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Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Preventable Suicide? John Cashmon, age 56, Middletown Prosecutor, Hanged Himself After DUI Arrest--Please learn from John's example, and mine, that mood disorders can be dealt with without killing yourself--The information in this blog could, actually, save a life, no kidding!

Some people who have followed Bob's blog from its inception have cautioned me about being so open and honest about the mental health problems I suffered last fall.  One friend said to me, "Do you really want all those details about how depressed you were, and you wanted to kill yourself last fall, out there on the Internet, the World Wide Web, permanently, so everybody who ever deals with you in the future will know what you went through?  Do they really need to know?  Isn't that just TMI (Too Much Information)?"

Today, more than ever before, I answer that excellent question with a resounding "NO. It's not TMI.  I want the world to know.  If just one person is able to save his or her life because of my experience with suicidal depression, it will be worth any negativity I may have to endure about my own case."  Here is why I feel this way.

A man I've known since 1987, a good man, a handsome man, a smart man, a decent man, hanged himself to death in the woods behind a CVS pharmacy on Main Street in Glastonbury.  His name is John Cashmon and he was the chief prosecutor in the Middlesex Superior Court for non-felony criminal offenses, DUI cases, and traffic violations.

John was arrested for driving under the influence last Saturday night by the Glastonbury, CT police.  His car was towed and he was held overnight at the police station before being released Sunday morning on bail.

According to The Hartford Courant yesterday:

"He [John Cashmon] was not heard from after his release and was reported missing on Monday in Cromwell, where he lived, state police said.
"Cashmon was found dead Tuesday in Glastonbury. Sources said he was found in a wooded area by a CVS pharmacy on Main Street near the police station."
And further, reported the newspaper:
"The medical examiner's office said that John Cashmon, 56, died of traumatic asphyxia due to hanging and ruled the death a suicide."

The last time I saw John alive was 5:30 p.m. on Sunday July 17, 2011.  My sister Carol had stopped in Middletown for the night to see Susie, who was then at Apple Rehab in Middletown, recovering from her bicycle crash.  After we visited with Susie, Carol and I had dinner on the upper deck of the Canoe Club, overlooking the Connecticut River.  It was a beautiful, sunny evening.  I looked down from my perch at the outdoor, ground level outside patio bar and saw John Cashmon.  He was alone and looked like he was looking for someone he was waiting for.  John was sitting at one of those two-person raised tables, with bar stools for seats.  He was sitting at the table on the north side of the waist-level metal gate which is half-way along the eastern wall of the patio bar.  The gate is closed off now, to force people who want to enter the patio bar to walk to its north end on the Harbor Park boardwalk, turn left, walk up the little grass hill, or the concrete steps, turn left again and enter the patio bar at its south end.  That way no one can enter the Canoe Club without passing by the bouncer, who checks young-looking people to make sure they're over 21.  As you can imagine, this Old Grandude has never had his ID requested by the bouncer, let alone looked at to check my age.  

I called down from the upper deck, "Hey, John.  How ya' doin'?", and waved to him.  He looked up and just said, "Hi Bob."  I didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable by engaging him in a long-distance loud conversation, so I just waved back and returned to dinner and conversation with my sister, who lives outside Ottawa and therefore we don't see each other as often as we'd both like.  I was happy that John was comfortable about hanging out in Middletown, just a short walk from the new (1986) Middlesex County Courthouse where he works every day, prosecuting the rainbow coalition of fallen humanity who are charged with having acted "inappropriately," in violation of the standards of conduct laid down by our state legislature and common law court system.

When I started out as a lawyer more than 36 years ago, I used to do a lot of criminal defense work.  This took me down to the old Middlesex County Courthouse on DeKoven Drive, now a parking lot, and the Geographical Area 9 courthouse on Court Street, right next to the probate court, and two doors down from the Mezzo Grille, where I dance as the Dancin' Ole' Grandude on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Back in the late 70's and early 80's, when I was a young man, Kevin Kane had the job as chief lower court criminal prosecutor which John Cashmon performed with distinction equal to that of Kevin, at least until John hanged himself in some unknown-to-me state of despair, just two days ago, in a wooded area near the police station in Glastonbury where he had been taken on Saturday night following his DUI arrest.

