Last Friday morning, I was struggling to sleep. I got up at about 5:15 and turned on my morning news as I always do. The feeling I had immediately was sick after hearing about the movie shooting. I jumped on the twitterverse right away to see the latest of the mayhem that ensued after the Colorado shooter took all those lives senselessly. All I could think is what everyone else thinks in those situations. WHY?
But immediately everyone was focused on guns. And how if we had better gun control. And I am thinking really politics already? So okay fine, talk your politics, but I am gonna put my focus elsewhere. I am gonna focus on mental health and the damn stigma attached to it.
We use the words; crazy, nuts, psycho all too much. We tell ourselves it is okay they act a little strange. Our red flags wave but we ignore them. Do I think any of these would have stopped that shooter? No, not if he were intent on doing it. No one could. But maybe just maybe when someone noticed he may have been acting strangely much sooner they would have reached out to him.
I just wonder if that wasn’t what he was missing. I mean they contact his mom and she says immediately, “You have the right person.” No I am not blaming Mom and Dad. But to me that indicates there was less surprise that he did this and therefore less surprise he suffered some sort of mental break.
But Mom and Dad cannot do it alone. In this society so much so we are trying to cut Mom and Dad out of the equation for whatever reason. But this guy was in contact with so many others in life. Whether or not he involved them who knows. I am sure those stories will surface. But I imagine someone found themselves a little perplexed by his behavior. A gun range owner, He says he was. What could he do about this encounter? Not much really. He turned him away. A classmate? Maybe. But what should they do? That is just it. No one knows or assumes it will happen to them or around them.
So maybe just maybe we should talk about it a little bit more so we do know how to handle it. But that is the thing. I know as a college instructor I was trained on what to do “if”. But not much help was offered when I was concerned. Yea I talked to my superiors and got advice on what I could do in my classroom. But truthfully there just was not much to be offered on the “what if”. So how do we cross that path?
It was a mental break right? No one sets out to do this whose brain works logically. But here is the thing I have learned with my OCD in my own life. Logic goes out the window. An example, in my classroom I have wiped things down first with magic eraser, then antibacterial spray and then lysol wipes. So logically, IT IS CLEAN. But still when I touch them they feel dirty. This is how my OCD works out “safe” and “unsafe” in my new territory. My way to cope is to continue to touch and not wash despite everything saying to do so! Eventually “unsafe” turns into “safe”. This my folks, is what you call exposure therapy. My reason for telling you this is not to say he has OCD or to say I am gonna be a mass murder. It is to show that logical thought tells us not to kill. But the logical thought with someone who has neurons misfiring is almost impossible despite them seeming entirely normal.
This is where we, as a society, have to begin talking about what is hard to talk about. Instead of writing people off as crazy, odd, weird or lonely. Maybe take the time to know them and be observant of that behavior. Maybe then the person who is suffering from a mental break will feel less afraid to ask for help and the person who is worried about someone’s odd behavior will be a little less afraid to speak up.
Again with my line of speak you can run the risk of saying, “If only this had happened” and thinking that was the be all and end all and none of this would have happened. When in reality it isn’t. When situations get like this it is too far gone. If there wasn’t evidence of that in the court room yesterday I don’t know what it was. Some will say he is faking. I am inclined to think he coming down after a long episode of a mental break where mental fatigue, exhaustion, lack of food sustenance are prime factors.
I am not a psychologist though. I am not a lawyer or politician. I am merely a Midwestern mom and teacher looking for a way I can make changes in my life that would help someone like this. I do tend to live in a hearts and flower world where I believe people can be good if given the opportunity. I struggle understanding evil and the will to want to do evil. I know I am naive in those beliefs and they often get dashed. But that is me. I do acknowledge evil exists. I am just not sure what to do with it.
I just wish if we are gonna talk politics we turn our attention more to mental illness and those types of politics. Follow the likes of Glenn Close who pushes for this cause because we can and should talk about mental illness. A great place to start… Bring Change 2 Mind. Then maybe we can find ways to support one another and ways to expose these types of evils before they make national headline news and we all sit back in shock asking ourselves why.
“When you are mad, mad like this, you don’t know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else’s reality, it’s still reality to you.” ― Marya Hornbacher
*It is important for me to say I have no idea if this guy is mentally ill and really my focus is meant to be less on him and more on the stigma of mental illness and how do we get away from not talking about it to talking about it openly!