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Showing posts with label REFLECTIONS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label REFLECTIONS. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA ABOUT MARRIAGE!

Sometimes I wonder how it ever got to the point where my marriage ended up with a divorce.  Then I look at the way President Obama behaves towards his wife; the light shines and I figure it out.  

More than anything else, President Obama's behavior towards his wife provides an example for all men of how they should behave towards their wives. If they want to stay married and they respect the sanctity of marriage. What he does is on each and every occasion when it is the least bit appropriate, President Obama makes public statements at social events and in person about how much he is grateful for his wife, and how much he holds her in esteem, and how he places her first in all of his considerations.  This is the secret for any man to nurturing and maintaining a healthy marriage.  

My father was exactly the same way.  Throughout my childhood, and indeed, throughout my entire life, I observed my father on frequent occasions verbalize to all of us in our family how much he loved my mother, how much he held her in the highest esteem, and how he considered her first in all things.  

Perhaps he did not always live up to that ideal--and sometimes he'd be caught out on something she didn't approve of and he'd walk around looking all guilty.  But ultimately, this was his ideal, even when he didn't feel like it.  

At appropriate times, during important family events, my father always took the opportunity to thank my mother, to reflect on the special moments of their lives together, and to restate again his commitment to her as the most important person in his life.  Those moments when he did that always made me feel proud.  I say this with great admiration because his devotion to my mother was often quite extraordinary given that my mother wasn't always the easiest person to get along with.  

Still, my point is that he died a married man and lived to see his 60th wedding anniversary.  

How is that done?  It is done first by sticking by that promise you made to have and to hold from this day forward.  Funny to hear that on a blog devoted to divorce!  

My father made his marriage as all men do.  They make it by insisting upon it.  They make it by respecting it.  They make it by valuing it.  They make it by considering it their top priority.  They make it by articulating to themselves and to the world that this woman, or this person who is my partner, is more important to me than anyone else in the world.  This person has fine qualities which I admire and that I cherish and I would never be the person I am today were it not for her.  

My father married my mother on his birthday.  He was 23 and she was 19.  They actually met when she was 16 and he was 20.  And can you imagine they were together well into their 80s.  

I always think, and I believe my parents conveyed to me, that the reason my parents chose his birthday for their wedding date was because their marriage made my father the man he became; it literally gave birth to him as a personality and as a human being.  My mother, literally, was a gift to my father on the day of his birth, and thereby gave birth to him.  The date alone was an indication to their children how important our mother was to my father and to the family.  

So when I look at my own marriage and why it failed, I would start with the fact that my ex-husband went around complaining about me in public, rather than demonstrating the kind of respect President Obama knows how to show towards his wife.  He would trot around that old chestnut that our misogynistic society still falls for, i.e. "She doesn't feed me!" as if he wasn't quite capable of feeding himself, as if we weren't both equally pulling our weight when it came to earning a living, and so demanding I do all the housework on top of that was rather immature and thoroughly entitled.  

What gets me, though, is that we still live in a world where people are willing to actually give a complaining husband the time of day.  It is as if folks love to aid and abet the destruction of a marriage and egg the guy on, even in Churches.  

In fact, when I finally filed for divorce one of the first things I did was collect written affidavits from Church members who stated that my ex would come to Church committee meetings and talk trash about me.  These were the very same Church members who came to my wedding and lifted up their hands in agreement that they committed themselves to supporting and encouraging my ex husband and me in our marriage.  

Talking about lying hypocrisy.  

Of course, that is not surprising given the pastor of the Church.  This was a fellow who took pains to hide his wife and pretend that he had nothing to do with her.  His behavior was so bad that it took me a few years before I figured out who his wife was.  I guess the spirit of a Church leader infiltrates the Church community and creates a group of imitators; many of the marriages in that congregation ended up with divorce as well.  Of course, he stayed married--it wouldn't have been respectable for a pastor to do anything different. But as I say, not everyone who is married is actually married.  He used to say, "I choose to love her." as if someone was pulling one of his teeth out.  I'm not sure that actually counts as a marriage.

What I am saying is actually very simple and straightforward when you think of it and it doesn't seem to have take President Obama that much to have figured it out and acted upon it.  But look around you in our culture where 50% of marriages end in divorce.  How many people do you know actively engage in the manner of President Obama and verbally articulate in public and often how much they respect and appreciate their wives.  

To be honest, I don't see it happening that often, and to me that says it all about where the failure lies.  

You may be saying right now, oh that isn't fair.  Why do guys have to do all the work here.  I'm sorry.  That's just the way it is.  My father used to say to us kids, "If your Mom isn't happy, no one is happy."  Mothers are the very heart and foundation of the family.  If you break that heart, there is nothing left for anyone but the fragments and the tossed about pieces.  That's why the men need to straighten out, step up to the plate, and do the job they were intended for.  If they choose not to do it, then they are responsible for the consequences.  

That is particularly true for those scum of the earth men who snatch custody from mothers and deny them all contact with their children.  There is a special place in hell for those kinds of men.

My mentor in college, a poetry instructor, used to talk about the kinds of people who could look at a statue, an image, or a symbol and fail to understand what it meant even though it was right in front of them.  Here we have our President (I haven't quite gotten used to the fact that he is a former President) demonstrating right before our eyes the proper way to behave, and yet so few have actually picked up on it.  You'd think it would be obvious, but I guess it isn't.  Often wisdom is a distilled quality, and when finally acquired, it is too late.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DAVID'S STORY!


