i wanted to read every comment before i addressed this editorial, but i can’t. too many are too ignorant.
firstly, this is a god awful title. all reports on lanza’s mental health – while hearsay, one and all – have stated he had no known history with mental instability. the child this mother describes is obviously very troubled and i feel for her situation and can honestly not say how the hell anyone is capable of going through it.
but my reply to the vast amount of people (over a million) who have read this and blindly shared it in an attempt to seemingly sway the gun control argument to mental health is that it seems you are less than half aware of what you’re doing.
so here is my reply:
i am michael. i suffer from bipolar I disorder. though i am currently stable (though not currently taking prescribed medication) the last few years have been an incredibly difficult, heartbreaking, and often mind-shattering journey to better understand my personal thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the reality around and within me. my illness reached its peak earlier this year when i slipped into a severe manic state, unable to sleep or eat for days; my mind racing; my body growing weaker. late one night – when i finally felt as if i may be able to get natural, healthy sleep – i had an intense panic attack and was rushed to the hospital in a daze.
two days later – while on my way to a therapy appointment – i became crippled with fear and began to hallucinate. long story short, the psychosis which had presented itself as a side effect of my lack of sleep, dehydration, and malnutrition found me in the low security psychiatric ward of the hospital where i remained for nearly a week.
let me state plainly that i am not now, nor have i ever been, nor will i ever be a physical threat to anyone. as a writer, much of my work addresses peace and understanding, my disgust for machismo in our society, and the hope to spread feminism (that is, holding “feminine” qualities such as empathy and kindness in a higher regard than, let’s say, the straight up phallic nature of guns and missiles).
my own views – which i will be the first to say are a clear combination of my natural disposition and of the upbringing i received from two greatly intelligent, gentle, and spiritual parents who taught me, among so many other things, right from wrong – have me trying to explain that mental disorders do not necessarily influence your being a danger to yourself or others. i spent years thinking of suicide, but i never attempted it. perhaps because i believe that it is not my – nor anyone’s – choice to end ANY human life. perhaps because i have had such strong emotional support from my family. or maybe i’m against all violence because (though i’d hate to admit it) i was raised to turn the other cheek…that you may receive another slap but at least you’ll be symmetrical, so to speak.
i’ll also say very briefly that my time in the hospital was unbelievably horrific. i cannot begin to explain what i may have looked like to others, but i will say that i was very obsessed with forming relationships with the other patients – and to try to do anything to help anyone else in there in any way – and too often antagonized by select members of the staff. when the “michael” in this editorial exclaims that his mother is sending him straight to hell, i absolutely understand. i thought, very literally, that i was in hell. literally. i had called my therapist, he brought me to the hospital, i thought i was dying, i was taken to the psych ward….i cannot overstate that it felt like hell. and again, i literally thought i was either there or in a waiting room ready to be sent there. it was a terrible place (and again, i was on the top floor with the least worst of the afflicted). and if, for example, i could have played an instrument or breathed in fresh air or lain in the grass or taken a walk or been fed non-institutional food or given someplace i could actually sleep instead of being placed in a room with a total stranger when i was already terrified, my mania would have subsided long before it did. and i will add that whatever drugs i was given exacerbated my mental and emotional problems during and in the months after my stay.
and so yes, mental health and its treatment need to be addressed in this country. so does poverty, malnutrition, the pharmaceutical industry, education and parenting, to name just a few of the things that make mental health issues worse.
i feel for the woman who wrote this and wish i could tell her what needs to be done. but unfortunately, that just isn’t something i think i can do.
but i will say, i am michael and i am not violent. i may have screamed at you in the past. i may have spoken aloud that i wished to die. i may have made you very uncomfortable with my choice of words or actions. but i need you. we need each other. please don’t just put me in jail.
i have recently posted a blog entry of my initial visceral reaction to morgan freeman’s statements regarding the atrocity in connecticut and its connection to mental health and the gun debate, which i’ll include as a link.