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Thursday, December 20, 2012

i wrote something

Totally off topic, but I'll just drop it here and hope someone reads it. Peace.

This morning on CNN they had a poll question for their audience: should Nancy Lanza be considered a victim along with all the other people her son murdered?  To say that my mouth literally dropped open would not be an exaggeration. In internet parlance, double you tee eff?  We’re really asking this question?

Let’s parse this.  If Nancy Lanza had been shot to death by her son who then killed himself without first going on to also shoot a whole bunch of uninvolved people presumably unknown to him, most of them tiny children, would anyone be considering her anything other than a tragic victim of domestic violence and/or the sad casualty of a loved one’s apparent mental illness?  But because her child did take out a whole bunch of other innocent people, she fault?  She...deserves to be dead?  Is that what we’re saying here?

Shall we examine what exactly she is supposed to be responsible for?  Not knowing what her adult child was planning? Not stopping him?  Having weapons available for him to use in his killing spree?  Or, most simply, being a bad mother? Every time I think my feelings about this sort of thing have been blunted by time, another horrible news event occurs and the resulting coverage by people who know nothing and understand nothing brings them to the fore.

Six and a half years ago, my then-20 year old son, my only child, whom I love more than I could possibly love anyone else, was on a locked ward for two and a half months, being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  Schizoaffective disorder: either a really really bad form of bipolar disorder or a milder form of schizophrenia, but in any case, not really anything with which you’d want someone you care about being diagnosed. It wasn’t his first diagnosis. Since he first became really sick his senior year in high school, various clinicians had posited first bipolar disorder, then depression with psychotic features.  But somewhere around the beginning of June 2006 during that long inpatient stay, the S word was first brought up.  It was devastating to me.  Before that, as heartbroken and frightened as I was by his problems, I was certain that all we needed was to get him on the right medication and get him to stay on it and then we’d all live happily ever after. But schizophrenia? That seemed like a living death sentence to me. That was something no one ever got better from. That was crazy dirty homeless people shouting at the voices in their heads on street corners. That was...people committing atrocities because of their delusions.

One summer night, in amongst this little slice of hell, I was leaving the locked ward after the visiting hour. (By the way? When you visit your 20 year old son on a locked ward, your belongings are searched and you aren’t supposed to have physical contact with him. It’s like prison. Prison for people whose only crime is being sick. I disobeyed the no physical contact rules regularly and without shame. Try to keep me from hugging, kissing, and holding the hand of someone I love when they’re so sad and so scared they’re shaking and crying. Try.)  On my way out, his case manager stopped me to tell me what a nice, sweet, polite kid he was. “You did a good job with him,” she said kindly.  “Apparently not,” I answered, choking back the tears that immediately welled up. “Or he wouldn’t be here.”  “Oh, no. No. You know that’s not true, don’t you? It’s not your fault that he’s sick, Andrea.

I will never forget that woman’s kind words, both her praise of my son, and her reassurance that I was not to blame.  Because, believe me, when you have a child with mental illness you will blame yourself, and as CNN helpfully reminded me this morning, so will other people.  Because no one really knows yet what causes schizophrenia though there are dozens of theories, you will take each one of those theories you hear or read about and apply them to yourself, always with culpability.  Heredity? Yeah, it’s your bad genes or those of that person you were foolish enough to breed with. Exposure to toxins or a virus in utero? Oh my god, it must have been the flu you had in your 7th month or those chemicals at work that weren’t supposed to be a pregnancy risk.  Childhood trauma? You got a divorce. You had a house fire. Cannabis usage in adolescence? You should have somehow prevented him ever trying marijuana in high school.  Etc. And etc.  

Then there’s the blame you ascribe to yourself, and everyone else ascribes to you, in intervening.  You shouldn’t have let them put him on antidepressants in high school! No, you should have had him on antidepressants sooner! You should have--somehow--gotten him to keep taking medication and going to psychiatrists and therapy even when he was over 18 and refused to. Somehow. That’s the heartbreak just about everyone with a mentally ill loved one knows about. You can’t force them to get help. You can’t force them to comply with treatment. And except in extraordinary circumstances, neither can anyone else.  Basically you have to be actively threatening yourself or someone else before you can be forced into treatment.  Prior to my son’s hospitalization in 2006, he’d been off all psychotropic medications for over a year and a half and I’d watched him getting sicker and sicker. Watched him helplessly.

