Changing the Course of the World

Sometimes, the history of the world is changed in just a matter of moments or by the actions of a single person. I was given to think about this one New Year’s Eve when I played a trivia game with some friends. A strange occurrence that lasted only minutes nearly condemned famed explorer Christopher Columbus to death at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. Some of his crew were not as lucky as he was and were put to death or tortured to death.

Columbus sailed west from Spain in 1492 and ended up taking the most direct route to the Caribbean that he could have. This is not a well traveled route these days because there is an impediment that lays in the way. The Sargasso Sea is the only sea in the world bordered not by land, but by water only. It sits in the Atlantic Ocean near the Caribbean. It is bordered by strong jet streams and currents and is the habitat of many animals because of its unique feature. It is so named because sargassum seaweed free floats in mass quantities in the Sargasso Sea. There is so much there that ships get stranded there.

All three of Columbus’ ships became mired in the seaweed of the Sargasso Sea for several days. They were at the mercy of the sea and the winds. On the second or third night that they were stuck in the Sargasso a curious thing happened. A glowing object shaped like a menorah rushed out of the water and hovered over the sea for a handful of minutes. It was such a startling happening, that Columbus put it in his captain’s log as did the captains of his other ships.

Upon returning to Spain, some of Columbus’ men told people about the flying menorah and Columbus’ log book was confiscated. And he was dragged in front of the Spanish Inquisition. Records of his questioning can still be found in the files of the Spanish Inquisition.

Eventually, a well respected monk that had traveled with the ships came to Columbus’ aid. He went before the Inquisition and supported Columbus’ statement of the facts. Unfortunately, the testimony of the monk was not enough to save all the members of the crew that were brought before the Inquisition.

Columbus was eventually given the chance to redeem himself by giving money to the Church. The problem was not that Columbus saw a UFO but that he described it as shaped like a menorah.

And so, Columbus was nearly executed for heresy because he described a UFO as a menorah. One has to wonder what we would be taught about Columbus if things had not turned out in his favor.

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Put Another Brick in the Wall

Several of my blog posts of late have dealt with historic walls and yes, it was leading up to this post. The US government has entered a partial shutdown because neither Republicans nor Democrats in congress really want to fund the border wall. I could have taken a cultural look at the efficiency of walls, but chose the militaristic side for a specific reason.

Here’s the deal, the border wall between the US and Mexico will not stem the tide of illegal immigration from Central America. It won’t even stem the tide of drugs, people trafficked for sex, or illegal guns. There are two main reasons pouring 30 billion into a border wall is basically flushing money down the toilet. 1) desperation doesn’t care about physical obstacles and most of the immigrants nowadays are from areas of Central America where violent conflict, corrupt governments, and poverty rule the land. They are desperate to settle anywhere but where they are. 2) There is an army constantly working to defeat all security measures put in place by the US to secure the border between the US and Mexico.

In the decades before the Black Death swept through Europe, there was a devastating famine on the continent. Tradesmen built a freaking tunnel under the walls of Paris to get inside where they hoped richer citizens would pay them more for goods… even though they knew the famine was affecting the cities just as much as the countryside. A similar thing happened in Medieval Moscow, citizens tunneled under the walls of Moscow in order to search for food and money during the famine. Desperate people are willing to do whatever it takes to relieve their situations. People spent 40 years crossing the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane season in what amounted to row boats to escape Cuba. No wall will ever keep the desperate out.

I focused on the military aspect more than the cultural because Americans seem to forget there is always an army working to defeat every security we put in place; those are not armies of immigrants, they are well paid and usually well trained mercenaries hired by the Cartels. Most Cartels are large, well funded, well oiled machines that churn out drugs and slaves to be sent out for consumption. And as long as there are Cartels in Mexico, no border wall will keep them from moving their goods into the US. This means at this very moment, Cartels have plans prepared to deal with a chain link fence spanning the 1,954 miles of the US/Mexico border.

In other words, before the wall is even built, there are plans to undermine its capabilities. That is literally no different than accidentally securing the gates of Rome after the Vandals have gotten inside. And the Cartels have people on the inside, people who are US citizens whose sole job is to ensure that the Cartels continue to have access to the US.

No border wall is going to stop them. And if we can’t secure it from the armies of the Cartels, we can’t secure it from illegal immigrants. A breached wall might as well not exist. Because the Cartels already use Drug Tunnels to move people if the money is good enough. Even if we build it with reinforced concrete, it won’t matter to the Cartel. No wall in the history of the world has ever been known as effective. Even the Berlin Wall which was one of the more effective was defeated by desperation.

Wouldn’t that 30 billion dollars be better spent here in the US to fund the ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE, border guards, Homeland Security, and any number of other defenses that actually work? And defeating the Cartels is more important than trying to stop illegal immigration. But as history shows us again and again, there is no wall that can be built that is big enough to deter an army of any size. So other solutions must be explored because our border wall is already compromised.

The Annual Mothman Festival

I learned earlier this week that every year in September, Point Pleasant, West Virginia has a Mothman Festival.  I also learned that Point Pleasant has embraced this cryptid’s mythology and there is Mothman merchandise (not associated with the Debra Messing/Richard Gere movie).  

