planned to drop 200 feet to her death.  She would have died if not for the quick reflexes and sheer determination of state trooper Les Boldt, who had grabbed her wrist and refused to let her go. 

Tina Zahn did not die that day, though postpartum depression had made her so very desperate to end her life.  Within seconds of her suicide attempt, Trooper Boldt was joined by three other officers of the law, who pulled her to safety and took her to a hospital.  That dramatic day in July 2004 was the beginning of Tina Zahn’s recovery from a lifetime of pain and despair.  When Tina Zahn spoke about the book she had written, I reached for my Kindle to see if it was available for download.  It was; so I bought it.

Tina Zahn’s story

With ghost writer Wanda Dyson’s help, Tina Zahn begins her story with her childhood, which was spent with a stepfather who sexually abused her and a mother who didn’t seem to care enough to stop him.  Though she was bright and a hard worker, she endured a very traumatic childhood.  Luckily, she managed to go to college and earned degrees that allowed her to be successful in the work place.  But she had always battled depression, which seemed to dog her in everything she did.

She married her husband, Daniel, and later had her first child, a girl named Sarah.  After Sarah’s birth, Zahn suffered severe postpartum depression, a hormonal condition that makes it difficult for mothers to bond properly with their babies.  She sought help for it and was given a prescription for Prozac.  Her doctor promised her she would be her old self again in no time, but it took over a year for Zahn to feel better.  She didn’t know it at the time, but she later learned that once postpartum depression strikes, it’s very likely to strike again and with more severity with each subsequent pregnancy.

As Zahn recovered, she began to get more involved with church.  She and her husband had always attended a Lutheran church, which Zahn apparently found unsatisfying.  She began attend a more contemporary church which she liked much better, but her husband was uncomfortable with the more casual services.  They argued over their clashing faiths, which caused tension in their marriage.  

In 2002, Zahn and her husband decided to have another child.  Zahn’s pregnancy was very unpleasant, mainly owing to chronic physical pain she had long suffered and more acute pain brought on by a hernia that developed during the pregnancy.  Baby Noah was born in 2003 under traumatic circumstances.  Both Noah and Tina spent a long time recovering from the birth and Tina was soon plunged back into another brutal bout of postpartum depression.  She was unable to take care of herself, her children, or her household duties.  Fortunately, she still had many friends from church who prayed for her.  Those friends were praying on the day Tina Zahn almost succeeded in killing herself.

My thoughts 

I think Why I Jumped is worthwhile reading, particularly for those who have, in some way, struggled with depression.  In the late 1990s, I battled depression myself.  While I was never near as debilitated as Tina Zahn was, I related to her descriptions of what depression feels like.  This book may be even more helpful for women who have dealt with or are currently battling postpartum depression, as well as those who care about someone with postpartum depression, particularly if they are Christians.  In fact, this book is very faith promoting, which may or may not be a good thing.

Readers who either don’t mind the testimony bearing or are actively seeking a faith promoting story will probably really appreciate Zahn’s story.  People who are turned off by Christian memoirs or testimonies may not enjoy Tina Zahn’s book.  She is very clear about her Christian faith and how it, as well as prayers from nine close friends, saved her from suicide. 

Zahn is very detailed in her story.  Some of her details are on the mundane side, though they do give readers some insight into the dynamics of her family of origin as well as her marriage and relationship with her mother-in-law.  There is a lot of dialogue in this book, which makes it read more like a novel.  Zahn also includes pictures, which were easy enough to see on my Kindle.  Zahn also includes several appendices with information about depression, postpartum depression, and suicide resources.

Overall

It seems that Zahn’s life made a dramatic turnaround on the day she tried to jump off the Leo Frigo Bridge.  She made good friends with the police officers who saved her, told her miserable abusive stepfather to stop contacting her, and wrote a book, which has no doubt inspired a lot of people.  I found her story mostly fascinating and would not hesitate to recommend it to those who want to learn more about depression… as long as they don’t mind also reading about religion.

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LDS, mental health, psychology

Please don’t smile when you say that…

You know that old cowboy movie saying, “Smile when you say that”? It’s an idiom meaning that you’d better be joking. If you said something shitty and actually meant it, you’re due for a beatdown of some sort. At the very least, if you’re not joking, the other person is going to be very angry or offended by what you dared to say with a straight face. Today, I want to explore the opposite of that saying. Some things aren’t really laughing matters.

