Saturday, November 29, 2014

Stark Images: What Do You See?

You guys have done it again! You have made me proud, you have made both Thomas and I feel safe, and you have (most importantly) supported Thomas. Thank you so much for your responses to his post yesterday. In all honesty, I didn't know where it would go, especially with the image he wanted to post with his story, and admittedly I was worried about how that image would be understood and accepted. I had great trepidation about letting him post the picture because it was pretty stark and perhaps my hang ups about it were solely mine and I am not proud of that.

In this world with stigma dripping from every mental illness label and in a world where the media portray mental illness with disdain and misunderstanding, I didn't know how my world and Thomas's world would be accepted. Here he is on a blog about schizophrenia and here he is standing in a picture holding a realistic rifle (with the big orange tip--but still) and I believed people's opinions could go many directions about it. The one I most worried about was the opinion of the misinformed, the uneducated, the unenlightened person who would say:

"Lovely, another mentally ill person with a gun. Nice image!"

You know, it could have gone that way. I could have been cleaning up a mess, working to protect Thomas from the cruelties of the world and moderating and deleting ignorant comments about his post and image.

Instead, I happily discovered that my people, the members of my blog, have been listening to me.

You guys have been listening to me!!!

My proudest moment at this point was discovering each and every supportive comment you had for Thomas and along with that I feel like I can say,

"Mission Accomplished!"

I could end this blog today knowing full well that my followers "got it" and have been listening and have been THE MOST AMAZING PEOPLE I have come to know who have found it in their hearts to look past any misconceptions they might have had about this illness and have educated themselves. To me you are better people for having made that effort. I am proud to know each and every one of you and am grateful for your presence here and your unwavering support.

Inside of me, about posting the picture, was a touch of fear. To be honest, I am not a "gun person". This isn't a political statement. This is a personal statement borne of my own life experiences with guns that weren't good. Politically, when it comes to guns, I'm kind of an "every man for himself" kind of woman. I don't want to get into debates about gun control but I do believe something needs to be done about the illegal guns available to everyone and the guns in the wrong hands. No, my fears are mine alone and they colored my opinion of a picture of Thomas holding a BB gun. Not being a gun person, I can tell you that when Thomas bought that BB gun I was scared. I didn't (and still don't) like seeing the thing sitting on his bedroom floor. I hate what it represents (that guns can hurt people) and I worried terribly how Thomas would look to the world as he emerged from my house in full body "armor" holding his realistic looking BB gun and walking out into public view to get into a carload of teenagers and drive away.

It isn't like there haven't been issues about this in my town before. Back when Thomas was in high school the entire area around the high school was in lockdown because of a kid with a gun roaming the neighborhoods and apparently nearing the high school. They LOCKED THE PLACE DOWN and the police presence was strongly felt in my neighborhood. I was TERRIFIED that day. TERRIFIED that this kid was headed for the high school and straight to Thomas's classroom to kill him and all of his friends. I set off on foot through my neighborhood intent on getting to the high school to get my boy and bring him home safely.

In the end, the kid with the gun, was a kid with a BB gun much like Thomas's. He was outside of his house with the gun and someone saw it and called the police and consequently the area and schools were locked down because of it. It was an "innocent' gun but it rocked our community for a few hours. Knowing all of that, I have always feared Thomas leaving the house with his BB gun, feared the uneducated people out there in the world that didn't see the big orange tip on it and who didn't know the innocent nature of it's use.

In the end, as it stands currently, Thomas is free to come and go in our neighborhood with his BB gun and I imagine that the boys, as a group up in the neighborhood that they play Airsoft wars in, are accepted just as my boy is as he leaves our house. For that I am grateful to the community for trusting these youths to stick to the laws and the rules of society. As I have said before, I call these kids "the good kids" and they haven't proved me wrong once.

So, yes, I worried about the image that was portrayed yesterday. But my (now) public figure, my young man, dressed for battle and diagnosed with the most vilified mental illness out there was seen for exactly who I have honestly portrayed him to be and that is a kid who got the raw end of the deal, was diagnosed with a cruel, unfair illness and somehow, by the grace of God, has friends who love him and who want to play Airsoft wars with him on the weekends. Even better than that is that my young man is responsible about his BB gun and even better that THAT he doesn't have to face society's ignorance about his illness.

So today, even though I still hate that BB gun sitting on the floor of his room, I already feel better about society as a whole and most especially my community here on my blog. Thank you for your support of Thomas and thank you for listening to the truth about this illness that I have worked to get across to the public. I'm not doing this alone and that comforts me. I am doing this together with all of you and this morning I am touched deeply by your responses.

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