In 1966 and 1967 saw a massive amount of Mothman sightings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, not all encounters were terrifying.  There are stories from some that claim their encounter with the Mothman provided them with a premonition about a tragedy striking them or their families.

It was this idea that reporter John Keel capitalized on when he wrote the book The Mothman Prophecies that was used as the basis for the film of the same name.  

The book and then the movie granted the sleepy and dying town of Point Pleasant with a revenue source!  Thousands of people flock to Point Pleasant every year to see where Mothman made his most prominent appearance.  

I hope to go and I feel like I need a Mothman statuette, I saw one of the Mothman museum gift shop’s website, but the little statuette was not available for purchase on the site.  

The collapse of the Silver Bridge is an integral part of the Mothman story.  Mothman isn’t native to Point Pleasant, he has been reported in many locales across the globe, usually before a tragedy.  I even found accounts of a mothman like being in Pripyat, Ukraine in 1985… the year before the meltdown of Chernobyl.  And in 2017, reports started to surface that people were reporting a Mothman like creature in Chicago, IL.  A cryptozoologist has reportedly gathered more than 100 sightings of the creature from Chicago, IL which started in September of 2017.  As of yet, no disaster has befallen the city, unless you consider Chicago’s rising crime rate a disaster of the same magnitude of the Silver Bridge and Chernobyl.  

Later this week or next, I hope to do a post on Mothman sightings prior and post 1966/1967 in Point Pleasant.  Until then, just know that September 20 and 21 2019, if you are near West Virginia, there will be a Mothman Festival you could attend.  (I do secretly hope that if I make it Loren Coleman has a booth).  

The Case of Samuel Little

Until a few days ago, Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer was considered America’s most prolific serial killer.  In 2001, he plead guilty to 48 counts of first degree murder.  Those were the cases that could be proven.  He was suspected of 71 murders.  Earning the dubious recognition of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer… Until the case against Samuel Little was released to the public by the FBI and Texas Rangers.

Little is 78 years old, brought into this world in 1940.  In 2010, he was arrested in a homeless shelter in Kentucky and extradited to California for drug trafficking charges.  California is one of the states involved in something called Mandatory DNA Submission.  Every inmate in the California penal system has their DNA swabbed for comparison with open cases in California.

In many instances, the DNA is also sent to ViCAP, the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program.  Samuel Little’s was, after it was found to match unidentified DNA associated with the murder of three women in California.

That right there, makes him a serial killer.  As he stood trial for those three murders, his DNA was sent to ViCAP and found to match a murder case out of Odessa, Texas.  The State of Texas sent someone to interview Little and Little began to confess.  It would be his confession that would send him vying for Ridgway’s infamous epitaph.  As it stands right now, he’s confessed to 90 murders.  More amazingly, he remembers dates, names, descriptions, and details from each town he committed a murder in.

Now, once before, we’ve seen the work of a prolific confessor in Henry Lee Lucas who confessed to more than 200 murders.  The difference is Lucas didn’t remember “details” about the crimes and in many instances, law enforcement was able to prove he was in another location at the time.

That may not be the case with Samuel Little’s confessions.  Law enforcement, duped once by Henry Lee Lucas, has been careful about investigating Little’s confessions.  The FBI is working diligently with local law enforcement agencies across the country to verify details from Little’s confessions to open cases.  Details that may indeed make him the most prolific serial killer in the US.

According to a press release from the FBI dated 11/28/2018, they have found enough evidence at this point, to believe that Little is indeed telling the truth.  For the record, Little has even served time for violent assault in Missouri and stood trial for murder in Florida.  And he was convicted of the three murders in Los Angeles, California.  

Little is the most dreaded type of serial killer to law enforcement.  He’s traveled extensively throughout the US.  Even ViCAP has difficulty connecting murders across state lines.  And Little doesn’t appear to have a signature.

He’s a sadist with violent sexual fantasies and his myriad of crimes aren’t limited to murder, he’s also committed crimes of rape, assault and battery, and attempted murder.  Most of his murders involved physical beatings followed by strangulation.  But not all of them…

Profilers as well as ViCAP works better when a serial killer sticks to an MO, Little didn’t.  And he didn’t “sign” his kills like the Boston Strangler did.  This means Little didn’t only beat and strangle his victims, he has confessed to using other methods to kill.  And he didn’t cut off the pinky finger of every victim to take as a trophy or their driver’s license.  

Furthermore, Little didn’t just kill prostitutes like Gary Ridgway.  Little was more opportunistic, taking both high risk victims like prostitutes and low risk victims like soccer moms.  

All of this means that Little will be studied for a long time by serial killer hunters, because of how much he deviated from what “serial killers are supposed to do”…

It’s really quite scary when you think about it…

What Accosta’s ban from the White House Really Means

No US president has ever said being president was easy and most would say it isn’t fun.  They have to answer some very tough questions put forth by the press and the American public.  Reagan had the Iran/Contra scandal, George Bush Sr. had the Gulf War, Clinton had Lewinsky, Bush Jr. had Iraq, Obama had the Affordable Care Act.  They all answered questions about it.  They didn’t love every reporter that sat in the gallery of a press conference.  And they certainly didn’t love every question.

