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October 6, 2003

Making no one more secure
Posted by Teresa at 07:53 PM *

Mitch Wagner has a good post on further abuses of the Patriot Act, and other derelictions. So far, the one that most alarms me is Mark Rasch’s column about one of the Justice Department’s recent flings. Forgive me if you’ve already heard about it; I’ve been away:

Mark Rasch, former head of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit, writes about the U.S. government threatening to subpoena all the records of some of the reporters who wrote about accused hacker Adrian Lamo. The government is forbidding the reporters from telling anyone about the subpoenas — presumably including their own attorneys and editors.
“Citing a provision of the Patriot Act, the FBI is sending letters to journalists telling them to secretly prepare to turn over their notes, e-mails and sources to the bureau. Should we throw out the First Amendment to nail a hacker?” The FBI sent letters to a “handful” of reporters who wrote about accused hacker Adrian Lamo — whether or not they interviewed Lamo. “The letters warn them to expect subpoenas for all documents relating to the hacker, including, apparently, their own notes, e-mails, impressions, interviews with third parties, independent investigations, privileged conversations and communications, off the record statements, and expense and travel reports related to stories about Lamo.” The FBI “has threatened to put these reporters in jail unless they agree to preserve all of these records while they obtain a subpoena for them under provisions amended by the USA-PATRIOT Act.”

“The government also officiously informed the reporters that this is an ‘official criminal investigation’ and asks that they not disclose the request to preserve documents, or the contents of the letter, to anyone — presumably including their editors, directors, or lawyers — under the implied threat of prosecution for obstruction of justice.”

Naturally, one is curious as to whether the Justice Department intends to thus subpoena the journalists who were leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent.

Mitch has more to say. Have a look.

Comments on Making no one more secure:
#1 ::: stephen ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2003, 09:08 PM:

naturally, I think this is outrageous if true.

Is there ary chance that a copy of this order could be scanned and posted online?

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2003, 09:46 PM:

We could ask Mitch?

#3 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2003, 11:36 PM:

That's funny. National Review says that we can trust our government each and every time it acts to expand its police powers, because nobody within it would ever abuse those powers for any reason whatsoever. Only objectively pro-terrorist liberals would suggest otherwise, when they're not busy sipping organic tea from the hollowed-out skulls of Stalin's victims.

I'm only making the latter half of that paragraph up (The latter half is Coulterspeak, readily available elsewhere). That's their line on the whole Patriot Act brouhaha-- that there has not yet been a single instance of Patriot Act abuse, nor will there ever be, and that the government is entirely trustworthy on all matters related to search, seizure, and detention. That's right, the very same government that they don't trust to set standards for things like the volume of water a toilet can legally flush, they do trust to fly black helicopters responsibly.

It's heartwarming, really.

#4 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2003, 11:59 PM:

I was merely blogging (which is to say, linking to and commenting on) Rasch's piece. I didn't do any original reporting on the Adrian Lamo case, and I did not get subpoenad.

It does seem to me that at least two of the recent high-profile hacker arrests have been people who seem to be mentally ill. Lamo: a homeless guy who goes around breaking into corporate networks and then pointing out the security flaws to them. The MSBlaster arrest was not for a guy charged with writing THE MSBlaster worm, no, he wrote a variant that damaged 7,000 computers. He's 23 years old, didn't hire a lawyer and gave interviews to the media where he wanted it known that he does not either have a weight problem.

#5 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 05:05 AM:

D'you really think the Justice Depatment can't just ask Bush who the leak was and who they called?

I mean, c'mon, no one except a total party line dupe belives his father didn't know about Iran/Contra, and no one except a total party line dupe should belive Bush dosen't know who called Novak and the other reporters.

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 08:29 AM:

A newsgroup troll enlivened its usual "the innocent have nothing to fear" slant on this issue by asserting that if the record searches were secret, how did we know that anything like that had ever occurred? It seemed to feel that this made everything just fine.

After all, I'm not one of Them! I'm a loyal right-hander, and always have been. Nothing to see here! We're Number One!

