Friday, October 19, 2012

Mental illness and violence

If I believed it was possible to jinx oneself, I would say that I jinxed myself; yesterday I said I had the best sleep ever, and then last night I didn't sleep at all. Fuck you, insomnia.

In spite of being something of a political junkie, I did not watch any of the US presidential debates; insomnia is to blame again, here. I have a hard enough time falling asleep as it is without my brain being all excited over politics, both in terms of dwelling on what answers I liked, and what answers I did not like. As a result, my knowledge of what was said during the debates was limited to what was reported in the news and on the various blogs I follow.

Mitt Romney said a lot of stupid shit in the debate on Tuesday (binders full of women, eh?), which I expected. I've seen a lot of commentary regarding Romney's answer to the question of gun violence, in which he cited heterosexual marriage and parenting as the solution. Not only is this insulting to single-parent families and other non-heteronormative families, it comes across as a personal attack on President Obama, who spent parts of his live being raised by a single-mother. Hey, Romney, I haven't forgotten which one of you was the bully that helped hold a kid down and give him a haircut because you thought he was gay, and it definitely wasn't the guy in the single-parent household.

That being said, I wasn't at all pleased with President Obama's answer to that question, either:

So my belief is that A, we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.


And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.
Because my depression really makes me want to get my hands on an AK-47 and shoot up a public place. Thanks, Mr. Obama, I didn't know that about myself.

The idea that mentally ill people are more likely than anyone else to be violent is just as bullshit as Romney's suggestion that heteronormative marriage leads to less violent offspring. It's also insulting, as is the correlation Obama made between mentally ill people and criminals. Not only are mentally ill no more likely to be violent than someone who isn't, we're actually more likely to be the targets of crime, including violent crime (source). This is in part because of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness, a stigma that the President of the United States just helped to perpetuate.

Targeting the mentally ill is not going to reduce gun violence in the US. Personally, I think that what's needed is a serious overhaul in the way Americans view guns, as well as their precious Second Amendment. American politicians, however, seem to be unwilling to criticize a problematic gun culture, and so instead they draft ineffective laws that aim to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Obama's answer wasn't all bad; better enforcement of existing gun control laws is a good starting point, and trying to catch violent impulses before shit gets bad also sounds like an idea. Still, there was no need to give credence to an ableist, factually-incorrect stereotype about mentally ill people in the process. Part of Obama's gun control strategy should be protecting the mentally ill, not stigmatizing us.

I expected better from this president, and I'm kind of seething over how badly he fucked up with this question. I'll never express my anger with a gun, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Youth, poverty, and trying to make a difference

Go figure; I commit to writing more, and my health nose-dives again. For the record: insomnia sucks, 5am is a lousy bed time, and taking an MAOI makes it much more difficult to treat. I managed to sleep last night, though, and it was definitely the best sleep I've had in two weeks.

Almost three months after losing my job, I still haven't been able to find new employment. Granted, my health has gotten in the way of my search somewhat, but the bottom line is that my only income right now is EI, and it's very difficult to make ends meet with so little to work with. This is especially true in my particular corner of rural Nova Scotia; rent is inflated, and there's very little available in the way of assistance. Low-income housing is only available for seniors or families, and down-on-their-luck unemployed youth just don't have any resources available. No wonder so many of my former co-workers left town.

It just so happens to be municipal election season, so after I gave up on my search for some sort of housing assistance, I decided to look into candidates. Sadly, not many of them have websites, and those who set up Facebook pages just post things about where they've been canvassing around town, groups they met with, and so on, as opposed to campaign promises, their views on various issues, and so on. I eventually found some information on the website of the local weekly newspaper. Turns out I missed the mayoral debate, though according to the article the "big" issue was the local exhibition grounds and what it meant for town verses county relations. I suppose that's important, but for someone who might very soon have to leave town due to being unable to afford the rent, it's not a big priority.

I emailed both candidates and I told them my story: I'm twenty-six, not able-bodied, recently laid off, and I can't afford rent. I wrote about how many of my former co-workers left town when we lost our jobs, how young people-- many of whom are unemployed or under-employed-- simply can't afford to stay here, and how that's going to further damage an already depressed local economy. I asked them what they plan to do about ensuring that there's affordable housing for those who need it.

Both candidates replied back; one asked to meet me.

It turns out another problem youth have is that we're not very good at getting our voices heard.

Fortunately, the candidate I met with today is aware of the difficulties young people face in town, and housing difficulties in particular. The thing is, I was the first person to come forward and talk about the problem on a more personal level. I suppose I'm not entirely surprised that this is the case; young people tend to be more politically apathetic, even about the issues that directly affect us. The issues I addressed haven't really been discussed in previous council meetings, in part because the councillors don't think of these things, and in part because we youth aren't telling them. I was asked to get involved, and to share my experience and concerns with the newly-elected council.

