Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Once again, a mid-40's man has gone off the deep end, and killed others.

And himself.

The picture on the right was the scene yesterday morning, outside one of UPS' facilities in the Birmingham area. Shortly before, an employee who had been recently terminated returned to the building, in his uniform, entered it, and shot & killed two people who seem to have been instrumental in his termination.

He then killed himself.

He was 45, married, the father of two children, and a loyal member of a local Baptist Church. Church members were "as surprised as anybody" when reports came in as to what he'd done. "He loved his family, he loved his girls, and he loved his church", a good friend said. "He had a servant heart".

First, let me say I am not a medical or psychological professional. Or any other professional, since I'm retired. But I know real well what I went through when I was 45, when things were going well for me, from all appearances. I'll tell you what I remember about my situation, and from a book I read at the time.

Neither do I know what his church did nor did not do in response to his plight, or the plight of middle-aged men in general. But see if it makes sense that what I'm going to describe might be what happened to the man who killed himself and 2 others, just yesterday.

First of all, men are driven by testosterone. It's what makes us hunter-killers. Think of the family going somewhere on vacation; mom wants to stop and smell the roses, but dad wants to keep on killing miles. And it spills over into all we do .. we want to win souls, and are disappointed by what we see as failure. We want to make sales and win arguments and win at card games and bowling and all the rest.

But the male body also produces a bit of estrogen, the female hormone. That's no problem until the production of testosterone declines seriously, generally by the early 40's.

It's like we "tip over an edge". Something changes. Winning no longer delivers the thrills it did. Making that next sale produces no internal "high". We sense something's wrong, and particularly for Christians, we think it shouldn't be so. We shouldn't be moody or depressed.

And we don't want to tell anybody, either, Don't want to ask for help, any more than we like asking for directions on a road trip.

It can also induce depression, when we feel changes we cannot describe.

Stress does a couple things, one of which can be to depress testosterone production. And if that produces depression in us, the depression in itself reduces the hormone production.

It becomes a self-feeding spiral. In my case, a change in management at my employer, and the knowledge that I was going to be a grandfather, pushed me over that "edge", bigtime. Sometimes I'd just lie with my head in Peg's lap, crying.

Until I found out what it was, by reading "Passages", by Gail Sheehy. Once I found out I was supposed to feel like I did, it robbed the feelings of all their power. I found out feelings could neither force me to, nor keep me from, doing anything.

That, and getting fired ... with 18 months' pay in one lump sum ... ended the ordeal.

It's called "male andropause". Look it up. See if it doesn't make sense that the shooter at UPS may have been driven by depression, and by feelings he couldn't explain. And ask yourself why his church, of which he was so loyal a member, didn't tell him all about this before he ran aground and ended 3 lives.

Perhaps they did. Perhaps his pastor had told the men of the church, or better yet the men and the women, what to expect at his age. But I know I've never heard any church broach this subject in over half a century of regular church participation.

Except to deny that the "mid-life crisis" was real.

Well, it is. It's time we dealt with it.


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