#7 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 10:22 AM:

It does seem to me that at least two of the recent high-profile hacker arrests have been people who seem to be mentally ill. Lamo: a homeless guy who goes around breaking into corporate networks and then pointing out the security flaws to them. The MSBlaster arrest was not for a guy charged with writing THE MSBlaster worm, no, he wrote a variant that damaged 7,000 computers. He's 23 years old, didn't hire a lawyer and gave interviews to the media where he wanted it known that he does not either have a weight problem.

It would seem to me that you are equating mental illness with, at worst, extreme foolishness. Specifically, the kind of extreme foolishness young 20-somethings are prone to.

Also, given what you've cited of Lamo's case, I'm not entirely certain even that applies - up until the NYT threw the FBI at him, the reception most companies had given him was closer to "thank God it was only Lamo who found these holes" than to "shoot the messenger now". (I will concede that other actions of Lamo's would qualify as extremely foolish)

Now, if you have evidence that when the cameras are off the MSBlast modifier talks about the voices inside his head that compel him to destroy, or that Lamo secretly cuts up his arm each night, I might be willing to accept the assertion of mental illness. (I don't believe that the reported similarities between typical "geek" behavior and Asperger's Syndrome are yet sufficient to label general social ineptitude a mental disease)

Until then, what we see is that the high profile cases seem to be cases where those caught were exceedingly foolish in other ways. I would draw from this the conclusion that either the only way a computer crime is successfully solved is with an extremely foolish perpetrator, or that those with the skills to commit a successful computer crime are generally able to earn more money with more socially acceptable endeavors, such as writing the backend energy trading software for Enron. (And that therefore only the extremely foolish would assume the risks involved in computer-based crime)

#8 ::: Jeff Crook ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 10:37 AM:

Of course they won't use these powers to go after anyone in the White House. What are you suggesting? The Patriot Act, as we all know, will only be used to pursue terrorists, and there aren't any in the White House - please! Using the Divinely-Ordained Patriot Act to prosecute God's Elect would be an unforgiveable abuse of power, don't you see? And John Ashcroft wasn't annointed to pursue any crime committed for the greater good of the Christian State. And it isn't that serious anyway, right? After all, she doesn't even use her husband's last name, so what does that tell you? She's a partisan Socialist Demonrat, so exposing her isn't really a crime. Bob Novak is a Patriot with a big Pee.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:18 AM:

Mitch, I didn't know Lamo was homeless, but I did wonder at a hacker who'd use that name. If he is that gormless, there's even less reason for the FBI to be randomly terrorizing journalists. Maybe the FBI's just using him as an excuse to sow FUD amongst them, so as to soften them up for future use.

#10 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 12:22 PM:

Daniel - My assertion that Lamo and the MSBlaster guy might be mentally ill is based on a hunch, really, and it applies more to Lamo than to the MSBlaster guy. If you're smart enough to break into several major corporate networks, and yet you're also homeless, I expect there's something going on. Could they both merely be extremely foolish? Perhaps. (And at what point does extreme foolishness BECOME mental illness?)

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 12:25 PM:

You have to admit that people with those kind of skills are usually capable of supporting themselves.

#12 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 02:36 PM:

When I wrote that last question, "at what point does extreme foolishness BECOME mental illness?" I was thinking in particular about a couple of people I know. You all know the type. Fandom attracts this type. I don't know if psychiatrists have a word for this kind of person, regular people just call 'em "fuckups." They're brilliant, they're charming (at times), they're capable of great bursts of energy and drive when working on their OWN projects -- and yet they seem to be incapable of managing the details of day-to-day life. They are, at times, homeless, and at other times they couch-surf with relatives and friends.

This is the kind of person I thought of when I heard about Adrian Lamo and (to a lesser extent) the MSBlaster suspect.

