I don’t know the shooter’s name. I don’t know what he struggled with, or if he struggled at all. All I know is that while I sit here, feeling the effects of a new bipolar medication, I’m watching President Obama talk about yet another mass shooting. And I am disgusted.
I’m disgusted because two and half months ago I was having a severe episode of mood cycling from depression to hypo-mania. I had gone weeks with an average of two to three hours of sleep a night. I was irritable, confused, unmotivated, hyper, tired, angry, sad, scared and annoyed. I knew it was bad and I knew I needed help. So I called my psychiatrist and was told I wouldn’t be able to get in for six weeks.
SIX WEEKS! I don’t think the killer at the movie theater could have waited six weeks. I doubt the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary would have holstered his weapon and waited for his evaluation. I am pretty sure that the killer at the church, the movies, the college campus, the military base, the high school, anywhere, everywhere – I’m just guessing here that they wouldn’t have been able to get their emotions in check for six weeks. I know I couldn’t.
So I called every psychiatrist on my health insurance network within a 50 mile radius. And none, NONE could see me for at least three weeks. THREE WEEKS! I was not able to put my anger, my insanity on the back burner and go about life for three weeks. I doubt anybody in such a critical mental state could.
I asked the offices that couldn’t see me, I asked the receptionists – what do I do? The answer was always the same: go to the emergency room.
I wasn’t in need of emergency care… yet. That was what I was trying to avoid – a mental health emergency. I was trying to avoid a $5,000 deductible, a 72 hour hold with new meds and a script to see a psychiatrist that I couldn’t get into, an emotional shoot up at the not so OK corral of my home, my job, my life. I was trying to avoid the emergency by doing what I knew whas the next right thing.
I had a sponsor that I talked to daily. I had a support group and meetings that I used as therapy. I had a faith and fellowship that I leaned on. I had a family that I informed so that they could tell me when I was slipping further down the hellish rabbit hole. What I didn’t have was a psychiatrist willing to see me and evaluate me for a medication adjustment – or something, anything! I had the ER.
I finally got in to my psychiatrist a few days later. I got a little better for a little while. But then I slid backwards a little. The bipolar seesaw is like that. And I’m tired of riding it. So today I went to see my psychiatrist for a follow-up. And I lost it. I think she saw the severity of the issue.
Before today’s appointment, I was at a meeting and a woman shared about her own struggles with bipolar. She shared the frustration, the fear, the desperation of it all. And then she shared, through her tears, how she couldn’t get into a psychiatrist. I thought about the appointment I was heading to after the meeting. I almost offered it to her. She was worse off than me, or so I thought. An hour later, the seesaw dropped and I was reduced to a ball of angry, self-loathing tears. When friends offered support I had visions of doing physical harm to them. I decided I should keep the appointment.
So now I sit here watching President Obama deliver a disgusted, fed-up statement to our desensitized country. And when people bring up the shooting tomorrow – wait, they won’t. It has become back page news. But if they do, if anyone mentions it and asks my opinion I will say with honesty that I don’t know how I feel. I of course feel for the families of the victims. I of course, feel for the survivors and their trauma. I of course, feel for the sprinkling of people who might feel shocked and horrified by this tragedy.
But I will also feel for the shooter. I will wonder if that person had an untreated episode. I will wonder if that person had tried to do the next right thing and reach out for help, even through their own insurance, only to be brushed aside. I will wonder if that person had to make phone calls, fill out forms and face rejection after rejection while fighting intense suicidal and homicidal thoughts that they couldn’t share with anyone. I will wonder if they were lucky enough to get treatment, to nab that precious ten minute/$250 appointment – were they able to afford the astronomically priced medications that can prevent the volcano from erupting? I will wonder if they were willing to try the meds, regardless of the insomnia, dry mouth and weight gain that result, just to feel better, to have a moment of lucidity and normalcy. I will wonder if they wanted to stop the insanity but without treatment, without being able to afford treatment and medication, I will wonder if they had no choice but to succumb to the strength and power of their illness. I will wonder all of these things and more and I will feel for them.
The shooter is almost always me. It is almost always someone who didn’t get what they needed and instead grabbed hold of what they could – what was available. They grabbed drugs, alcohol, anger, vengeance and weapons. They used them all to self-medicate. They used them all to find relief in the midst of the agonizing, intense, suffocating pain. And in the process, they created more. We always do.
I do not condone the actions of any of these shooters and murderers. I abhor their self-seeking, callous, insensitive actions that have such devastating consequences in the same way that I abhor the self-seeking, callous, insensitive actions of the insurance companies, medical organizations, pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals – their actions that also have such devastating consequences.
It’s not the guns. It’s not the security that is or isn’t in place at these institutions. It is not the movie, the school, the teacher. It’s the health, the unhealth of the shooter. It’s the brokenness of that person, the brokenness of our healthcare system, the brokenness of our attitude toward mental health that needs to be fixed.
October is breast cancer awareness month. I think that’s awesome. I just wish we had as much attention, as much awareness, colored shirts, walks, benefits, marches, commercials and fundraising for mental health. Mental health for the women suffering with breast cancer. Mental healthcare for the families of those fighting cancer. Mental healthcare for those who lost someone to cancer, drugs, domestic violence, mass shootings. I wish, I wish, I wish we had mental healthcare – emphasis on the word care.
We need it. We need affordable mental health care. We need affordable medications. We need access to care. We need to be able to say it out loud. We need to pray for it, beg for it, demand it and take action to get it. Because it is a matter of life and death – yours, mine and everyone else’s.
We need to stop the insanity of mass shootings. And that begins with stopping the insanity. We need radical, swift and immediate mental healthcare changes.
I’m doing what I can by writing this. Please forward, share, post, tweet,
write congress – no wait, write someone who will actually do something about it, picket pharmaceutical companies – do SOMETHING!
Thanks for letting me share.