Kevin Kane eventually got promoted to State's Attorney for New London County, where he prosecuted serious felonies, including murder.  One of his more illustrious trials involved Haiman Clein, an Old Saybrook lawyer who had a serious cocaine addiction, probably to deal with a mood disorder by self-medicating his moods with illegal drugs.  Haiman went on to have an affair with the red-headed Beth Carpenter, an associate in Haiman's office.  Beth had a sister who was having a very bitter child custody dispute with the sister's ex-husband.  To resolve the dispute without all the fuss, bother, and unpredictability of Due Process at the Middlesex County Courthouse, where John Cashmon helped hold criminals to account for their crimes, Beth convinced her lover, Haiman Clein, to hire a hitman to kill her ex-brother-in-law.  The hit was successful, the child custody problem went away, and, after a lengthy and well-publicized Tabloid-Worthy Jury Trial, Kevin Kane won murder convictions against Haiman Clein and Beth Carpenter, who both began serving jail sentences in State Prison for taking the law into their own hands.  The proximate cause, of course, of the murder was Haiman Clein's mood disorder, which led him to self-medicate with cocaine and illicit, compulsive, and hyper-exciting sex with women other than his long-suffering wife, and, in turn, softened his ego up enough to yield to the entreaties of his lover, Beth Carpenter, to hire a hit-man to kill the pain-in-the-ass father of her beloved nephew.  

Kevin Kane, who is one of the nicest, quietest, least self-promoting, non-egotistical, soft-spoken, lawyers you'd ever want to meet, and probably even love to have babysit for your young children or grandchildren, was eventually promoted to the job of Chief State's Attorney for the entire State of Connecticut.  In that role, he supervises the conduct of every criminal prosecutor in the state, testifies before the legislature concerning any issue of interest involving the criminal justice system, and probably no longer tries jury cases in court.  When I knew Kevin when he was the lower court prosecutor in Middletown, he had black hair and a black mustache.  He now has gray hair and a gray mustache.  Apart from that, and the fact he probably makes more money now that he did back in the Middletown job, I doubt Kevin has changed his personality in any substantial way.  He's still married to the same woman and probably now has grandchildren, although I never new much about his personal life.

Last fall, after 60 years of being mostly an extrovert with an upbeat personality and positive view of life, I descended into a suicidal depression.  I had always suffered from anxiety which sometimes interfered with making free choices about how to conduct my life, and I self-medicated my anxiety in ways which temporarily eased the uncomfortable feelings but in fact intensified and solidified them.  Every day of my life for over four decades, I frequently felt bad about myself, ashamed of the ways I dealt with my anxiety, and sometimes proud of those methods.  For example, I worked hard and became a successful trial lawyer, well-compensated, well-regarded in the community, in part as a way to try to take away the underlying anxiety.  My obsessive bicycle riding, the kayak surfing in hurricane-generated waves in Rhode Island, the cross-country skiing at night in the state forests, these were all part of a program of trying to feel better about myself.  And there were other behaviors which my wife and children would certainly prefer I not publicize widely, all of which Susie eventually became aware of, and some of which my children knew about, which I also used to try to medicate the anxiety and the shame I felt about my self and my way of life.  I would actually prefer to lay it all out for public view so that no energy is spent concealing the truth about my life and, more importantly, so that anyone engaging in these behaviors, who doesn't realize that they can be given up and replaced by life-affirming, happiness-inducing activities, thoughts, and interests, can learn from my example that real change is possible, that even Old Dog Grandudes like me can learn new tricks for exchanging anxious moods for happy moods.

If this topic interests you for any reason, you may want to read, or re-read, my earlier blog posts:

""An Unquiet Mind', quiet depressed minds, and unquiet manic, or hypo-manic, or merely energetic, minds," from Wednesday, August 3, 2011, 


"Happiness, sadness, everything in-between, and our common humanity as sometimes 'inappropriate' beings,"
from Thursday, August 11, 2011.

I'll give you the links to my blog at the end of this post, so you can find them easily if you want.

From early September, 2010 until about mid-December, I could not work as a lawyer, I did not know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I lay around on my couch, staring out the bay window, looking at the triangles formed by the window frame and the way the roof of our back porch interacted with the wooden window frame to make more triangles.  I watched as the morning light became afternoon, afternoon, evening, and evening, night.  I longed for 10:30 p.m. to arrive each night, so I could take the Remeron my which Dr. Allan Jacobs of West Hartford, a psychiatrist, had prescribed for me, which is both an anti-depressant and a sleep-inducing drug.  Once I got to sleep, I dreaded the coming of the dawn, and often stayed in bed until 11 a.m.

I got back into weekly psychotherapy with Raymond Oakes, a clinical social worker who is a first-rate psychotherapist.  Susie and I eventually began to see Ray a second time each week, together, to talk about our marriage, and mostly how difficult it was for Susie to live with, and love, a man whose mind and emotions had spiraled out-of-control and dragged me down into a deep well of near-deadly depression.