Now we all fuck up. I myself was a fuckup of monumental proportions in my 20s; I wince at some of the things I said and did then. My, oh, my, did I have an exaggerated view of my own importance, and with such little evidence, too. And yet I would argue that I was NOT mentally ill (with the exception of a certain low-level depression), I was simply a fuckup. But if a person is SUCH a fuckup that he can't even hold down a job or keep a roof over his head, despite a high level of education and skills -- is that proof that the person is mentally ill? I don't know the answer to that question, but my gut says yes.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 02:51 PM:

I don't think fandom so much attracts them, as its quite remarkable social tolerance fails to jettison them. And yes, I do know the kind you're talking about. They make me wish we still had communal living arrangements, like monasteries only without the religion, where they could do productive work, live under some kind of minimally orderly Rule, and not have to be competent at dealing with everything. Think of them as sheltered workshops for people with high IQs and low coping skills.

#14 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 07:01 PM:

We do have places like that, Teresa, at least in a way -- we call them minimum security prisons. Fuckups (to use the technical term) are one of the more familiar types there. Aside from the real violent cases (which are a higher percentage in max, but show up everywhere inside) you have a lot of people who are guilty of serial stupidity. Some of them are quite sharp in some very narrow way.

#15 ::: M. Himel ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 07:48 PM:

From what I understand, Mr. Lamo was more of the anticapitalist-activist-trying-to-make-a-point-homeless-by-choice sort of homeless than the I-can't-handle-reality sort of homeless. But given the state of the economy, even if he was an I-got-laid-off-my-dot-com-and-now-I-have-no-money sort of homeless, I don't think it would be a sign of mental illness.

I say 'was', because the news stories have all pointed out that he's now on house arrest at his parents' home.

#16 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 08:26 PM:

M. Himel, homelessness is so brutal that I reject the idea that it can be simply a lifestyle choice. "Stand On Zanzibar" notwithstanding, I don't see homelessness as something a sane person will do just to demonstrate the corruption of the system. It's like saying you're going to cut off your arm to make a political statement.

I could be wrong about this, but I'd take some convincing.

If you're healthy, college-educated, have a marketable skill -- even a marketable skill where there's a temporary glut, such as IT skills -- no dependents, and you find yourself living on the street (or out of your car) for more than a couple of days at a time, then I would say that is strong evidence for mental illness. Which isn't to say you're a BAD person, just that you need counseling, and maybe some brain chemistry fixing meds, in addition to a few bucks and a job.

I've been meaning to blog the follow-up to the article about the former Wall Street Journal reporter who's now homeless. Here's the original article:

http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20030922/5520701s.htm

Turns out the guy wasn't a Journal reporter during the dotcom boom, he left the Journal in 1977, and did a variety of other things, including being a cherry farmer (not a cherry picker, a farmer). His family was interviewed in a follow-up article, they all said it was his own fault he's homeless and he's obnoxious and hard to get along with.

I thought as I was reading that it is hard for me to imagine my allowing any close relative of mine -- sib, parent, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece -- to become homeless. I have some pretty obnoxious family, and yet if I found out they were living out of their pickup truck, I'd be sending them money and a plane ticket to my house that day. Or so I like to think. That homeless guy seemed to have a lot of relatives, did NONE of them have room in their homes (and heart) for a homeless relative?

Yes, I know that we should not judge other people, and I can imagine circumstances where I *wouldn't* take a relative in -- if that person had a history of grossly abusing hospitality, such as stealing from family, physical abuse (especially if I had children), bringing strangers into the home, etc. etc. etc. -- all kinds of things. But still.

For someone like me, who always grew up in relative comfort, this is something that's hard to figure out. I have a friend who's had some health problems, and has fallen on hard times, and I've been worried for years that he'd wind up homeless. I was listening to an interview with Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger, on NPR a couple of weeks ago, and he talked about relatives coming to live with his family to escape the bombing, and I thought to myself: that's it. That's the answer. My friend will never be homeless because he can always come live with ME if he has to. That's so obvious, and yet I have a comfortable background and so it never occurred to me.

#17 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 09:34 PM:

Hi, Mitch,

If I had all day, I'd try to explain that mindset.

