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  • I forgot to take my morning bupropion pill last Thursday. Such forgetfulness occurs infrequently, but it's always instructive when it happens.

    For I lead such a normal life these days that it's hard for me to recall just what it was like beforehand.

    Until I forget my pill.

    I walked out to get some lunch at about noon. Same walkways, streets, and buildings.

    Not the same, though. I found myself looking at them through different eyes. It's hard to really describe the effect. Spacey, disorientated, dislocated come to mind as adjectives. It is a sort of phase shift. A movement, slight and barely perceptible, off the rails of normal awareness.

    If I stopped taking my medicine, this movement would rapidly accelerate into a full-blown depression. As it was, I simply took my pill in the afternoon, from the small stock I keep at work for precisely such eventualities. Within thirty minutes, I was back on track.

    These moments are always important. They remind of what I've overcome, of what would befall me if I chose to abandon my treatment - a treatment that will be lifelong. They also provide a window into my ill mind.

    Mental illness is not well understood by those who've never suffered from it. A healthy mind simply cannot fully comprehend the altered state brought on by such illnesses. Recognize them, yes, empathize to some extent, treat through psychotherapy and/or drugs - yes, all these things someone with a healthy mind can do. But to actually know, no - that cannot be.

    I think of these things whenever a behavior that is strikingly mentally ill, such a mass shooting, makes the headlines. The responses are uncomprehending - how could someone do this? Although I know nothing of the particular mental state of the shooter, what I do know is that he was in an altered state. The normal rules of social interaction simply have no meaning. His world is his own, and moves according to his own particular perceptions and emotions, all distorted and distant from those felt by a healthy mind.

    The result is death, endless grief, horror, shock and the same puzzled questioning. My questions relate to the shooter - was his condition recognized, acknowledged, treated? Was an effort made to bring that mind back to health? In the Newtown case, I don't know. I also believe that such horrors will continue as long as mental health is treated as taboo, or stigmatized, or underfunded, or simply ignored. Beyond that though, his easy access to guns allowed him to act out his murderous impulses in most devastating way possible.
  • I pieced together this meditation while sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River at the Lincoln Shields Recreation Area in West Alton.

    It's a favorite spot of mine. I return here over and over again to watch the sun go down over the water. To look at the barges moving past the Alton grain elevator.

    It's a peaceful place. It's also a memorial. Beneath the parking lot behind me lie the bones of Confederate prisoners-of-war, victims of disease while interred at the Union prison camp in Alton.

    A stone has been erected to their memory.
  • I looked at the names etched on the stone and saw, transposed in my own mind, the names of the dead children from Newtown.

    All dead.

    All dead too soon.

    Through circumstances beyond their control.

    As I looked, I allowed the sadness that had been overlaid by anger at the events of Friday to finally wash over me unfettered.
  • It was only just bearable.
  • All photographs from the evening of December 15, 2012. The first image here, of the sunset, was taken using a toy camera lens - a plastic Holga lens.
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