Present Tense

Broken people…

I’ve never wanted to kill another human being.  Never thought about it, never toyed with it.  In fact, I’m the type of person who rather than kill a bug or a spider,  will catch it and take it  outside.  You’re probably like me.  You get angry or frustrated with other people; you’ve even made jokes about rounding up all of the ‘stupid’ people, but we’d never actually act.

I’ve never wanted to harm another person, but I did want to kill myself.  I’m an alcoholic.  I have been since I was a teenager and although I don’t know a lot about mental illness, I do know about addiction and I suspect that there are a lot of parallels.

I’ve been on and off the wagon several times as an adult and each time I fell off, I landed in a deeper hole of addiction and several years ago, in the grip of this addiction, I thought the only way out was death.  The pain I was causing to me and to my husband and family was too much to bear; all I could focus on was the next drink and the guilt of succumbing to that day after day.  I had stopped drinking before and so intellectually, I knew that I was capable, but physically and emotionally, I was too hooked to grasp that.  So, I thought about dying.  It seemed rational at the time.

As we struggle today with the horrible slaughter of so many innocent souls in Connecticut, we keep asking ‘why’?  Why would someone do this, how could someone do this, what happened to this person to make them do this?  I don’t know and I am as paralyzed with grief as you are, but I’m going to admit something that you’re not supposed to say.  I have a twinge of empathy for the obviously broken young man who did this.

I talk about my experience because unless you’ve experienced the total loss of control that can happen to any one of us, it’s hard to realize the root problem that we face.  It’s too simplistic to blame guns.  We need to look a little deeper and have a frank and open national conversation about the issues that we must address as a society.

Like addiction, mental illness interferes with your ability to function as a normal human.  It robs you of the ability to think rationally; it makes you incredibly selfish and obviously can result in violence.  The general consensus is that an act like this can’t be perpetrated by one of our fellow ‘humans’.  We viscerally realize that an act like this can only be committed by a monster.  We can’t wrap our brains around how anyone could gun down innocent children.

As I said, I have very little experience with mental illness, but we’ve seen it too many times in recent history.  These type of mass shootings are typically perpetrated by someone who has a history of mental illness, but is not given the proper treatment.  Substance abuse is rampant in our country; legal and illegal drugs are common and in the case of alcohol, embraced and endorsed.  We need to change and recognize that this is what’s driving these violent acts.

As someone who has felt the grip of addiction and how it can make you loathe yourself for your ‘weakness’ and inability to function like other ‘normal’ humans, I can see how mental illness can take over a person’s humanity.  It can make you lie, steal, drive drunk, treat other people horribly and it can make you violent.

Like mental illness, our culture generally judges addicts as ‘weak’.  There is a stigma that we need to get past.  Families are afraid to seek help in both instances because it somehow reflects badly on them.  People tend to not want to admit weakness or that someone in their family is broken.  There are more of us than we would like to admit.  People who’s lives, emotions and mental health is spiraling to a very dark place.  As a nation, we can no longer ignore it and hope for the best.  It’s too dangerous and painful.

Addiction and mental illness are both treatable and need to be acknowledged and recognized.  We need to get past the stigma and begin to accept that unless we are proactive and loving in helping each other, these types of acts will continue and sadly, grow.  We need resources for people who are suffering and who have family members who are suffering.  Stop judging and start helping.  Our lives may depend on it.

December 15, 2012 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , ,

21 Comments »

  1. Very well said. You are not the only one with those thoughts. A lot of things need to change, not just in the U.S., but everywhere.

    Comment by PaulaB | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  2. Jane….thank you for saying what I was too chicken to say, as I didn’t want the “other side” to think of me what I think of them when I ready their vehmently spewed posts.

    Comment by Princess Buttercup | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  3. Thank you Jane, for your bravery to openly talk about your battle with addiction. I know that it takes courage and that in so doing it also makes you stronger, as well as gives those who are not on your side of recovery the strength to seek help. It’s folks like you that make a difference and help to remove the stigma!