So, tomorrow I'll be learning more about the local Poverty Reduction Council and the affordable housing initiative they're working on, as well as their other projects. This stuff is important, and while youth concerns are acknowledged, we need a voice, too-- so once I'm done talking, I'll be encouraging others to speak up, too.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rob Anders opens his mouth, more shit comes out.

Last week, Conservative MP Rob Anders was in trouble for an especially nasty comment he made concerning late Opposition leader Jack Layton and current leader Thomas Mulcair. To quote:

Anders told iPolitics that one of the great stories journalists were missing was "that Mr. Mulcair, with his arm twisted behind the scenes, helped to hasten Jack Layton’s death."

"It was very clear to me watching the two of those gentlemen in the front benches, that Jack Layton was ill and that Mr. Mulcair was making it quite obvious that if Jack wasn't well enough to fight the campaign and fight the election that he should step aside, and that because of that, Mr. Layton put his life at risk to go into the national election, and fight it, and did obviously an amazing job considering his state of health, and that he did that partly because of the arm-twisting behind the scenes by Mulcair and then subsequently died," iPolitics reported Anders as saying.

Anders has since apologized for these comments, but not before Peter Stoffer, a well-like NDP MP,  called him a dickhead, which is probably about the politest thing one could call Anders considering how vile the man is. Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, has accepted the apology, and suggested that Anders sponsor her in her 5km charity run for Prostate Cancer Canada.

Anders is still a dickhead, however, and lest he lose his title, opened his mouth again and let more hateful comments spew forth from it. He has come under fire for circulating a petition on his website and at a local (presumably Calgary) church that asks MPs to vote against bill C279, which aims to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crime section of the criminal code to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression. According to Anders, however, "Its goal is to give transgendered men access to women’s public washroom facilities, [and] it is the duty of the House of Commons to protect and safeguard our children from any exposure and harm that will come from giving a man access to women’s public washroom facilities."

There is so much wrong with that statement, it's hard to know where to start. My first reaction was to facepalm over yet another transphobic asshole going on about bathrooms. I'm not the only one to react this way, either; Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Lobby Group, pointed out to Anders that, "Trans people have been going to the washroom since the beginning of time." She also stated that Anders' "fear-mongering, storytelling and myth-making" is the reason why this bill is needed in the first place. Once again, trans people are accused of being pedophiles, as opposed to honest folk who just wanna take a piss in peace like everybody else.

NDP MP Randall Garrison is the bill's sponsor, and was quite polite in voicing his opposition to Anders' petition:
He said the comments made by Anders were either made out of ignorance or he is trying to spread fear about transgender people by equating them to sexual predators.

"He clearly doesn't understand the basic concepts to do with transgender Canadians," said Garrison.

He said the bill fills a gap because there are legal questions about whether transgender people are included in protections that are available to all other Canadians.


"I guess it's what I've come to expect from Mr. Anders ... time for his weekly apology," he said.

To date, Anders does not appear to have issued an apology.

Sadly, it doesn't appear that anyone has approached Peter Stoffer for his thoughts on the subject, either. Somebody should get on that.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Drugs and stuff.

I wish I could say that the reason why I haven't posted anything in two months is because I've been busy, but that has not been the case. I was laid off two and a half months ago, and since I didn't have anything better to do at the time, decided to change up my crazy pill cocktail. This meant being weaned off of the three medications I had been taking so that I could start a new one without any negative drug interactions.

The weaning process took a month, and it was absolute hell. My depressive symptoms returned the second week, at which point I stopped being able to sleep on top of everything else. There really wasn't anything that could be done to relieve my symptoms, either, short of trying to find a sleep aid out there that I haven't already tried (it's a long list) that would be compatible with the new anti-depressant my doctor wanted to try once the weaning was over (a much shorter list). After the detox, there was the usual four to six week waiting period before the new drug would reach a therapeutic level. Fortunately, it's there now, and while the hunt for a new sleep aid continues, I'm back to being a mostly-functional human being.

The anti-depressant my doctor wanted to try is called Parnate, or tranylcypromine. It's in that scary class of drugs known as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, or MAOI. They've got a bad reputation in pop culture, and a bad reaction to an MAOI has been the cause of death in more than one episode of some crime drama or novel. There's also a wealth of bad information out there about this class of drugs, and what a person can and cannot ingest while taking one, and it makes them seem more dangerous than they actually are. Furthermore, I have to wonder if this bad reputation is the reason why I'm only trying a drug in this class now, after seven years of trying to treat my depression.

MAOIs work by inhibiting an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. Among other things, this enzyme aids in the metabolization of tyramine, a compound commonly found in food. If too much tyramine is ingested, it can lead to a hypertensive crisis-- high blood pressure, essentially. On TV, this means that if you eat a piece of cheese, you'll drop dead within minutes. In reality, though, this is unlikely, unless the person already has very high blood pressure. You might feel quite ill, and should probably seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of high blood pressure, but death is unlikely. Sorry to be the asshole to point out a medical inconsistency in CSI and the like. (I am not actually sorry.)

Anyway, now that my health is more stable, I hope to be updating this blog on a regular basis again.