My views on the Jillian McCabe Story

First up, it appears I accidentally didn’t hit send on last night’s post.  So tonight there will be two posts.

Over the last few days I have been following the story of Jillian and London McCabe.  If you haven’t heard the story in the news, read THIS.

Being a member of a lot of autism communities, I have seen so much hatred for this mother. Comments full of people wanting to physically torture this woman slowly to death – and being proud  of their view.  There is also outright abuse at anyone who tries to offer any alternative point of view – multiple comments saying that anyone who doesn’t want to see this woman tortured or put to death and who have any sympathy at all are bad parents who will hurt their own children and should have them removed.

It saddens me.  First up, it saddens me to see so many people full of blood lust.  Yes I agree that people who willfully commit a crime should be punished, and (even though others may judge me for it) I believe there are even cases that warrant a death penalty (only in cases of repeat offenders who commit heinous crimes like genocide, mass torture, serial killers, paedophiles AND where the person freely, proudly admits what they have done with no coercion at all), but not all killers are murderers.  That is why our laws recognise things like self defense and have lesser charges like manslaughter.  It’s also why the legal system allows pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Of course there are a lot of people who abuse this!  And that too is sad.  While I have no actual statistics, probably 90% or more of those who plead insanity were not truly “insane” (ie psychotic with no control over their actions) at the time of their crime.  But some people truly are.

Was Jillian McCabe insane?  I honestly don’t know.  It’s not my job to assess her – she will have multiple forensic mental health professionals to assess that.  But I do know that without knowing whether she was sane or insane at the time of throwing that poor little boy to his death, no one has the right to judge her.

Was she insane? the evidence sure points to it.  She shared with many people she was hearing voices before the tragedy.  She repeatedly went to hospital asking for help.  She even had an appointment with her psychiatrist booked to increase her meds – not something that is done unless some needs help for their mental illness.

I find the comments that so many people have made that showing sympathy for this woman means a person would harm their own kids, that somehow having sympathy for a person means that you are like them.  I beg to differ.  I have sympathy for a lot of people.  I understand why so many people who were abused as children turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with the pain.  But does that mean I would?  No!  I have also seen the damage alcoholism and drug addiction does to people’s lives and find addictions repugnant.  But I can understand why people do it and feel sorry for them and want to help them.

The same thing with people who, in the throes of genuine psychoses, have hurt their children.  Hurting a child is a terrible thing.  And any child’s death is a a huge tragedy. But those who are genuinely psychotic have not hurt their child on purpose – and when they are over their psychotic episode, they then have to live with what they have done.  I have worked with people who have hurt their own children or hurt other people’s children because of their mental illness.  And while my first thought is to want to recoil and condemn, I then realise that they are victims too – victims of an insidious illness that has made them do something terrible that they would never choose to do.

I have never had the urge to hurt my children (something I thank God that I have never suffered from), but I know what it’s like to have something in me that wants me to hurt myself.  At the lowest point in my life, I did have a voice that tormented me, telling me how terrible I was and telling me to hurt myself in all sorts of terrible ways.  There were times when I could not ignore it and did hurt myself. While the urge to hurt one’s self and hurt another person are two separate things and the majority of people who hurt themselves would never, ever hurt someone else, both urges come from a similar “brokenness” inside the brain.  When severe enough, the person just “breaks” and has no ability to stop it.

I know when I was at my most depressed and self harmed and attempted suicide, there were all too many people who were condemning – sadly the so called “professionals” I was seeing at the time were the most condemning.  Idiots who would just go on about about you have to learn self control etc.  But the reality is, when you are that unwell, you can no more ignore the voice in your head telling you to kill yourself, than a cancer sufferer can control the replication of cancer cells.  You can use every conscious thought in your head to try to fight it, but at the end of the day, it is a biological illness which even the strongest of people cannot control.

I’m not saying every person who self harms or attempts suicide has no control – any more than I am saying everyone who kills their child has no control.  In fact most people do have control over whether they harm themselves or others, but when someone is unwell enough, when they are hearing voices telling them to do something, it’s not so controllable.

It doesn’t make things ok.  A precious young boy’s life has been lost. But spewing hatred against his mother won’t bring him back either.

