Sunday, June 15, 2008

Aileen Wuarnos, Psychosis and the Death Penalty

Thank you, Kate and Ken, for your insightful comments and for faithfully reading my scatter-brained words. I really appreciate what you have to say.

Along the lines of Kate's comment to my last post, I'm not going to write about Scientology in this post. I will just mention, yesterday was the most recent international protest by the group Anonymous against Scientology. I chose not to attend this time. I can keep up with the issue on the internet, and I think it is best that I do not focus on it as much as I had been.

So onto a different topic! I watched a documentary about Aileen Wuarnos, serial killer, last night, and I found it really fascinating. I had previously seen the movie, Monster, about her life, in which an actress who looks surprisingly identical to the real Aileen portrays her, and Christina Ricci portrays her girlfriend.

My reason for bringing this topic up here, is that, in the video Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer, she is interviewed many times, and it is very clear in these interviews that Aileen was acutely psychotic. She was also very suicidal and wanted to die towards the end of her life. She actively worked against her own defense, making statements in court to discredit witnesses that her attorney had brought in for her defense - because she wanted to be put to death. She clearly states to the reporter filming the documentary that she has changed her story so that she will be executed. And, in the end, she was executed, in 2002, while Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida and gearing up for another election.

What disturbs me most about this film is that a woman who is clearly mentally ill, and suffering from delusions, could have been considered competent to stand trial in the first place. I don't see how she could have been considered competent. However, I do know from a Constitutional Law class I took last semester that it does not take much to be considered competent to stand trial.

Before her execution, Aileen was interviewed by three psychiatrists. However, they only spoke with her for about fifteen minutes, and the only purpose of their interviews with her was to see if she understood what the death penalty was and why she was going to be executed. When the psychiatrists said that she had passed their examination, Governor Bush gave her execution the green light.

I just want to mention a few facts here about Aileen's life. And I am not mentioning them to excuse or condone her crimes, but to bring them to light, in case anyone is interested in what might have caused this woman to murder seven men. When Aileen was a few months old, her mother abandoned her. Her father went to prison for raping a little girl. He then killed himself in prison. Aileen and her brother were raised by their grandparents.

The grandfather sexually abused both Aileen and her mother, according to the documentary. He also physically abused Aileen, according to witnesses who testified to this in court. He beat her with a belt with her pants down. When she was nine years old, her brother, who was only a year older than her, began to rape her. Then neighborhood boys got involved in raping her, and she became a sex object to them. She began to have sex with neighborhood boys for money - turning herself into a prostitute before she was old enough to drive a car. When she was 14 years old, after reportedly being raped by a neighborhood pedophile (who later killed himself), she became pregnant.

When she became pregnant, her grandparents sent her away to have the baby. It was given up for adoption. No social services agency ever intervened in this young woman's life, as far as I know. After her baby was born, her grandmother died, and her grandfather blamed this death on Aileen's behavior. He kicked Aileen and her brother out of the house. The brother lived with some neighbors. Aileen had to fend for herself - sleeping on the ground in the woods and in abandoned cars in the snow. She prostituted herself for money to survive. Sometimes she camped out with a young man who had been kicked out of his home as well. He testified in court about her sleeping in the woods.

Because it was cold in Michigan sleeping outside, she set out for warmer weather. A few years later, she landed in Florida. Aileen worked as a prostitute in Florida for ten years - entering her 30's, before she became a murderer. She started up a lesbian relationship with a young woman who lived off of her money. Aileen supported the both of them by prostitution. Then she met a trick who raped her, brutally. He poured rubbing alcohol all over her naked body, burning her genitals and nose and eyes. In self defense, as she stated in court, she killed him. That was how Aileen Wuarnos became a murderer.

Sometime after she moved away from Michigan, Aileen's grandfather committed suicide. Her brother then died of cancer. It should be noted that having a father and a grandfather who commit suicide is a strong indication that a person might have mental illness running in their family. It should also be noted that before she ever committed murder, Aileen attempted suicide more than once. The time when she was hospitalized for it was because she shot herself in the abdomen. It is very rare for women to choose a violent method such as a gun for a suicide attempt. When we do, it is usually because we are seriously mentally ill.