Trigger warning– this post is going to be about suicidal ideation.

Recently, I had a rather unsettling experience while witnessing a video call with someone. I wasn’t actually the primary conversant on that call; I just happened to be in the room when it was happening. Bill was talking to his daughter, who was talking about some pretty personal stuff. As she was revealing some painful things about her past, she was laughing and smiling.

At one point, the topic of suicide came up, and she was giggling as she talked about it. There she was, talking about being so aggrieved at more than one point during her childhood that she wanted to meet Jesus. She felt Jesus was the only one who loved or cared about her, and had actually taken steps to make the meeting happen. And as she talked about this painful memory, she was smiling and giggling… which I’m sure she did because she needed Bill to know about this, but didn’t want to upset him. Or maybe it was just too painful and surreal a subject to talk about with a straight face.

Days later, Bill is still a bit apprehensive about that conversation. It didn’t escape either of us that it seems like it would be unexpected for a person to laugh while talking about suicidal ideation. Bill is understandably concerned. So am I. In fact, I wish he could have had this conversation with her in person, preferably in private. Ordinarily, he would have been talking to her with headphones and in a different room. But her call came late and Bill was thinking it wasn’t going to happen, so he didn’t have his laptop handy. He talked to her on his iPad, and was sitting at the table with me when she Skyped. I suppose he could have Skyped her back and spoken to her privately, but he chose not to… and most of the call was mundane, anyway. It was about the usual stuff. But then that topic came up, and it got a bit awkward.

My theory is that many people in Bill’s family, to include Bill himself, have this innate tendency to put others before themselves. They will sacrifice their own needs to make someone else happy or more comfortable. I’ve seen Bill do it many times. I’ve seen his mother do it, too. And now, I think I saw Bill’s daughter doing it, needing to talk about this very deep and painful memory, but not wanting to upset us or herself. Or, it could have been that she was embarrassed about or ashamed of this trauma and wanted to make it seem less serious than it clearly is. I think the laughter could have even been a form of self-protection… a tension breaker of some sort.

I see from reading Psychology Today that laughing about psychological pain is actually not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, it’s possible that she didn’t even realize what she was doing. This was a very scary, traumatizing, and triggering memory for her, but talking about it with laughter was a way to minimize it somehow. I told Bill that, to me, it seemed like she needed to talk about this, but maybe she was afraid to bring it up because it might traumatize us. That would mean she was at least partially focused on someone’s needs other than her own, although I will say that overall, she’s proven to be very resilient and self-reliant. She couldn’t bear living with her mentally ill mother, so she did what she had to do to escape that environment. But before that happened, she obviously learned to put others before herself, likely to prevent more pain. I also think she comes by that naturally, to some extent. As I mentioned before, I’ve seen that tendency in Bill and his mom. But I also think younger daughter’s mother exploited that tendency and reinforced it. Her older sister reportedly has the same tendency, which is probably why she’s still living with her mom at age 30, taking care of her severely autistic brother.

I heard younger daughter explaining how her mother was “deep down a good person”, as she also talked about how her mom did things like deny her access to her family, force her to take out student loans and give her mom the excess, compel her to change her last name and call her stepfather “dad”, send her off to college and on a church mission with no support whatsoever, deny her medical care, and use money and empty promises as a means of controlling her. I can understand why she does this. It’s not easy to accept that a close family member is not a good person, especially when that person is a parent. When a parent turns out to be a “monster”, the person wonders if that tendency to be monstrous is hereditary. They may try to overcorrect by being overly considerate and kind.

I don’t think younger daughter needs to worry that she’s “monstrous”, like her mother is. I take comfort in knowing that the more younger daughter gets reacquainted with Bill, the more she realizes that she has a lot of him in her… she has a lot of his goodness, kindness, and empathy. But she also has a mother who is truly a selfish, cruel, and abusive person. Her mother didn’t take care of her, and she didn’t have access to her real father. So she’s had to learn to take care of herself by denying herself some basic needs and not speaking up when she urgently needs attention or assistance.

