Nature vs. Nurture

My room was a mess. There was dog hair all over the rug, and my desk looked like a tornado ripped over it. Littered with coffee cups, and hair from my brush that AC just loves to pull out when he wants to use it and drop it like it’s hot, were scattered like tumbled weeds. My cute kitty statue (yes, I have one. Thou shall judge not!) had enough dust on it the top to give the appearance of actual fur. Today was the day I needed to put on my cleaning clothes, and get to business. I am not one of those people who blares music to clean (sometimes I do but I listen to music in the garden more) so I put on Netflix. Usually I will put on something that I have watched about 100 times so it’s just background noise, but nothing I really pay attention to watching.  (side note: Netflix sent me a push notification that said a new docuseries has been added that you might like, “Nurses That Kill.” Really Netflix? Really?)

This morning I just started pressing play until something came on. Immediately it caught my attention. Instead of restarting The Walking Dead or Grey’s it began playing a documentary about Aileen Wuornos. It is true that I am sort of obsessed with serial killers. I know that makes me sound like a nut job, but…well, I am. Anyway, there are few documentaries or books or articles about serial killers that I haven’t read. The more famous, or brutal, or number killed the more facts I know about them. I believe that I can spot one out a mile away, which is why I have not been killed by one to date. Or not. Who knows. Anyway, this documentary was even more interesting to me because the journalist making it was sympathetic to her. He was more sympathetic to the victims and their families but he really went into her background, her childhood, and her mental illnesses.

Aileen was born to a woman who left her directly after giving birth. The biological mother never revealed her biological father but many speculated that it was her own father, Aileen’s grandfather. Aileen referred to her grandparents that raised her as mother and father after that. According to a childhood friend, her home life was brutal. Beatings, sexual abuse, mental abuse were the norm. At age 13 Aileen became pregnant (a local pedophile was the suspected father but Aileen never would confirm) and gave birth to a baby that she gave up for adoption. Her grandfather refused to let her home after that. At the age of 13 she began living on the street. Literally. All four seasons in Michigan and she slept in vacant cars, in the woods in a fort or with other homeless people she slept outside. Her family effectively gave up on her except for her brother who was rumored to have a sexual relationship with her (a witness testified to having first hand knowledge of that during her trial). After a few years, and the realization that her family would not let her come home, ever, she began hitchhiking, working as a prostitute to survive. Eventually she landed in Florida. The rest of the story the whole world knows because it was made into a major motion film.

As she sat on death row, she gave several different interviews. The interviews, to me, were so significant to the periods in her life because it became so clear how mailable her mind was at any given time. At one point she decided to drop appeal efforts to accept the death penalty. During that time she was receiving letters from a woman who was a born again Christian. This was when she gave an interviewing confessing to all of her crimes, because she couldn’t go to the death chamber without being honest. She apologized for the crimes, and she seemed like she truly was concerned about cleansing her soul before she died but she smiled. She seemed child like, and like she didn’t really seem to grasp that depths of her crimes. Later, she gave another interview saying that she only did that so that they would put her to death. She claimed that the prison was crushing her head with pressure that was coming through the mirror, TV and other ways. Finally, she said that local police knew she was killing people but they let her do it because she was cleaning scum off the streets for them.  Anyway- she had a shitty life and a shitty parents and several mental illness that was never treated or addressed. It is no wonder she became a murderous hooker. And I see why the journalist had some sympathy for her. Maybe empathy is a better word. It’s hard to drum up sympathy for someone who took the lives of others but I, like the journalist, wondered what her life would have been like if she was born to a normal family. It begs the question did the mental illness happen as a result of her life or did her life make her mentally ill?

I think this is similar to addicts. Not that they are murderous hookers but the chicken before the egg. Addicts steal, lie, cheat, steal, lie, run, steal, lie, hurt… you get the point. I know that JoDee was genetically linked to addiction. Her addiction could have been to food, or porn, or being a health nut, but it was to drugs. Because that’s what she did. She made a bad choice by picking up the first time, and that is a process on its own. She didn’t just jump up in search of a needle. It was a series of bad decisions that eventually led to heroin addiction. To me, with the backing of science and facts, there is always  some mental health issues in the beginning.  I drank in high school, I smoked pot in the ditch behind the baseball field at Tapley. It was a rite of passage in my era. Everyone drank until they puke in the Orchards, or at the Rez. It was just the way it was. But that’s it. We laughed about it, or cried when we got PC’d or caught by our parents (side note: I am SO thankful that these things happened before the days of electronics!) but then we grew up. Some of us went to college, some of us went to work, some of us (ahem) got pregnant but for the most part we left the partying at the res as a memory for our class reunions. Of course there were a few that didn’t, there were a few that took it too far, or became rough alcoholics (there wasn’t a big heroin problem then) but even they were mostly functional.  The point is we stop. When you reach a level that feels like to much, or too far, or to scary we stop. Someone that keeps going and can’t stop is doing so because they either like the feeling of being disconnected from reality, or because they are searching for something else: subconsciously or not.

JoDee’s fate was sealed as an addict the absolute second she picked up that needle. Since then she has done many things she isn’t proud of and she has lost many people she loved because of addiction. She is distant from her family, she has zero relationship with her siblings, she hasn’t seen her aging great-grandmother since Jesus was in short pants. These are symptoms of addiction, right? Or is addiction the symptom and all these are things are a result of her environment? Would she have been a stealing, lying shadow of the girl I used to know if she had become addicted to working out? Or did the addiction world teach her how to be that way? Was Aileen born a murdering hooker? Or did she developed those traits as a result of the world she was born into? I don’t know. What I do know is we are coming to the end of year 5. 5 years. And just when I think I can’t be shocked anymore, just when I think it can’t get worse, something else happens. I’m sick of it. I have said that many times in this blog for many years, and over many incidents but I am really, really sick of having her live her life this way. At 23 years old I was the mother of two, pregnant with my third and owned a home with my then husband (Daddy-O with whom we divorced a short time later) and she is a nomad jumping from detox to apartment to program. She is off to detox again. This time in hopes of coming right home (not to my house, but to her own world) with a plan I don’t really believe in, but I don’t say that anymore.  I simply say call me if you need something. And I brace myself for 5 more years of this because the alternative is death or recovery and one seems more likely  than the other.

 

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