However, not once do I ever remember hearing a President respond by telling the reporter it was a stupid question or by calling the reporter stupid.  Most have accepted that’s the way it goes in a country with free press and free of speech.  Yet, President Trump continues to act like the White House is the stage of the Apprentice where he can say and do anything he wants and no one is going to tell him any different.

When I first heard President Trump had banned Jim Accosta from White House press conferences, I shook my head, the tantrum had finally happened.  Tomorrow or the next day, Accosta would be back asking the president questions he didn’t want to answer.

Then the days dragged on and the ban become a more serious and real problem.  This is the action of a despot, a dictator that doesn’t want the people to know what he’s up to.  Especially, considering he banned CNN while talking about how much he loved Fox News.

I’m seeing parallels between this behavior and the behavior of leaders like Vladimir Putin, who despite being elected democratically, still only talks to state sponsored media.  State sponsored media is the very antithesis of our founding principles of free speech and free press.   Something that requires free access by members of the press that supports both conservative and liberal news oriented organizations.

And while I thought the replacement of Accosta with a different White House reporter was the answer, so far, President Trump has done nothing but belittle these reporters.  Calling them stupid, calling their questions stupid and racist.  And he gets away with it.  Why should he stop until only Fox News is left in a position to report on events in the White House?  When Fox News becomes President Trump’s state sponsored media outlet and everyone else is wrong, fake, false, and subversive?

Love or hate him, it’s hard to deny that President Trump is setting it up to enforce a state sponsored media similar to what they have in Russia.  Of course, if you point this out to him, he’ll point out how stupid you are for bringing it up.

No one has demanded he like every reporter or every question that gets asked of him, that’s unrealistic.  But is it really so hard to act like a person and deal with those he doesn’t like as if he were attempting to be an adult?  If you told everyone they were stupid or that was a stupid question every time you got asked something you didn’t want to answer, how long would you keep your job?

Serial Killers, Industrialization, and Urbanization

Recently, I published a post about serial killers having always existed in the course of human history.  I had a reader disagree with me, stating that as far as they could tell, serial killers were the result of the urbanization that happened during the Industrial Revolution.  Here’s my rebuttal and why I think they have always walked among us.

Urbanization was not a result of the Industrial Revolution.  Since civilizations began to form on this planet we have had urbanization.  I did agree with one thing they said “crime is a side effect of urbanization.”  Yes, yes it is.

We look back into history for codified penal codes and the first is always the Code of Hammurabi.  We all know it, a justice system built upon an eye for an eye.  It was written by the king of Babylon Hammurabi and set down on a large chunk of stone as well as smaller scrolls.  The difference is, we’ve found the large stone, but only fragments of the scrolls, which appear to have been delivered to magistrates outside the capitol city Babylonia.

It makes sense.  The stone was carved approximately 3,700 years ago (best guess based on source materials talking about it).  We don’t know if the stone was carved first or the scrolls, but safe money would be on the scrolls.  This means that mesopotamia may have had a crime problem.  A problem with not just crime, but uniform punishments for crimes.  Hence the creation of the code.  In one of my early civilization classes, we were told to look at the punishments listed first on the code, because those are probably the most prevalent (i.e. the biggest problems).  If my memory is correct, the first two deal with theft and murder.

Best estimate for the population of Babylonia in 1700 BCE is 200,000 residents.  That would make Babylonia an urban center…. and if my professor was right, we know they had problems with murder or Hammurabi would not have made it a priority to address it.  And as a human being, I tend to agree with my professor.  I don’t put the least important stuff at the beginning of a letter.  I start with the things that I absolutely require the readers full attention on.

There are over 200 penal codes outlined in the Code of Hammurabi.  Attention spans suck, even back then, because people are fundamentally people.  You don’t start with horse theft if it isn’t a big problem because people are only going to read the first 20 lines or so.  Beyond that and their brains are going to shut off.  It’s the way it works, that’s why no one reads the End User License Agreement when they install software… it’s legal jargon and there are pages upon pages of it.

And we don’t actually know what crimes were a problem because while Hammurabi made a codified penal system for crimes committed in Babylon in the 1700s, no one wrote down Enki Abu Blah (Enki is a god in Babylon, I just couldn’t think of any other names for a Babylonian) was found guilty of murdering his neighbor after he found his neighbor had participated in carnal relations with Enki’s wife; punishment put to death by being pecked to death by crows.

Other early civilizations (Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, Carthage) would also codify crime and punishment.  And again, murder appears to have been a problem among these civilizations if the order of the laws as stated on papyrus scrolls is an indicator.  Again, what we lack are the written records of the crimes committed that made it necessary to codify a legal system.

Giza, Egypt around 1000 BCE has been estimated to be nearly 300,000 people including slaves.  Move forward a little and you have Athens in approximately 500 BCE with a population of 250,000 people, but those were citizens… women, slaves, men under 30, men not born in Athens, but not slaves, these people were not slaves.  Most historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists suspect the population of Athens to be more than 500,000 in 500 BCE.