There was the summer of mania where he paced the house endlessly, read an entire encyclopedia front to back (searching for hidden messages?), went for walks in the middle of the night leaving the front door wide open, snapped at you whenever you spoke to him, and entirely stopped bathing.  There was the winter and spring of deep depression and eventual auditory hallucinations, where he just got very quiet and sad, showered for hours, watched the same DVDs over and over again (searching for hidden messages?), became afraid to sleep in his own bedroom, and never left the house at all.  And all that time all I could do was wait. Wait for him to agree to go to the doctor. Or wait for something horrible to happen.

The last few days before his admission, he was obviously getting more and more frightened and afraid to be by himself and admitted finally that he was hearing voices. The night he was admitted, he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t settle, was going from room to room, listening to the walls. I convinced him at last to call 911 so that they could “give him something to sleep” in the ED. When the EMTs came, they told him his pulse was racing and his blood pressure was very high, and he agreed to go with them. If he hadn’t, they couldn’t have made him. He wasn’t threatening suicide. He wasn’t violent. Well, not until he decided midway through the trip to the hospital to attempt to fight off the EMT and try to leap out of the back of the ambulance so he could “answer the white phone.” That sort of sealed his sojourn on the locked ward. Thankfully.

So, Nancy Lanza.  We don’t know what was wrong with her 20 year old son that made him kill her and kill himself and commit an atrocity.  Apparently he was “on the spectrum.”  He was also at the prime age to have a first psychotic break, but with him dead and his computer destroyed, we have no clear cut evidence that he was in fact delusional or, if he was, what form that delusion took. We don’t know if he was, rather than being delusional, simply sociopathic. We don’t know. We’ll never know.  But do I think that if his mother thought he was a danger to himself or anyone else, she’d have had weapons where he could get at them? No.  Do I think she was probably where I was seven years ago, watching her son struggle with an illness she could do nothing to intervene in and waiting for him to agree to get help, all the time thinking (hoping, praying), “oh, we just need ____ to happen and everything will be okay”? Yes.  Do I judge her? No.  Does my heart break for her as much as for the parents of all those babies her son shot? Yes.  

Do I think it’s disgusting a major news outlet would question whether this dead woman was a victim? Oh, fuck yeah.

One last thought: I couldn’t watch the tributes to the victims--how this little girl loved horses and that little boy liked to play with his cousins--without thinking that had Adam Lanza died when he was six, someone would have said such things about him.  No matter what heinous acts he committed, he was once someone’s little boy.


My own story has, of course, a much happier ending. My son was never violent. He got help, is on a good combination of medications to control his illness, and is committed to complying with treatment.  As his mother I of course wish he didn’t have to suffer with a lifelong illness, but I’ve come a long way since I thought this was a living death sentence.  It’s not.  Mental illness, like diabetes or epilepsy or cancer, sucks, but all you can do is keep trying to kick its ass.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

switch it up, yo

Ever look around the gym and realize you, and everyone else, are doing the same ol', same ol' exercises? Nothing wrong with the basics. You won't go wrong doing back squats and bench press and lat pulldowns and planks. But sometimes it's fun to throw in something new and different too. Bonus points if it makes your fellow exercisers stare and think what the HELL is s/he doing????  Amirite? I'm right.

Since I've noticed a bunch of my friends and, okay, myself, throwing some fun and funky exercises into our workouts lately, I thought I'd hunt down some instructional videos on youtube and share the luv.

Suitcase deadlifts:

Good morning squats:

Waiters carry:

Lumberjack squats:

And for the truly ambitious among us, the headstand leg lift:

I think I'll work on getting into the headstand first.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

i have consumer confidence in YOU

In lieu of wrapping the pile of Christmas presents sitting on the floor of my bedroom, washing my kitchen floor***, or doing anything else useful, I think I shall take this opportunity to present to you Andrea's Second Annual Holiday Gift Guide. And this year, you actually get it before Christmas. Always thinking of ways to serve you better, readers, 24/7 365.

1.) Gaiam yoga socks

Oh, look, that's your esteemed blog hostess doing her own modelling. More ways to serve you, readers! Just sayin'.