    Comment by Linda O'Brien | December 15, 2012 | Reply

    • Linda:
      This is obviously not about me, but I just want people to be aware that they need to acknowledge and help people who are struggling and could harm themselves and others. Unless you’ve been in this situation, it’s very difficult to understand the loss of hope and the loss of control.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Jane

      Comment by janelondon | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  4. Thank you for sharing yourself. I’ve had experience with the mental health stigma. If some of the people in my family would have gotten help my childhood may have been very…..different. I’ve also had to face admitting that I am not in control of certain things and the “brokenness” that you speak of. It is very difficult to accept. I appreciate your blog. I agree that these tragedies are becoming more and more frequent and it isn’t okay. We need to take action.

    Comment by Dragonlily | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  5. Jane, I appreciate the candor and vulnerability that you always share with your readers. You are right, we cannot continue to ignore the devastation of mental illness. Putting our heads in the sand only makes our asses bigger targets – figuratively and now quite literally. Sharing our stories will eventually take away the shock and awe and lead us to meaningful conversation and action.
    I am so glad that you found your way out of your despair and that you are on the road to becoming whole. I love listening to you each morning; you are truly an inspiration.

    Hugs to you, sister friend.
    Laura

    Comment by Laura Wynn | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  6. Hi Jane, thanks for sharing your personal thoughts and admitting to the “dark” periods of your life. It’s not easy to admit to and there is a stigma to mental health issues. Mostly, I appreciate you not turning this thing into a need for more gun control…! I think with this shooting and countless others recently from James Holmes at Century Theatres to Seung Hui Cho of the Virginia Tech massacre, we’ve all overlooked the fact that these young men obtained their firearms legally and had no prior criminal history that would have prevented them from being approved. Instead of more gun control or bans, we need to shed light on the growing problem and shame placed on mental instability. It’s hard to detect and can be hidden from everyone on a day to day basis until that “tea kettle blows”…. How do we as a society pin point the ones that need the help and more importantly get them the help they need?….

    Comment by Becky B. | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with your post. People who do horrible acts of violence have some unresolved issue from their past, usually starting in their childhood and they don’t get enough love or the proper support. Millions of people suffer from mental illnesses for various reasons and there is just not enough done to help anyone who struggles.
    I’ve been in those dark places myself and although I still suffer from depression, I have learned how to control it. I believe that most people have issues because they have not developed strong self-esteem when they were children. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, as most of us have, creates negative feelings of self-worth in children and they are not able to handle difficulties in life. When peer pressure hits children and teens, they are more likely to fall apart if they don’t feel good about themselves.
    Babies come into this world just waiting for someone to mold them into a responsible, caring adult. We all should try to be good role models for all those children that we come into contact with because many are not getting the love and support they need and we can influence their lives in a positive way. How many more tragedies need to happen before something is done to help our children and young people?
    My tagline on my website is, “I sincerely feel that building confidence in a child is far more beneficial and far less costly than trying to fix an adult who has little or none”.

    Comment by imconfident | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  8. Thank you Jane for being so honest about what you have experienced, and for saying what I’m afraid to say with my friends and family about the tragedy yesterday. I feel horrible of course for the families who lost loved ones yesterday, but I feel just as horrible for the man who caused this, and for his family as well. We have no idea what he was dealing with, and I’m sure there will plenty of sensationalism ahead from various sources saying what he went through as a young child, (abuse, drugs, etc), that it was someones fault for the things he did and if only someone, somewhere had detected the signs, maybe we could have fixed or mended what was broken inside. Or like you said, possibly they did know, and just didn’t know how to deal with because it was too much to admit, and accept. You put into words exactly what I am feeling, and I thank you very much. I have to deal with family members that are posting of Face book that he needs to burn in hell..(my Christian church going sisters). I don’t say anything because I’m sure I’ll be ousted, and I tend not to say the right things under pressure, I freeze up. But I will share this on mine, in hopes that maybe they can step back for a few minutes and stop being judge, jury and exocutioner.

    Comment by pmystery3 | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  9. **executioner** (oops!)

    Comment by pmystery3 | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  10. Absolutely, we are talking about mental illness here. And right now it appears the mentally ill can obtain automatic weapons, hand guns, bullets, etc. legally … a problem, yes?

