Daily Archives: February 28, 2012

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning again, doctor: the clinical return of the ‘nervous breakdown’

In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.

Scott Fitzgerald had one. Since then, we’ve been required to call “nervous breakdowns” by more (perhaps misleadingly, I suspect) precise terms. But in these parlous times, some of us cling for reassurance to the old ways, the WSJ reports (“Time for a Good Old-Fashioned Nervous Breakdown?“):

Fifty years ago, Ms. Shapiro’s experience would have been called a “nervous breakdown”—an unscientific term for personal crises ranging from serious mental illness and alcoholism to marital problems and stress.

Today, psychiatry is more precise. A sudden inability to cope with life’s demands could be classified as one of dozens of specific mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or major depression. There’s no official term for milder forms of “nervous breakdown,” though some patients and clinicians wish there was still a name for a temporary state of being overwhelmed by outside forces without an underlying mental illness.

“I hear the term ‘nervous breakdown’ from a patient at least once a week,” says Katherine Muller, a clinical psychologist at the Center for Integrative Psychotherapy in Allentown, Pa. “The term lives on in our culture, maybe because it seems to capture so well what people feel when they are distressed.”

“Given the economic mess we’re in, a lot of people are coming in saying they think they’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” says David Hellerstein, research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He says it can be challenging to tell immediately if a patient is having an acute episode of mental illness, or a predictable reaction to extreme stress. Symptoms may be similar—including heart palpitations, chest pains, shortness of breath, uncontrollable crying, dizziness, disorientation, exhaustion and a feeling of “going crazy.”…

I like the return of the folksier, archaic term. More “scientific” terms suggest a precision, a specificity that seems to me impossible in dealing with anything so complex, so messy, so organic, so spiritual as the human mind.

In any case, when mine comes (perhaps I should say, when my NEXT one comes), I hope everyone calls it a “nervous breakdown.” That sounds so much more human — friendlier, somehow — than the more clinical terms.

Virtual Front Page, Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Been awhile since I’ve done one of these. Let’s see if I still have the knack:

  1. Sponseller’s body found with self-inflicted gunshot wound (thestate.com) — As discussed previously today.
  2. Dow Closes Above 13000 For First Time Since 2008 (WSJ) — More good news, unless your name is Mitt Romney.
  3. House slam-dunks Haley’s ports veto (thestate.com) — One member votes her way — Ralph Norman.
  4. Romney: ‘Mistakes’ have hurt my campaign (WashPost) — Gee, do ya think? Tonight we’ll see whether Santorum will beat him on his home turf. And then, this thing is really wide open.
  5. Senate confirms Haley’s pick to head DHEC (thestate.com) — The story says it happened “Thursday,” but it means “Tuesday.”
  6. Third Ohio school shooting death (BBC) — Meanwhile, it’s being reported that the shooter chose his victims at random. “This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs.”

Let’s hear it for the flip-floppers — compared to the rigid ideologues, they are a breath of fresh air

My friend Bill Day in Memphis sent out this cartoon, which depicts the main rap on Mitt Romney — that he changes his mind.

To me, that’s the man’s saving grace, to the extent that he has one. It’s what made me able to settle for him after Jon Huntsman dropped out of the SC primary — I believe he’s free of slavish devotion to any man’s ideology. That makes him anathema to the extremists in his party, but that’s not the only think I like about this trait.

Whatever else you can say about a man who changes his mind, at least it proves that he’s thinking. Even if all he’s thinking is, “I need to change on this to get elected,” he’s at least thinking.

Here’s my take on Romney: He simply doesn’t care deeply about the kinds of things that left and right tend to get angriest about, such as the Kulturkampf issues that I wish would stay out of our elections. Basically, he sees himself as a manager — he wants to run the United States as he has run other enterprises in the past, no matter what burning issues happen to be at the fore when he’s in office. He believes his executive experience makes him better able to run the country than Barack Obama.

Set aside whether I believe he’s right, I appreciate that that’s the way he seems to approach this.