By Elizabeth A. Richter

Special Note: Recently, I was asked to write about my memories of the Prouty Garden at Boston Children's Hospital in connection to my  little brother, David's, treatment there for what was essentially a form of incurable cancer.  The Prouty Garden is a beautiful spiritually healing garden located at the center of Boston Children's which is currently at risk of being demolished.  I am now sharing this essay with Divorce in Connecticut readers so that it is clear that when Divorce in Connecticut publishes articles in support of Justina Pelletier, Cassandra C., and little Jaxon that this support arises from a very personal standpoint.  As a writer on behalf of Divorce in Connecticut with considerable input into its editorial content, my opinions in regard to medical rights comes from the position of having walked that walk myself personally so I know exactly what kids are going through when they are mistreated by the medical system.  This is not to say David was mistreated, but merely to say that I know what is at stake and I know exactly when hospitals, medical personnel, DCF and attorneys aren't providing the full story and are acting contrary to their professional ethics.

**********************


When I was around 8, and my little brother, David, was 4 I used to get really jealous of him because my parents would let him drink coca cola whenever he wanted.  Also, he didn’t have to eat his first course before he could have his second course.  I will admit I was jealous of him and I didn’t understand why he was so special he didn’t have to follow the rules.  When I was 10, my parents finally explained why.  My little brother was slowly dying of a malignant brain tumor and we could not be sure how long he would live.  The technical term for what he had, which I didn’t learn until much later when I was an adult was cranialphryngioma.  I actually looked the term up recently and found out that currently the condition is largely curable, but it wasn’t then.
I came from a fairly large family.  There was my Mom, Pamela Horton, who was born in Birmingham, England, and my father George K. Horton who escaped from Nazi Germany at the age of 12 and ended up in England also where he met my mother.  They married and my father obtained a position as a mathematics professor at the University of Alberta in Canada.  They lived there for ten years and had four children—my older sister, Belinda (4 years older), my brother Jonathan (2 years older), me, and then my little brother, David.  Then in 1960, the year my little brother was born, my parents immigrated to the United States, settling in New Jersey where my father began what ended up being a career of approximately 50 years as a professor of Physics at Rutgers University, while my Mom became an elementary school teacher.  We settled in Princeton which was particularly attractive to my father since it had also been the home of another Physics afficionado—Albert Einstein.
I recall this is being a very exciting time full of discovery and new information.  Unfortunately, this was also when my parents began to notice that my little brother didn’t seem to be doing very well.  He slept  for extended periods of time and vomited frequently.  My father was very preoccupied with his work and so my mother ended up being the one to take my little brother to the pediatrician and explain her concerns.  Unfortunately, this being the 60s, the pediatrician was quick to dismiss my mother’s worries as just a bit of overanxious parenting.  Finally, my father happened to be taking care of my little brother who by then was around 3 years old and noticed that he was staggering when he walked.  My parents then made an immediate appointment with the doctor who finally took the trouble to shine a light into my brother’s eyes which immediately revealed the problem—a brain tumor.
At that point, my parents had a choice.  They had enough information to be aware that David’s illness was severe.  The question was whether to treat him locally with palliative care and allow him to die or else drive up to the renowned Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts for heroic care.  They decided to take a chance and drove him up to Boston for immediate surgery.   The surgery was conducted by a team of doctors and nurses headed by neurosurgeon Dr. John Shillato who was at the height of his career at the time.  From what I gather, the surgery itself took up to 8-10 hours as Dr. Shillato meticulously opened up the front of my brother’s skull in an incision that went temple to temple, and then removed as much of the brain tumor as he could find. 
The tumor itself, according to report, was about half the size of a grapefruit, but there were also remaining fragments from the tumor that still needed to be searched out and removed.  By the end of the surgery, Dr. Shillato breathed a deep sigh of relief.  He believed that he had gotten out the tumor in its entirety and that he had saved David’s life.  In fact, he was wrong.  In two years it became painfully clear that the tumor had regrown and spread to other parts of the brain, eventually blocking the drainage of cerebrospinal fluid from the brain and causing hydrocephalus as well.  Further, the regrown tumor had snapped the optic nerve making David blind in one eye, and the pituitary was irreparably damaged which meant that David was no longer able to grow, among other endocrine problems, and he also endured mild epileptic seizures.  The prognosis was that he would eventually die, but no one was sure actually when that would happen.  In fact, David lived for another seven years, dying just before his 13th birthday.
During those intervening years my family frequently travelled up to Boston staying either at Longwood Towers where I used to play on the elevators, or else at the Children’s Hospital Inn.  I became very familiar with the experience of sitting around in the Boston Children’s Hospital waiting rooms waiting for my brother to get a check up, or get tests, or have a doctor review his condition.  When my brother received treatment, he would stay at the pediatric ward which was, at the time, Ward 33.  So all of his toys and belongings generally had the number 33 on them whether he was in the hospital or not.  This kind of freaked my parents out because the home we lived in was 33 Phillip Drive.  For a while they tried to convince the post office to let them use the address 35 Phillip Drive, but they wouldn’t cooperate so we were kind of stuck with this uncomfortable coincidence. 
Unfortunately, in those days children were not allowed to visit on the ward, so the only time we saw David during his treatment at the hospital was when my parents rolled him onto the elevator in one of those wooden carts and took him to the ground floor.  From there we would go to the Prouty Garden where we would walk around together and simply enjoy the birds, the chipmunks, and the squirrels.  We would marvel at the fountain and admire the trees and the bushes and grass.  I think we all had a sense of the beauty of those transitory moments together and tried to appreciate them to the fullest.  More than anything else I recall that there were these statues that would do things if you pressed a button.  In particular, David loved the magic frog.  My father would make some mysterious motions in the leaves nearby and out would shoot a stream of water.  My little brother would shout and laugh at the surprise stream of water every time as if it had never happened before.  When he returned to his room, my little brother had a stuffed squirrel named “Pierre” to take with him which my parents gave him as a gift to remember the delights of the Prouty Garden even though he couldn’t be there every moment.
