When the Going gets Weird, Guess What? The Weird Get a Move On.
Maybe it was all weird before; as in right before my eyes and I missed it, dammit. Think it’s called slow on the uptake, got dropped off by my Mom’s boyfriend, 11 years old, in Mobile, Alabama. Never saw that coming either; Hot Damn Daddy. One thing I do know now, at least as far as can be known, it’s all weird. Weird is just a word, an adjective I believe, used to convey an aspect of a feeling, an emotion. For reasons, both obvious and obscure, Hurricane Michael brought more than wind, rain and destruction. Anxious, shaky, foreboding, dark, uncertain and surreal; those words now take on almost daily usage by most and repeated usage by many. One of the best phrases, taken from a clinical symptom list, I think, is experiencing “a sense of impending doom”. My personal favorite is “vortex of sadness”. Guess I am partial since, far as I know, that one I can claim. Maybe we can try that in a sentence; “This spinning vortex of dark sadness is causing a very real sense of impending doom”. Ok, a little much, but might be used as one lays on the cold tile floor in the bathroom as they swear to their higher power they will never, ever again drink bourbon again, ever…. well, until next time.
Watching the big storm was a disjointed experience. As Michael came ashore, it strengthened, and the pressure kept dropping. So, early on, the water vaporized as the air became a propellent; so much so you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. In between the tropical whiteouts, you could see boat houses floating, the boats still snug in their cradles, (and the silver spoon), before being swept up into the giant pile on the southern shore of the bayou, perhaps 300 feet to the right. Oh yeah, we did see a big tourist boat, probably 60 feet long, drag its’ bow anchor at what looked like slalom skiing speed as it crashed into the rapidly rising pile of marine parts and jigsaw like pieces of fiberglass.
All of this began around 11:30 am, Central Space Time, or so. Up until 11, or thereabouts, we were sitting in the air-conditioning, watching Direct TV, waiting for the shit show and betting where Cantore would be. We were not to be disappointed. Before the Weather Channel melted, along with the dish on the roof, we knew that we would likely be on the west side of the storm. My daughter had called me at 5 am and said they were bugging out, they live on the beach, because of concern about the storm surge. That’s the thing with ‘tropical cyclones’, just a single degree of variation and you go from good to fucked in the snap of a finger.
Luckily, at least for the folks on Panama City Beach, Hurricane Michael came and went on the forecast path as if by remote control, (Yes, there was damage on the “beach”; normally denoted/delineated by being west of the Hathaway Bridge, I was, and have been, reminded of this more than once). The presumption of luck normally means somebody else takes the high, hard one and this was no exception. A hurricane, in this hemisphere, circulates in a counter clockwise manner. So, with an east/west shoreline, the eastern front quadrant is the killing zone. This time, it was Mexico Beach who found itself at the wrong place at the wrong time. In short, Mexico Beach was obliterated, gone. Think of your coffee table; take your arm and rake everything off in one quick, single motion. Yes, just like that. NOAA people found a sensor, by accident. They thought it was ‘hardened’, guess not. Anyway, somehow, they found the thing and it told them a story of a storm surge of around 27 feet. Think about that, just for a moment, 27 roaring, churning, foaming, rabid feet of water rolling through with untold power with no limits and no conscience.
The place I knew, the clay, the earth, was and is forever changed. Matter of fact, it is gone. To witness the world of matter disintegrate affects one based on perspective, I suppose. To see the world where you grew up, rode your bike, played sand lot ball and all those childhood things just destroyed is likely a bit heavier than seeing it happen somewhere else, if only by a matter of miles. In Panama City proper, I know of 5 folks who have left us by their own hand and, it is rumored, that the incidence of suicide hovered around 15, or so, a month, for the first few months. This would be 10-15X the rate for a similar sized population on an annual basis, and we’re talking about per month immediately following the storm.
Mental health problems are nothing new; in America or otherwise. Conditions that were once viewed as occasional, acute, problems have now assumed a chronicity that has even the most cynical observers alarmed. Like many things, we do not have a big, guilty causal factor, or even a gang of several. The newer depression meds, the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have no known mechanism of action, go figure. Without getting on the slippery slant that begins my Big Pharma rant, that doesn’t mean they are just all bullshit. No, there are some very smart, very singularly focused scientists out there with real beating hearts who want to help, want to change the world. Problem is the Harvard Business School suits worried about the next quarterly earnings call with some 28-year-old analyst who works on “The Street” and is amongst the money changers every day at one of the temples of frenetic capitalism. If anyone is still with us and does not get that, I don’t know what to tell you; go read The Big Short, call Wells Fargo and ask about how it feels to be all clean and pure, you know having gotten caught again, this time force placing insurance on some cars they had financed, just some silly shit like that. The “We’re New” and blah, blah just doesn’t move me, know what I’m saying? I doubt they care but it wouldn’t hurt to watch my personal favorite, Jimmy Swaggart. He just fell down, cried and said that the devil had gotten in him. Shit, we all know how that is. Be real. I digress, my apologies.
The point here is the mental health problems, needs, concerns, together with the attendant problems experienced by our children. There is a long, long road between the situation on the ground and any solutions; causation is obvious. It’s not just the kids but let’s start there. Bay District Schools, the “school board” says, as of 3 weeks ago, or so, that they could count 5,000 kids they deemed homeless. Sure, there is some criteria and metrics (I hate to talk like that, be on an earnings call before you know it, shit) but I would presume that their methodology at least “smooths” the data (observations). Add to that the environment most of those kids are living in and exposed to, which is an inextricable element of their lives. Therefore, the emotions, the meds and the alternative treatments get lost in the smoke of sheer scale.
Taken singularly, certain psychoactive meds work, sort of. Statistically above placebo in double blind, controlled studies. However, recognize that statistical significance is not the same thing as clinical significance. That’s a disingenuous statement, although true. But, again, there is neither the time, or the resources, to give every child the time and attention they deserve or need. As I alluded to above, there are a lot of factors. Rarely does depressive disorder appear randomly, nor does PTSD. Yes, PTSD can, does and will visit many of those who try and gut it out after a MAJOR disaster. Being forgotten by most everyone and hearing lectures about choices and bootstrap pulling does NOT help. I know, everything is fine at the club with Muff and Uncle Biff but that mean everything is fine, it’s not fine.
Having defined the problem, at least in this regard, what is the solution? I have nothing. We, as a society, have allowed the mentally ill to be a big revenue driver of that boutique industry we call prison. However, to be realistic, this problem is way too big, too pervasive to be addressed within an already over burdened system. Yes, I am aware that all this ‘accountability’ and the realities of real life are a wonderful talking point for those inclined to use whatever misfortune befalls others to bolster their sick and twisted logic.
Please join me in sending our prayers, thoughts, light and, yes, money to try and change paths for at least some of these kids. Florida and our Federal government are where and what they are. ’Godspeed to All”….Cheers!