Let me simply say that was me for a while. I didn't so much get better as I had a change of mind. It wasn't mental illness, other than the above-mentioned low-grade depression.

There's a Doonesbury I use as a placemarker in my Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas:

First panel: Rev. Scot and Mike are talking. Carlos (a transient character) walks in.

Carlos: Why does your friend look so sad, Padre?
Scot: Well, I'm afraid it's personal, Carlos...
Mike: I'm losing my wife.

Second panel:

Carlos: Oh...I'm very sorry, senor. I know how you feel. I lost my wife and two sons when Guatamalan security forces burned down my village.

Third panel:

Carlos: Be strong, amigo. You're not alone.

Fourth panel: Carlos has left. Mike's head is down on the table.

Scot: Wow...Aren't cultural differences amazing?

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 12:30 AM:

Claude, that makes perfect sense. I used to work for a law firm that had the contract to provide legal services for the inmates of the Washington state prison system, and they were undoubted fuckups.

Be nice if their novitiate consisted of something other than a felony conviction.

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 12:57 AM:

adamsj -- being there, doing that. Not wanting to be a lurker supporting you in e-mail.

And it is all about making a change in one's own mind. Counseling won't work in the short term in the vast majority of cases: it's a long term solution, and if one is out of money and has no fixed address it's not likely to help a lot. Similarly -- antidepressants take _weeks_ to start working, and if one has let things go far enough that one is on the street, it's really hard to do anything consistently for weeks, like take meds on a regular schedule. And there are a lot of people who'd rather have the swings up and down than hold to a mediocrity that some anti-depressants seem to create. Read TALKING TO PROZAC by Kramer for some interesting thoughts on this.

Some of the smartest, most together (appearing) people you know are subject to deep clinical depression. You don't know that. It's like not knowing how many women you know have been raped or molested. And lifelong drugging is not an answer that looks good to someone who has no idea where next month's rent will come from.

At least I still have some convertible assets....

Not very cheerily,
Tom

#20 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 02:37 AM:

Tom: You are pushing my buttons with a vengeance. Life long drugging huh? Would you say that of a diabetic? The SSRI I take does not 'drug' me, it enables my brain to more closely approximate normal functioning. It corrects a chemical imbalance, that is all.

It should also be noted that it does not take weeks for drugs to work in all cases. My pattern is to attain significant relief in a week. The bigger problem is the expense of the drugs. And anyone who's had more than a couple of significant depressions will probably have to take them indefinitely. SSRIs can be of great help to people for whom trauma or stress have kicked their chemistry out of whack and those regimens are limited. For people like me, who've had major depression problems all their lives, well, the medicine is a lifelong thing. And a godsend.

MKK

#21 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 04:53 AM:

Wow, TNH & Glenn Reynolds in unison - subpoena the Plame 7 now.

So are we saying that these days Sebastian Flyte would be a hacker?

#22 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 08:03 AM:

Tom,

I have to add that I did achieve some things during that period. Among them, I was the lead organizer for a national demonstration that drew several thousand people, and I put a similarly sized mailing list into a PC (mid-eighties), then wrote code to make it highly usable. Later, I slept in my car a lot when I foolishly revived my weekly newspaper with two friends on a handshake.

It's just that none of it ever added up to anything. Broke and homeless were poor means to a less-than-optimal end, except maybe the newspaper, where it was the friends I chose poorly.

The mathemetician Paul Erdos was an extreme case of someone who lived essentially homelessly and yet was at the top of his field. I've also known many people who saved money while struggling with businesses by living in the back room, and quite a few of them managed to make their businesses work. And some activists who live the homeless life are effective, if overly self-sacrificing.

Oddly enough, my copy of Listening to Prozac is lying on a file cabinet just behind me, along with a networking book, Milton Caniff's Male Call, my Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. I can touch it from here--I know it well. Note that the only example of someone in that book who chose the roller coaster over Prozac was a composite figure.

And young, very young--too young to know what he was pissing away. Like me.