To get a sense of how strict they were about keeping children out of the wards in those days, there came a time when my brother had to have another marathon round of brain surgery.  The fact is my brother had perhaps 12 of these surgeries that lasted from 8 – 10 hours or so during the course of his lifetime.  I believe my brother was around ten years old at the time of this particular one.  The doctors were unsure of whether David would make it through the surgery so they cautioned my parents to say their goodbyes.  They did that, but then they wanted to have my brother and sister and I to have a chance to say goodbye as well.  So they arranged with the pediatric nurse on Ward 33 to roll David in his little wooden cart to a spot several feet from the elevator doors.  Then my father escorted each one of us up one at a time and we each waved at David from the elevator while he waved at us from the cart.  He was completely bald because they shaved his head in preparation for the surgery  and he looked particularly pale and fragile. We were not allowed to get near, to kiss him or hug him or speak to him at all.  We each only had those few hurried moments on the elevator.  Luckily, he did not die then, because I think we all needed more time to spend with David, but there was no way of knowing at the time if he would survive.  Visiting rules are a lot more lenient now and I think that is a blessing.
Over the years, my father and David spent countless hours on the highway driving from Princeton, New Jersey to Boston, MA and back again.  The trips were quite lengthy, up to five or six hours long, and sometimes my father would get tired.  At those times, my father would tell us, he would park on the side of the road and take a nap while David would sit there proudly with his watch timing the length of the nap.  Both my father and David developed a special bond of love and trust on those visits.  One story my Dad told at one point tells you what kind of kid David was.  Apparently, my brother had been on one of his lengthy stays at the hospital when my Dad called him and said I am going to drive up today and take you home.  Well, time passed and it was getting pretty late in the day, and the nurse came in and told David that my Dad wasn’t going to come.  Apparently, David got pretty irate at this and had a big argument with the nurse that in fact his Dad was coming and he, David was going to be leaving.  The clocked ticked on and it was looking extremely unlikely when lo and behold in walks my Dad and told David, time to leave.  David had gotten himself all dressed up and ready to go, sneakers tied and shirt buttoned, the works, and he had made his bed neat and tidy, and was sitting there waiting all set to go.  So, David slipped off the bed and was at the door just about to leave with my Dad, when he stopped and said wait a minute.  Then David went back into the hospital room, got a pencil and a piece of paper and carefully wrote on it, “I TOLD YOU SO.”, placed the note on the bed, and then left.  Stubborn to the end!
Two and a half years later, just before his 13th birthday, on February 1, 1973, David died unexpectedly in his sleep at home in his own room at Phillip Drive.  Among his last words was a question about calling the doctors and finding out what to do because he didn’t feel well.  My parents then wrapped my brother’s body in a sheet, carried it to the car, and then drove it back up to Boston Children’s Hospital.  For the last few years of his life, David’s treatment was largely a charitable contribution by the Hospital.  They were learning from him and trying out new procedures that would provide considerable insights into how to treat other children, but would do nothing to save David himself.  My parents brought his body back so that the doctors could continue learning from David by doing a final autopsy on his body.  Dr. Shillato met my parents at Boston Children’s Hospital and personally lifted David’s body into his arms and carried it into the hospital. 
My parents were very pragmatic individuals and did not have any formal religious belief, so they decided to have David’s body cremated.  There was no memorial service because my parents were too broken hearted to manage it.  My brother flew in from Stanford University in California and my sister joined us from Barnard College in New York.  We came together in Boston for a family meeting and to decide what to do and eventually concluded that we wanted David’s ashes scattered in the Prouty Garden where he had spent so many happy times with the family.  The only problem was that we didn’t think we could get permission from the Hospital to do it.  I believe my mother sat down and wrote out a request to the director of the Hospital asking whether they would allow us to do so.  However, once the letter was sent out, after some discussion we all agreed that we were unwilling to accept “no” for an answer. 
The next day, we picked David’s ashes up from the funeral home late in the afternoon, walked into Boston Children’s Hospital and made our way to the Prouty Garden.  As we stepped outside into the crisp fresh air, I noticed that it was beginning to snow and a layer of frost covered the ground, the bushes and the leaves.  There was some urgency in our actions, because we were afraid that we would be caught and arrested, so we quickly and silently went to an out of the way part of the Garden and scattered David’s ashes, carefully patting them around so they would join with the soil.  We did not need to speak, or say a few words, because all of us knew that we were together saying goodbye to a very special  boy.  It was so cold that we did not linger, but quickly returned to the warmth of the building.  I recall glancing backward as we left, and saw through the frame of the glass doors, the darkening shapes of the trees and bushes of the Prouty Garden, with large snowflakes slowly falling.  Ironically, two weeks later, my parents received a letter from Boston Children’s Hospital giving us permission to scatter David’s ashes in the Prouty Garden, so we didn’t need to be so concerned.
Since my brother’s death, my parents made it a yearly tradition to return to the Prouty Garden to remember my brother until their deaths, my father in 2009 and my mother in 2014.  I lived in Boston for 12 years and always made sure I joined them in these visits.  Once I moved down to Connecticut where I live now, I still always try to make it back to the Prouty Garden at least once a year as do my brother and sister.  Boston Children’s Hospital is always a home for me.  And the Prouty Garden is one of my most sacred places, not only for me, but for every member of my family who remembers David’s courage and his capacity for joy, and his love of the little things that made and continue to make The Prouty Garden so special.