As I said above, I don’t know for sure if Jillian McCabe was psychotic when she did what she did, but if she was, this is not an autism issue, it has nothing to do with ableism or the abuse of autistic children.  If she truly was psychotic as the evidence points towards, this is a mental health issue.  It is about the terrible failings of the mental health system and the blood that neglectful professionals have on their hands.

It’s painfully clear that this woman and her family begged for help for her mental illness.  The media stories that go for detail rather than sensationalism have repeatedly mentioned how she tried to be admitted to hospital repeatedly and was turned away.  While some people have condemned her family with comments like “if they knew how unwell she was, why did they leave her alone with London” but the reality is, families are not professionals – they would have trusted the professionals to say something if she was considered a danger to her child.  The family are just another victim of this terrible tragedy.

Hundreds of people die every year in Australia after being callously turned away from hospitals when they have presented begging for help.  Thousands more attempt suicide after being turned away begging for help, and are lucky enough to survive – many are left with permanent damage from their suicide attempts – the “lucky” ones only have emotional damage to  live with.  And it’s not just the individual it damages, but the families who are left to pick up the pieces.  Some of these people do get lucky and finally get the help they need afterwards – others just are turned away again and again until eventually they are successful in killing themselves.

It is a big part of why I went into mental health in the first place.  To help those who fall through the cracks.  So that no one who was truly a danger to themselves or others would be turned away from help.  I know any difference I make will be small but it is like the starfish story (I will post that up soon).  I may not be able to save everyone, I may not even save many, but even if I save the life of one person then I have achieved my goal.

And so I write this post knowing full well I may get haters.  But I don’t care.  I have seen the hatred spewed towards other posters who choose not to be full of hatred too. But I would rather be hated for standing up for what I believe than to be loved for compromising my values.

And I know I am not alone in some of my thoughts in this issue.  I have met one lovely lady on facebook who was being bullied for her beliefs and she has now added me as a friend.  And I know of others who feel the same way, but are just too scared to speak up for fear of becoming targets too.  Well my friends, I speak up for you.  Compassion and forgiveness beats hatred any day.

I hope whatever the full truth of Jillian McCabe’s actions come to light.  I hope that the court she will go before will make the right decision, whatever that may be.  And I hope little London’s family one day find peace after this terrible tragedy.  My prayers are with this family and I also pray that the mental health system takes note of what has happened and makes changes so that there is never a repeat of this terrible tragedy.

What is disability?

I made it to my first Aspergers Women group tonight.  It was great to meet people I felt instantly comfortable with.  One comment that was made tonight, reminded me of something that was on my mind earlier this week.  That is… what is “disability”?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “disability” is defined as:

– a condition (such as an illness or an injury) that damages or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities

– the condition of being unable to do things in the normal way : the condition of being disabled

But what then counts as a disability?

I first thought of this topic a few days ago when someone in a online group I’m in was really hurt that a family member called her post natal depression, a “disability”.  Is PND a disability?

Tonight it came up when someone mentioned that they prefer to called autistic spectrum disorder “autistic spectrum condition”.  Is autism a disorder or a condition?  either way… is it a “disability”?

I know according to general society, having depression or autism is automatically labelled a disability.  But are they really a disability?  Or is it just another way that society stigmatises people with mental illnesses or developmental disorders.  Are they even disorders? or just a different way of thinking?

I think the answer lies within the first half of the definition of disability – a condition that limits or damages a person’s abilities.  But I would argue that the second half of the definition is actually wrong – why is being unable to do things in the “normal” way a disability? what is “normal” anyway?

Normal refers to the “norm” – or the way most people do something.  But who has a right to say that “normal” is best?  If everyone did everything the same way – the “normal” way – we wouldn’t have any of the wonderful scientific discoveries that our society relies on.  It is only when someone say “I can do things a different way” that a better way is found.

So is autistic spectrum disorder a disability?  I would say a resounding NO!  After hearing the term again tonight, I think autistic spectrum condition is a much better description.  Much as I hate the term “suffering” from autism.  Are people with ASD/ASC suffering?

I’m not saying some don’t.  Some sadly suffer a lot.  But is their suffering because of their condition?  Or rather is their suffering because of how society treats them?