To some extent, this is akin to what appealed to me about “No-Drama Obama.” I saw him as essentially a pragmatist, particularly on the thing that matters most in picking a Commander in Chief — international affairs and security. His adoring supporters heard something that they liked in what he said on the stump about war and peace and international relations, but I listened a bit more closely than many of them did — it was (as always) the first thing I asked him about when he was sitting next to me in the editorial board room, and I was satisfied with his answers. And I was not surprised when he embraced continuity once in office (although I was surprised when he became even more aggressive than George Bush in prosecuting the War on Terror).

I get a certain amount of that same vibe from Romney, and that’s what reassures me when I think of the possibility (not a very strong possibility at this point, but still a possibility) that he could replace Obama. I don’t think we’d see any dangerous shifts in the policies that matter. And when faced with an unforeseen crisis, I think he’d approach it with sober deliberation.

I am not, however, convinced at this point that he would do a better job than the incumbent. But I’m still watching.

The stunning news about Tom Sponseller

Last week, I had been set to have lunch with my friend Bob McAlister, but he suddenly had to cancel because of a new client — he was representing the S.C. Hospitality Association in dealing with the media with regard to the disappearance of its CEO, Tom Sponseller.

Today was the day that we’d set for the rain check. We had just sat down with our food from the buffet at the Capital City Club when another diner came over, smartphone in hand, to tell Bob: “They’ve found Tom’s body.” In the parking garage. And Bob had to run out.

Later, on the way back to the office, I saw The State‘s John Monk and Noelle Phillips outside the building on Lady Street that houses the Hospitality Association’s offices. Chief Randy Scott had just given reporters the barest of details, and now the Association’s employees were being told what was known.

I asked John and Noelle the most obvious question: How do you not find a body for 11 days in a parking garage? The reporters told me they had searched the place themselves last week, and that there were several doors opening off the garage that they were unable to enter.

This is what little has been released so far:

The body of missing lobbyist Tom Sponseller has been found, according to Columbia police.

Sponseller killed himself, said Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott. His body was found in a lower level of the parking garage at 1122 Lady Street just before 11 a.m., said Jennifer Timmons, a Columbia Police Department spokeswoman. The S.C. Hospitality Association where Sponseller was chief executive officer has its headquarters at the building.

“It’s very devestating,” said Rick Patel, the vice chairman of the S.C. Hospitality Association.

Investigators found the body in a double enclosed room as they were conducting a follow up check of the building, she said.

Police have searched the building multiple times, including a search with dogs trained to find cadavers, Timmons said.

A 2 p.m. at Columbia police headquarters is planned, Timmons said.

As John and Noelle headed over to the police department for that presser, I left them. I’m sure they will have more to share soon.

One reason I found the reporters out on the street is that they were barred from entering the building where the SC Hospitality Association has its offices.

One thing’s getting deeper for sure — the rift between Nikki Haley and legislative leaders

With regard to this:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley today has vetoed a measure aimed at retroactively stripping the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control of the authority to approve a permit needed by Georgia to dredge the Savannah River.

The controversial permit is needed for the Port of Savannah’s plan to deepen the river to accommodate larger container ships. Opponents — the state House and Senate unanimously approved the measure Haley vetoed — say the DHEC water quality permit approval is bad for the environment and the competitiveness of South Carolina ports.

Haley called the joint resolution “an unconstitutional legislative overreaching into an agency’s ruling,” a ruling that “was based on law and scientific benchmarks.” She also said the resolution was legally flawed…

I received the following this morning:

Columbia, SC – February 27, 2012 – Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell today issued the following statement on Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of H4627, a joint resolution that reverses DHEC’s disastrous decision on Savannah River port permitting:

“I am disappointed that Governor Haley is choosing to hide behind a flawed separation of powers argument in defending her agency appointees’ disastrous decision to sell out the interests of South Carolina to Georgia,” McConnell said.

“This isn’t about a conflict between the executive and legislative branches – it’s about what’s right for South Carolina. It is not only within the legislature’s purview to act to protect the environmental and economic future of South Carolina, but also its duty to serve as a check on renegade state agencies that act beyond their power and against the interest of South Carolina. This resolution passed the House and Senate unanimously, and I have no doubt it will be overridden quickly and with similar voting margins.”


There’s seldom any love lost between Glenn McConnell and any governor, but this ports thing is driving the wedge ever deeper. And when you set the powers and prerogatives of the executive against those of the legislative, in Glenn’s book, you’ve gone to messin’.