Dr. Jacobs eventually added Prozac to my medication list and then, when I remained dysfunctionally anxious and unable to think like a lawyer, let alone work as one, added Wellbutrin, a third anti-depressant.

By January 1 of this year, I actually had decided I would apply for disability coverage under my insurance policy at work and live the rest of my life with the label, "Disabled Person."  I told our best friends, Joe and Sarah Glaz, and my sons, K.C. and Tim, of this plan.  Susie, however, the true Love of My Life, was skeptical.  On Monday, January 3, 2011, I asked her to help me fill out the disability papers.  She said she would not do so until I at least tried to go back to work, to see if maybe I could still function as a lawyer.  I knew why she was seeing the situation this way.  Around Thanksgiving, when we flew to Boulder to visit K.C., Devon, and Liam, Susie and my law partners were pressing me to fill out the disability application so my firm could try to recoup some part of the full salary the firm was paying me, pursuant to our partnership agreement   Under that arrangement the firm had to pay up to six months of my salary if I was unable to work because of disability.

In a small firm like Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, where lawyers are scrambling, constantly, to get new business and make payroll, 24/7, 7 days a week, 54 weeks a year, for most of us even when we're supposedly "on vacation," the demands of what I took to calling "The Money Machine," are relentless.  You can only "eat what you kill," and "if you don't kill, eventually you won't eat."  For people who have never run their own business, you have no idea how stressful these conditions are.  They are part of what goes into the creation of an anxious and depressed mood "disorder," what I like to call a mood "challenge."

But on January 3, 2011, at Susie's insistence, I went back to work for the afternoon and realized I had "regained" my ability to do legal work and think like a lawyer.  Over the next few months, I accelerated the changes in my life which led the depressed mood to life, turn into a happy, energetic, mood.  Over the next 6 months, I slowly weaned myself off all the psychotropic medications, under the supervision of Dr. Jacobs, but I have continued in psychotherapy and plan to continue as long as I reasonably feel I can afford it.  I decided to retire from my firm, and the law, and to open myself to new people and new experiences.  Then I began to write many e-mails and, at the suggestion of John Hall and my oldest son, K.C., started writing in this blog when I got back from a trip to the West Coast to see family, friends, and my children and grandson Liam.  I now wake up every day, happy, energetic, and raring to go, to write, to dance, to live again.  My new life is sometimes a challenge to my wife, and my old friends, but so life goes, on and on until your last breath.

I prefer the term mood "challenge" to "depressive disorder," "mania," "manic-depressive illness," "bi-polar disorder," and similar hyper-technical terms,  because mood "challenge" is less freighted with byzantine diagnostic algorithms contained in the psychological biblical-status text known, affectionately by the pharmaceutical industry, as DSM-IV-R, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Revised.  Thinking of this issue in terms of mood "challenges" also forces us to think about the role of the moods which we all experience daily, whether or not some medical or psychological professional expert is consulted to pin a more formal, jargon-like label on us.

In my blog post of August 11, 2011, see above for title and below for link to the blog, I argue that a more useful way of understanding our moods involves estimating on a horizontal line where our mood at any moment lies, from -10 for suicidally unhappy (suicidally depressed) to +10 for self-destructively happy (psychotically manic).  The value of the horizontal line approach is evident if you've ever actually looked at the definitions of the hundreds of "mental illnesses" cataloged and rationalized in DSM IV-R.  If you can put that literary Leviathan down without having your head spin and your mind evaporate, then you're probably ready to interpret James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" for the rest of us literary idiots.

If you charted your moods using my Horizontal Line Scale (a short-hand term I just now coined) aka HLS, four times a day, for a year, you'd probably see a wave chart which would look something like the visual sound wave patters on I-Tunes when you're playing a song on your computer and you click between the horizontal line at the top of the screen which shows how much of the song has been played so far, and the wave graph with all the little vertical bars which look like New York skyscrapers which are bogey-ing up and down the way I dance with all those 20 to 30-year-old girls at the Mezzo Grille disco on Court Street in Middletown.  Those are the happiness-producing experiences I've written about in the two blog entries I'll give you the links to at the end of this blog, after the ones on anxiety and other mood challenges.

