Monday, May 26, 2014

Hurdling Through Darkness (A commentary on the tragedy in Santa Barbara, CA)

I am, like all of you, disturbed by the latest news about the shooting in Santa Barbara, CA orchestrated and carried out by Elliot Rodger, a young man driven by his rage against women and society. The tragic shootings and stabbings are stark indicators that this young man was struggling inside. His parents and others stated that he had been being treated by "multiple" professionals and that they had been worried about him and his mental health for a while. Even the police had been out to Elliot's house to do a "wellness check" and had left finding no reason to pursue anything concerning this young man.


Now, I am not going to jump on any bandwagon and diagnose this young man with any mental health issue. It's apparent that there was one but beyond that we can't really know what was going on with him. Even more so, for me to slap a label on him would go against everything I am trying to do with my blog and that is to stop the madness within the media of deciding for themselves, and therefore the rest of us, just exactly what issue this kid had and even worse choosing to label him with schizophrenia which seems to be the go-to diagnosis for anyone who does something like this kid did. I am so sick of the assumption that someone who commits a violent crime must be someone with schizophrenia because, (insert sarcasm here) after all, we are all violent, sick, recluses just waiting for our opportunity to exact revenge on society.


I speak as someone with schizophrenia because in a way I am someone with schizophrenia because I have a beautiful young man as a son who suffers terribly sometimes with this illness. He was brought into this world having lived inside me for 9 months and we have been inseparable since and I have walked this path with him through the first signs of psychosis to the day of diagnosis and beyond. I write here giving voice to my boy who doesn't know how or what to say for himself when it comes to his illness. I write here to dispel the myths and suffocate the stigma surrounding this illness. I don't have schizophrenia but schizophrenia is my life and I feel I can write with some authority on this subject.


That said, I have to speak to the unfairness of society's opinion about anyone who is mentally ill. Why is it that we are such pariah's when one in four of us suffer some sort of mental health issue? The bigger picture here after this tragedy in Santa Barbara is, how can we stop this prejudice and assumptions about someone who has a mental illness whether it's schizophrenia or just garden variety depression? I feel something close to rage when I think of the armchair psychiatrists sitting in front of their evening news shoveling in their dinner and casting judgment on something they don't know anything about or WORSE if they do have a mental illness or know someone with one, they find themselves experts on the subject. The fact of the matter is, that person in front of their TV or even someone like me are no more experts about Elliot Rodger than (it sounds to me like) the ACTUAL EXPERTS that were treating him. Nobody can assume they know a person especially one they learn about on a 2 minute report on a major news outlet.


Now, let me get off my soapbox for a second and write about my boy, the love of my life that has been diagnosed with, in my opinion, the worst diagnosis of mental illness that you can get. He has the media's favorite go-to diagnosis and he struggles but he is no murderer and in fact his heart is so sweet and tender that in Spring I often catch him gazing up into the trees at a bird's nest full of freshly hatched baby birds chirping away calling for their mom. He has faced life's injustices, he was abandoned by his biological dad, he was bullied by peers, he has less than stellar experience with girls who don't seem to be drawn to him and he lives a quiet reclusive life practically physically sewn to his computer. He is not collecting an arsenal of handguns and ammunition, he is not recording videos that scare the living daylights out of people and what he writes is not a manifesto but rather a story about some kind of robot (I'm just the mom, I don't pretend to know what these robots are really called) that exists far in the future and that exist to save the world, not destroy it. He is a kid who lives with schizophrenia, he is not the media's definition of mental illness incarnate.


So, then, what is wrong with us as a society that we are so quick to judge a segment of the population as a whole instead of as individuals living quiet lives just trying to survive the injustice of mental illness? What is wrong with us as a society that we see someone with a head bald from chemotherapy after a diagnosis of serious cancer or we see the person giving insulin shots to themselves for their diabetes, as people who are victims of an unjust diagnosis yet we see the person on the street corner who talks to himself or the kid who comes to work and can't stay because the security cameras cause him anxiety as a pariah and a threat to our way of life?


I am so sick of the media, so sick of the armchair psychiatrists across the world both of whom think they get to decide for all of us just exactly who someone is and how they should be treated. C'mon people, let's get our sh!t together as human beings and treat each other as fellow seatmates on this train of life hurdling through dark tunnels, down winding hills and across vast desolate plains. We are in this together people. Let's act that way.


Please.

1 comment:

  1. I too am a parent of an amazing young man with this disease. I empathize with your situation and I am certain, there are thousands, tens of thousands of other families like ours. The fact is, I think most of society doesn't care, until something like Santa Barbara happens and then they want to blame someone or something. Blogs like this help. Keep writing so that there is a voice out there to help counter the negative stereotypes.

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