I don't, or at least haven't, worn these to do yoga. No, I have worn them to do my formerly barefoot (aka monkey feet) squats. I like to feel the floor under me and grip it with my feet, so much so that I was willing to risk athlete's foot or MSRA from those gross gym floors. With these Gaiam yoga socks, I don't have to. All the benefits of monkey feet, none of the squat rack health risks! Highly recommended stocking stuffer for the maladjusted weightlifter in *your* life. (Note: one of my friends is completely freaked out by the idea of toe socks; proceed with caution.)

2.) The Anatomy Coloring Book

Another great stocking stuffer! (Or, y'know, main gift if you're a cheap bastard. I don't know your life.)  I had one of these in massage school and I'm close to pulling the trigger on buying a new one.  We've got a long, cold winter upon us. Face it: we'll all probably get snowed in at one point or another. On those days blizzard conditions make it impossible to get to the gym or go for a run, your giftee can spend his or her time profitably learning the names of their individual quad muscles and hamstrings! Plus, coloring is fun. (Note: be a sport and throw in a nice box of colored pencils or markers. You don't want your giftee to have to venture out to the store in that blizzard when they realize all they have in the house is a #2 pencil and some ballpoints they stole from work.)

3.) North Face Osito jacket

Soooooo very soft. I've been known to visit this jacket in the athletic wear department of Nordstrom just to pet it. Don't judge. (Note: I just pet it, I haven't purchased it, SANTA. Ahem.)

4.) inversion table

I personally have always wanted one of these. Well, always since about 1996 when I first saw one in a Relax the Back store. And, no, not just for illicit sexual purposes. Having my spine decompressed sounds like a peachy idea, and I'm sure it feels just as good as having "traction" done during a massage. Besides, I could maybe grow an inch, which, when you are my size and probably shrinking even as we speak, is not to be sneezed at. So, yeah. If you have any tense, crunched-up short people on your gift list (and they enjoy head rushes), I suggest checking one of these things out! (Note: see the disclaimers about pregnancy and eye and back disorders. We here at MMINAE do not want to be responsible for anyone detaching a retina, yo.)

5.) The Yin Yoga Kit

I have recommended and/or loaned this out to so many people in the five years I've owned it and mentioned it so much on here before that I would be remiss in not including it in a gift guide. Your giftee's fascia will thank you. You want all your loved ones to have happy fascia, right? Right! (Note: yes, it's very hippy-dippy.  Deal.)

6.) Liquid Grip

Another Andrea-approved stocking stuffer. Gym doesn't allow chalk? Just don't want to deal with the mess?  Liquid Grip is non-messy, dirt cheap, lasts forever, and it works. (Note: it smells awesome too! Some women want to smell like Chanel No 5, some wanna smell like the weight room...)

7.) Nike+ sportwatch

I'm not much of a runner personally but I've heard good things about these. And you know I like gadgets. You probably know and love someone who likes gadgets too and who actually runs more than four times a year, so what are you waiting for? (Note: would the gps on this thing have helped me when I almost got lost and died 500 yards from my house? Probably not. You should probably still buy one, though!)

8.) "everything fits" gym bag

I swear to god, I don't work for Gaiam, I just like their stuff. (Note: they should probably send me some swag though, right?)

9.) stripey knee socks

You know you know someone who wants to deadlift in style. Save the shins! (Note: Rumor has it that Tarzhay is also a good source for these. And if they made it easier for me to grab a pic from their website, I'd have linked to them. But they didn't. So eff u, Target!)

10.) earbuds

C'mon, everyone always needs new earbuds. Those of us with weird ears like the ones that go in the ear canal and have the adjustable rubber bits. (Note: "adjustable rubber bits *is* the technical term. God.)

There. Ten gift ideas for your fit family and friends. Now get shopping! I know you can do it.


***Amazing how much I wanted to do this when my doctor wouldn't let me and how much I don't want to do it now that I can any time I want. Ironic, Alanis, ironic.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

busybodies, the earnestly helpful, and the food police

On one of my favorite cooking websites they have a feature highlighting readers' questions. Yesterday's was from a woman whose spouse was just diagnosed with diabetes and who was thus wanting to bake sugar-free Christmas cookies this year. Her question, which seemed rather basic and on-topic for a cooking forum, was whether it was truly correct to replace the sugar in baking with artificial sweetener (i.e. Splenda, stevia) one to one, or whether that ratio needed tweaking.

