Real Men

I love my teaching job for moments like these:

Last week I had to pull an 8th grade boy aside to address his ‘cocky’ bullying.  It became quickly apparent that his version of “a man” was arrogant hyper-testosterone peacocking.  Where or how he learned it didn’t matter.  What did matter was the chip on his shoulder.

I shared with him a lesson I learned when I was about his age about “being a man.”  It was taught to me by a REAL man who had it taught to him…

Tearing down people’s lives, maiming them, or even taking life is easy and over-glorified; it requires about as much “manhood” as a gorilla picking up a stick or rock. But helping put lives back together or literally saving them takes an immeasurable amount of manhood.  There is no comparison!

[Boy], if you must “stand out,” then stand out with and for the ones who can’t.  Choose the harder higher road, not the easiest, and then you’ll understand what it is to be a real man.

Some great examples of “Real Men”…

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Antoinette Tuff

antoinette tuff

Hero Antoinette Tuff

This will be a news story told the next several days a thousand times, praised a hundred different ways, and likely gone viral on social media.  This last Tuesday in Decatur, Georgia a simple office clerk at an elementary school, full of students, treated a psychologically unstable gunman as a human being and averted a potentially bloody all too familiar school massacre.  The risks that Antoinette Tuff had put herself can only be described as temporarily super-human — the right person, with the right background, in the right place at the right time — possibly saving many more young innocent lives.

If you haven’t yet listened or watched the news footage on all major networks, then do it.  It is well worth the time.  Here’s the CNN link:  click here.

This story and lady hits a very personal nerve and flashback with me.  I have been in (and in some ways am still in today) practically the exact same situation Ms. Tuff found herself.  My personal story with a mentally unstable gunman can be read here:  What Was I Thinking?

I am also an elementary-middle school teacher.  I am a brother to a psychiatric sister who often either gets off her psych-meds or is forced off her psych-meds due to clinical restrictions, bureaucratic tape or “economic policy.”  Our local state hospital and nearby meds-clinic just recently had a woman refused her psych prescriptions (reasons unknown to me) then left the clinic emotionally distraught in her car and crashed it 3-blocks away, killing herself and injuring others at the four-way red-light intersection.  I am also a former 3 1/2 year employee of a Psych-A&D hospital’s Intake Office or Crisis Center/Office.  I do indeed have personal experience with many situations like Ms. Tuff experienced, including her own divorce — for me two divorces — and thoughts of suicide by her self and her gunman; although in my personal experience the suicide was accomplished.

So watching and listening to Ms. Tuff’s situation and 911 call, choked me up and touched a sensitive emotional nerve with me…to put it mildly.

I have three points or questions I want to present to my readers and followers:

  1. Did Ms. Tuff’s demeanor and treatment of the gunman de-escalate his emotional and mental instability, or did the gunman eventually recognize his own insane behavior?
  2. How far should individuals or society allow mental psych patients (on or off their meds) to throw tantrums of highly inappropriate behavior, even violence, to get what they want?
  3. Given that the majority of mental psych patients (and often their families) cannot function perfectly in society or jobs/careers, WHO should foot their treatment bills?  Who suffers most when people like this gunman snap?

With these questions I hope to draw attention to America’s increasingly social dysfunctional problem-solving systems and education, as well as how best to address them.  Do we keep locking them up?  They’ve done that hundreds of times with my sister with little improvement other than temporary band-aids.

Please let me hear your comments, thoughts and feelings.  Because one day you may find yourself face-to-face with the same type of gunman.  What would you do in Ms. Tuff’s situation?

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The Disease

detoursFor the last four weeks I’ve been quite busy.  During this time I have set to one side the task of blogging; it had to take a lower priority.  And as is typical in life there are sometimes distractions or obstacles that get in the way of things we want to do, like blogging.  I have had such a week; more like several weeks.  Each time I wanted to continue and finish the humorous post I had started and planned for publishing days ago, life would throw a curve ball.  Seven out of ten times I am able to easily manage the distractions or setbacks.  But as many of you may know, life doesn’t always cooperate with our wishes and plans.

