Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman & Mental Illness

Kel-tec PF9 9mm via Wikimedia Commons
Is there anybody who has read in any depth about the stalking and killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who didn't start thinking, "That guy is crazy"?  Not simply racist (and I'm not trying to minimize the racial targeting aspect), but clearly, the guy was not in his right mind.

It goes beyond that for me.  I recognize some telltales that send chills down my spine.

If you're new to this blog, the Cliffnotes version is that I strongly believe my ex, although undiagnosed,  to have a mental  illness called OCPD.  It's a disorder that, despite being relatively common, many people have never even heard of.  It's often confused with OCD, even by mental health professionals.

And although most people with OCPD, just like those with every other mental illness, are more likely to be victims of a crime than perpetrators, I believe that some individuals with undiagnosed, untreated OCPD are currently a danger to themselves, their families, and the community at large.

Since I'm not a mental health professional, they won't take away my license if I speculate. So let me make my case for why I think this guy might have OCPD.

One person diagnosed with OCPD, related online how before his condition was better controlled, he walked around his neighborhood for hours every night, looking in parked car windows with a flashlight, to find and stop people "doing something wrong."  He was obsessed with protecting his family by catching...?  Car thieves? Teenagers and adulterers making out? Kids smoking a joint?   (This man was in the Midwest, not Florida, so it's not the same person.)

One of the markers of OCPD is:
  •  Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
Another (official) marker is this:
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
The key phrase there is: future catastrophes, which is only lightly touched on in current versions of the DSM.  Those with OCPD almost always have catastrophic thinking.

If the forks are turned the wrong way in the dish drainer, you could prick your finger, develop blood poisoning, and die.  (Yes, more than one person with OCPD has explained this to me.)  An unlocked and open window at night on the second floor could invite a burglary.

If I was five or ten minutes late coming home from work, my ex never assumed, "Gee, she's working late," or "Maybe there was traffic."  He was sure I was in a car accident, or sleeping with my boss, or had been kidnapped and raped.  I would face furious tirades when I got home from work five-ten minutes late, and hadn't called (because I was rushing home) to let him know that everything was okay.  His mind always went to the dark place first.

And yes, my ex had weapons, ammo, and contingency plans for barricading the house and fending off intruders if there were earthquakes, riots, or other "civil unrest."

from one man with OCPD:
A couple of times a day the anxiety or gloom goes completely gaga and turns into catastrophe thoughts. That’s when the world really turns dark and sinister. That’s when I’m sure my wife and kids are being raped, murdered, kidnapped. They have been in car crashes and my wife must be seeing another guy. I get scared to the point of vomiting. These catastrophe thoughts will probably never leave me, but I am learning to control them.

A funny thing is that the catastrophe thoughts are always directed outwards. I’m never scared for my own safety. I’ve been a security guard for more than ten years, and I have never been worried in the line of duty. But if my wife’s ten minutes late, I’m a wreck. Again, it is “loss-of-control” issues. If my wife’s late I can’t do anything. If I run into a burglar I can do something about it myself.
One woman I know, recently divorced from her husband, talked about an incident when her husband was walking their small dog.  A car was passing by, full of teenagers, and one of them leaned out and yelled, "Nice dog, a--hole!"  The man was so infuriated he ran up to the car (it had stopped at a stopsign), yanked the 16 year-old out of the car, and punched him in the face.

He was arrested for assault, put on probation, but did not regret his actions, only the "unfair" restrictions his conviction put on him.  According to my friend, he felt fully justified in "punishing" the teenager and frequently said, if the circumstances were to repeat, he'd do it again.  Because "they can't be allowed to get away with stuff like that."

