Friday, March 27, 2015

The stigma of mental illness

So we're learning this morning, incrementally, that there's a good likelihood that Andreas Lubitz, the promising young pilot who apparently crashed a Germanwings flight on purpose, suffered from a mental illness of some sort. That his doctor had signed him out of work for the day of the flight. That he flew anyway. And during that flight, something in Andreas's head went terribly, terribly wrong. Now 150 people are dead. Moms and daughters. Opera singers. German schoolchildren. Little babies.

It's all very tragic and terrible. But Andreas wasn't a monster -- he was a person like you and me. And he had an illness which he did not want his employer to know about.

And you know what? Although I hold him responsible for those deaths, I don't blame him for that impulse to keep his problem secret.

In an age when ads on TV deal with issues like painful intercourse after menopause, erectile dysfunction, and overactive bladder (do you see a theme here? We're either worrying about sex or about peeing on ourselves), there are almost no ads for antidepressants. Mental illness is the dirty little secret in the back room. It's Aunt Pearl, whom people tolerate at Christmas but pretty much shun the rest of the time.  It's your neighbor's kid, who had a breakdown during his M.B.A. program and "had to come home." It's that fragility in all of us that we don't want to acknowledge. That fragility can close in on us at any moment.

In many cases, mental illness can be managed well with medications and talk therapy, and a person can pretty much manage to live a normal life. For Andreas Lubitz, however, it might have been a career-ender,  This may be why his employer knew nothing about it. Of course, not knowing Lufthansa's policy, I can't say for sure.

It's all so sad. Over and over, Andreas's  trainers kept telling us: he loved to fly.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy endings

I wouldn't ordinarily put a smiley-face into one of my posts, but I really am happy over something, so there you have it. A happy daisy.

Our Head of Reference demonstrated, at a staff meeting this week, how he uses a certain database to track people down through public records (all nice and legal!). So ... I tried it.

you see, at the tender age of 20, I got married for the first time. What was I thinking? I wasn't. The marriage lasted just short of three years, though we didn't live together quite that long. Our divorce became final in January of 1977. I did hear from my ex twice after that, in the summer of 1977, and again in the summer of 1978, as we both moved on with our lives. I moved to Philadelphia, and he went to work abroad.

But I always wondered, you know. And I felt more than a little guilty, because the source of unhappiness in the marriage was me, all me. I went through that marriage like a dose of epsom salts, and emerged pretty much unscathed, I don't think my ex was quite as unscathed as I was, since he really was the injured party. As the years passed, and I finally grew up, I felt the burden of this more and more, especially since my own second marriage has been very happy.

So, over the years, I have resorted to Google, without much in the way of results. My ex was, and is, a very private person, and he seems to have managed to steer clear of the internet. Likewise Facebook -- he's just not there.

So I tried this public records source, and got a nice surprise.

Not only is my ex alive and well, but he has been married for quite a while to a woman who teaches drama in high school. She is on Facebook. And, from what I can tell (no, I did not friend her; I am curious but not totally crass), she seems like a thoroughly nice woman.

So the moral of this story is that lives can have happy endings, even when I have pretty much screwed them up. So it's a smiley-face day indeed.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Winter's last gasp?

Well, let's hope so. In scenic South Jersey, we have had our largest snowfall of the year (so far) -- about 9 inches, in my yard. I took the easy way out and stayed home yesterday, catching up on the end of Downton Abbey's 5th season, and crocheting like crazy on a blanket I'm making for my son.

The snow fell, the dogs reluctantly went outside when asked, and after dark the brutal cold descended again. 5 degrees this morning -- I believe that's a record-breaker for us.

On the subway, all the riders looked cold and tired. We are all tired of this Endless Winter. And as for Boston -- I can't imagine how tired of it they are!

Relief is apparently on the way, and will arrive next week in the form of much milder weather and a lot of melting. At lunchtime, I felt some actual March warmth in the sun (as I foraged for food across the ice).

Let spring come quickly!