Besides the excellent documentary, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, there is also a biography show for the A&E TV network about Aileen's life. I watched some of that show. When it describes her first murder, the film fails to mention anything about the man raping her and the fact that she killed him in self-defense. I don't understand why they would leave out such pertinent information.

When she was on death row, and trying to get her execution to happen faster, Aileen began to recant some of her own testimony from court. She began to say that she had not been raped by the men she murdered, and that she had a fine childhood and was not abused. Witnesses who saw her being abused as a child (including one who raped her himself when she was nine or ten years old) testified in court that she was, and she declared that they were all lying. Ostensibly, she was in some serious state of denial about the horrific things she had lived through in her childhood. Also, she wanted, towards the end of her life, to make herself look like she would definitely kill again and like she had no defense excuse for any of her killings - to make sure that she would be executed, because she was seriously suicidal and wanted to make sure she was killed.

If you watch the documentary, Aileen can be seen whispering to the filmmaker that she really was raped by several of the men she murdered, but she does not want anyone to know that because she wants to make sure she gets executed. I do not know if the prosecution or the judge involved was aware that this woman was stating outright that she wanted to be killed, but I do not understand how such statements could not be seen as an obvious sign of mental illness.

Towards the end of her life, Aileen was psychotic and talked in interviews about her food being poisoned and her brain being zapped by sound waves and electromagnetic forces. She believed the only way she could escape the torture she thought she was enduring was to die. And the state followed through.

You know, if I had been through everything that woman had been through, and I was a murderer as well, and I was psychotic, I think perhaps I would prefer to be dead. But who knows what chance she could have had for some kind of productive life, if she had been put on medication, and given therapy to deal with her traumatic past?? I know that I wanted to die when I was psychotic. I am now on medication, and am not psychotic, therefore I do not want to die. I would hate to think that this woman who was clearly psychotic, engineered her own death with help from the state of Florida because she thought there was no other way out.

Perhaps if she had been kept alive in prison, Aileen could have rehabilitated herself enough to figure out why she did what she did, and to help others understand what needs to happen for such tragedies to be prevented in the future. It is very rare that a woman becomes a serial killer, and much could have been learned from Aileen's story.

While you may not agree with this, I personally believe that the death penalty is a form of state-sanctioned murder, and I do not support it. I believe it should be abolished. This is just my opinion. In case anyone is interested, I wanted to mention that there is going to be a national protest against the death penalty in Washington D.C. in front of the Supreme Court building from June 29-July 2nd, of this year. This website on the abolition movement has all the details.

I think major changes need to take place in how mentally ill people are treated by the criminal justice system in the United States. It is a sad fact that the Los Angeles County Jail currently holds more people with mental illnesses than any mental hospital in this country. It is a sad fact that many people with mental illnesses are locked up in jails and prisons where they are not getting adequate treatment for the illnesses that landed them there in the first place. There must be a better way to do things than this.

I did some research for a paper last semester on how the mentally ill are treated in the criminal justice system in the U.S. This led me to really be grateful that I was never arrested when I was psychotic, though I did do things which could have led to trouble with the law at the time. I am also more interested now in advocating for the mentally ill people who are locked inside the criminal justice system. I feel very strongly that we need more rehabilitation and less warehousing of people like animals in cages. I read a statistic recently that 94% of tax dollars that are used to address crime, only deal with the aftereffects of the crimes, and so only 6% of the tax dollars go towards prevention of crime, which is, usually, much more effective. That really does not make much sense to me.

When Aileen Wuarnos was executed, she asked that this song be played at her memorial service, if there ever was one. It's Natalie Merchant's, "Carnival":

Well, I've walked these streets
a virtual stage
it seemed to me
make up on their faces
actors took their
places next to me

Well, I've walked these streets
in a carnival
of sights to see
all the cheap thrill seekers
the vendors and the dealers
they crowded around me

have I been blind
have I been lost
inside my self and
my own mind
by what my eyes have seen?