Here's another story from a wife with a suspected OCPD husband:
He has trouble with people: hates people who double park in front of the grocery store, hates people who throw their cigs out the window of a car, hates people who have big trucks, hates baby boomer generation, hates teenagers because they're stupid, blah, blah, blah...I could go on, but I'm sure you all get the picture.
He has had altercations with landscapers at our country club because he thinks they don't respect members. He's real big on respect: respect his space, his right to peace and quiet, etc and he gets enraged and has panic attacks to some degree if people don't act accordingly within his parameters of what is right. He hates liberals, gays, blacks, etc. He blathers on about how women have stripped men in America of their manhood and how he's the poor white man in America who gets no respect. He says he's tired of working hard for immigrants and those on welfare to benefit from his contribution to their system, etc. 
So, here's what MotherJones reporter Adam Weinstein gleaned from the 47 page police report logs of incoming calls by Zimmerman:
Most of the calls seem to cover mundanities: Zimmerman reported a male driving with no headlights; a yellow speedbike popping wheelies on I-4; an aggressive white-and-brown pitbull; an Orange County municipal pickup cutting people off on the road; loud parties; open garage doors; and the antics of an ex-roommate, Josh, that he'd thrown out of their apartment. On September 9, 2009, he called to report another pothole, this one on Greenwood road, advising the dispatcher that "it is deep and can cause damage to vehicles."
He especially had concerns about kids in the neighborhood. On June 16, 2009, shortly after school had let out for the summer, he called to complain about six to eight youths playing basketball near his development's clubhouse, "jumping over the fence going into pool area and trashing the bathroom," according to the dispatcher's notes. This past January, he called to report five or six children, ages 4 to 11, playing in the neighborhood. The kids, he told a dispatcher, "play in the street and like to run out [in front of] cars."
But when there weren't kids or garbage to report, he'd spend his evenings looking for would-be burglars. At 2:38 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2006, he called about a late-model Red Toyota pickup "driving real slow looking at all the [vehicles] in the complex and blasting music from his [vehicle]." It's not clear if Zimmerman feared the driver was a car thief, though car thieves tend not to blast music through the neighborhood while practicing their craft.
But even more than cars, he was concerned about black men on foot in the neighborhood. In August 2011, he called to report a black male in a tank top and shorts acting suspicious near the development's back entrance. "[Complainant] believes [subject] is involved in recent S-21s"—break-ins—"in the neighborhood," the call log states. The suspect, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, fit a recent description given out by law enforcement officers.
Three days later, he called to report two black teens in the same area, for the same reason. "[Juveniles] are the subjs who have been [burglarizing] in this area," he told the dispatcher.
And last month, on Feb. 2, Zimmerman called to report a suspicious black man in a leather jacket near one of the development's units. The resident of that townhouse, Zimmerman told dispatch, was a white male. Police stopped by to investigate, but no one was there, and the residence was secure.
How many calls to the police have you made in your life?  I'm betting if you're under 30 years old it's not even 4-6 times, let alone 46.  Yes, I too have called police to report domestic disturbances, dead animals in the road, and a few annoyingly loud parties.  And we should call and report these things to the appropriate agencies.

Zimmerman, however, seems to have been obsessed with reporting anything out of place.  People with OCPD tend to get very upset when they perceive things as out of place. This can be cans in the cupboard, a drop of water on the counter, or, perhaps, a young black kid in a hoodie.

Why does it matter?  Whether Trayvon was killed because of mental illness, or racism, or some combination of the two, he's still gone. I keep wanting to call him JAYvon, because that sweet face reminds me so much of my own son at his age, nicknamed Jay. When I touch the edges of this whole mess in my mind, I'm overwhelmed with grief and anger. How his parents manage to suck air in and out right now, I can't imagine.

It matters if Zimmerman is mentally ill, if Jared Loughner is mentally ill, if Andrea Yates and others who commit violent crimes are mentally ill because laws and social disapproval can't stop them. Laws and civil suits can punish the behavior after it's occurred, but they can't prevent similar murders from happening, time and again.

Obsession and fear is a deadly combination.  Add easily obtainable lethal weapons to the mix and the potential for tragedy increases even more.

We need to pay attention to mental illness, instead of cutting budgets for sufferers and their families.  We need to stop stigmatizing those brave enough to step forward and ask for help for everything from depression to OCPD to bi-polar disorder.  We need to spread the word about how much untreated mental illness hurts us all, from decreased productivity at work (for sufferers and families alike), to its impact on sexual assault and domestic violence.

Mental illness is the modern elephant in the living room, like alcoholism used to be.  Today, many people openly talk about being recovered alcoholics, or drug addicts, or gamblers.  Yet almost no one talks openly about having a mental illness, or having a loved one with a mental illness.  We tiptoe around it and pretend it's not there.

We need to study disorders like OCPD, to support those willing to battle the condition, and the families who live with a spouse, parent, child, or sibling with this condition. While the vast majority of those with OCPD will never physically hurt anyone, there are others out there, untreated, daily growing more paranoid and obsessed, who could very well "lose it" at any moment and hurt any number of innocent victims.

I know we can't prevent every tragedy from occurring, but we could prevent a lot more, if we so choose.

May the parents and family of Trayvon Martin find peace,
and justice in the end.
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