My White Experience With Police

I believe that most cops have integrity and restraint. I also believe there are some really, really bad folks who become cops.  And yes, I’m white. I’ve seen cops first hand, when I was raped (by a scrawny white guy with a big knife) and at least 10 police cars showed up, along with the press and a helicopter from the trauma center. Most of the officers stayed outside, guns drawn, aiming at my balcony. I was in the apartment directly under mine, with neighbors I’d met 2 days earlier, as I’d just moved in 10 days before the rape. The Sgt who ended up shooting the guy (I refer to him as Numbnuts- does he really need a human name?)  in my bedroom went through hell for the shooting- which was a good shooting. Another cop had cuffed one of Numbnuts  hands as he was dozing in my bed. Then Numbnuts sprang out of bed and beat up the first cop- a rookie, who then got tossed out of the apartment. The racket heard from my neighbors’ apartment was horrible- bodies hitting the ground, shelves knocked over, stuff breaking.

Now, there was a wounded COP, and myself as ‘victims’ when the Sgt who shot Numbnuts got there. He didn’t know I was already downstairs, so was on full “protect and serve” mode when he entered the apartment. He was trying to find me.

Numbnuts lunged at him with the cuffs swinging, and all that was visible to Sgt  was a blur of metal coming from the hand of the rapist. He shot him thinking he was going to be shot. Sgt  had to go through target practice and administrative leave (standard procedure) and got grief for not waiting for the SWAT team. He also got grief for not killing Numbnuts, but he was shooting a moving target. The bedroom wasn’t huge. but Numbnuts was all over the place. There was maybe 6 feet between Sgt  and Numbnuts. He did the right thing, even though Numbnuts didn’t have a gun. He’d already beat up another cop. There was no reason to expect him not to attack. He’d been going at me for six hours. And there was a blur of metal.

I was able to reconnect with that Sgt a few times. He sat with me in the hall during the trial- both of us smoking under a “No Smoking” sign (I figured I’d just say “I’m with him.” if anybody said anything. Nobody did.). He was my ‘guard’ as I waiting to testify, and he also was on the list to testify, but after I spent a couple of hours on the stand, Numbnuts changed his plea during the lunch break. Then I saw Sgt again when he was a patient where I worked, dealing with an injury from target practice (the target jerked his neck hard when the wind blew up strongly as he was carrying it back to wherever they keep cardboard bad guys). When I went into his room to say hello, I said “you might not remember me, but..” and before I could finish, he was on his feet hugging me, saying “I’ll never forget you.”, through tears.  And he didn’t. He told me that he was often awake at night thinking about that day.

I ended up working with one of Sgt’s relative’s wife, and sent him a note through her husband to thank him. He was my hero in Jan 1987. When I moved back to my home state, I was able to find him again online, and he e-mailed me how that day was from his side. He didn’t take that shooting lightly. He didn’t know where I was, or if I was hurt/dying in the apartment. He shot when he saw blurred metal coming up towards him. Nothing but a seconds, if that, to make a decision. He told me that people seem to think that police don’t think much about shooting someone, but that wasn’t accurate. The cops who  are good at their jobs live with those decisions for the rest of their lives-from a different perspective that isn’t talked about.  And those are the “good” shootings.  Not the ones that make the news because of racial bias.

He had PTSD-like symptoms from that shooting, and initially was not treated that well by some of his co-workers, for not waiting for SWAT. He made a judgement call to find me. Things got better before he retired. He died last year after years of dealing with a brain tumor and other medical issues. We e-mailed on and off- and I always knew I could e-mail him, as we were the only two who knew what went on during all of that morning.

As soon as I knew Numbnuts was shot, I just spaced out, and was focused on what was going to go on at the hospital with the rape exam/test kit, as well as figuring out where to stay. I could have stayed with my aunt and uncle, no question. But I wanted to be closer to my apartment, since I had to leave with nothing but the robe and slippers my 5-foot nothing, 90 pound neighbor put over the towel I had when I escaped barefoot. I needed to be able to get to my apartment quickly, with the police, to get belongings the next day, after the crime scene people were done. I was able to stay with a co-worker about a mile from my apartment, and she went with me to the police station to finish the statement (7 typed pages over 2 days of giving the police information about what happened), and to the apartment where we met the police (who had to unseal the crime scene tape from the door- and they had my keys).  I found fingerprint dust, a lot of blood in the bedroom, smudged bloody handprints on the walls, my blood in various places, and the blown out sliding glass door in the bedroom (that the apartment complex wanted me to pay for; I was told to tell them that their insurance should cover it- and that I wasn’t in the apartment when the damage happened). I was still ‘shocky’, but was able to get my purse, car, and some clothes to get me through the week, so I could sort out where I was going to live- I couldn’t go back to that apartment.