As I said, there was a little low-grade depression going on with me back then. But I'd also picked up a self-defeating ideological stance, the opposite of Mike Doonesbury's shame. It was a feeling that, by throwing myself into the arms of fortune I was in solidarity with many, many people who were worse off, and that I was refusing to live well, as I could've, in order not to be bought out.

It was an incredible ego trip on my part to be so self-centeredly self-sacrificing, and dreadfully ineffective in the long run, but that's left-wing activism (as a subsitute for politics) for you.

Looking back now, when I got screwed on the newspaper (there's nothing in the world quite like being sucker punched by two of your closest, life-long friends when you're in the middle of giving everything you have to a common effort), and my doctor tried to put me on Prozac, I made a big mistake in not going for it and letting the chips fall where they may.

It really did take a change of mind for me--I'm still trying to weave my idealism back into my life--but I tell you, brother, in my case, the Prozac would've helped.

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 08:28 AM:

Mary Kay -- I definitely think anyone who chooses to go the route you've chosen, with SSRIs, deserves full support. Agreed that the cost is a major factor (and if one has no health insurance, and starts on such, it seems to me that most companies would call that a Pre-Existing Condition and not pay for it for a long time -- another catch-22 of our current health-care system). Cost is also a major factor in counseling. I hope the counseling I'm getting is helping, but it's sometimes hard to get together the $75 per week for it.

adamsj, I hope I'm in the same kind of place you're in soon. Sounds like you're through the hardest part and really working on re-integrating. And it does help to see that it's possible. Last night was particularly difficult.... And even knowing that manic-depression and addiction are in my genetic background, it's difficult to figure out what change is best -- am I consciously trying to figure out how to do things better, as in learning a new dance, or am I just repeating old patterns without being willing to make significant changes? Hard question, at least for me where I am. Depression is not just the absence of joy -- it's the absence of the memory of the possibility of joy.

cheers,
Tom (off to a weekend counseling retreat on the Oregon coast, which with luck will contain significant joy)

#24 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 05:51 PM:

Wouldn't it be nice if there were places that people like Tom Whitmore and adamsj could go when they are down on their luck rather than living on the streets?

Isn't that a great, old-fashioned expression: "down on your luck"? It recognizes that sometimes life overwhelms us, that sometimes we make bad decisions and things turn out horribly.

When I volunteered at a homeless shelter, one of the staff pointed out to me that ANYONE can turn out homeless. They have had doctors and professional engineers as clients. I asked, "How does someone with a lucrative marketable skill, like a doctor, turn out homeless?"

They said it generally took three traumas. Not one, not two, but three. First, the doctor gets fired and has a little difficulty finding another job. He starts doing a little self-medication to manage the stress. Then his wife leaves him.

Any one or even two of those things would be manageable, but ALL THREE happening at the same time becomes overwhelming. Then, trauma number four comes along: he can't keep up the house payments and so loses his home.

#25 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 11:23 PM:

than hold to a mediocrity that some anti-depressants seem to create.
(snippage)
And lifelong drugging

Mary Kay -- I definitely think anyone who chooses to go the route you've chosen, with SSRIs, deserves full support.

Tom: I don't think full support is encompassed by the two phrases I've snipped out of the message that set off my reactive twitch/explanation. Can you see why I might think that you might need a little clarification in your actual thought processes on this matter?

MKK

#26 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 07:37 AM:

Mary Kay,

I know a person, a really good person, who simply cannot take SSRIs. After trying several, her feelings about them are much like Tom's first statement. (She's the only one of many people I know who've taken them who feels that way.) She also knows that she could really use them. Knowing her, I have to support her decision not to take them and to accept the consequences.

She supports other people's decisions to take them, she just can't see them for herself. I understand how she feels--it's not unlike Tom's first statement. I used to feel that way myself.

Does that help reconcile the two?

#27 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 12:49 PM:

adamsj: You are talking about a specific case and her personal reaction to experience with SSRIs. That's not the sort of generalized statement that bugs me.

