It's Time for Me to Die
by Michael Ross
Intro | What's It Like to Live on Death Row? | Insanity and Physiology | Persecutor as Victim | Execute the Legally Insane?
As you might imagine, I have been examined by a multitude of psychiatric experts over the past fourteen years. All of them -- even Dr. Miller, the state's own expert psychiatric witness -- agree I suffer from a paraphiliac mental disorder called "sexual sadism." This is a mental illness that, according to the testimony of the experts, resulted in my compulsion "to perpetrate violent sexual activity in a repetitive way." The experts also agree that my criminal conduct was a direct result of the uncontrollable aggressive sexual impulses caused by the disorder.
What exactly is a paraphiliac mental disorder? It is very difficult to explain, and even more difficult to understand. I'm not even sure that I myself fully understand this disease, and I've been trying to understand what's been going on in my head for a very long time now. Basically, I am plagued by repetitive thoughts, urges, and fantasies of the degradation, rape, and murder of women. I cannot get those thoughts out of my mind.
The best way for the average person to try to understand this is to remember a time when a song played over and over again in your head. Even if you liked the melody, its constant repetition was quite annoying, and the harder you tried to drive it out of your head, the harder it seemed to stick. Now replace that sweet melody with noxious thoughts of degradation, rape, and murder, and you will begin -- and only just begin -- to understand what was running rampant through my mind uncontrollably.
Some people believe that if you think about something day in and day out, you must want to think about it. But that just isn't true when you are discussing mental illness. Most people can't understand because they just can't imagine wanting to commit such horrific acts of unimaginable cruelty. They can't begin to understand this obsession of mine. They think that if you fantasize about something you must want to make the fantasy come true. But it's far more complicated than that. They can't understand how I could fantasize such disgusting imagery, how I could derive such pleasure from that fantasy, and yet be so disgusted later by the exact same thoughts or urges, or at the thought of how much I enjoyed the fantasy just moments before. I could relive the rapes and murders that I committed, and when reliving those despicable acts in my mind I could experience such orgasmic pleasure that it is hard to describe. But afterward I felt such a sense of loathing and self-hatred that I often longed for my execution. I was tired of being tormented by my own sick, demented mind. So unbelievably tired.
And the urge to hurt someone can come over me at any time. I remember once when I was being escorted from the Mental Health Unit back to my cell after seeing my psychiatrist. There was a small stairway that led from the unit to the main corridor. I was being led, without any restraints, by a small, young, female correctional officer. When I got to the stairwell, I was suddenly flooded with an overwhelming desire to hurt her. I knew I had to get out of that stairwell, and I ran up the stairs and out into the hallway. I will never forget how she shouted at me to stop and threatened to write me a disciplinary report -- she didn't have a clue as to what was going on. I didn't know this woman; she had done me no harm; yet suddenly I was filled with a powerful desire to hurt her. She never knew just how badly I wanted to hurt her that day. She never knew how close I came to attacking her and maybe even killing her. You would think that after being sentenced to death and living on death row, such urges and thoughts would be curbed. But they weren't, for this illness defies rationality.
I have found some relief, however. About two and a half years after I came to death row, I started to receive weekly injections of a drug called Depo-Provera. Depo-Provera has been used for years as a female contraceptive in Europe and recently was approved for use in America. For sex offenders it is used at a significantly higher dosage than what women take for contraceptive purposes: Women receive 150 milligrams every three months; I received 700 milligrams weekly. In men, Depo-Provera significantly reduces the body's natural production of testosterone. For some reason, whether because of some abnormal biological hookup in my brain or some sort of chemical imbalance, testosterone affects my mind differently than it affects the average male's mind.
A few months after I started to receive my weekly injections, my blood serum testosterone levels dropped below prepubescent levels (last month my level was 12 ng/dl, with the normal range being 260–1,250 ng/dl); and as this happened, nothing less than a miracle occurred. My obsessive thoughts, urges, and fantasies began to diminish.
Having those thoughts and urges is like living with an obnoxious roommate. You cannot get away from him because he is always there. What Depo-Provera did was to move that roommate down the hall to his own apartment. The problem was still there, but it was a whole lot easier to deal with because it wasn't always in the foreground. He didn't control me anymore -- I was in control of him. It was an unbelievable sense of freedom. It made me feel as if I were a human being again, instead of some sort of horrible monster. For three years I had a sort of peace of mind.
Then I developed liver problems, a very rare side effect of the hormonal shots, so I was forced to discontinue the medication. Soon thereafter the noxious thoughts, fantasies, and urges returned. It was horrible. I felt like a blind man who had been given the gift of sight only to have it snatched away again. There was an alternative medication, but it lacked FDA approval as a treatment for sex offenders, so the Department of Corrections refused to approve its use. From my past history we knew what the problem was: testosterone. Get it out of my bloodstream so that it can't reach my mind and I am okay. So I asked to be surgically castrated, with the support and approval of my treating psychiatrist. But the department -- which I am sure was afraid of headlines such as "Sex Offender Castrated by State" -- refused my request. It took more than a year of fighting by a lot of good people here in the Mental Health Department before I was allowed to receive the alternative medication, a monthly shot of a drug called Depo-Lupron, which I have been receiving to date.
What made the year without medication particularly bad was that I began having thoughts and urges about hurting people here. I remember one young nurse who had always gone out of her way to help me. She always had a smile, even though she knew who and what I was. I started having thoughts and urges of hurting this woman, and that really tore me up inside. Here was someone whom I liked, who had always helped me, and how did I repay her kindness? By wanting to rape and strangle her. I felt uncomfortable whenever she was around, and I felt so guilty and ashamed that I could hardly look at her. Fortunately nothing ever happened, and she never found out what was going through my mind. That time is past now because I am receiving my medication, but the memories and guilt haven't gone away.
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