For some, yes autism can be a disability – where it limits the ability of someone to do something they would like to do. But no one has the right to assume that everyone with autism is “disabled”.  I personally don’t consider myself disabled by autism.  I have a lot of disabilities – physical health problems limit my ability and stop me from achieving things I would have liked to do in life, PTSD, depression, anxiety have temporarily or permanently limited me from doing things I would have liked to do in life, but I must say that stigma and judgmental people have put far more limits on me than anything my mind and body has limited me from doing.

But autism?  It has never prevented from me doing anything I’d like to.  It effects who I am, yes.  It makes me different from the norm (dare I say, it makes me “not normal”?) but I don’t care.  I love being different.  One of my favourite ways to describe myself is I’m not another lemming.  That’s even a title I considered for this blog (before sadly discovering it was taken).  For those who don’t know what a lemming is, “Lemmings” is a computer game where the player control “lemmings” who just blindly follow instructions. They will follow the crowd and do not think for themselves.  If you direct them off a cliff, they will all just jump off a cliff one after another.

Sadly I see an ever increasing drive in society for people to be “lemmings” or “sheeple” – people who follow whatever the crowd believes and do not think for themselves.  And a lot of people with autistic spectrum condition will never be like that.  We don’t fit in, we are not “normal” but why should we be? Why is thinking outside the box considered a disability?  Shouldn’t diversity be celebrated?

And to answer the question, is post natal depression a disability.  That one I have a little more mixed feelings about.  I think maybe the mum who raised the issue could be right – maybe it’s not an automatic disability.  Perhaps my judgment on that one is clouded by having worked in mental health and having been in hospital and gone to support groups etc, where the people there are often very disabled by their mental illnesses, but maybe having a mental illness isn’t automatically a disability.

That’s not to say it can’t be.  Many, perhaps most, people with depression are disabled by their condition either temporary or permanently.  I know for me when I am having a depressive episode, it is disabling.  But maybe having major depression is not overall a disability – I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it, and I have gained so much from my experiences with it. I would still say it’s a disability for me.  But maybe it isn’t for others, and I have no right to tell them a condition they have is a “disability”.

So what is a disability?  I think that is something no one person can answer for another.  What one person finds disabling, might be beneficial for someone else.

Ultimately the one thing I do know, is that there is no such thing as a “disabled person”.  Everyone has things they can do and things they cannot do.  We all have limits – “disabilities” if you wish to call them that.  But we all have abilities!  We all have gifts and talents, we all have something to contribute to the world.

No one is “disabled” – we are all just simply “differently abled”.

Writer’s Block

I sometimes wonder if starting a blog was a mistake.  Give me an assignment, and (with a lot of stress) I can write it pretty well, but when it comes to sharing things that effect me personally? All my writing skills go out the window.  I have wanted to share my story in the hope of showing people who have been through tough times, that they are not alone, and I want to fight for those who are denied help and abused.  But at the moment, I feel like I am failing in both.  I do little things here and there, but I don’t think I am making any difference at all.

Ever since this morning, one tiny thing has triggered a whole cascade of thoughts.  I know I’ve achieved a lot today.  I made it to PND support group which this term is a combination of an exercise class and sharing time.  I missed 2/3 of the exercise class, but made it to the sharing time. I then spent the afternoon getting an ultrasound for my abdominal pain, a cortisone injection in my wrist, heaps of xrays and a psychologist appointment.  Then home for time with the kids, neither of which went to bed until after 9.  Apparently I have little night owls.  It’s more than I’ve squeezed in a day for some time.

I’m very sore – the injection actually went very well – I was terrifed after the badly botched cortisone injection in my wrist for de guervains tenosynovitis, but this one was in a slightly different place in my wrist and afterwards, for a few hours, my wrist was painfree for the first time in many years.  I overdid it a little during that time, but it’s not too bad.  It’s a really good sign that the local anaesthetic worked for the pain for a few hours because it usually means for me that the cortisone will actually work (I’ve had lots of cortisone injections in various body parts with varying success).  What hurts however is my shoulders from being twisted in all sorts of various angles, both during the injection and in the xrays I had on my shoulders, elbows and wrists after.  I’m hoping though they’ll be better in the morning

I guess though that’s the nature of chronic pain – sometimes testing and treatment can make things worse.  All you can do is hope and pray that the extra pain is temporary and leads to enough improvement (even temporarily) that is worth the pain.