And if all of us compared our annual mood charts on the HLS algorithm (I love the sound of that word), they'd look a lot alike, with lots of variation in moods, within ourselves from day to day, and by comparison with other human beings, who also tend to have daily variations, more or less, within their own HLS charts.  This exercise would, I believe, open our all our eyes to the fact that we're all in this mood variation and mood challenge business together.  No exceptions.  It's a very big part of what makes us humans.  Even Russell the Cool Cat, my son Jamie's cat, whom I take care of, probably has a variety of moods.  However, based on my observations of Russell, I suspect his annual chart summary would look like a flat-line compared to the Hurricane Big Wave pattern which many of us "mere humans" both suffer from and benefit from.  In surfer's terms, cats probably mostly surf emotionally small waves, the ones we find at Point Judith or Ruggles in Rhode Island most of the year.  Humans, on the other hand, sometimes surf the big waves of late August, September, and October which hit the Rhode Island coast.  Those waves are like manic states, hypomanic and sometimes psychotically manic, which leads Surfer Dudes to call the really big, "manic" hurricane-generated waves "Sick, man.  Those are really Sick waves, dude.  Let's paddle out, bro'!"  And my wife tells her friends how really Sick her Ole' Grandude husband is for wanting to surf those frightening, big, Sick waves in his Riot Boogie surf kayak with his friend the psychologist Allan Stebinger.  As I write this blog, Hurricane Irene is boogey-ing up the East Coast and is expected to generate 14/14 waves.  That means, waves which will be the really Sick height of 14 feet, more than double overhead, and 14 second period, meaning 14 seconds between peaks.  The longer the period, the more powerful the energy pulse which is coursing through the deep ocean, towards the beaches of the East Coast, and coursing through the minds, and emotions, and Sick souls of all the Surfer Dudes on all the beaches which will be closed to everyone for swimming but the really Sick, clinically manic (?) men and women who seem to live, in part, to defy Ole' Neptune.  "Yo, Neptune, Dude, throw me the best, Sickest, waves ya' got, 'cause I can't get enough of that Hurricane Wave 'Cocaine' in my Sick veins from just livin' my life like the rest of Society wants me to live it."

Which brings me back to John Cashmon.  I wish John had called me up before he made that final decision to end the bad moods forever, the ones he was probably silently feeling, all by his lonesome, probably for a long time before he went out drinking at the bar last Saturday night to self-medicate those challenging, very uncomfortable moods and feelings he must have been experiencing, relentlessly, for a long time.  And John was such a handsome man, with chiseled good looks, the looks of a man's man, one of those male models with a dream physique you see in the department store ads.  And John ran through the streets of Middletown with one of his investigators, every day at lunchtime.  I used to see him all the time.  When I pried myself off my couch last fall to go to my Tuesday men's bible study church, The Jacob Group, at First Church on Court Street, I'd see John running, all handsome and chiseled in his running shorts and tee shirt and think to myself, why can't I be that handsome, that emotionally together, like John.  Maybe I need to exercise more.  Maybe if I ran every day the way John does I'd get over this depression and stop wanting to kill myself.

Little did I know........little did any of us know.........that John Cashmon was suffering from the same kind of dark and dangerous moods as I was.  Despite his good looks, his salaried state job, his daily exercising, his model-quality girlfriends which my good friend John Montalbano told me John Cashmon dated.  John Montalbano reminded me in the email yesterday in which he reported the news of John Cahmon's tragic death, that he saw John Cashmon every day at the Middletown YMCA.  John Montalbano even saw John Cashmon as recently as last Friday, the day before John Cashmon tried again, and again without success, to medicate away his exquisitely painful depressed mood with alcohol at the Glastonbury bar where he got drunk enough to be stopped for DUI by the Glastonbury police.

I'm beginning to cry as I write this next line.  "John Cashmon, why didn't you pick up your cell phone and give me a call, I'm in the phone book, I only live a mile from the courthouse where you dispensed justice to criminals, with compassion and moral excellence, according to many of the comments on The Courant's website following the story of your arrest and death by hanging.  We could have talked about how I survived my own wish to kill myself, how I finally figured out that my body didn't need to die, just my old way of life.  And that a person can even walk away from a job he hates and do something else, if that's part of the problem.  Dude, John, you were so handsome.  Women probably threw themselves at you, in ways which less good-looking guys like me only experience in their dreams.  You had everything going for you.  You had a daughter who must have loved her Dad.  Why didn't you call me?"

And I know why John never called me.  Because I never let him know that I survived the wish to kill myself last fall.  And now I'm happy every day.  Every day.  And I have no job and I make no money.

And John never knew about me and how I might be able to help him, to understand him, and guide him out of the dark woods he found himself in at mid-day, and back into the light of life, and love, and exuberant dancing, at the Mezzo Grille patio and disco, and daily writing of this little blog.

