The theories about why Miriam Carey, who was gunned down by law enforcement on Thursday, drove to the nation's capital have been as outlandish and fantastical as any of her delusions. Some people feared that she might be a terrorist, specifically a suicide bomber. Others feared that she was a criminal or political radical, who intended to harm President Obama, perhaps with a gun. Still, others have called Carey, who reportedly suffered from postpartum depression with psychosis, a schizophrenic, which in the minds of many people seems to mean a violent person.
Not one of those theories was or is accurate.
As someone who has suffered from major depression with psychotic features, who has had two psychotic episodes and who has taken Risperdal, a variant of one of the medications found at Carey's home in Stamford, Conn., I can tell you that in all likelihood Miriam Carey was crying for help and wanted to do nothing other than clear her name.
Her epic drive from Connecticut to Washington, D.C., was not unlike my own epic, six-hour trek in January 1999 along the streets of Los Angeles County. And while I did not believe that the president of the United States was trying to monitor me, as Carey evidently did, I did believe that the FBI had bugged my girlfriend's condominium and that President Clinton was one of the few people who could save me.
As I was becoming unmoored psychologically a couple of days before my trek, I headed over to the Federal Building in Westwood. I did so not because I wanted to harm any federal officials. No, I trampled around the perimeter of the Federal Building because I wanted to confess. I wanted to tell federal authorities that I was the person they were looking for, the one who was wanted for a series of crimes sweeping the nation.
I wanted to turn myself in, not because I was guilty, but because I wanted to clear my name.
Like a Kafkaesque character, I knew that I had committed no crimes, yet I also "knew" that I was being blamed, indeed framed, for murders and acts of terrorism.
I did not think that I was a "prophet," as Miriam Carey reportedly believed of herself. Nor did I think that Los Angeles was going to be shut down by the government, a prospect Carey feared regarding Stamford.
However, I did think that I was going to be blamed for the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which back then, as now, was foundering.
Carey's sisters said on CNN's "AC 360" that their late sister had no political agenda regarding President Obama. I believe that. I must point out, though, that it is not uncommon for psychosis to take on a political dimension even if someone is not a political junkie.
While I had never been active politically at the time of my 1999 psychotic episode, I can recall listening on the radio as Senators were voting whether or not to convict President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Each vote to convict him resonated like an ominous cry from hell.
President Clinton was being humiliated publicly and treated like a pariah, and so was I, so I thought.
Like Miriam Carey, who reportedly was tapering off her anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, I stopped taking my meds (which in January 1999 were Zoloft and perphenazine, as I recall), not because I was under doctor's orders to do so, as Carey may have been.
Instead, I stopped taking my meds because I was lost in a vortex of delusion and terror. I was not being rebellious; I was just absent-minded, not surprising given the nightmarish existence I was living.
What is so heartbreaking about Miriam Carey's death is that she almost assuredly represented no threat to anyone but herself.
I realize that the nation, in particular D.C., has been on edge of late, following the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard and the government shutdown.
But there has got to be a better way for police and Secret Service to handle unarmed, psychotic people, short of killing them.
Some law-enforcement experts have stated that shooting out the tires of a vehicle does not work as well in real life as it does in the movies. Perhaps, they are right. But I remember when I got one flat tire on the highway many years ago. I drove with it for about one hundred yards before I pulled over on the shoulder. Had all four of my tires burst, I highly doubt I could have driven that far.
Even if shooting out tires does not always work, there must be some other procedure for disabling a car. Couldn't the police have stalled Carey's vehicle by ramming it? Couldn't they have fired warning shots in the air? Couldn't they have shot Carey in the leg with a Taser?
No one is saying that Miriam Carey was a saint. She reportedly had some problems at work as a dental hygienist in Hamden, Conn. She may have gotten angry on occasion.
But her psychosis was very likely misinterpreted by many people, including perhaps her boyfriend.
That is understandable. My own girlfriend Barbara, who is now my wife, did not understand what was happening to me when I became psychotic in January 1999.
But I did not harm her in any way. I simply fled her condo and set off on my trek across L.A.
While many on the right and the left have applauded the Capitol Police for protecting the nation's political leaders from Miriam Carey, I am not so sanguine and cheery.
Yes, the police and Secret Service should be on alert in Washington and elsewhere. There is no question about that. But we need to do a better job of training law enforcement to recognize when someone is undergoing psychosis.
Miriam Carey should have been placed on an involuntary 72-hour hold in a psych ward and, if need be, forcibly injected with her psychotropic medication. That could very well have saved her life. It probably saved mine in January 1999.
Instead, we have lost an unarmed, single mother, who, like a Kafkaesque character, may have wanted nothing more than to clear her name for crimes she did not commit.