Daily Archives: December 17, 2012

Our Reaction to Tragedy

Last week when I was writing my blog post on Friday I had my television on mute. I can’t write when there is a lot of noise, so I often mute the TV for several minutes at a time to get a thought across.

That muting meant that I was blissfully unaware of the troubling news that was being relayed through that TV, the news of the Connecticut shooting.

Honestly, I don’t want to talk about this. I really don’t. In the time following the muting, I really think I’ve heard enough, and have gone out of my way to avoid hearing more than I really need to. I find the whole thing just too upsetting to be able to listen to the news like a broken record, and as much as I didn’t want to say anything about it here, I determined that to ignore the situation would probably be more harmful than to just say what is on my mind.

So here we go.

As appalling as the shooting (and so many other shootings lately) was, the brunt of my frustration and anger isn’t coming from the act itself. I’m not saying it wasn’t tragic (it was), or that it couldn’t have been prevented (it could have), but I am overwhelmed in times of tragedy with the feeling that dwelling on what could have been will only make the reality of the situation harder. I realize that that dwelling is something that comes easily to us as human beings, and a lot of the time it can’t be helped, I just choose not to view things that way if I can help it.

To me it is more important to take on the weight of the situation and say, “this happened. It was horrible, and there was nothing we could do about it. Now what?

I am no stranger to the sensationalism the media adds to many of their stories, but I found that I was much more disturbed by the media’s reaction to this situation than by the situation itself. News reporters were running wild with long-winded statements like this one I heard on NBC;

There is NO WAY anyone could UNDERSTAND WHY someone would do something like this!

Ok, now I can see how you might say that the act of violence didn’t make sense, or that it was senseless, but statements like the one above seriously make me furious.

I realize that my view isn’t the norm, but I am someone who has experienced feelings of homicidally through mental illness. This isn’t common (for me or the general population), but it isn’t exactly rare either. I work very hard to make sure nothing comes of these feelings, and I have a number of systems in place to make sure things do not escalate to the point of violence.

If there is anything in my life that is hard to admit, that is a big one. I know the notion frightens people, and you can believe it frightens me much more than it has frightened anyone else. It isn’t something I am proud of, but it is something that I live with.

For that reason, I find it very easy to have feelings of understanding toward acts of violence like this one. I know what it feels like, and how convincing it can seem, and how easily one could get swept up in it.

It is very important for me to say that there ARE people who understand, and that as hopeless as things may seem, there ARE things that you can do. 

Unfortunately, statements (like the one I mentioned from NBC) do nothing more than perpetuate the stigma around mental illness. If someone was feeling isolated and violent and hopeless, can you believe they would feel any sense of relief or hope from a statement like that one? I wouldn’t. I would retract into isolation and fear even further, it would make things feel worse. 

When this is how the media reacts to acts of violence on television, it is hard for me to understand why people are so surprised that these acts keep happening.

To my surprise I saw a bit on CNN (at the gym) where a pastor came to give his thoughts on what happened. I can’t say that I am a religious person, nor am I spiritual at all, but as soon as he spoke I found myself wanting to high-five this guy. He said;

I think we all just need to work on being more open and honest with one another.

I very nearly shouted, “thank you!” at the television before walking away.

There are a lot of issues being discussed about “solutions” to the violence our country has seen, and it seems to me that each person has their own idea, the own cause, of what will make things change for the better.

I don’t think there is any one solution. Just like treating mental illness, there is no one remedy… there are a series of things that help, and when all put together they can make a big difference. Unfortunately, I think many people are used to the idea of a single solution for their problems, and this has left little improvement lately.

What I do know is that mental healthcare needs to be more accessible and affordable to the people who need it.

Another statement on tv that left me appalled was;

Right now it is easier to get a gun than it is to get treatment for mental illness.

I don’t care to get caught up in the “mental healthcare vs. gun control” debate, but when I considered this, as someone who has a mental illness and sought treatment, I found myself disturbed by the notion that I might agree.

It isn’t that mental healthcare isn’t out there now (it is) but there are a lot of hoops one has to jump through, and it is difficult to find. People just don’t feel comfortable asking where to find it.

As much as I didn’t want to say anything about the shooting, I felt compelled to be as open and honest about this as I could be (especially since I didn’t want to). It is important to me to say what others aren’t saying, to speak when others are afraid to speak, and to let people know that there is hope and understanding and things you can do before the feelings of violence take over.

I don’t think that the violent feelings I have sometimes make me a bad person, they are outside of my control, all I can do is seek help when I need it to avoid dangerous situations for the people I care about, and those in my community.

There are people who do understand, and I hope that by coming forward and talking about this, I can support others who are too afraid to speak.

There is hope out there, don’t give up! And if you need something, it is ok to ask.