To sign the petition in order to save The Prouty Garden, please click on the link below:

https://www.change.org/p/boston-children-s-hospital-preserve-prouty-garden

 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"BULLIES, BATS AND BULLDOZING" DR. JEANNE KING TALKS ABOUT HOW TO RECOGNIZE AND SURVIVE ABUSIVE BULLYING!

Dr. Jeanne King talks about abusive bullying as follows:  "Bullies and abusers have a way of bulldozing their way right through the “ask.” They know what they want and nothing is going to get in their way. Sound familiar?
 
It may start with an apparent pitch that looks like this, “I think we should...”
 
At first, you may not be certain whether the pitch invites your opinion or is the introduction to the bulldozing effort to follow. You seek to comprehend their suggestion/request, and before you can process it—much less formulate your reply—their eagerness percolates."
 
For more information on this topic, please click on the link below:
 

Monday, May 19, 2014

NO, NOT MENTALLY ILL--JUST EVIL!

On January 31, 2014, the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children published its findings. 

At the time this happened, I wrote a blog expressing my objection to the fact that the report depended upon commentary from the Commission on Custody which took place in 2002 instead of evaluating what is going on in 2014 to cause these problems.  It repeated statements made in 2002 that the custody problems in CT Family Court are caused by "a small minority of parents [who engage] in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems, or the force of personality." 

It further continued to state, "these families over consume system resources pursuing their conflict and frequently harm their children in the process.  The ability of this population to use the constitutional right of access to the courts as a means for revenge or punishment against the other parent is an unintended negative consequence of the legal process." 

My objection to this characterization of the general dissatisfaction of CT citizens with CT Family Court is that not only is it inaccurate, it is a fabricated excuse to justify Family Court's wrongdoing. 

First, there are no accurate statistical studies to verify how extensive is the number of parents who are involved in high conflict divorces.  I personally doubt that they are such a small minority as excuse-making family court professionals suggest.  These excuses are just another way for such professionals to refuse to take responsibility for what they have done and blame innocent victims of the system.

Second, while we know there is a small minority of parents whose divorces take up to two years or more, it is not possible to determine whether length of time in court is the sole accurate indicator of the presence of high conflict or not. 

Other, shorter, divorces could indicate that much of the conflict was conducted outside of court in advance of the parties appearing in court. 

Some divorces could end up being short lived simply because one or the other party has been successfully threatened into compliance with an agreement he or she does not like by many of the corrupt techniques that so many Connecticut Citizens have reported about in legislative hearings that took place in advance of the task force report. 

More than anything else, however, what bothered me when I read these two reports is the tendency on the part of the Commission and the Legislative Task Force to attribute mental health issues to Family Court Litigants who found themselves caught up in a Family Court legal nightmare. Most particularly I was most uncomfortable about the way in which the task force failed to differentiate between perpetrators and victims in these situations. 

The reality is that when there are litigants who are pushing forward with the kind of damaging legal proceedings that task force members describe as taking up all of Family Court resources, many of the destructive litigants, (as opposed to their victims who are reluctantly sucked up into the proceedings) are most likely to be perfectly sane individuals. 

In addition, those corrupt attorneys, judges, family relations officers, and mental health providers who incentivize divorce proceedings for their own personal profit are also most likely to be perfectly sane individuals as they drive litigants into bankruptcy, foreclose on their homes, empty their child client's college accounts out to pay their fees, and drive vulnerable and sensitive mothers and fathers to have nervous breakdowns and/or struggle with clinical depression. 

But instead of acknowledging this, as with the Commission of 2002 before it, the Task Force of 2014 again points at the Convenient Scapegoats, i.e. the Mentally Ill.  


Why? 


They do this because the stigma towards mental illness is such that if a person commits a crime--white collar or otherwise--or commits murder or some act of violence, too many people cannot imagine that any normal person could do such a thing.  Their internal prejudice against people with mental illness leads them to attribute those actions to some kind of mental health disability.  


This is  particularly true if the perpetrator appears respectable or has a prestigious position in the community.  A good example of this would be somebody like David Messenger, a CT resident who bludgeoned his pregnant wife to death and was acquitted on the basis of the insanity defense.  Few could believe that a wealthy, well brought up, privileged gentleman like Messenger could possibly have committed murder while in full command of his faculties.  Yet there are many reasons to believe that he did.

What most people don't realize is that the majority of people with mental illness are unlikely to commit these kinds of crimes.  This is because so many people with mental illness have suffered so much that they tend to be very kind and gentle individuals--perhaps too much so.  Further, many folks with mental illness have had considerable mental health treatment and so they have learned to have some insight into their actions which makes them less likely to cause harm and much, much more likely to be the victim in any given situation. 

Thus, the common association in peoples' minds of mental illness with criminal and violent proclivities is just specious. 


This paradox is no more clear than in the article, "Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem:  The Banality of Evil" written in 1961 by Hannah Arendt, the controversial German Jewish political theorist who wrote about the trial of Adolph Eichmann for "The New Yorker" magazine. 

Adolph Eichmann was one of the major architects of the Final Solution along with others such as Heinrich Heydrich, and as such, he was personally responsible for millions of deaths.  Ms. Arendt stated that people speculated that the atrocities Eichmann committed were so serious that he must have been mentally ill or in some way demonic and deluded.  Yet the reality is that he was examined by six psychiatrists, all of whom unanimously stated that he was perfectly sane. 

The bottom line is that evil people commit evil in cold blood, not because they are unaware of their actions or deluded as to what they are doing and what are the consequences of what they are doing.  They are often cool, calculated, amused, and thoroughly self satisfied about their premeditated criminal acts. 

