Daily Archives: April 25, 2015

I Don’t Want To Be Crazy – book review

I Don’t Want To Be Crazy is a book of very personal poems by Samantha Schutz that describes her  struggle with debilitating panic attacks and anxiety disorder.  The poems are so personal that at times the reader feels guilty seeing them. Ms. Schultz has allowed us a glimpse at her soul in its most vulnerable and painful periods.

Any kind of mental disorder impacts a person in two ways. There is the actual problem itself, and then there is the overwhelming guilt that it is really “all in your head.” Unlike a broken arm or a cut knee, a mental problem is something people feel ashamed of having. In one poem Samantha describes her guilt as follows:

This is not supposed to be how things turned out

There were steps taken, expectations –

a specialized kindergarten and elementary school,

a prestigious private high school

complete with a kilt and knee socks,

summer study programs disguised as camp

This is not

how things are supposed to be.

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Samantha seeks traditional  help.  A series of different therapists and psychiatrists prescribe  a series of different medications. We are reminded that unlike other fields of medicine; psychiatry still seems to be very much “hit or miss”. Many of the poems are about the effects of the various drugs.

Being a beautiful young woman, there are also a series of men in her life. Instead of helping, they often just make her life more complicated and stressful. One poem entitled I crave broken men states:

When I try to save other people

am I trying to save myself?

Am I covering up for my lack of strength by putting people back together?

I am tired.

I want someone to save me –

build an intricate web

and place it beneath me in case I fall.

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The story does have a happy ending. Samantha is able to dig herself out of her depression and move away from her anxiety.  Despite all the input from therapists and psychiatrists and well-meaning friends, it seems that this is something Samantha has done on her own.

It is not that the panic and anxiety are suddenly gone. It is more that Samantha has created techniques to not let them rule her life. In the final poem of the book Samantha states

I am in a house

I am in one room

and my anxiety is in another.

It’s close.

I can feel it.

I can go to it.

But I won’t.

It took real courage for Samantha Schutz to write this book and open herself like this to the world.

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War Is Good For Economy

War is good for the economy”, are words I heard spoken the other day on a financial news program by a so-called “pundit”. The first time I encountered that phrase was 43 years ago when I was an idealistic young student volunteer on the disastrous Presidential campaign of George McGovern.

McGovern’s campaign headquarters was a 3 story building on K Street in Washington. It was crowded day and night with eager young people who truly believed he actually had a chance to win. McGovern had made pronouncements on many subjects, but the reason all the students wanted him to win was because he was the candidate who was going to end the war in Vietnam.

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This was long before the days of e-mail, so all communications came in via regular “snail-mail”. Thousands of letters for and against McGovern flooded the headquarters each day. We volunteers sat at a long table and sorted through the mail.  Like the other volunteers my job was to read as many letters as I could, and see which ones required a response and which ones did not.

It was pure chance that one of the most moving letters I have ever read in my life happened to be opened by me. It was written by a military wife. Her husband was an Army Major who had recently been killed in Vietnam.

The woman had enclosed in her letter a newspaper clipping. It was an opinion piece someone had written explaining how the war in Vietnam was “good for the economy.” Even worse, the opinion piece pointed out that the Vietnam War was really not very costly in terms of lives, since more Americans died in automobile accidents each year than in Vietnam. The opinion piece concluded that this was a small cost compared to the benefit that the war gave to the economy in terns of the defense industry jobs it  created.

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The Major’s widow wrote that as the wife of a career military man she had always known that her husband might someday die in battle. She said she had accepted long ago that he might die defending his country, or protecting the freedom of others, or to save his fellow soldiers.

However, she said she could never accept that her beloved husband had died simply because it was “good for the economy.” She went on to say that she and her husband had been married for almost 20 years and that she had loved him very much.  I just knew that she must have been crying when she wrote those words.

I don’t know what became of the letter. I don’t know if it ever got to Senator McGovern or if anyone ever wrote her a response. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I did not respond to the Major’s wife personally.  I should have written and told her how moved I was by her story. I wish that I had thanked her for the sacrifice she and her husband had made. But I never contacted her. I passed along the letter to someone higher up, and assumed it would be taken care of.  Now that I am much much older, I realize that there are some things you just need to do yourself.

The U.S. has had many wars since Vietnam. We are at war right now. There is a lot of political debate about where and when and if  the U.S. should go to war. I will not try to influence the political opinions of my readers.

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There are many valid reasons why a nation may engage in combat. But never forget that the soldiers on the battlefield are real people with families that love them very much.  If we are going to risk those precious lives, it needs to be for a better reason than it is “good for the economy.”