 

I know that there are way too many documented stories about ‘bad cops’.  Every one of the police I dealt with that day, from the first guys on the scene to the detectives who worked Sex Crimes treated me well.  I had a lot of things that worked in my favor- like the guy being in my bed when the first cop got there. Everything that I told the police was backed up by blood stains (mine) in the apartment, as well as the bruises that showed up on my face and jaw, the hole in my lip where my teeth went through it, and the injuries noted during the rape exam. As a nurse, I’ve talked with police when they needed to talk to  patients. I couldn’t tell them anything other than “yes, it’s OK to knock and see if they want to talk”. And yes, I’m white. This all happened in 1987, when we didn’t have 24/7 news, so many things weren’t known by anybody outside of a specific area. Now we know a lot more.

For those who have had negative associations of police, I’m so sorry that it turned out that way in your situation.  I’m sorry if you’ve lost a family member or friend because of a cop that wasn’t following procedure and caused injury (physical or emotional) or death. I’m sorry if you’ve been targeted because of your race. I don’t know how you feel– but I have seen footage, and am incredibly sad and angry about what I’ve seen.  I’m angry about the kids left behind without a parent or other family member. I’m horrified that we’re not further along in seeing all  people in our country as worthy of our compassion, especially after so many years of oppression (yes, I believe this country is racist). It’s been 401 years since the first slave ship came to the US ( 1619, landing in Point Comfort, in what would become Virginia; the 20 slaves had been kidnapped by the Portuguese and transported by them).  I have found various “first slave ship” info – so if someone wants to comment about others, please feel free to do so.   The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863… 157 years since slavery was abolished and we need to do so much better.  White folks in general need to listen, not assume. We need to address the disparity in the criminal justice system.  We need to look out for each other. We need to do a lot of things.  And we need to remember that people need to have police that respect them as human beings. Many do.  But we need to do better.

But I CAN understand why many don’t see it that way.

Tis The Season…..

….to have all sorts of things churned up.  I don’t really get ”depressed’ over the holiday season, but more a vague sense of being overwhelmed since there are a lot of ‘anniversaries’ around this time.  This year added a new one with the death of my amazing, crazy companion- my miniature schnauzer Mandy, who died on December 27, 2012.

I’m still crying pretty much every day when I think about her, and especially about that last day.  I’m very thankful that that ‘end’ part was pretty fast.  And she was in my arms.  At first, she whimpered enough to alarm me, and from that point until she was actually gone, no more than 15 minutes went by.  After she  peed, and then froze in her tracks, she seemed confused, and not sure what to do, so I just held her and told her how wonderful she’d been.  Her breathing slowly stopped as I held her on my lap.  The ‘new normal’ of not hearing her come running when I mess with the dishwasher or clothes dryer (she had a thing for appliances), of her not leaving the room when I sneeze (or even said the word ‘sneeze’), or escorting me to the door when I got my keys to get the mail.  I didn’t have to say anything; she just knew.  I miss her more than words really can describe.  She was my only companion here in this city, for the past 10 years.  I talk to my dad every day; I saw my dog 24/7- especially since being on disability since April 2004.

Then there is the whole issue of being disabled.  It is somewhat worse in the winter months since everybody has the heat on. I don’t tolerate heat- to the point I shaved my head again (well, I had a professional do it; I wanted to avoid slicing my ears off).  With my ‘normal’ hair (mine is really, really thick), I can’t tolerate the heat it retains. Think dead animal on my scalp.  I also have to see a surgeon this next week about some (more) cysts on my scalp that are painful.  They need to go, so the poor doc has to be able to see my head.  The other issues with disability include being in more pain when it’s cold outside, and my joints just not liking getting in and out of the car.  Sounds wimpy.  Maybe it is.  All I know is that I have to manage it the best I can- so whatever I can get delivered to my door (Schwann’s frozen foods, Walmart for laundry and paper goods, Amazon for miscellaneous stuff, etc), I do.   It’s still very painful just grocery shopping for the dairy/fresh items, but it definitely helps to get stuff delivered when possible.  I’m thankful that those things are available.