Thus, the likelihood is that the people creating the problems in family court are perfectly aware of what they are up to, are perfectly sane, and are acting in a criminal way because that is what they want to do and it pleases them, not because they are out of their minds.  They are not mentally ill--just evil.  Until our legislators understand this, until legal professionals admit this, we are unlikely to arrive at any lasting solutions to the problem of the corruption of the CT Family Court system.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

THE TRIUMPH OF LOGIC: OBSERVATIONS ON FALLING SNOW!

I woke up at 5:00a.m. today, took a look outside and it seemed OK--no snow falling.  But when I got online to double check, it said that school had been cancelled for our local school.  That was my first alert. 
 
However, my daughter goes to a CREC School and not a local school, so I still wasn't sure what was going to happen. When I checked my answering machine and the television it still looked as though CREC had not cancelled school. 
 
I went upstairs and I told my daughter the problem and asked her what her opinion is, and what we should do.  She said I don't think I should go to school because the roads are going to be too dangerous and why should we risk it. 
 
I myself have a knee jerk reaction that we should do what the school says.  But considering how slippery it has been outside recently,  I thought that over a bit and then agreed with her.  And wouldn't you know it, at 9:30am I received notification from my daughter's school that they are cancelling school at 10:30am today. 
 
I was like, thank God I listened to my daughter! 
 
I wish that the Family Court would have the same common sense that my daughter has.  She just looked at the situation, sized it up, and then said, nope, that isn't going to work so let's not do it.  She wouldn't think of doing anything or putting any provision into place that would fail in the long run. 
 
For example, the whole business of sharing the expense of a GAL or AMC 50/50 when one side or the other has no money as the result of the divorce action. 
 
Can you get money out of a stone? 
 
What is the sense of demanding that a party that has no money pay thousands and thousands of dollars in attorney's fees which they don't have? 
 
It makes no sense, and yet family court judges make such orders all the time. 
 
What about orders of support that are so low that there is no way that a litigant with children could possibly pay the family bills with that amount?  Then the Court orders the litigant who is getting practically no money to pay exorbitant fees for a psychological evaluation which he or she doesn't have. 
 
What about ordering litigants who are basically broke because of the long, drawn out divorce proceedings to participate in The Peace Program at 50/50 when that program will not accept insurance and requires cash up front?  

Perhaps it would have made better sense to order them into The Peace Program before the money was all gone!
 
When the family court orders litigants to do what they are absolutely not capable of doing and everyone knows they are not capable of doing it, what is the sense to that? 
 
Even my daughter knows better than that! 
 
So no sooner than they arrived, all my daughter's schoolmates are now marching back on the bus to go home.  Meanwhile, she is sitting in front of a crackling fire, curled up on a sofa, drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream and reading a favorite book!

I say, appoint my daughter as judge!  She'd do a much better job than the majority of judges on the bench today!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

AND THEY CALL THEM INSANE!

In the early 70s, a group of eight people--three women and five men--checked into the emergency rooms of 12 separate psychiatric hospitals and said that they heard voices telling them "empty", "hollow", or "thud".  All eight of them were admitted to the hospital with diagnoses of schizophrenia, except one who was diagnosed with bipolar.
 
Once in the hospital, all of these patients behaved completely normally and reported that they had no more symptoms.  Still it took from 7 to 52 days for them to be released.  As a condition of their release, they were all required to admit that they had a mental illness and that they would take anti-psychotic medication in order to control that illness. 
 
As it turned out, none of these folks had a mental illness.  They were all volunteers in an experiment conducted by Dr. David Rosenhan in order to test the validity of psychiatric diagnoses.  One was a graduate student in his twenties, three were psychologists, and there was a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter and a housewife. 
 
Once the results of this experiment came out, the doctors at these hospitals cried foul and said that the test was unfair, so Dr. Rosenhan agreed to do it again with one specific hospital.  This time he warned the hospital to expect that fake patients would again attempt admittance to its facility.  In the weeks that followed, the staff at the hospital confidently identified 41 out the 193 patients that it had evaluated as fake patients. 
 
As it turned out, Dr. Rosenhan hadn't sent anyone to the facility at all. 
 
The results of this study made it clear how difficult it is to distinguish between the sane and the insane, particularly within the context of a hospital emergency room where staff members are approaching patients with specific expectations. 
 
Ironically, even though none of the staff members in the first experiment identified the fake patients, several of the patients at these hospitals expressed their doubts suggesting that the fake patients were researchers or journalists investigating the hospitals. 
 
The results of this study were published by Dr. David Rosenhan in 1973 in an article entitled "Being Sane in Insane Places." 
 
While the study remains controversial within the mental health profession, no one has been able to successfully refute its conclusions.  Put twenty five different psychiatrists in a room with a patient, and you are likely to obtain as many diagnoses of that patient as you have psychiatrists. 
 
This is why it is particularly troubling that the Connecticut Judicial Branch allows Judges and attorneys to use fabricated mental health assessments to trash the reputations of litigants and use them as the basis for denying them access to their children.   Many of these litigants have never had a diagnosis before they stepped into a courtroom. 
 
I observed this happening in Susan Skipp's case recently.  The trial court had heard expert testimony from Ms. Skipp's psychiatrist that she had PTSD from the legal abuse which she was experiencing as a result of her divorce. 
 