If serial killers exist because urbanization exists, then my original statement was correct, serial killers have existed from the moment we started building cities.  Hell, the capitol of Sumer in 5,000 BCE, the ancient city of Uruk had a population of 200,000 people.  To put that into perspective, you really have to think about it.  6,700 years ago, when the world population numbered in just the millions, Uruk had a population of 200,000 people.

However, urbanization did occur with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s.  It just didn’t occur as we think.  London in 1500 CE had a population of 80,000 people.  A far cry from the population of London today.  But with the Industrial Revolution London went to having a population of more than one million people in 1800.  It became the largest city in Europe with industrialization.

For some reason though, we are still convinced that our civilization ancestors, lived in towns of 5,000 people or less.  If Sparta had only had a population of 5,000 people, they would have lost a lot of battles.  In reality, the Sparta we learn about in school had a population of more than 50,000 people.  Much, much smaller than it’s sister city of Athens.  Of course, Sparta had population growth under control with their rules to ensure that every man served in the army and they weeded out weaknesses in infants by leaving them to die, so they wouldn’t contaminate the gene pool by breeding.  Those kinds of things make it very hard to grow your population.

I have pondered on part of their argument though, was it perhaps not urbanization that created serial killers, but industrialization?  If that’s the case, then serial killers would be fairly new to the world.  Every time I think about that part of it though, I come to two very odd facts that I have trouble reconciling.

  1. Nearly every child raised before 1960 most likely had sociopathic traits.  Child rearing before modern day leaned far more to the Spartan method than the Dr. Spock method.  Why aren’t serial killers littering the historical records.
  2. There are serial killers in the history record before the 1800s.  Not many, but a few.  Which makes me think the same problem exists for early serial killers as it does for the US v. the rest of the world in the creation of serial killers.  In the 1990s, the FBI put out a terrifying report, the US which holds only 5% of the world population had over 85% of it’s serial killers.  Holy crap, what was the US doing wrong?!  Turns out, nothing and the stat is very skewed.  The reason it looked like serial killers were a US problem was because we had the FBI.  By the mid-1990s the Behavioral Science Unit was up and running.  Understanding serial killers was becoming an art form.  Why so many serial killers in the US compared to the rest of the world then?  Lack of reporting, lack of understanding, lack of putting serial killer cases together.  And lack of publicity surrounding the capture of serial killers.  The US doesn’t have a serial killer problem, it has a reporting problem – they are too good at reporting their successes.  I believe pre-Victorian era serial killers work the same way, if they were caught, there wasn’t any publicity around it.
  3. Finally, there wasn’t a complete definition for a serial killer.  Nor the understanding that we have today.  As of right this second, we know that serial killers can and do just stop killing for a variety of reasons that do not involve death or prison.  We also know that sometimes they change signatures and MOs.  Victimology is the most consistent thing about a serial killer.  And there were serial killers.  Only a handful, but a handful of serial killers before the 1800s is a sign that serial killers did exist.  Elizabeth Bathory, Gilles Garnier, Vlad Tepes (the real person not the creation of Stoker), were all medieval serial killers.

I also believe that serial killing took a hiatus in the 14th and 15th century.  This is where the lack of urbanization myth comes from.  Between the mid-1300s and the late 1400s Europe, all of Europe (as well as the Middle East and North Africa) had a serious problem.  Bubonic Plague became hyper-virulent.  Normally, plague is passed by fleas and even humans had fleas during the Middle Ages, but that doesn’t explain why it swept through Europe with such deadly efficiency and speed.  Plague under normal circumstances spreads very slowly and takes 7-15 days to kill you.  During the Black Death epidemic of the middle ages, it spread rapidly, written accounts make it appear it could be spread from person to person, and death happened in just a few days, not a week or longer.  We have now learned that once in a while, it does indeed spread person to person and become a much stronger reproducer causing quicker deaths.

Millions died.  But the superstitions surrounding the Black Death (which have mostly turned out to be true, just FYI) about it travelling on the air, would have been preventative, keeping the deranged away, in case your household had plague, but wasn’t showing symptoms yet.  In 1200 CE, the population of Paris France was estimated at over 100,000 people.  By 1500 CE, when the Black Death was under control, the population was only 45,000 people.  More than half the city’s population either died or moved, because in urban centers, plague spread even faster than in rural communities.  (The Black Death did have one good side effect, it ended feudalism)

This was not the first time this had happened with plague, but it was the worst.  The Justinian Plague (also an outbreak of bubonic plague) killed more than half the population of Constantinople between 400 CE and 540 CE, estimated death toll was in the hundreds of thousands.  Meaning Constantinople was quite obviously an urban center at the time.