Early January is rough for anniversaries.  January 7, 1978 my figure skating coach’s six kids were murdered by her then husband.  I was 14 years old, and it rocked me to the core. I can’t imagine how she has done.  I think about her often, and have always prayed that somehow she’s managed to have a life after that.  January 10, 1987, I was raped and ‘tortured’ (word the newspaper used- don’t want to sound overly dramatic on my own) for 6 hours when the uncle of a baby I took care of regularly lied his way into my apartment… he did things to me I’d never heard of, being very naive…and a virgin.  I’ve never let anybody get close to me since then.  I’d always thought I’d have a family of my own.  That day changed a lot- but I survived.  And I’m thankful for that.

In 1982, the semester that started in late January was a bad one.  I was in the midst of some serious eating disorder stuff, and the depression I only get when I’m starving and purging.  I ended up getting sent to a psych hospital (no eating disorder ‘treatment centers’ back then) for several months.  That was a bad year. I ended up attempting suicide the next semester when I returned to the university.  I was in a coma, and then shipped back to the psych hospital for many more months, once I woke up and was medically cleared.  Things weren’t done in a week to 10 days back then.  I spent about 8 months altogether at Forest Hospital (Des Plaines, IL) in 1982.  They were good to me; I did do better, but the eating disorders were on-again/off-again for decades.

This is the first winter since early 2010 (when I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia) that I haven’t been on chemotherapy or waiting for the built up amounts of toxins to leave my body.  I’m still dealing with the weight gain and changes in my blood sugars and insulin doses, as chemo messed that all up.  The diabetes is getting better faster (great endocrinologist with a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate here in town). I wasn’t on steroids long enough for that to be an issue- it’s ‘just’ the arsenic, tretinoin (ATRA), methotrexate, and M6Mercaptopurine.  They rearranged my chromosomes (literally…. they ‘re-translocated’ the arms of 15 and 17). I guess it will take some time to get my body back to ‘normal’.  I hate the weight.  I’ve had a long history of eating disorders, so can’t just do some crash diet and hope for the best- it could easily trigger a relapse that I just can’t afford.  But I’m going to turn 50 in late 2013; I don’t want to  look like this when I turn 50.  I didn’t want to look like this at all… but it was chemo or die.

And yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m alive- that’s the big one; people with APL sometimes aren’t diagnosed until autopsy (and I know of 2 people just a few months ago who only had one and two days from the time they were told the diagnosis and the time they died; one was 11 years old).  I’ve survived being raped, and other stuff. And, with my health, I am glad to just have a day when I can get the basics done around here.  I’d like to be around people more, and am hoping to get to that Bible Study I’d mentioned in another post; last week (the first meeting of this topic- Ephesians) I wasn’t feeling well- that doesn’t mix well with indoor heat, even with my ice vest.  A childhood friend who I’ve reconnected with on FB came over one Saturday, and helped me with some generalized clutter (result of not being able to unpack after the last time I’d packed to move BACK to Texas), and is coming again- that has been a huge help.  I want to get this place puppy-proofed for the new puppy I hope to get this spring.  That helps, too.  I can’t imagine not having that hope for a new little companion to fill the dog-shaped hole in my heart.

2013 isn’t starting badly… just ‘complicated’ by past and present stuff mixing together.   There is still more good than bad.  I still have a lot of interests, and while I can’t physically do a lot, I do find things to keep me happy and make me laugh, especially online.  Blogging has been a great way to blow off steam, and some days that makes  a big difference.  🙂

Friends Who Cross the Line: Suicidal vs. Drama Junkie

I had a coworker one time who initially seemed to be a ‘normal’ everyday person and LVN (licensed vocational nurse).  I got to know her family, and we worked well together.  She was supportive of me when I had been going through some of the eating disorder stuff.  For several years, the friendship was close and the boundaries weren’t dysfunctional.  We were friends- not mutual ‘therapists’.