I am pissed at Ex for not taking care of her children properly. It makes me very angry that these things were going on, and Ex apparently knew, and she didn’t speak to Bill about them. She also didn’t do fuck all to help her child. In fact, she even denied her healthcare, even though Bill’s daughters had full access to health insurance through Tricare. Meanwhile, she was telling Bill what a terrible parent he is, and labeling me a homewrecking whore. But this isn’t a surprise. I don’t think Ex is a good person, and I’ve felt that way for many years. I don’t have a connection to her, other than being the wife of her ex husband, so I can safely have these feelings. But her children don’t have that luxury, because she’s their mom, and she’s the only mom they will ever have.

Although people can and do disconnect with their parents, it’s actually a very hard thing to do– to completely cut them off and go no contact. Even if a person dies, as long as any thought of them is in a person’s conscience, the relationship continues on some level. Hell… even many adopted children with excellent adoptive parents wonder about their birth parents. A lot of them do what they can to seek out their birth parents because they want to know their origins. They want to know why their birth parents– particularly their birth mother– didn’t raise them.

Sometimes, the stories adopted children unearth about their birth parents are comforting and reassuring. Birth mom desperately wanted to keep the child, but couldn’t because she was too poor or too young and it was just impossible. But sometimes the stories are painful. Ex was adopted. We heard in Ex’s case that her birth mom was married and had been having an affair with another man. She chose her marriage over keeping and raising Ex. Making matters worse was the fact that Ex’s adoptive parents were abusive, neglectful, and treated her like a second class citizen compared to their natural children. Or, perhaps the adopted child finds her birth parents and neither wants anything to do with him or her. Younger daughter wasn’t adopted. She knows her mom, as well as the truth about her. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t wish it weren’t like that, and have some hope that somehow, someday, her mother will change into a different kind of person.

Younger daughter was told many falsehoods when she was growing up. She was told some outrageous lies about Bill and me, and the nature of how we met. Meanwhile, Ex gaslit her into not seeing what she was seeing with her own eyes. As Ex labeled Bill a philanderer and me a whore, she was shacking up with her now husband while still married to Bill. And they were having a sexual relationship, even though they weren’t married and she was supposedly a devout Mormon. The church teaches that premarital sex, particularly if one is still married and “sealed” to someone else, is morally wrong. The church was used to break up Bill’s relationship with his daughters– Bill was no longer “living the standards”, so he needed to be discarded. But Ex was also not living the standards, and somehow that was okay. The cognitive dissonance was probably incredible for the kids.

Incidentally, younger daughter is still LDS, and the LDS church is good at guilt, too. People are expected to “endure to the end.” I have heard countless stories about people who have wanted to do something for themselves– say stepping down from a church calling or tithing less money– and they were guilted and shamed for that. I suspect that the church has also, in some way, reinforced that tendency to deny problems and minimize or discount them. It’s easier for others when we’re “strong”… at least until it gets so bad that the strength gives out and the strong person finally collapses. And since younger daughter is now a mom herself, she can’t really afford to fall apart.

Is it any wonder Bill’s daughter is so traumatized? Is it any wonder that she laughs and smiles and giggles when she talks about something as serious as suicide, suicidal ideation, or other traumas? I suspect she fears being too “heavy” and turning off her dad, who has been wanting to have a relationship with her for so long. I also suspect that she was trained not to bring any problems to her mom or her stepdad. In fact, I’ll bet Ex’s reactions to her daughter’s pain included anger, derision, or even laughter.

My heart goes out to younger daughter. When I was younger, I had similar thoughts about self-destruction. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to launch. I didn’t think I had anything to offer the world and I didn’t think anyone cared about me, even though there were obviously people who did love me. Adolescence is hard, though… biological processes during that time can be pure hell. Childhood is hard, too. You have no control over anything, and adults are telling you to be quiet… “shut up before I give you something to cry about”. Being a young adult is hard– trying to find one’s way in the world and make enough money to support oneself. I think the phase I’m in now may be the easiest for me so far, but I am about to be menopausal. We’ll see how that goes.

Sometimes I still feel shitty about myself and want it all to end. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that when I admitted having these feelings to my own therapist years ago, I probably laughed too. It’s just not easy to talk about it, and laughter somehow makes the task easier, especially when you don’t know how the other person will react. My therapist was a doctoral level psychologist with many years of experience. He was in the prime of his career when I saw him. But he’s still a flawed human being with feelings and thoughts. Despite the fact that I was paying him to counsel me, I wasn’t sure what his human reaction would be to my comments. Fortunately, he was a professional and talked me through the pain.