Well, I've walked these streets
in a spectacle of wealth and poverty
in the diamond markets
the scarlet welcome carpet
that they just rolled out for me

And I've walked these streets
in the mad house asylum
they can be
where a wild eyed misfit prophet
on a traffic island stopped
and he raved of saving me

have I been blind
have I been lost
inside my self and
my own mind
by what my eyes have seen?have I been wrong
have I been wise
to shut my eyes
and play along
by what my eyes have found
by what my eyes have seen
what they have seen?

have I been blind
have I been lost

have I been wrong
have I been wise
have I been strong

Have I been
by what my eyes have found
in that great street carnival
(Repeat from A1)
in that carnival?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

down in the depths of despair

Hello, everybody:

Thanks to everyone who left comments after my last post. I haven't been here in a while, so I will try to update you on things in case anyone is interested.

I haven't been doing very well, basically. That's the short version of the story. A couple months ago, I went off Invega like I wanted to for the past year - as it made me gain a tremendous amount of weight, which I haven't been able to lose. I am happy to be off the Invega, but it was replaced with a higher dosage of Seroquel. For a month I was on 600 mgs of Seroquel, and that was just too much for my body to handle. I was sleeping upwards of 14 hours a day - and day is the operative word because it takes hours for the medication to kick in when I take it at night, therefore, I am awake all night and asleep all day.

This has not made for a good situation, as I need to be looking for a job and sleeping all day does not lend itself well to employment-hunting.

The other problem has been that I'm horribly depressed and completely wracked with anxiety all the time. I am very concerned about my future, as, unless I find a job immediately I am going to lose my apartment and have nowhere to live except with my mother - which would be a very bad situation for both of us for reasons I don't want to get into right now. I am quickly running out of money to survive and the situation is getting rather desperate.

I have found myself having an incredibly hard time focusing on the things that I need to do. It is as if a large portion of my self gave up on my life some months ago - when my boyfriend left me and when I quit my job - both of which occurred in January. For six months time has gone on, but I have accomplished little and recovered nothing from the mess of January. If I had gotten another job in the first couple months, it would have been okay, but I didn't get hired anywhere and then I just gave up on even trying to get employment. I try to force myself to work on it, but it's like a battle against my self to force myself to do so.

I feel like my last job was the last job I'll ever have. I feel like because I'm overweight now and I don't have a college degree, that I'm not qualified for much of anything. Unfortunately a lot of menial labor type jobs would be really hard for me to do because of the physical illnesses I have - Fibromyalgia and Sjogren's Syndrome.
So that eliminates a lot of things, or, at least, makes it much harder to do those things.

I feel like since my boyfriend left in January, I have given up on life. It is to the point that I never want to take a shower anymore, I never want to bother with changing my clothes so I wear the same stuff for days at a time, I have no desire to clean my apartment, so it is in a shambles, and I am neglecting my appearance and my medical health in various ways. I feel like I have been sliding down a slippery slope since my boyfriend left me, and I have not figured out how to stand on my own two feet without him around and function normally. This is, perhaps, related to the fact that, since I have been in recovery from Schizophrenia I have always lived with people - until he left. I lived in a group home for ten months, and then I lived with him for a year and a half. I feel like I don't know how to live a functional life on my own anymore, because of this illness and the ways in which it has changed me.

While I have been avoiding my real life, I have spent some time obsessing about other topics, which should not be what I am focusing on right now. One of these is protesting the cult of Scientology, because I once was involved in it, by taking one course and reading many books, during which time I attempted suicide a couple of times because I needed medication and was not taking any. I am against Scientology because of their anti-psychiatry lies which they spread through their front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), which is nothing more than a hate-group. They have a museum in California called "Psychiatry: Industry of Death", and they publish many pamphlets where they spread their anti-psychiatry lies, among which is the belief that psychiatrists were behind the Holocaust and are directly responsible for it.