Then she started going through some things that I was in no way equipped to deal with. It’s one thing to be supportive, but it’s quite another to be asked to participate in the chaos.  I’d visited her in the hospital when she decided she was going to have an eating disorder and was being tube fed (she had never had a history of eating disorders until her late 30s- possible, but not the usual age for first onset).  I encouraged her during ‘recovery’.  There was an awful lot of work she put into having an eating disorder that was unlike anybody else I’d ever seen in my years of eating disorder treatment; I probably saw a few dozen ED patients during those times…’P’ made it her life’s work.  Not something that was controlling her thoughts. It’s hard to explain- but it was different.  She recovered when she got tired of Slim Fast.  She sort of stablized out, and resumed her life as a nurse, mom, and wife.

Then one day, she called me and asked if she could come over to my apartment.  I told her it was fine, though I was rather preoccupied taking care of a nine day old baby- he’d been adopted by a coworker at my then current place of employment, and I was the designated babysitter while she was working. I wanted to be fully attentive to him, as well as knowing that his mom would be calling to see how he was doing. Because he was adopted she didn’t have the maternity leave of several weeks.  Anyway, ‘P’ came over. She walked in and asked me if I’d tell her kids that she loved them; she was going to kill herself.  I was instantly livid.

I’d dealt with suicidal coworkers and patients before.  Professionally, I knew the resources that were available, and who I needed to contact.  On a friendship level, I was outraged that she even thought that what she was asking was OK.  I had a newborn in my arms, and a crazy person in my living room.  There was no question whose best interest I was looking after. I told ‘P’ “sure, I’ll tell them”, and I escorted her to her car, got her license plate number, and called the police.  I then called her psychiatrist who told me I was the third or fourth person to let him know she was running around telling people she was suicidal.  That made me even more angry- but I’d notified the proper people. She was their problem.

I’m not insensitive to suicidality- not at all.  I’ve been there.  I’ve overdosed to the point of being comatose for three days, waking up in ICU and not knowing what was going on. I still don’t remember wanting to die.  I remember being overwhelmed, but not wanting death to be the outcome.  I know the internal struggle to find some way out of intense emotional pain. But this was different.  I don’t think that the vast majority of suicidal people are ‘crazy’…not by a long shot. This was behavior that is SO indicative of borderline personality disorder, which is an extremely difficult disorder to deal with.  The hot-cold, sick-well, black-white thinking and actions are exhausting.  The person is in legitimate psychological pain- and they spread it around whether they mean to or not.

There is no healthy relationship with someone who is a borderline…other than to back away and leave that part of their life to the professionals.  Folks with BPD create crises in their lives, and involve whoever they deem to be on their ‘good list’ (that week).  If there is some sort of perception of that person not seeing things their way, then they’re on the ‘bad list’.  And it flip-flops all the time.  Working with borderlines was tiring enough when I was getting paid for it; having one outside of work involved in my life wasn’t going to happen when it got to the point of her ‘playing’ with suicidal comments.

I got a message on my answering machine later that night saying that she was sorry to have upset me, and that the police were there when she got home from my apartment.  I never had voluntary contact with her again. She did surface at a nursing home I worked at, but quit after a couple of weeks: no call-no show. I was asked by my employer what I thought about ‘P’… she was a good nurse, but her personal life was a train wreck (she had a LOT of unresolved childhood trauma issues- which I did hope she got help for, but she didn’t need to be responsible for nursing home residents)…. I just said that I’d always thought her penmanship was really good.  I wasn’t going to tell them about the psychological issues   since she wasn’t still working there.  Had she continued to be in charge of elderly patients, I’m not sure I would have had a choice but to report her instability due to the rules of the Texas Board of Nurses. And yet, she had never let her patients suffer… she was a good nurse. It was iffy territory.   It wasn’t fair for her to put me in that position.  I’m a loyal friend until someone plays with crisis situations as if they were games.

I’ve thought about ‘P’ over the years, and hope she found some peace and was able to work through the things in her early life that were genuinely horrible.  She was in a lot of pain, and had some tragic things happen with one of her three kids.  I’ve wished the best for her and her family. The last I heard, she and her husband that I knew divorced (a borderline wife would have been really hard), and she’d remarried.  That was at least 20 years ago.  I hope she found some sort of calm in her life, and a realization that she didn’t need to create chaos for people to care about her. She had some wonderful qualities.  But she was in so much pain…it was more than a friend could handle with any sort of healthy boundaries.