Ordinarily, any conclusion the Court draws about litigants in court arises from the evidence provided at trial through expert testimony or documents which provide corroborating information.  In Susan Skipp's situation, Judge Lynda Munro without any evidentiary basis whatsoever arbitrarily disregarded the testimony about Ms. Skipp's PTSD and wrote a Memorandum of Decision which broadly hinted that Ms. Skipp had some other, unnamed mental health condition that still needed to be diagnosed. 
 
This is something that Judge Munro invented from her own mind.  Yet, Munro is not a psychiatrist and has no professional qualifications to diagnose anyone with a mental health condition.  If she had concerns that Susan Skipp had some unidentified mental health condition, she had the opportunity to ask that question of the expert witnesses which the attorney made available during the four days of trial, but she did not. 
 
Instead, Judge Lynda Munro took the opportunity to smear Ms. Skipps reputation counting upon her judicial immunity as a means to get away with doing so. 
 
Subsequently, the Judge continued on the use this unnamed mental health illness, about which there was no evidence presented at trial, as the basis for denying Ms. Skipp access to her children. 
 
In a similar case which I observed recently, another friend who will remain anonymous--let's call him "Joe" was also subjected to this Judge initiated pseudo-psychiatry. 
 
Joe had provided an expert witness from out of state to testify to the effect that Joe did not have a mental illness.  Instead of accepting this testimony, the Judge in the case refused to consider it  valid because it came from a mental health professional from out of state.  Tell me, what did the Judge think happens?  Mental Health Professionals from, say, New Jersey, lose their professional expertise and intelligence as soon as they cross the border into Connecticut?  That doesn't say much about any of the professions in the field of mental health if their body of knowledge cannot be translated from one State to another!  
 
Be that as it may, having decided that an out of state mental health professional is incapable of providing an accurate assessment of my friend, Joe, the Judge went on to declare that Joe had a mental health disability; he isn't sure what it is, and what it consists of, but surely an in-state professional could figure it out.  Further, the Judge's decision was that Joe would be restricted to supervised visitation until the diagnosis could be figured out.  
 
Another way that you could interpret the discussion in Joe's case is that the Court was only willing to have a mental health professional provide testimony if he was in-state and affiliated with the Judge and the Opposing Attorney so the latter could influence the result of the psychological evaluation.  If true, this calls into question the integrity of any mental health professional who would allow factors outside the evaluation itself, (i.e. friendship with the judge or other attorneys) to affect his or her determination of a particular person's diagnosis.   
 
As with Susan and "Joe", I can name case after case where judges and attorneys have hinted at unnamed mental health conditions to gain advantage in a case, or to have their own way, independent of the facts of the case. 
 
This is not the first time in history where people in positions of power have sought to maintain and expand their authority by accusing their opponents of insanity.  Nazi Germany comes to mind, Russia and its Eastern European Allies; the People's Republic of China during the era of Mao Zedong.  Women, particularly intelligent women, have been victimized by false accusations of insanity for doing such things as fighting for the right to vote or demanding an education.  And don't forget the notorious diagnosis of drapetomania, invented in 1851 by Samuel A. Cartwright to describe a mental illness which caused slaves to run away from their bondage. 
 
Even if there were any validity to a diagnosis of mental illness, why is a mental health disability or any disability for that matter used as a means to deny a person access to their children or due process of law?  Wasn't the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 implemented with the intention of eliminating discrimination on the basis of disability? 

If a person has a disability as determined by Family Court, either a physical or mental disability, shouldn't the question be what reasonable modifications does that person require in order to fulfill his or her role as a parent--not how can we immediately strip that person of all his or her civil rights and constitutional rights without any further investigation.  Why is there such a powerful knee jerk reaction of condemnation and rejection simply as the result of a label.  If a person who has blindness or a person who has deafness can still be a parent, why not a person with mental illness.  What's the difference?
 
More than any other, an attorney's accusation that a particular litigant has some form of mental illness is the most harmful and damaging one out there.  Why is that so?  Because it appeals to society's most basic prejudices towards people with mental illness, to such concepts that people with mental illness are subhuman monsters capable of any kind of violence and degradation, that they are incapable of taking care of themselves and that they are intellectually damaged beyond repair and incapable of rudimentary thought and insight.  Many people believe that any kind of deception and misrepresentation is acceptable to practice against a person who has a mental illness because they believe that someone with a mental health label should have no rights. 
 
With such widespread and prevalent attitudes of hatred towards those with mental illness, particularly after the Sandy Hook incident, trashing a person by calling them crazy has to be the easiest way to achieve the goal of destroying the opposing party in a custody trial. 
 
At the same time such practices are morally and spiritually repugnant in that they stigmatize, marginalize, silence, and deny justice to one fifth of the population in our State, and it is done with the support of the moral equivalent of the KKK when it comes to mental health disabilities, i.e. the Connecticut Judicial Branch, the Connecticut Bar Association, judges, attorneys, family services personnel, clerks, and other employees who work for our family courts all of whom buy into the false, bigoted premise that people with mental health disabilities should not be allowed any of the kinds of legal rights which are routinely accorded to citizens of Connecticut who do not have a label.  From what I have personally observed, bigoted attitudes like this are common among those who work in the legal field and accepted uncritically.  This is wrong and it has to stop--now.

As a final thought, it is worth considering: 

If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he would probably be denied custody of his children.  He had frequent bouts of clinical depression.

Ludwig Van Beethoven was involved in a custody dispute regarding his nephew Karl and won.  Were he in Family Court in Connecticut today, he might not gain custody because he is thought to have had bipolar disorder.

Many average citizens have mental health disorders; they ride to work on the same buses that you do, pay taxes, get college degrees, and go to Church.  They do not have horns.  Isn't it time for Court personnel and family court attorneys to acknowledge that this is true and stop demonizing innocent people.