Leading me to continue to believe that serial killers have always existed.  It should be pointed out that I don’t always buy into the modern definition of a serial killer, because there are at least 4 of them and they are all based on the idea of signature, MO, and inability to stop killing.  Since all these things are fluid, more fluid than we thought just 20 years ago, I consider a serial killer anyone who murders more than 3 people for either sexual gratification, their own personal pleasure, or entertainment.  I consider this a fitting definition, since one of these three things must be there for a serial killer to be created.  For example, if I kill author C. Patt (don’t worry, Chris, you’re safe, I hate being in the same room as dead things and frankly killing you makes you a dead thing), I have to enjoy it or I won’t do it again.  That lack of enjoyment automatically stops me from being a serial killer, since one victim doesn’t cut it.  Also, things like cooling off periods are quite variable which is part of another definition of a serial killer.  I usually believe that simpler is better for defining things, because there are too many outliers when definitions get very detailed.

There was also an argument for urbanization creating the anonymous neighbor.  This is true, in towns and cities of several thousand people, you don’t know everyone.  However, I’m not sure that serial killers require anonymous neighbors.  There are scores of serial killers that started with someone they knew, personally, sometimes intimately, before moving on to their anonymous neighbors.  What urbanization does bring to the table for serial killers is an extremely deep well of victims to choose from.  It’s much easier to kill 10 people in a city of 100,000 than in a village of 500.  But massive urban centers dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see.  And I’m not convinced it was the industrialization of Europe that lead to the creation of serial killers, simply because there’s no reason for it to be a huge factor.

Ed & Lorraine Warren & More Ghostly Stuff

I loved several of the movies based on the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren – A Haunting in Connecticut, The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Annabel… I haven’t seen the Nun yet, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

The problem is I don’t believe in Ed and Lorraine Warren.  Not because I don’t believe in the paranormal, but because often times, the research done by the Warrens was faulty.  And there was no corroboration on their cases except the people it happened to.  Except I can tell a good ghost story too and it wouldn’t require verification by Ed and Lorraine (although both are now deceased, so maybe I should be concerned about labeling them terrible witnesses and investigators of paranormal/ghostly phenomenon).

The one I believe in the most is The Einfield Poltergeist, the subject of The Conjuring 2.  What convinces me there was something going on is the witnesses that weren’t the family and weren’t the Warrens.  The scene with the police going into the house, was giving dramatic license for the movie, but it did happen.  The police did investigate and they did conclude that they could not explain how Janet was causing the events that happened to them while in the house.

Paranormal investigators and debunkers came to investigate the Einfield Poltergeist, beyond the Warrens.  Most walked away convinced Janet was pulling the strings on a massive hoax, but couldn’t figure out exactly how she was doing it.

Janet was a pre-teen with a bit of trouble in her past, which seem to be the perfect circumstance for a poltergeist.  Would it surprise me to discover it was a hoax?  No.  Would it surprise me to learn that it was real?  No.  Do I think Janet was involved?  Oh yes, either as the battery for the activity or as the perpetrator of a hoax.

But no matter how much independent research I do into the Einfield Poltergeist, I’m with the others that investigated, I can’t explain how it was done if it was a hoax.  And I’m still not completely convinced it was real.  The hardest thing to prove in history is a negative.  It was one of my first lessons when I began to formally study history.  I can’t prove that Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin in the last days of the war.  I also can’t prove that he didn’t.  I can have an opinion and I can conform to accepted historical opinion, but they can’t prove it anymore than I can.

History is full of these paradoxes: unable to prove it did happen, unable to prove it didn’t.  It’s a strange thing to deal with, especially when writing fact oriented papers.

Proof in history does not require a photograph or video (although those do help), they require reliable witnesses and something tangible to accompany the witnesses.  In the case of the Einfield Poltergeist, the fact that even the debunkers and professional skeptics could not figure out how the hoax was perpetrated gives a great deal of sway to the argument that it wasn’t a hoax.

Interestingly, bias and this historical paradox will make it so neither ghosts or the paranormal can be proven.  There will always be something that leaves it unproven.  In the case of the Einfield Poltergeist, that reasonable doubt comes from the circumstances of the family.  They lived in a council flat (for Americans think subsidized housing and/or Section 8).  The family was not in a good way and the mother had asked to be moved to a different house before the poltergeist activity began and was denied.

Which makes one wonder was the Einfield Poltergeist a hoax to try to get a better council flat?

Exploding Head Syndrome – Generalized Panic/Anxiety disorder

When I talk about my anxiety disorder, I leave a lot of stuff out.  And I recently realized I was doing a disservice to all the mentally ill people that I love and support and all the people who aren’t mentally ill who love someone who is.  I have generalized panic/anxiety disorder.  This means I’m often irrationally anxious over things.  I’ve been dealing with it for 23 years now.  Sometimes it gets a little better, sometimes it is crippling, literally.

Things that make me anxious for no reason – a ringing telephone.  My phone lives on vibrate simply because I can’t handle it going off all the time with news alerts, phone calls, text messages, SnapChats, weather alerts, etc.  It annoys J that I won’t turn my ringer on, ever, but that’s because he doesn’t understand.  And I get it.  There are mental illnesses that even as someone who is mentally ill, I don’t understand.