But I'm not going to make the same mistake again.  I'm going to contact Kevin Kane, whom I've known, professionally, since 1975, the Chief State's Attorney, and offer to speak to all of the prosecutors around the state about my experience with deadly moods, and effective ways to change them into sustained, happy moods, without the use of any illegal medications.  All they have to do is get into a relationship with a skilled psychotherapist, like Ray Oakes in Essex, or any other restrained professional, who isn't out to tell you how to live your life, or jump to the easy conclusion that he knows you better than you know yourself, or that he knows how you ought to live your life.  Instead, a good psychotherapist, like Ray Oakes, gives a person the emotional space to do all that work on his or her own, to struggle, to take emotional risks in therapy by talking about THE most embarrassing thoughts and feelings you have and not hiding anything from the therapist but, more importantly, from yourself.  In the final analysis, psychotherapy, as opposed to hand-holding, advice, or having another parent, is a process of learning to stop bullshitting yourself about who you really are and what you really want to do with the rest of your life, as opposed to who other people want you to be or do with your life, no matter the consequences.

John Cashmon, I hardly knew you, obviously, or I would have tracked you down and insisted we have a heart-to-heart talk, whether you wanted to or not.  Very much like the heart-to-heart the "uneducated" but very smart and wise and spiritual black man had with the white professor in Cormac McCarthy's wonderful play "The Sunset Limited."  The white professor is sick and tired of life.  He has no faith in God and believes that life has no meaning.  Therefore, he tries to throw himself in front of a New York subway train.  The black man grabs the professor and pulls him back onto the platform.

The play is a one-hour discussion between the men, in the black man's apartment in a run-down, seedy part of New York.  When the white professor with the fancy degrees continues to insist that suicide is the only answer to the meaningless of life, the black man says, in effect, "Why don't you just put that thought up on the hook here on the wall.  You know, you can't start your life over again, not all over again.  But, when you get to the bottom of the whiskey barrel, you finally realize that you can start again.  You learn that you can walk away from everything, and make a new life."  In the end, the white professor is non-committal and his savior allows him to leave the apartment.  The playwright leaves the rest of the story to our imaginations.

I don't know how John Cashmon's story would have turned out had we had a little heart-to-heart like I wished we'd had, any more than I know what happened to the white professor in the play.  But whatever the outcome, those conversations must be had.  Too many lives depend on people having such conversations.  With people they hardly know.  With friends.  With spouses.  With psychotherapists.

I now have a strong religious faith, now that I've been going to a black baptist church, the self-described "Zion First Baptist Church: The Oldest Black Church in Middletown since 1943."  And that faith tells me that someday my spirit will have a chance to communicate with John Cashmon after my body dies.  And when that happens, I plan to apologize to John for not reaching out through Kevin Kane to all the prosecutors in Connecticut, to share the good news, that moods come and go, speaking of Michelangelo.  See "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," by T.S. Eliot, second verse.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
Summary, Interpretation: At a social gathering in a room, women discuss the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Prufrock may wonder how they could possibly be interested in him when they are discussing someone as illustrious as Michelango.
AllusionThe Women . . . Michelangelo (lines 13-14): Eliot borrowed most of this line from the Uruguayan-born French poet Jules LaForgue (1860-1887). In one of his works, LaForgue wrote (in French): Dans la piece les femmes vont et viennent / En parlant des ma├«tresde Sienne. Here is the loose translation: In the room the women go and come while speaking of the Siennese (painting) masters.
Michelangelo: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), Renaissance sculptor, painter, and architect and one of the greatest artists in history. He sculpted the famous David for the Duomo Cathedral in Florence, painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, and designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, also in Vatican City. 

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.  We are not in control of our lives.  He is.  And we do not own our bodies.  He does.

Here are the links to the blog entries mentioned above:   August 3, 2011 blog entry   August 11, 2011 blog entry with -10 to +10 HSL (Horizontal Line Scale of moods)       5-minute professionally produced video of surfers surfing perfect 12/12 right-breaking waves off Ruggles in Newport generated by Hurricane Bill as it approached Rhode Island on August 23, 2009.  This is also a hyperlink at the bottom of this blog page, which you can click on to watch, or copy and pasted the above URL into your web-browser to go to the video.     August 20, 2011 blog entry about dancing in the Mezzo Grille disco with 21 to 30-year-olds    August 14, 2011 blog entry about dancing in the Mezzo Grille outdoor patio often with older women than in the disco

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