 

Monday, September 23, 2013

IS LOVE THE ANSWER? THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO HIGH CONFLICT DIVORCE!

I actually dragged myself out of bed this morning and made it to Church.  Then to make the experience extra special, I pulled my kids out of bed and took them along as well.  Just from that you can tell I am really serious about this.  It's my new fall resolution--make it to Church! 
 
When I walk into the Church, they ordinarily give me a bulletin with the order of service and various tidbits about activities for the upcoming week.  Usually, the front of the bulletin has some great religious artwork or a quotation from some renowned Christian thinker. 
 
Today's quotation came from Tim Keller's work, "The Reason For God" and stated the following:  "The pattern of the Cross means that the world's glorification of power, might, and status is exposed and defeated.  On the Cross Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away.  Jesus Christ turns the values of the world upside down." 
 
I will admit statements like these irritate me so much I sometimes skip Church because they seem to say that our greatest Christian ideal is to be a victim. 

I can recall when I was a child and teenager growing up in an abusive home finding these kinds of peace loving sentiments very difficult to grapple with. Like many helpless young people in tough circumstances, I turned to my faith in Jesus Christ and to the bible for comfort and for guidance.  It was there that I learned that the best response to my family's abuse was submission, love, and nonviolence.  This is an interpretation of what Jesus intended that I have come to be very skeptical of in my later years. 
 
To start with there was the admonition in the fifth commandment to "Honor Thy Father and Mother." 
 
Really, what about when they are beating you up? 
 
Then there are the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you." Mathew 5:44"  And then what about Mathew 5:38-40 where Jesus says "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also." 
 
That sounds fine, but what about when they slap the right cheek, then the left cheek, and then keep on going--left, right, left, right--until blood starts to flow. 
 
"Those who live by the sword will die by the sword." Mathew 26:52. 
 
Seriously? 
 
I want to tell you that I love God and find more inspiration in his Word than in any other document that I read.  It is very hard for me to restrict myself to the scripture reading in Church services.  Inevitably if I pick up the bible to read along with the lectionary, I end up continuing to read on and then I often find connections elsewhere in the bible to the point where I often end up missing half the sermon.
 
However, these comments about not resisting your enemies I tend to leave behind on the doorstep of faith along with other dubious bible verses like the ones about handling snakes, see Mark 16-18. 
 
Now, I am not the kind of person who likes to cherry pick through the bible and only hold up as truly the Word of God those sections that I believe in while disparaging the rest.  If the bible says it, I believe it.  This has always been my position. 
 
Where I do question is where I find context--in other words, what do you do when a statement in one part of the bible appears to contradict what it says in another part of the bible.  How do you deal with that when it happens?  How do you interpret what God wants you to do in the light of the gospel in its entirety. 
 
Where this applies in regard to the question of loving your enemies is, how do you understand that concept in the light of Jesus' actions in overturning the moneylender's tables, and driving them out of the temple, see Mathew 21:12?
 
What about Jesus' comments "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6). 
 
From my perspective, what Jesus is trying to say when he talks about turning the other cheek is that there is no need to respond to every provocation with an aggressive reaction.  There could be a reason why a person is attacking you, and if you show self control and ask first what is going on, that kind of wise self restraint could avoid an unnecessary and avoidable confrontation.  What this means is that you give the aggressor the benefit of the doubt and you give him or her second, and third chances, if not more, depending on your sense of things, to do better. 

What Jesus is pointing out to us by cautioning us to go the extra mile with an aggressor is that sometimes people are mean, vicious, and violent, not because that is who they are, but because something terrible has happened and they need your help in solving their problems.  If you can avoid responding in kind in circumstances like this, and instead reach out the hand of friendship and support, the result can often be the formation of strong and enduring friendships with people who once considered themselves your worst enemy. 

It seems to me that a nonviolent response to my enemies only has a chance of working when there is the seed of redemption in those individuals.  If there is the least possibility that a peaceable response to the actions of evil people will lead to a good result, despite the many risks such a response entails, certainly I think any Christian has the obligation to try. 
 
What are you relying on?  You are relying on God, first of all.  But also you are relying upon the possibility that your enemy has some shred of conscience which will begin to take root and that your loving response will change that person's behavior for the good.  It is a risk, but a calculated risk, that requires self restraint, patience, and understanding to evoke and nurture the potential for good that lies within so many of our enemies. 
 
Gandhi relied upon the inherent decency within British culture to transform his nonviolent campaign for Indian Independence into the driving force that it became.  I can say the same for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in America.  He relied upon the appeal to our better natures.
 
On the other hand, I always will say that Dr. King and Malcolm X leveraged that change together.  In the Civil Rights Movement it wasn't so much a question of the decency fundamental to the American Conscience, it was the choice Martin Luther King, Jr. presented to our government--you can either accept our offer of peaceful change or face the threat of violence Malcolm X posed when he said that African-Americans needed to defend themselves "by any means possible", confronting our government with the prospect of blood in the streets. 
 
But what should you do when your enemies do not have the capacity for good in them and have demonstrated repeatedly that your loving response only provides them with more ammunition with which to attack you, let alone others?   
 
For example, my family members who harmed me continued to harm me throughout my life even up to the present, and some continue to attack me even now.  The loving response I had to their actions, the fact that I continued to love them, that I did good to them, that I turned the other cheek, that I gave them of my stores of kindness only gave them the ability to continue on with what they were doing for a longer period of time, to hide behind the denial, and then later turn around and accuse me of being crazy when, as an adult, I began to speak out about what they had done. 
 
