Friday, February 15, 2008

Senseless Killing

It has become all too familiar to us. Another senseless shooting spree occurred yesterday. This one hits close to home, here in Illinois. The gunman was a student here at U of I, and a resident of Champaign, where I work. As I read the headlines and watch the coverage unfold on CNN, it is announced that the killer was "off his meds". And a sinking feeling is felt in the pit of my stomach.

I am in no way an expert on medications used to treat anxiety, depression and mental illness. I know people think the world of these drugs and I know many people find relief with these pills. But I am an expert on what they did to my late husband. Before I knew Ed, when he was trying to get sober, he was put on Prozac. By the time I met him, he was wonderful. He was a nice, happy, adjusted guy. What I didn't know is that just before meeting him, he had to stop his prozac because he could not longer afford it.

I will never know what happens to one's brain when this medication is stopped. A few years later, when Ed could barely get out of bed each day and could no longer hold down a job, he sought help once again. This "doctor" tried a variety of coctails on my husband. She knew he was a recovering alki, knew he took prescription pain pills daily, and then she added to it some anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, sleeping pills, tranquilizers. You name it, they tried it. Each new med would be tried for a week or two or maybe three. Then he would complain how it wasn't working, or made him feel worse, etc. She would then change to something else.

In the weeks prior to his death, Ed was slurring his speech, and had barely gotten out of his bathrobe. He was sleeping 18 hours a day on average. He did not give the "doctor" permission to discuss his condition with me, his wife. So I was left to try to figure things out on my own. She never concerned herself with all of the additional pills from Ed's unfinished prescriptions. Those pills became Ed's method of choice to end his life.

I watched those meds turn a man who was full of life into an emotional mess who could not carry on a conversation. He went from a man who loved playing with his kids and teaching them new things, to a man who felt his kids would be better off growing up without their dad.

What does all this have to do with the tragedy in Dekalb? I'm not sure. But I think we as a society need to look closely at the issues of "quick fixes" to try to correct depression and anxiety.

This is, of course, my completely biased opinion.

My condolenses to the victims families and friends, and all that have been touched by this senseless tragedy.