Other things that make me anxious: the sound of the wind, falling asleep, knowing I’m going to dream when I sleep, large groups of people, doing something new, going somewhere new for the first time, meeting someone knew for the first time, publishing a book, talking to my pain management doctor about changing some of my meds, beyond the Ketamine change.  Life, life makes me anxious.  And any of these things can cause me to have a panic attack.  But there are a few on this list that are not normally found in generalized panic/anxiety disorder.

When I was 18, I went through a period of time when I slept in hour or two hour chunks of time due to my anxiety.  I’m a lucid dreamer and it’s hard to tell my dreams from reality, even after I have woken up, and I have Exploding Head Syndrome with auditory hallucinations when I am very stressed out.  I know a bunch of people just said “what the fuck is Exploding Head Syndrome?”  When I am very anxious, I hear what sounds like explosions in my head, usually when I’m trying to fall asleep.  Sometimes the explosions are quiet enough they sound like gunshots, sometimes they sound like cannons, sometimes they sound like the neighbors house has exploded.  The sound is loud enough, I will jump, and it will startle me into being fully awake if I was on the verge of falling asleep.  Thankfully, my Exploding Head Syndrome symptoms are usually confined to when I am falling asleep.  To accompany this, when I’m very stressed, usually as I fall asleep, I hear a man with a very deep voice call my name.  Deeper than James Earl Jones even.  And while I “hear” it, I also imagine I “feel” it, as if it were on the same frequency as a roar from a big cat.

Oh and I have nightmares, a lot of nightmares.  And before you start telling me to lower my caffeine intake and stop watching/reading so much horror.  I’ve done those things in the past without any change in symptoms.

I’m afraid of sleep, no, not just afraid, phobic of it.  I have a phobia of dreaming.  Since being taken off my Clonazepam in February, I have started drugging myself with Benadryl or Tylenol PM at night.  Because both of these cut down on the number of dreams I remember from the night, and they help me not wake up because of a nightmare.  Which is what my clonazepam did for me.  On it, I might remember three or four dreams a week.  I remember more than that on the OTC drugs, but any decrease is good.  And when I do have several nights of dreaming that I remember, my body causes panic attacks when I enter that almost asleep stage to wake me up.

Sleep phobia, Exploding Head Syndrome, auditory hallucinations, and the panic attacks when I am nearly asleep, these things are not common with Generalized Panic/Anxiety Disorder.  These symptoms are more consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome than generalized anxiety/panic disorder.  My psychiatrist in the 1990s told me this as we embarked on the quest to find medication that worked for me.  3 months and 11 medications later, all of which made me crazier than I already was, and we settled on Clonazepam.  Clonazepam (Klonopin) is actually really good at treating PTSS as well as generalized anxiety/panic disorder.  Considering I don’t handle medications that mess with my brain very well, it was a good choice and fit for me. And I used it as prescribed for 19 1/2 years.

In February 2018, I was given a choice, treat my pain or treat my anxiety.  Clonazepam can cause you to metabolize hydrocodone exceptionally fast, which is why I was only getting a half hour to an hour and a half of relief from the medication.  And here’s the really fucked up part, the Brand name Vicodin was more effective than the generic Hydrocodone.  Brand name Norco is not as effective as Brand name Vicodin when I was taking Clonazepam.

Now, I still think I metabolize hydrocodone too fast and I still need to get the test to prove it.  But symptoms of Exploding Head Syndrome have returned.  As have my panic attacks.  I’m not sure I want to go back through the trial phase of medications to see if they help.  At one point I nearly had a psychotic break in the first set of trial and error anxiety treatments.

Where I failed to help my fellow sufferers of anxiety: I have never mentioned that my generalized anxiety/panic disorder has elements consistent with PTSS (formerly PTSD).  I’ve never mentioned Exploding Head Syndrome, which is rare, but more likely to happen in people with severe depression and severe anxiety.  And I’ve never mentioned the auditory hallucinations which again are rare, but can affect anyone with severe depression or anxiety.

For the record, my first psychiatrist was amazing.  He and I discussed whether to list my anxiety as generalized anxiety/panic disorder on my medical charts or whether to list it as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  In the 1990s, it was rare for anyone but a combat veteran to be labeled with PTSD and for the sake of not being treated like I was a fruit loop for the rest of my life, we went with Generalized Panic/Anxiety Disorder.

But I am a fruit loop.  And my anxiety is not generalized.  I no longer mind people thinking I’m crazy.  I am.  I often consider walking into mental health facilities and asking them to hold me for 72 hours and please oh please make the dreams stop, make me stop worrying that if I leave my house, it’s going to burn to the ground or get hit by a meteorite, or that I’m going to be burgled.  Or any one of a million scenarios in which seriously bad shit happens.  J tells me not to think about them.  Which is all well and good for him, but I can’t stop my brain from thinking about them.  I can’t just magically turn it off.  If I could, I would sleep better.

I also know that at least a dozen of you thought “why would she have PTSD?”  My psychiatrist and I went through my memories looking for a cause and found several possible triggers for PTSD.  We’ll start with my first memory, ever.  But before we do, I want everyone to realize I love my parents very much, they aren’t perfect people and at the time of my first memory, my father was a heavy alcoholic who drank nearly his entire paycheck every week.