If I could go back to my teenage years to give advice to the young girl that I once was, I would say I don't care what you mistakenly think Jesus meant, you need to speak up, you need to report your family to the authorities, you need to leave home and go to the police, you need to speak to school authorities and stop the violence against you. 
 
Further, I would say to my old self, you do not have to tolerate abuse, and Jesus would never expect you to. Allowing abusers to abuse is not love.  You show love to your abusers, the most Christian form of love there is, when you speak out and expose them.  Otherwise, they will just continue down the path of committing greater and greater wrongdoing. 
 
If there is one thing advocates in domestic violence have observed most clearly about abusers it is that the more they are allowed to torture and harm others, the more their destructive behavior escalates. Thus in high conflict divorce, in our custody battles, if  we as protective mothers had approached our cases with "weakness and service" none of us would have custody of our children let alone a roof over our heads. And without some form of wealth to pay legal fees and expert witnesses, we'd be nowhere.  
 
If your child is being sexually abused in your divorce, are you truly going to give up and agree to defeat rather than protect your child?  Is that what God wants?  I don't think so.  I'm not terribly invested in "power, might, and status" but if it will prevent my ex husband from abusing me any further, I will certainly fight for it and use whatever I have of it to protect myself and those I love. 
 
Failing to act in self defense, failing to speak up for ourselves, that adds up, in my view, to casting your pearls before swine, and who gave you pearls?  God gave you pearls. So if you choose to take those gifts you have--your children, your body, your hope for the future--and fail to protect it, that is like taking the gifts God has given to you and disrespecting them.  I cannot believe that this is what God wishes for any one of us. 
 
Jesus said in Mathew 5-25-26 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny." 

This is really solid advice, and I always tell people whenever possible try mediation, try to find solutions outside of court, work towards agreement whenever possible.  Don't insist on provisions that are simply a matter of pride because pride doesn't bring up children or pay the bills.  I will also tell people to focus on what the provisions will actually give you.  For example, I was once quibbling over whether or not my ex got the Monday vacations in our agreement.  Then my father pointed out that even if my ex had those 5 or 6 Monday vacations, I still had residential custody of the children, so why was I making a big point about a few extra days.  Is it your rights that matter, or what you actually got.  This is where love matters, where Christ calls you to dig into your capacity to be magnanimous and to be gracious so that you do what is right.
 
However, with abusers, they will never compromise, and they will never work with you.  If you try to be gracious and magnanimous we are even more likely to be handed over to the judge, to the officer, thrown in prison and bankrupted. If we don't fight back it wouldn't just be many of us going down that route; it would be all of us--100%.  Because ultimately that is what these perpetrators want; they want our complete destruction.  I can still remember my ex chortling and crowing over our impending divorce with his sister, celebrating the fact that he planned on getting sole custody of the children and throwing me out on the street penniless.  If he could have done that because I didn't fight back, he would have.
 
So what is the Christian response to the high conflict divorces we find ourselves in?  We must fight back with every resource in our possession.  At the same time, however, we must maintain our focus on Christ, our Savior, and be guided in all things related to our divorce by His guidance and wisdom. 
 
In Al-Anon (the family and friends organization associated with A.A.) I often heard the caution, that I should be careful not to become a monster by fighting monsters.
 
It is important to speak out about the truth.  It is important to protect our children from harm.  It is important to protect ourselves from harm.  It is important to make sure we have the financial resources necessary to care for ourselves and our children.   It is important to establish the kind of clearly delineated boundaries that are essential to keep us protected from abuse. 
 
However, it is not necessary to indulge in gratuitous cruelty.  It is not necessary to be deliberately provocative.  It is not necessary to humiliate or degrade others, and it is not necessary to destroy the abusers the same way they sought to destroy us. 
 
If you are getting the worst of it in court, if your reputation is being destroyed, and you are under attack, you can hold your head high, you can be strong and you can be courageous, because God loves and supports you and every action you take to fight for your rights; God sees, understands, and upholds you.  Never forget Mathew 5:11-12 at the end of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says, "Blessed are you when  people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." 
 
Christian love is not all about being a wuss.  I am always a little turned off by the phrase "Gentle Jesus meek and mild." 
 
Seriously? 
 
Do you want to know all the many times in the gospel where Jesus confronted people, where he was verbally aggressive, where he demanded answers, where he challenged people to do what is right, not what is convenient, where he threatened people with hell. 
 
Think of all the times where Jesus ripped the masks of pretense off the faces of his disciples or those who came to him with questions. 
 
Mathew 10:34, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." 
 
Christian love does not consist of telling lies and pretending everything is fine.  Jesus never meant for us to act like doormats and live on our knees.  That's hardly a victorious life in Christ. 

Christians have a long tradition of speaking up and stating what they believe no matter what the cost.  For example, there is George Fox, the founder of the Quaker religion who stood before Judge Bennett and told him to "tremble at the Word of the Lord."  After posting his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints Church at Wittenberg, Martin Luther is credited with saying, "Here I stand.  I can do no other, God help me. Amen."  And there is Hugh Latimer who in his final moments when he was burned at the stake turned to his friend Nicholas Ridley and said, "Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out."
 
Christian love is telling the truth.  When we fight for ourselves and for our families, when we confront the abuser and do our best to hold him accountable, we are following a path that Jesus walked before us and calls us to follow. 
 
Christian love is loving ourselves as we fight abuse and defend our children. 
 
Christian love is in fighting the abuser and continuing to confront him with the truth. 
 
We cannot surrender.  We cannot go meekly to the slaughter.  On the contrary, I believe the truly Christian response to the problem of high conflict divorce is having the courage, through God's grace, to fight back and defend ourselves and our children.  There is no greater love than that.