Besides their anti-psychiatry stance, I also have problems with Scientology for other reasons. Blatant human rights abuses and slave labor take place inside their Sea Org (organization), and the Rehabilitation Project Force they have in several places around in the world is a prison labor camp where people are held prisoner. Also, Scientology has a policy called "fair game" which states that anyone who speaks out against Scientology at all, should be "destroyed" among other things. They have a policy called Disconnection which requires members to completely cut off ties with anyone the cult views as an enemy - which is anyone who is not a part of the cult, basically. This has destroyed many families.

Finally, I happen to live in Cult Town, USA, otherwise known as Clearwater, Florida, the international "Flag Land Base" of Scientology. I grew up here and I have seen the way they control this town, and I have learned the history of how they deceitfully took over the town in 1975 using front groups so that the government and residents would not know the cult was buying up the entire town. Downtown Clearwater - Scientology Central has been basically dead for years now, because other businesses that are not Scientology related all left and nobody goes downtown who is not a Scientologist unless they need to go to the Post Office or something. Or eat at Angie's - or some other Scientologist-owned restaurant in the area.

When I began this blog, a few years ago, I was very psychotic, and at that time I was still having delusions that I was the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, and Jesus, on alternating days, among many other delusional beliefs. I was very confused, but, more importantly, I had been very misinformed by Scientology about psychiatry and "the modern science of mental health". I never got very far in my involvement but if I had been further involved I would most likely be dead right now, not sitting here writing this. Medication and forced hospitalization were what saved my life, and if it was up to the cult of CoS, nobody on earth would be able to get these medications.

Any cult that calls itself a religion so it can be tax-exempt, advertises its books as possessing "the modern science of mental health" and spreads blatant lies about the entire psychiatric profession because it wants people to think that only the very over-priced cult practices can save them, not psychotherapy or psychiatric medication, from their problems - any cult that charges hundreds of thousands of dollars (or allows you to pay in the form of slave labor all your life) to learn its "secrets" (all of which are now posted widely on the internet for free access by anyone), is something that deserves for people to stand up against it as it is a danger to society at large. Scientology is particularly dangerous for the mentally ill, and since people with mental illnesses are often looking desperately for answers wherever they can find the promise of "help", who knows how many people have been put through needless torment and torture, psychosis and suicide because they chose the path of Scientology to help them???

There are many examples of people who have died at the hands of Scientology, and I could have easily become another one of them myself. So, when I learned about the Anonymous group protesting Scientology on the internet and at the Scientology orgs around the world, I got interested in this. I have since gone to one protest and read an extensive amount of information on Scientology and the truths its leaders do not want the public to know about it. It is a very sinister corporation/scam disguised as a church, and I am glad that more and more people continue to see the light and speak out against it.

Okay, now I will get off my soap box about that. It has occured to me that part of the reason why this cause has interested me so much in recent weeks is that I am avidly avoiding my own problems and my real life. I need to stop doing that, and I am going to try. I just feel so horribly anxious about things that it is paralyzing and I am having a really hard time just barely functioning right now. In the past couple weeks - since I lost my phone - my mother, my brother, and my sister who is down here for the summer from New York where she goes to college - and my caseworker, and even my therapist have shown up, on different days, at my apartment door, to see if I am still alive in here as they had not heard from me. I felt badly when my therapist came because my apartment is such a mess I would not let her inside, so we sat on the balcony and I just kind of waited till she got bored enough to leave. I really did not feel like talking to her that day. I just don't feel like it helps much right now. I am not sure what would help much. That is the issue.

In other news, there is an interesting book out called Let Me Stand Alone about Rachel Corrie, who was murdered by Israeli military forces in 2003 while she was working as an activist in Palestine. The book is all her own writing, and expresses the beauty of who she was - a conscientous, caring, peaceful person who wanted to make the world a better place. Whether her death was an accident or not, is not the purpose of the book. And I wanted to mention this book because I have seen numerous web pages where people left comments accusing Rachel of being a terrorist-supporter who deserved to die. These people are sadly misinformed and ignorant. The book is worth reading.

Thanks for listening.