There are two significant factors that every single person alive must address and manage at some point in their life:  family and aging elders, or death.  The timing of both these factors is almost never convenient nor are they always pleasant when it is a family member.  Family has the distinct uncomfortable privilege of reaching too often the deepest parts of our heart and soul.  For the last 31-years I have had the “privilege” of witnessing my sister’s chemical-addictions, soon exacerbated with psychological issues, burden my mother and her usually huge warm energetic heart with every passing year – with every single perpetual relapse by my sister every month to three months – take off two, five years of my mom’s health and vitality each time.  We have been a three-member family since my father’s suicide in 1990, and guess who is always counted on (by default) for strength, understanding, and eventually some comic relief?

I have to admit…it gets really fucking exhausting.

diseaseFor the last thirty-plus years I have done a LOT of screaming; screaming at the sky, screaming at the walls, screaming at my dead father wherever he is, and screaming at my three different therapists who’ve had the “privilege” of helping me through the bad times.

But those screaming sessions cannot compare to the decibel levels I’ve screamed (mostly in my head) over and over when I listen to alcohol-drug support groups and leaders talk about “The Disease.”

I have no hesitation in confessing that I am apparently on the outside looking in.  There are support groups for family members of chemical-addicts that not only offer emotional support, but also educate family members of addicts (often the issues of enabling and co-dependency) how to manage themselves around an addict’s pathology.  What is taught and what is often embraced by these groups, sometimes makes me want to scream with my already strained exhausted vocal cords!

Is it right…is it best to give, to surrender so much power and control to the disease?

If I examine my sister’s 31-plus years of addiction and never-ending relapses, I would wonder.  Fuck, who am I kidding?  I do wonder…but from a very frustrating “disadvantaged” viewpoint.  So I continue to scream, apparently until I have no vocal cords left to scream because apparently this fucking “disease” will never go away.  Apparently it can never be cured, only managed until the day she dies.

Is that the way it will always be for the brothers and mothers of addicts?  I have to accept it?  I really have a serious fucking problem with that white flag!  I have always had that problem, which for the last 15-20 years has sometimes caused my already aging, tired compassionate mother perhaps more stress than comfort and hope!  And that makes me want to scream more!

When is passiveness or surrender unhealthy?

After three months in counseling soon after my father’s suicide, my therapist, with tears rolling down her cheeks said “You are one of the most remarkable Survivors I have ever counseled.”  The four major life events I was forced to deal with in 1990 was blowing her away, let alone her clinical concern for my mental-emotional health.  She confessed to me years later that she had considered diagnosing me with major depression with suicidal precautions.  Apparently statistics show that immediate family members of suicide victims have an increased likelihood of suicide themselves.  I understood all too well that concept play out on 9/11 when watching people jump from the top-floor windows of the World Trade Center towers to their death — sometimes it just seems to be too unbearable.  I have felt their pain, but then I scream back at life with my best warrior face.

Laurel Land Cemetery where my Dad is buried & Mom has her plot. She & I have discussed too where to put my 49-yr old sister.

Laurel Land Cemetery where my Dad is buried & Mom has her plot. She & I have also discussed where to put my 49-yr old sister.

It seems with each passing month and each passing year a survivor-of-suicide has an exponentially greater chance of becoming a uniquely advantaged super-human, or so the clinical data shows.  So what does it mean when one is also forced to support an aging 73-year old elderly mother – cut short of ten happier years by a pathological relapsing addict-daughter – who physically and emotionally has either reached or is damn close to her life-limit?  How much are we supposed to endure?  How much are we obligated to endure my sister’s 31-years of repeated insatiable relapses which are always around the corner ready to devour?  How many more damaged exhausted victims have to fall in her wake?

I am one extremely pissed-off brother (again) as I watch my sister – who consciously chose to consume those chemicals as a teenager – inflict again on my undeserving mother, inflict again on her undeserving AA and NA support friends, and inflict again on society as a whole, who with their tax dollars or donations throw away give and give, and give to a disease that can only be partly managed with unpredictable results…always.

This is the way it has to be?

Signed angry, exhausted “Survivor” brother and son who doesn’t feel very super-human!

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