Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Mental Illness In The News

A certain kind of uneasiness washes over me when I watch the news after some violent event has occurred driven by a young man who everyone said was fine then shows up, in LAX for example, and shoots and kills people. It seems like lately there are so many of these stories or perhaps the media is just picking up on them more. I don't know. What I do know is that it's taking a toll on my heart because when I hear,

"Coming up next, LAX shooter is under heavy sedation and heavy guard while people scramble to figure out just what went wrong to cause him to do this."

I feel sick and I want to cry. There's a certain kind of pain that comes to someone like me when these news stories break. I am the mother of a son with schizophrenia and I am painfully aware of the stereotypes attached to that diagnosis and I would be lying if I said I didn't think to myself,

"That could happen to Thomas, to me, to my family and worst of all to innocent people."

Let me say a couple of things first. One, Thomas has never been violent. Not once in his entire life. He has been angry (but haven't we all?) but he has never lashed out at anyone. Based on the study I read yesterday, violence causes violence, meaning that people who are violent schizophrenics were violent long before they had their first psychotic break. To clarify, it means that they had a propensity within them to lash out violently BEFORE they ever had signs of schizophrenia. In turn what that means for me and for Thomas is that the likelihood of him buying a gun and shooting up some public place are pretty slim but these news stories still make me think about him. How can they not?

I suppose, like the vast majority of the public, I have fallen, in my mind, into believing those very same stereotypes when it comes to my own son. I am not proud of that fact since I am out here on the front lines trying to dispel that belief but the feeling is there nonetheless. When I see those news stories I am transported back to that late night meeting with Thomas' doctors during his second hospitalization when they sat and somberly told me that because of the current (at the time) trajectory that Thomas was on, left untreated or undertreated, because of the types of delusions that he has, that he would end up in jail by 23. They left me alone to imagine for myself what might bring Thomas to that point and my brain went all sorts of terrible places.

What is a mother to do with that sort of information? Of course I went to the bad place with that and ever since, it has stuck with me. On top of that, now hearing news stories like this most recent one, I think about the far reaching effects of an event like that. Not only are there the innocent victims, but there is a very sick young man, usually not adequately treated beforehand and selfishly I think about the mother of that man and the hell she must be going through. What questions did she have about his sanity beforehand? Had she tried to get him help and failed? Then, I think about what she has to live with knowing the child she raised and loved has become a sort of monster that took lives away from people who didn't deserve to die. I think about what she will have to live with the rest of her life.

News stories about rogue shooters are no longer "just another story on the news" for me and I'm certain for many mothers like me with children suffering from schizophrenia or some other mental illness. I know that they hear these sorts of stories and, like me, they pause for a second as a wave of nausea washes over them and a sharp transient pain hits their heart and they wonder,

"What if that were my child?"

Life, for me, changed that night in the hospital when I heard Thomas' final diagnosis of acute paranoid schizophrenia and they ominously told me that he would end up in jail someday if he weren't properly treated. Life, for me, became a maze of doctor visits, meds changes, middle of the night rushes to the E.R. for psychotic breaks and a palpable uncertainty about what might happen for Thomas in the future. For me, I feel I am a part of some sort of macabre club of parents trying to love and protect their sick child so that something like what's in the news now won't happen to them. For me, especially lately, the nausea and pain are an almost constant fixture in my being as I pray that I am doing right by Thomas and getting him the help he needs, the love that sustains him and the protection against the outside world that threatens his sanity around every bend.

No comments:

Post a Comment

My Most Popular Posts...

Follow my posts by Email:

Follow Me On Twitter