I do remember telling my mom, at one point, that I felt suicidal. I don’t think I put it that way, but I did express to her the desire I had for ending it all. Her response was to get angry and say, “I know you won’t do anything ‘stupid’.” It was absolutely the WRONG thing to say. She basically discounted my pain and practically dared me to make an attempt. I have never forgotten that she said that to me. If I’m honest, it kind of lowered my opinion of her, although I do love my mom and I don’t think she meant it. I look back at that time and realize that she was under a lot of stress. So I forgive her for saying that, although I haven’t forgotten that she said it. I can’t forget it because it’s shocking to hear your mom say something like that, even if you kind of know why she said it.

I don’t know what Ex said in that situation… but I suspect it was a lot worse than what my mom said to me. My mom is not a narcissist, nor is she mentally ill. My mom has compassion. Ex has compassion only when it makes her look good to other people. And I truly believe that she sees her children and grandchildren as extensions of herself– objects to be manipulated and owned, rather than nurtured, loved, and cherished. I’m sure if younger daughter had succeeded, Ex would have simply felt abandoned. She would have been angry at the imposition and the inconvenience. And she never would have thought to tell her daughter’s other parent, a loving father who would have done whatever he could to help her and ease her pain. Ex was much too “prideful” and vengeful for that.

I really think that younger daughter’s tendency to “laugh” at trauma is a combination of a few things. One is that she’s been conditioned to minimize her own pain, either because no one would comfort her anyway, or because she would be shamed for it. Another is that talking about these feelings is embarrassing for her. Another is not wanting Bill or me to think there’s something “wrong” with her (which we definitely don’t). And then there’s the need to reduce the tension that comes from talking about trauma and pain. Laughter is good for that. It’s close to crying, but crying is kind of “taboo”– many people see crying as “weakness”. So we laugh and that kind of breaks the tension, even if we really just want to break down in sobs and tears and have someone hug us and tell us it will all be okay.

I know my husband well… and I know that if he was in a room with his daughter and she was talking about this subject, he would give her a hug and stroke her hair. He would encourage her to lean on him and cry as much as she wanted. I know he would comfort her for as long as she needed it. I know this, because this is how he treats me. It’s an absolute tragedy that his children were denied this love and compassion that he’s been waiting to give them freely– without any strings attached.

The good news is that she has him now. She’s out of her mother’s house and can heal. No one can tell her what to do anymore unless she gives them permission.

On the other hand, right now Noyzi is telling me to get off the computer and walk him and Arran. So I guess I’d better wrap this up before he has a conniption. I’ll have to give this some more thought. For now, I told Bill that I think he should tell his daughter that he’s here for her and if she needs to talk to him, she can depend on him. He’ll hear what she has to say and won’t laugh at her, judge her, rage at her, minimize or discount her feelings, or treat her like she owes him… or he owns her. I hope that will help so she won’t have to laugh at her own pain anymore when she speaks to him.

A good video for people who have had a narcissistic mother.

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book reviews, mental health

Repost: A review of Suicide: the Forever Decision

Here’s a reposted review of Paul G. Quinnett’s book, Suicide: the Forever Decision.  I found it helpful reading back when I was suffering from clinical depression.  Fortunately, I haven’t needed to read this book in a very long time.  I am reposting the review so it doesn’t get lost and, perhaps, to help anyone reading this blog who might need help. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This review was originally posted for Epinions.com on October 2, 2003.

Suicide is a solution.

Does my review’s title shock you? Well, if it does, I’m sorry, but I write the truth. If you think about it, suicide is a solution for the the person who commits the act. It creates all sorts of problems, however, for the people he or she leaves behind. I learned that tidbit of wisdom in the 1997 edition of Paul G. Quinnett’s book Suicide: the Forever Decision. I read this book quite often during my own depression back in 1998-99 and I found it to be quite helpful. Quinnett comes across as a very wise counselor. He doesn’t write a lot of trite, mushy “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” stuff that depressed people have heard a billion times before. Quinnett writes the truth. And despite what I wrote at the beginning of this review, he doesn’t condone suicide. After all, I’m still here, aren’t I?