My first memory ever, I was maybe 3, maybe 4.  My father was not abusive towards me or my sister.  And he was an emotional, crying drunk (sorry dad).  It was evening and my father wanted to go out drinking.  It had been a bad day for him, he’d been required to be a father and take care of me and my sister.  I had a fascination with taking things apart.  I got hold of a case knife (a butter knife) and managed to take the oven door off, because my father was drinking in the living room, not paying as much attention to me as he probably should have been… for the record, in the 1980s, when a father took charge of the children for a while, he was said to be babysitting.  My dad was not a good babysitter.  And my father could not get the oven door back together or on, oh and I didn’t just remove it from the stove, I dissembled it once it was off.  He had to wait for my mom.  An argument ensued.  My parents fought, but for some reason that night, the fight was different.  Maybe I expected my already drunk father and my totally sober mother to beat the crap out of me (for the record neither of my parents ever beat the crap out of me) and despite the problems, I grew up in a house where I knew I was loved.  Anyway, during the fight, I crawled behind the couch and hid.  My mom wasn’t mad at me, she was mad at my dad, because everyone was aware I did this kind of shit, I had dissembled a half dozen tricycles and my sister’s brand new 10-speed by this time along with other stuff.  My psychiatrist told me that since that was my first real memory with detail from my childhood (there were others much later), it may have left an emotional scar.  My mother did eventually get the oven door put back together and on the stove.  But I refused to come out from my hiding spot and actually fell asleep back there for a while.

Moving forward, I was 7 when I was sexually abused by my 16 year old step sister.  I point out her age, because she was definitely old enough to know what she was doing was wrong.  As an adult, I can say that I believe she was probably molested or sexually abused as a child if she was an abuser at 16.  I don’t have a lot of memories of the abuse.  I actually don’t remember being 7 hardly at all.  I don’t even remember what teacher I had in school.  It’s not uncommon for people who have been sexually assaulted or abused to have gaps in their memory.  And while I had never fully forgotten that I was sexually abused by my step sister, it took my psychiatrist realizing that I had a huge memory gap before I would talk to him about it.  The sexual abuse is another possible source of my anxiety disorder.

Move forward another year and I knew of a kid my age that had been murdered.  Thankfully I didn’t have the details at the time, I just knew that my father who had been in AA for a while by then, told my step mother about it, she was the daughter of a friend of his in the program.  The little girl had been abducted right out of her front yard.  And I learned that her abductor had sexually assaulted her before killing her.  It was hard for me not to connect her to my own experience with my step sister who had once told me if I didn’t do what she said, she’d have her friend kidnap me, assault me, and kill me.

So there’s another possible trigger.  I didn’t tell either of my parents about the abuse.  I was scared.  I was ashamed.  I felt guilty.  And I felt it must have been my fault.  I refused to go to my father’s anymore after that.  I would have a full on meltdown when they would try to make me.  The only thing I ever told my parents was that my step sister was mean to me.  And after learning my step sister was being mean to me, which my mother assumed was kicking, biting, hitting, because I did occasionally have bruises I couldn’t explain, she stopped making me go.

I was 11 when I accidentally overhead my dad on the phone with the grandparent of the murdered girl.  He was his sponsor in AA.  She had been raped, beaten, and then hung from a tree with barbed wire and that hanging was what killed her.  Mark that down as a possible trigger.

Oh and my real sister who is also mentally ill, had let her friends torment me when I was very little, one of them sat on me and forced me to watch a Nightmare on Elm Street, I was younger than 5, because when I was 5 we moved to an apartment and my sister moved in with the family of a friend of hers.  Another possible trigger for PTSD.

Or it could have been all of it together that triggered PTSD.  This post has gotten very long.  However, all of this information must be included if one is to understand why I am mentally ill and how I have not been faithful to the concept of helping change the perception of people with mental illness.

And while my mental illness was triggered by external factors, my psychiatrist told me that I probably had been destined to have generalized panic/anxiety disorder, even if these things hadn’t happened, because worrying about things like meteorites hitting your house if you leave, belongs more in the generalized anxiety/panic disorder than PTSD.  Even if my life had been absolutely perfect with no emotional traumas beyond the norms of childhood, I would still need to be medicated for an anxiety disorder.

I referred earlier to my anxiety being crippling at times.  What does that mean, how can anxiety cripple someone?  There are times when it hurts to breathe I am so stressed out.  And it gets much worse if I am supposed to mail something.  I don’t know why the mail triggers me to be anxious, but it does.  My editor is waiting on me to send her some Scentsy Car Bars.  Every time I try to put them in an envelop to mail out to her, I feel like all the oxygen is being sucked out of the room.  I even see spots before my eyes and feel faint.  It’s stupid and I know it’s stupid.  It’s just mailing something, but even though I know it’s ridiculous, I can’t stop my brain from working itself into near hysterics over it.  I have a postal scale and still worry I’ll get the amount needed to mail said envelope wrong.  I worry my terrible handwriting will result in it getting delivered to the wrong place.  I worry the bars will break in transit.  I worry I’ll put them in the wrong type/size envelope and they’ll break a machine at the post office.  I worry the package will tear open and she’ll end up getting an empty envelop because the stuff fell out after it was torn.