I will note however, that the kind of thing your friend is saying is the sort of thing bipolar folks say about medication. Mediocrity and normalcy are emphatically not the same thing. However, if you've been manic and unmedicated it's difficult to realize that. Particularly if you are being prescribed the drugs by a regular md and not getting counselling along with it. I've been manic -- when I first started on Prozac the dose was too high and it made me manic. It was a lovely feeling; nothing on earth, including sex, feels that wonderful. Psychology has recently begun to recognize what they're calling hypomania, a less destructive form than full blown mania, but it sure fucks up medication regimes nontheless. Your friend might like to talk to a doctor about it. My doctor is beginning to suspect I have bipolar 2 a milder, more dificult to diagnose form of bipolar disorder. So it's very much in my mind right now. If your friend thinks I should shut the hell up since I don't know her, I completely understand.

MKK

#28 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 03:47 PM:

My (unsolicited) $0.02:

adamsj, did your friend see a psychiatrist or just a garden variety md? There's a lot your average general practitioner doesn't know about these medications, and that knowledge base can be critical to getting the right treatment.

What Mary Kay said about shutting up.

#29 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 06:16 PM:

Tom Whitmore: "Some of the smartest, most together (appearing) people you know are subject to deep clinical depression. You don't know that. It's like not knowing how many women you know have been raped or molested. And lifelong drugging is not an answer that looks good to someone who has no idea where next month's rent will come from."

Mary Kay: "Tom: You are pushing my buttons with a vengeance. Life long drugging huh? Would you say that of a diabetic? The SSRI I take does not 'drug' me, it enables my brain to more closely approximate normal functioning. It corrects a chemical imbalance, that is all."

By the way, I *am* a diabetic -- diagnosed Aug. 27 -- and I've got these little off-white pills I need to take twice a day, and I have to perform my own blood tests twice a day also, and I need to go to the doctor every three months and the Diabetes Center once a month. Also I can't eat as much ice cream as I want, or those big Chipotle burritos with sour cream and guacamole. And I actually have to EXERCISE. Pfui. But if I don't do all those things, I could have a heart attack and die, or get gangrenous limbs and die, or go blind and die. It's a drag.

I'm told we're not supposed to say we ARE diabetics, we are supposed to say we HAVE diabetes. Or something like that. It has to do with not defining yourself by your medical condition.

I think newspaper columnist and diabetes person Jon Carroll was dead right, not at all using a figure of speech, when he noted that he was baffled by people commiserating with him over his diabetes diagnosis. They'd say they were SO SORRY. But in fact, he said, he actually felt GREAT. Now that he was getting treatment, he felt better than he had in years.

The same is true for me. I was recently going through what I took to be yet another period of low-level depression. Getting up out of bed in the morning seemed to be a supreme effort. I dragged myself to the computer -- I work from home -- and found it difficult to concentrate. I wasn't reading books anymore. I was even finding some TV shows to be too much effort. I was getting slow, lethargic and stupid. Some of this was stuff I didn't notice, other parts of it I attrivbuted to being, well, over 40 now and when you're over 40 you're not 22 anymore.

So now I feel great. I don't exactly spring out of bed in the morning -- never have been a morning person -- but when I do get out of bed I'm wide awake and ready to go 10 minutes later. My concentration is keener, I'm getting more done and enjoying life more. Why, just this past Saturday I realized I had to run a short errand by noon, and I got up, had some breakfast, did a little web surfing and work and was out of my office and in my car and had my errand done with time to spare. That sort of simple Saturday-morning event would've been horrendously difficult two months ago.

But, still, this is my first time every having an open-ended prescription. I mean, I've taken antibiotics and painkillers and allergy medicaton at one time in my life or another, but they have all been TEMPORARY. Take two of these a day for a month, and then you're done. These little off-white pills and the blood tests are something I may well be doing for the rest of my life. I'm fortunate in that diabetes is an eminently treatable disease, and if I take care of myself I can expect to live as long an full a life as anybody else -- but, still, I may well be taking those little off-white pills and giving myself twice-daily blood tests for the rest of that life.

So, yes, I would describe my treatment as "lifelong drugging." It's better to NOT have to take any pills.

