it was about this time last year that i first discussed my own experience with mental illness here on the blog, and it seems that this is a time of year when it's on my mind a bit more than normal. for the last two weeks, i've been carrying an empty envelope in my purse with a note scrawled on it; a note that reads, "be vigilant with the crazy."
during the time since i wrote that note, i've been fighting a nasty case of bronchitis. i wrote that note to myself while sitting in the doctor's office, hands shaking as i realized that i was terrified. it seems silly now... in an instant, a swollen and congested throat became reason to be afraid to swallow at all, to begin to panic.
but it's ok for me. i know what to look for, i know that i have people to lean on, i know how to listen to my logical self even when that is the last thing in the world i want to do. yes, there is a constant battle, but most days it's fought behind the scenes and i don't have to think much about it. i'm incredibly lucky and blessed, yes, but i've also worked my ass off to get to that point.
this past friday, i got home from another doctor's appointment with a fist full of new prescriptions (four, in fact), prepared myself a cup of hot tea, sat on the couch, and then read the news of the school shooting in connecticut.
along with mothers and fathers, teachers, friends, and the world... i cried. all that i wanted in those moments was to have my children in my arms. the hours until school ended seemed so long, even as i knew that my two beautiful girls would come home at the end of the day, that we would hug and laugh and sing and they would bicker and argue about homework... on a day when senseless violence kept too many children from doing the same, it was bittersweet.
the story of the gunman hit me with force. while clearly, a moment such as my short-lived panic attack at the doctor's office is not even on the same spectrum as such a violent occurrence, both can stem from the same place and that is a scary thought.
there has been a lot of discussion over the last few days about mental health and about gun control. in response to one such discussion, my husband asked me, "do you think that you should be able to own a gun?" very honestly, my answer is no. as i said, i am lucky. i have the knowledge and resources and support to be vigilant about my mental illness... but along with this comes also the knowledge that there is so much i can't control.
do i think that anyone with a history of mental illness should be prohibited from owning a gun? i honestly don't know... the answers to these questions are complex and each answer seems to bring with it more questions. what i do know is that if we can't have the conversation about ways that we can try to fix things, they will never begin to get better.
"Fixing the complex matrix of problems that led to the shootings in Connecticut will not be easy, and nothing will ever prevent every tragedy, but we need to begin to take serious steps to mitigate the risks and dangers. We need to have a lot of conversations: discussions of a rational gun policy and of how we address mental health care and the stigmas attached to psychiatric disorders. But it is important that we recognize that we need to have all of these conversations.
"Improving mental health care and attempting to de-stigmatize psychological problems are important steps, but those steps only address one piece of the problem. And prohibiting individuals with mental health issues from owning guns ignores that people develop mental health issues at all stages of their lives, both before and after they may have purchased a gun.
"Furthermore, it is far too easy to simply make the problem other, to assign blame to “unbalanced individuals” when in reality far more people are shot by people who are simply angry, or desperate, or uncaring, or mistaken, or rash, or careless. This reality in no way minimizes the horrors of what took place on Friday, or ignores the need for a real discussion of mental health. It simply points to the realization that guns are hazardous and should at last be carefully regulated like any other hazardous material.
"We regulate toys and automobiles,emissions and food, drugs and clothing. We have an enormous apparatus dedicated to the public safety and it is long past the time when guns ought to be carefully and seriously managed by our public safety protocols. Just as we ought to do everything we can to keep individuals from reaching the point where they commit these heinous acts, we should also do all that we can to mitigate unsafe practices with deadly weapons.
"No policy can prevent everything, no policy ever has, but that does not mean regulation cannot perform a significant public good. A national gun policy does not mean a ban, but limits on the number of firearms a person can own, the use of available safety technologies, restrictions on where guns may be present, limits on ammunition, recurrent background checks, and recertification could all profoundly mitigate the public risk. Paired with significant penalties for violations, a rational gun policy could safeguard the rights of legitimate, careful gun owners while mitigating the public risks."
Thomas Knauer, Thomas Knauer Sews
it is impossibly hard to send them out into a world where i know i can't protect them from everything. but that doesn't make today different from any other day. there is danger and violence and senseless killing in the world, and there will continue to be until we, as a nation and as a world, are willing to have difficult discussions and make hard choices.
ps. for anyone looking for ways to help victims of the Newtown tragedy, i am in process of putting together an online auction of handmade items to benefit the Newtown Parent Connection.
i am also working on a project called "ABCs of Love: 26 Ways to Pass it On" to encourage all of us to find simple ways to share love in our own communities and families.
please feel free to contact me if you would like to be involved in any way.