All of this nonsense filters into my brain every second, of every day, and mediation only helps a little, because I am phobic that if I manage to stop thinking, I won’t be able to start again.  This has gotten much worse since I started on Lyrica.  And I’m afraid of being bored, because if I’m not putting information into my brain, then I am left alone to think about things like meteorites hitting my house.

And a side effect of the PTSD is that I can be very distant.  And sometimes, I struggle with feeling emotionally dead.  Surprisingly, writing helps.  It’s why I write.  I don’t fill my characters with my mental struggles, I am trying to escape those problems.  For a short time, I can be those characters instead of being me.  And even “being” the emotionally stunted Aislinn Cain is usually better than being me.

If you want more information on Exploding Head Syndrome, I’ve linked to WebMd for it because I couldn’t find it on the Mayo Clinic site.  Because much like CRPS, you’ve probably never heard of it.

 

Summoning A Demon

My interest in the demonic is mostly a thought exercise.  I don’t believe in it.  However, I have always had a fascination for religion and the paranormal and evil, and the demonic falls into all three of those categories.

The other day, The Onion (my favorite fake news site) ran an article about kids who learn Latin having an easier time of summoning a demon.  Because here’s the thing, if I’m wrong and the demonic does exist, it obviously isn’t that easy for them to cause mayhem or possess people.

Since we don’t deal with demonic possession frequently, it can’t be that easy to become possessed or summon a demon or it would happen all the time.  However, something I read recently stated that to become demonically possessed or to be able to summon a demon requires a desire to do so.  In other words, you would need to really, truly want it to happen, not just going through the motions because you are filled with teenage angst.  Which explains why everyone who dabbles in research of the demonic doesn’t become possessed and/or fails to summon a demon.  Maybe their heart isn’t in it.  I’m talking about people like me.

I don’t need or want to be possessed because I have enough problems in my life.  It would be rather redundant in my opinion.

Something else I read talked about needing to have something to offer a demon to summon it or entice it to possess you.  And apparently your immortal soul isn’t enough.  You need to have some kind of power.  In other words, I probably can’t become possessed or summon a demon because A: (see redundant comment) and B: What am I going to offer to write the demon’s biography?  I don’t have any real power or influence to offer.  Even knowing a smidge of Latin isn’t going to help me become possessed or summon a demon.

I’ve had someone point out to me that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convinced people he didn’t exist.  But what if it’s the opposite?  What if the greatest trick ever pulled was convincing people that the devil does exist?

Just so we’re clear, I said I don’t believe in the demonic, but I do believe in the possibility of the demonic, which is why I haven’t cleared a spot on my garage floor to draw a summoning circle to offer my soul up in exchange for becoming an infinitely more marketable author or cure my CRPS.  I have been known to be wrong before and knowing my luck, if I did it to prove the demonic didn’t exist, they would in fact exist and I’d be screwed in the after life.  I guess you could call me an agnostic on the demonic and unwilling to be a guinea pig to see what happens.  I’ll leave that for someone braver than me.

Violence Doesn’t Do It

Based on the list of movies I posted the other day that I watch every October, someone asked me if anything disturbs me, because obviously I’m not shy when it comes to violence.

The answer is yes, I’m human, I have things that make me squeamish.  Violence just isn’t one of them.  Or not broken bones and gun shot type violence.  I spent several days stopping and restarting a scene in Under the Dome when I listened to it on audiobook recently, because King hit one of the things that makes me flinch.

In my head, broken bones heal, stitches eventually come out, and even gunshot wounds are survivable.  What I have trouble with is psychological violence, the stuff that leaves psychological wounds.  The scene in Under the Dome was the gang rape of Sammy.  Yes it was physically painful for her, it even talks about the blood loss that eventually causes her to pass out, but it was knowing the psychological trauma she endured that caused me to stop it, fast forward a bit, restart, realize I missed something important, go back, stop it for a few more days…

The times Harry D’Amour Clive Barker’s detective series hero has discussed the abuse he suffered at an all boy’s Catholic school, inflicted on him by the pet students of the pedophile priests has also bothered me.  I found myself flipping a couple of pages to get past it in The Scarlet Gospels, hoping he didn’t drag it out with more details than I could handle.

Which is weird, because the book started with sexual violence, but at the hands of the sadistic Hell Priest (Pinhead) on the witches he wanted their magical stuff from.  I mean brutal graphic stuff, but for some reason, that didn’t bother me the way the handful of lines where D’Amour talked about being abused at his school did.  Possibly because the sexual sadism at the beginning of the book was demon related.

But I also have trouble watching movies like PlatoonFull Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and a few others of that ilk.  The psychological break down the soldiers go through is a touch much for me.  I don’t know if it’s my history degree or just my relation of those situations to the situations faced by my uncles during times of war.  However, war movies give me nightmares.  I can watch all the horror movies I want, but a war movie makes me toss and turn at night, which is a little weird, but I’ve already decided the brain is not a rational thing.

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