The first chapter of this book is entitled “You Don’t Have To Be Crazy”. What a fitting way to start off a book about suicide prevention! Depression is a lonely, painful state of mind and people who are thinking about suicide often think they’re crazy to want to end it all, or other people think they’re crazy to want to kill themselves. In reality, the act of suicide is usually more often a case of frustration and desperation, rather than genuine craziness. Besides, most people have had at least a fleeting thought of suicide.

In the second chapter, Quinnett challenges readers to remember where they got the idea to kill themselves. Did someone in their family kill themselves? Did a friend commit suicide? Did they get the idea from a famous person? People have been committing suicide for as long as there have been people– it’s very likely that someone somewhere gave the reader the idea to commit suicide. Quinnett cites statistics that show that when someone famous kills themselves, the suicide rate rises. It seems to be a contagious phenomenon.

To the question “Don’t I have the right to die?” Quinnett’s frank reply is that he doesn’t have a very good answer to that question. But his final answer is, “No. You don’t have an absolute right to kill yourself.” At least not from a legal standpoint. He explains that there are laws against attempting suicide and if readers try it, sometimes unpleasant legal consequences may follow. He also explains that as a psychologist, he is trained to save lives, not help people end them. But if all of this information comes across as harsh, it’s also very honest. Quinnett explains that there are a couple of schools of thought about a person’s right to die– some people believe that everyone has the inalienable right to die whenever they want to and others believe that people should be kept alive at all costs– until every last breath of life is beaten out of them. An interesting discussion about this topic ensues. But then he also offers a reassuring pledge that while there are people out there, even some mental health professionals, who don’t care if readers live or die, there are other people who do. They will be the ones who won’t sit on their hands and do nothing when they see a person who is obviously suffering.

Quinnett then asks his readers once more if they are absolutely sure this is the decision they want to make. He makes an interesting comparison of a depressed, suicidal person to a bug in a cup. We can see around the insides of our cup (ie; depression), but we can’t see over the lip. Moreover, a suicidal person generally doesn’t have all the information he or she needs to make a wise decision about whether or not they should end their lives. The suicidal person may not know that their depression is time limited and that they will feel much better in a matter of weeks or months– probably even sooner with treatment.

Quinnett also addresses anger, loneliness, and stress and provides methods on how to deal with them. One of the chapters in the book is entitled “They Won’t Love You When You’re Gone, Either”. This is intended to address those folks who want to kill themselves to punish other people, particularly parents whom they feel didn’t love them. Quinnett reminds these people that they are the ones who matter now, not their parents. And if their parents didn’t love them when they were kids, chances are good that they won’t love their children when they’re dead, either.

Quinnett speaks to his readers confidently and personally. He also asks them to put the book down if they are high on drugs or drunk on alcohol. He says that he expects his clients to come to therapy with their whole brain ready for use. He expects the same of those who read his book. Quinnett offers somes commentary on those who have already attempted suicide, warning that those who have attempted to kill themselves are now at a higher risk of attempting to kill themselves again or actually succeeding in the act. He asks these people to consider what could happen if they don’t succeed. He relates stories of some of his clients– people who have wound up paralyzed, disfigured, vegetative or maimed because they attempted suicide. Quinnett also reminds would be suicides of the people they would be leaving behind– family, friends, perhaps children. He writes that the day that a reader commits suicide will become a day of infamy for his or her family. The family will never be able to enjoy that date again without thinking of the horror of how their loved one died by their own hand. Quinnett reminds readers that it’s not fair to put family and friends through that kind of guilt.

At the end of the book, Quinnett offers tips on getting help for depression and suicidal ideation and points his readers in the right direction. He explains the difference between psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and master’s level clinicians. He also emphasizes the importance of getting a physical in order to rule out physical reasons for depression (aside from brain chemical imbalances).

I found this book to be very comforting when I was feeling depressed on a regular basis. Quinnett’s tone is empathetic, insightful, and respectful. The book is not overwhelming or overly long. He’s used a comfortably large sized font that’s easy on the eyes so the book is easy to read. In my opinion, it would be easy for people with depression to pick this book up and read it– it was for me, anyway. Those who have the will to read this book have most assuredly not conclusively decided to kill themselves. I believe that Paul G. Quinnett’s book may help these people tip the scales in the direction of choosing life. Yes, suicide is a choice that people are able to make to solve all of their problems right now and forevermore. But this book is very likely to show readers why they shouldn’t make a choice that will solve all of their problems forever. For that reason, I recommend it wholeheartedly. 

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