The first seven--that's right, seven--responses, however, did not even attempt to answer. They instead took her to task for baking cookies in the first place, since white flour was gonna kill her husband as surely as sugar, and/or sniffed at her to take a diabetes education class, or informed her that the proper way for a diabetic to eat cookies was to eat a tiny portion of a real sugar-filled treat after carefully checking one's insulin levels and screw the Splenda.  Then one person took a stab at answering the actual query before more people dropped by to yell at her. The final response (as of this writing) informed her that her (presumably) fatass hubby should step away from the cookies and get to the gym, 'cause obviously that's what brought him to this impasse in the first place. Oooo.

While any or all of this advice may or may not be true: who THE FUCK asked you, snippy self-righteous internet commenters? And if you feel the need to lecture, either because you really really care about the health of someone you have never met or, y'know, because you like to be right, how about attempting to answer what was asked before (or at least after) you launch into your sermon/verbal instructional manual?

In summary--I hate people.  Merry Christmas, etc.


Monday, December 3, 2012

deelightful, deelicious, deeeeetox

Yesterday I went to a hipster Mexican restaurant where they start out your dining experience by bringing you a refreshing palate cleanser of shaved ice and asking whether you would care to have a free shot of tequila poured on top of that. Um, yes, please?  That OF COURSE led to two margaritas which led to ordering cuatros leche cake for dessert.  I mean, c'mon, that's one bonus leche. It would be wrong not to order it. Duh.

This capped off a two week period that included my birthday, Thanksgiving, the baking of a Christmas funfetti cake (if you haven't already heard that story, don't ask, okay?), the eating of an entire batch of peanut butter cookies all by my own self (if you're intending to bake them for other people, you need to first do a test run for quality control--again, DUH), the purchase of a nip of Godiva liqueur just because, the receiving of a whole bottle of Godiva liqueur as a belated birthday present along with a metric shit ton of chocolate, the finding of some stale Easter candy hidden in my hall closet while cleaning it and the sampling of said candy to ascertain whether it was stale or not, the extra sampling of said candy just to make sure it was really stale, and, um, probably more instances of alcohol and sugar near-poisoning than I am remembering. This all led to my waking up this morning claiming*** I was going to do a detox. Just yogurt and veggies for this chick. Until I'm offered alcohol or cake. Naturally.

It's after three in the afternoon. I've had nothing but yogurt and homemade turkey soup today. Well, that and coffee and iced tea.

Shut UP. Who said I was gonna detox from caffeine too?

Anyway, this all led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about "detoxes" and "cleanses".  Did you know that for only $99 I can purchase a groupon that will provide me with three whole days of (purportedly cleansing) juice? That's half off retail!  R U serious?  There are people alive who will pay two hundred bucks for nine glasses of juice?  Oh, I have a blender and a bridge I'd like to sell them.  As I once famously (infamously?) said about some extremely overpriced Red Sox tickets, I'd only pay that if it included Mike Lowell performing cunnilingus. Which kinda works better as a baseball joke than a dieting one, but I stand by it. Mikey, if you're reading--call me!

The whole juice cleanse/detox thing is patently ridiculous of course.  Much like (apparently--it was before my time because while I'm old, I'm not THAT old) women used to douche**** before the medical, gynecological establishment finally bested the feminine hygiene industry and successfully got women to realize that their vaginas***** are self-cleaning organs, hopefully good sense and scientific fact will win out and the populace will realize that, despite anything noted medical expert Gwyneth Paltrow says, our bodies do not need to be internally cleansed and detoxed because we already have a self-cleaning mechanism firmly in place. People who buy $200 juice? Meet your liver and kidneys.

In summary?  I do not really want to look like a Victoria's Secret model, I just thought that someecard was hilarious.  I do however like booze.

Good thing my liver is awesome.



****but despite the fact it was unhealthy for them and totally unnecessary, aren't we glad our mothers or grandmothers did douche, just to introduce the word into common English usage? It's the perfect insult. Go call someone who's a douche a douche. I promise, it will be very satisfying.

*****Andrea's readers: "For the love of God, please stop talking about vaginas."
          Andrea: "I'll try. But it'll probably last as long as the yogurt and veggies thing."