But, y'know, the treatment is better'n walking around in a stupor, which is how I was for at least the several months leading up to my diagnosis. And it's certainly better than being dead. Also: gangrene. No fun.

#30 ::: spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 10:38 AM:

Getting up out of bed in the morning seemed to be a supreme effort. I dragged myself to the computer -- I work from home -- and found it difficult to concentrate. I wasn't reading books anymore. I was even finding some TV shows to be too much effort. I was getting slow, lethargic and stupid. Some of this was stuff I didn't notice, other parts of it I attrivbuted to being, well, over 40 now and when you're over 40 you're not 22 anymore.

So now I feel great. I don't exactly spring out of bed in the morning -- never have been a morning person -- but when I do get out of bed I'm wide awake and ready to go 10 minutes later. My concentration is keener, I'm getting more done and enjoying life more. Why, just this past Saturday I realized I had to run a short errand by noon, and I got up, had some breakfast, did a little web surfing and work and was out of my office and in my car and had my errand done with time to spare. That sort of simple Saturday-morning event would've been horrendously difficult two months ago.

I had to read your post through twice; I thought you were describing an experience with depression and SSRIs, then I realized that no, you were describing diabetes and what a difference treatment is making in your life.

I gather that you were trying to demonstrate the similarities between two chronic illnesses, diabetes and depression, and how treatment can help one live a normal life. Your description of the effects of diabetes (sluggishness, stupor), and the benefits of treatment (alacrity, vitality), exactly mirrors my experience with depression and the nothing-short-of-miraculous recovery I am experiencing as a result of going on medication.

I still have issues that I need to work on, but I am convinced that there was something chemically wrong with my brain. The emotional issues are separate from the sluggishness and leadenness that had taken over my brain. There should be absolutely no shame whatsoever in taking medication for depression.

#31 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 01:42 PM:

The only point I was really trying to make was a response to Mary Kay's question -- she said the phrase "life long drugging" was offensive, and asked, "Would you say that of a diabetic?" She almost certainly meant that question rhetorically, but I'm saying I *have* diabetes, and, yes, I would describe my future as possibly containing "life long drugging."

And yes I agree with you that there is no shame in taking antidepressants. There is no shame in ANY mental illness, or any illness at all for that matter. I'm glad to hear you're doing better.

It's better to NOT have to take pills for the rest of one's life, especially if those pills have side effects. But if you have a medical condition, then your options are (1) suffer with the condition or (2) take the pills.

Actually, I'm pretty fortunate. If I take care of myself, I can expect the diabetes to have no impact on my longevity or quality of life. None whatsoever. And many people with diabetes find the diabetes goes away if they lose weight, improve their diets and exercise regularly, and that's my goal.

I'm at an age now where I needed to start doing those things anway -- I've seen the difference exercise, diet and weight control makes for people in their 50s. If diabetes hadn't gotten me, it would've been something else; when you're in your 40s, that's where obesity, bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle really starts taking its toll.

#32 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 03:11 PM:

While there are no doubt venues where the phrase "lifelong drugging" could reliably be taken to mean something offensive, I would suggest that Making Light is not one of them.

Signed, The Guy Who Puts Together Teresa's Pile of Narcolepsy Meds Every Morning

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 03:17 PM:

By the way, Mitch, great observation about the phrase "down on your luck." It's striking how old-fashioned it suddenly sounds, like an echo from an America rapidly receding from us.

#34 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 04:43 PM:

Thanks, Patrick.

Yes, back in the olden days we had the quaint notion that life could sometimes be overwhelming, that the world was sometimes a big and hostile place, and sometimes bad luck and/or malice might cause someone to be simply OVERWHELMED, to become depressed, to be forced to live on the street. We thought, foolishly, that sometimes basically good young people could fall in with bad companions and make downright evil decisions, even though they themselves were not evil.

Now we know better. We know that we all have perfect free will, and can be self-sufficient, and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and achieve great things, all alone, simply by following the example of our President, George W. Bush.

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