Yesterday John Aravosis posted about a tragic murder/suicide in Florida. A mentally ill woman went with her 20 year old son to a shooting range, shot and killed him and then turned the gun on herself.
The woman had a history of severe mental illness including an involuntary hospitalization and suicide attempts. In her suicide note she wrote, "I'm sorry to do this in your place of business, but I had to save my son. God made me a queen and I failed. I'm a fallen angel. He turned me into the anti-Christ." She said she killed her son to "save" him and by doing it in public she hoped to save the world. "Hopefully when I die, there will 1,000 years of peace." She was bipolar.
John adds a quip at the end of his post that enrages me. (Emphasis mine)
I mean, this isn't really news. She's obviously just some nut. But still. There's something about stories like this that feel like they're about something bigger. Not just guns, though it is partly about that (there is no excuse for a nut like this woman being permitted to touch a gun, absolutely absurd). But also about society today. I know she's just one example. And with 300+ million citizens, we're going to have some screwballs. But still, I find it hard to read and watch something like this and not feel a tinge of despair for our country.
As a bipolar person, I'd like to address what John said about the woman being "a nut" and a "screwball." I've been where she was and it's not a laugh riot. It's painful and disturbing when your mind turns against you.
A few of John's readers take him to task on this issue, but other commenters quickly jump in to his defense. A few examples:
Carol Please do not call mentally ill people 'nuts'. Parents do not kill their children and/or themselves if they are sane. Not the way biology/psychology/psychiatry/evolution/nuturing/etc. work. I was offended.
Gridlock Pretty sure blowing her kids head off precludes any kind of politeness shown towards her "illness"
she was a fucking psycho.
red_dwarf I agree Gridlock - fucking psycho seems a bit more descriptive then "nuts". Genetic or not, she "knew" what she was doing.
Let God have pity on her - she murdered a person who had their entire life ahead of them, in the back of the head, not knowing it was coming. The kid never had a chance.
This is 1st degree murder, psycho or nuts or whatever.
I am not nuts, a fucking psycho or a screwball. 95% of the time, I'm perfectly fine thanks to medication that I take daily.
The Medication Regimen
It's not fun to take those meds every night; they're a constant reminder of my illness coupled with the knowledge that if I don't take them things will go to hell in a handbasket. Even taking the meds regularly doesn't necessarily mean that everything will stay constantly balanced and life will be like Candyland. I spend too much time worried that the meds will stop working and my mind will turn against me again.
I don't like taking the medication. I take Lamictal. One of the most common side effects is tremors and jerky twitches. I have those. My arms or legs will convulse and twitch at the least appropriate time like those jerks you get when you're falling asleep.
If I don't take the medicine though, life gets worse. Here's some of the crazy shit I've done while manic or severely depressed:
Heard noises like a bird chirping that aren't real (not voices thankfully)
Lost jobs when I can't function normally
Spent hours in the shower crying uncontrollably while the water beats down to wash away the tears
Jumped the counter to beat the hell out of a customer who called me a "faggot"
Spent every last dime of savings and then wrote bad checks to continue the shopping spree
Had visual hallucinations (the elephant crushing the garage stands out in particular)
Cheated on Jerame multiple times for the thrill of it without consideration for his feelings or the damage it could cause to our relationship
Considered/attempted suicide multiple times
Been so paranoid I couldn't leave the house without having massive panic attacks
Become lost while driving around running regular errands to places I go almost every week
Lied about everyday events that were clearly grandiose imaginations instead of real life
Believed the lies I'd told
Obsessed over being unloved and unwanted
Spontaneously decided to travel around the country with $2 in my pocket (I ended up in Texas before I came to my senses.)
Living in Bil Browning World
I'm not proud of these things. I know some of them are completely disrespectful to others, some are inherently dangerous and others just make me a complete jerk. But they are part of me - or as Jerame calls it, "It's part of living in Bil Browning world." It's not exaggerating in the least to say I've given him 1001 reasons to have left me by now. It can be very difficult dealing with my crazy every day and night and wondering if today is the day that I freak out.
Living in my world isn't easy for me either though. I make my living off of my brain. I don't work with my hands, I write and offer (hopefully) insightful punditry about today's LGBT issues. Each time I write a controversial post, I stop and wonder if I'm not "nuts" and should kill the post. I second guess everything because I'm trying to see through the prism of bipolar to ensure my point of view isn't skewed by mental illness.
Every time I write about being bipolar, I feel readers' and peers' respect shift downward dramatically. I've read the comments on other blogs that accuse me of being "off my rocker" or "unstable" when I write something they don't agree with. I've heard about local "leaders" of the Indiana LGBT community telling anyone who would listen that I'm "disturbed" and "shouldn't be trusted because you never know if he's sane or wants to kill someone." I've had lovers leave because they just can't deal with my mood swings.
All of which leaves me to either struggle alone and in silence about my illness because my livelihood depends on keeping my "big secret." And "secret" it is. I spent years hiding my illness for fear of that automatic dismissal and downgrade of authority.
Why John's Comment Strikes a Nerve
When someone denigrates another mentally ill person like John did, it hits me to the core. He casually dismisses her deranged actions as being "nuts" as if she's not worthy of pity. While her son is quite obviously a victim of this tragedy, so is she. When you can't acknowledge that the woman was mentally disturbed, not in control of her actions and convinced she's a queen anointed by God, you've taken away the human capacity for understanding that she was sick.
We don't shame most people for being ill. HIV/AIDS stigma was prevalent in the early days of the outbreak and was quickly called out for what it was - blaming the victim. This is simply no different.
I don't want anyone's pity or sympathy for being mentally ill. What I want is some respect for dealing with extraordinary challenges that I honestly don't think most people could handle. As I said, 95% of the time I'm perfectly fine and "normal" (whatever that is), but sometimes I require extra care - both from myself, my doctors and my support system.
But I'm not a "nut," a "screwball," or "a fucking psycho." I'm Bil. Welcome to my world. And thanks for making it even harder, John.