    Comment by mike | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  11. Interesting commentary, Jane. Thanks.

    Comment by Lynn | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  12. Jane, you know that I have worked with an underserved population for 23 years. Every year we receive a higher percentage of young men with mental health problems. Some have been on medications in the past, some have never been. I have seen what medications can do for these young men. I have seen young men go from irrational, impulsive, assaultive people to respectful young men who have re-captured lost high school credits and gone to college. Does it always work for all of them? No. Some have needed so many meds to be safe that the correct combination could not be found, or would damage their bodies to the point of harm. I too am comvinced that there is a story behind these atrocities that most people do not want to hear. These things do not just happen. Although I am not a psychiatrist and do not know exactly how the medications work on our youth, I just know that they do. And when they choose to take themselves off of them due to side effects or peer pressure, the consequences are usually not good. Appreciate your thoughts Jane.

    Comment by Tim Lankerd | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  13. You are amazing

    Comment by marge beem | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  14. Little woman. Big life. Bigger heart.

    Comment by Lloyd | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  15. Jane- I’m not an addict. I’ve never even had a drink or taken and illegal drug (I’m 42). But a few years ago, for all intents and purposes, I lost my mind. It was the darkest time if my life. In fact, I still struggle with it. To this day I have no idea what caused it. I just thank God I had a doctor who understood both the physical side and the spiritual side of my breakdown. Before the medications, I also thought about killing myself. I just didn’t think I could go on the way I was.

    Also like you, it never occurred to me to take anyone else with me. While I can’t bring myself to empathize with the person who did this horrible thing, I do understand why you do, and how someone could become that person.

    I appreciate your honesty, and for sharing your thoughts.

    Comment by shellybelly12 | December 15, 2012 | Reply

    • We were lucky I suppose, that we never harmed anyone else, even though we both admit to “losing our minds” for a time. It’s a scary place and without the right intervention, who knows what may have happened. Thanks for the note. Glad we are both making progress.
      Jane

      Comment by janelondon | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  16. Jane, I acknowledge your bravery and willingness to share your life experiences with us.

    It is my belief any one of us is capable of such a horrible act given the correct set of circumstances, Loosing it (though never wanted) can occur in a moment and god forbid during this moment we do an unthinkable act such as killing our family, a theater full of movie goers or students in a school who are innocent and completely unable to control that person’s moment of pain.

    I have dealt with times of severe depression during several times of my life and had thoughts about ending the pain by taking my own life, but then realized the pain that would cause those who loved me was far worse which kept me from taking action. I realized it really was a very selfish act. Thank goodness those times have passed and am now living a more abundant and happy life by empowering myself to be the best person I can be and taking a stance of living life to the fullest. I too never gave a thought to taking anyone else’s life. I am grateful my illness was not as severe as those that take other’s lives. Society as a whole must change our views about mental illness so anyone with dark thoughts can feel comfortable and seek help without repercussions. We are not there and unless this changes we are going to see far more of these horrific acts and loss of innocent lives.

    My passion is now leading me in a direction I never could have imagined even a year go during this period of personal growth,. My passion is to let teenagers know via workshops how powerful they truly are, that they have a choice in how they view others and even more importantly how they view themselves. I encourage teens to find a mentor that is willing to be 100% available during trying times to know they are heard and understood when dark thoughts enter their lives. It is my belief the people doing these horrific acts don’t have these tools available to them and act out of lack if knowing where to turn.

    My wish is that every person in this world feels empowered. Change starts with each and every one of us…

    Comment by Carol | December 16, 2012 | Reply

  17. Very well said!!!! I agree wholeheartedly with your comments on mental illness. Our society needs to address this problem rather than legislating more gun control laws. We should be concentrating on our morally broken families and lack of good parenting for our children. I also am concernedhi about all the over exposure of violence from all the media/internet our children are watching.

    Comment by Marsha | December 16, 2012 | Reply

  18. Well said—thank you

    Comment by Eric Palmquist | December 17, 2012 | Reply

  19. let me know where do we Buy them

    Comment by green Smoke Coupons | March 22, 2013 | Reply


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