But that’s not what is bothering me.  Physical pain bothers me very little.  It hurts very badly, but rarely gets me down.  The same can’t be said about people who lie to me or hide things from me.

Ever since sharing time at my PND group this morning, just something another mum raised, totally irrelevant to me personally, meant I discovered that a mental health service I was seeing over this year and last year (and no longer seeing) either lied to me over a treatment option, or at the very least, misled me and hid information from me.  I don’t understand why.  They know I’ve worked in mental health and am going back to work in mental health, did they really think I wouldn’t find out?  Did they not stop to think about, with my history of being horribly abused by the mental health system in Brisbane, not just the physical assaults and the sexual assault and worse, but the terrible lies about treatment options I desperately needed that were repeatedly hidden from me so I couldn’t ask to access them – all things I told the people at this service I was seeing here – that I would not be hurt to find out they, at the very least, misled me?

I’m no longer seeing them so I can’t ask if what was raised was true – but honestly, deep down I already pretty much knew, just not for sure until now.  It’s something I asked several people there, many times, and while no one said “we don’t offer that treatment option”, they did say “if people need that, we refer them to other services. We only act as a referral service.”  I want to believe I heard wrong, or perhaps the lady talking about it was referring to seeing someone they referred her to, not actually at that service, but as much as I really want to believe one of those, I know I heard correctly.

I’m not going to ask the service themselves.  The person who I always get put onto is a psychologist who is always rude to me and wrote a heap of inaccurate garbage in my file, including inaccurate suicide risk assessments because she ignored everything I told her.  But I’ll speak to my case manager about it because his service has the information – to be honest, that’s part of why his service didn’t take me on as a client last year and referred me back to the other service – because the service who didn’t tell me about this treatment option should have been the one to provide treatment which is why last year, no one else could understand why these two services didn’t take me on for treatment.  I just got bounced between the two for around two months being assessed and then told that both were closing my file.

Sorry if this slightly confusing – I don’t want to go into too much detail, at least until I can decide what to do.  In the meantime though, I will call my case manager and ask him if what I heard today is definitely correct.  I know it is, but I need to hear it confirmed.

I just feel so hurt and let down again.  Yet again, the health system has failed me with lack of honesty and I don’t know why.

It’s the story of my life really.  Friends, family, teachers, physical doctors, mental health professionals… it’s like I have a giant sign on my back that says “lie to me and mislead me, my feelings don’t matter”.

I guess I overcame my writer’s block.  I just wish I had a more uplifting or useful post other than a vent about being failed.  Sorry.

Sleep problems, and mania, hypomania and mixed episodes

Well it would appear I’m not having the best day. Nothing major happened – pretty much nothing at all happened (not the housework, not church, not any of the other things I wanted to do today) because I was so tired. I was barely able to sleep at all again last night, and even trying to get some sleep during the day today was a total failure.  In the bipolar world though, I am pretty lucky.  I have heard from many others that even one sleepless night is enough to trigger a manic (or at least  hypomanic) episode for them. For me it’s the reverse – sleeplessness doesn’t lead to mania, but mania sure leads to sleeplessness.

My entire life  I have suffered sleep problems. Continue reading

Some bad news and why in the past I self harmed

I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts today.  Not the grumpy type of “out of sorts”, just the type where you don’t feel quite right.  I couldn’t sleep much at all last night and when I did, I kept having vivid nightmares.  Same when I tried all morning to get more sleep.  I mean, I’ve been having a lot of nightmares since starting cymbalta, but they have been a lot worse the last week, but last night was the worst insomnia and most nightmares I’ve had in a long time.

Continue reading

Illness and guilt

I think I briefly mentioned this in another post but I really hate taking sick days from work.  Even though I am genuinely sick, the guilt can be overwhelming.

Today it was the throat infection Rose gave me that got me.  My throat hurt a little less, but I was so overwhelming tired and aching all over, I just couldn’t get out of bed to go to work.  I sleep very poorly (waking up over and over) at the best of times, but I must have fallen into a heavy sleep eventually because when I woke up it was 5pm.

But ever since I woke up, I’ve had to deal with the overwhelming guilt of missing yet another day of work. Continue reading