I have been seeing some things circulating lately about a killing spree at the end of last week. I have been trying to hunt down where these commentaries and editorials have been springing up from as well as looking through the “news” to contextualize and form a coherent opinion of my own.
What happened: A seriously disturbed young man went on a killing spree May 23 in California. After stabbing his three housemates, he shot and killed three strangers before shooting at random pedestrians from his car. After a gun fight with law enforcement, he drove off and shot himself.
The disturbing parts: this blogger re-posts and discusses the block of text that has gone viral in assorted arenas. I contemplated adding a link to a news article that provides links to the content that the killer posted, but stopped myself for reasons that Charlie Booker goes over in this excerpt from his show. Go ahead, and read and watch.
So these two things form an interesting conundrum. There is an unacceptably large group of people, men and women both, who are willing to believe that this is some how a woman’s, or women as a whole’s, fault. Rejection is not concordant with assault, it is not a justifiable provocation for violence. No woman should have given in and “taken a bullet” by sleeping with this guy. No one should be expected to relinquish autonomy to fulfill another person’s entitlement.
I can’t say that I’m not guilty of acting entitled. I’m a young white male. Society has conditioned me to believe that the world should be delivered to me on a silver platter. I’ve been clingy and jealous and I’ve said things to people that caused pain. And I’m sorry, I really wish I hadn’t, and I can’t take those things back. The more I think about it, the worse I feel, and then I hear about things like this, where someone has gone to violent, violent extremes comparatively, and that they have supporters, the more I begin to feel physically ill. No human should accept the open threat of violence against them for demonstrating their own autonomy and preferences. I do not wish to belong to a group of people that is willing to perpetuate that standard of living. These are my decisions based on the evidence that is available to me.
I also feel confident that it’s the only decision that one can logically make.
The other half, of course, is openly discussing this. Putting the national spotlight on a mass murderer results in the glorification of his actions, without necessarily condoning them. His motives were his, his actions were his, he is now dead, the story should die with him. Instead, we have a media circus revolving around the event. We have people condoning his motives. I am here speaking of my experience and warning against this horrible state of affairs where this has become something we need to discuss. How do you fix this without making another problem worse?
I promised I’d write a post about bipolar. Also, I promised a podcast. We are working on it. Me and my cohort work for a university, and May is the time at universities where people are trying to finish and graduate. This translates, for us, that we have to do a ton of extra work. Which would normally be an awful time to start a project.
This helps move us on to the topic I promised. Bipolar. I’m not explicitly bipolar. My personal problems revolve around anxiety, that hasn’t got a lot of real basis, and the resulting depression. Being frightened most of the time takes its toll on you eventually, it’s harder and harder to feel good about things. This occasionally leads to a severe disconnect from your feelings. If you have not, you should check out what the lady at Hyperbole and a Half has to say about depression. It’s not simple to explain to people what it feels like, and more than once have I had someone tell me “Well stop, just pick up and feel better!”
That’s hardly an option when you no longer feel the need to continue existing. Like it’s optional, you wouldn’t be upset if you stopped. It’d be largely OK. Also well described in her comic, there is a dam that tends to break during your recovery period. This is a hypomanic episode. Everything you were unable or unwilling to feel for the period of time before doesn’t go away. It gets deferred. It all will pour out at once in an unpleasant rush. The greatest thing is that you may not even know you are having this happen to you. I don’t notice my manic swings until someone else says something. When I write an e-mail at 3AM that is so densely written and full of information that it is difficult to understand, it seems perfectly normal to me. In hindsight, of course it sounds silly.
So do most things in hindsight.
My problem is minor. I have to deal with the unpleasant feeling of being at the complete mercy of my emotions, many of which I don’t understand or can even trace back to a trigger in reality, with no real reason to believe they will subside, or if this is a good sign or if this is the straw that finally breaks your resolve. I only had to suffer with it for a couple weeks at a time, very rarely will I have a phase where I’m not in control, that I make impulsive decisions and start up projects I can’t possibly finish. Some people go through cycles of feelings like this on a daily basis. They are under constant assault by their own feelings. They likely feel as though something is wrong, and will self medicate. Addiction to the manic phase, the knowledge that the depression that will follow will hurt beyond reason, will try to stave it off pharmaceutically. Impulsive and destructive consequences are better than the nothingness that comes with depression. It’s easy to see how things would fall apart quickly, how hard it would be to function in society, but people with this problem get little understanding and support from the people around them who just don’t understand, who haven’t ever had to deal with the fact that their emotions aren’t necessarily theirs; they are fake, not related to the world around you, and they never stop coming.
This blog is about awareness. I write things that I know about, I talk about things I see that make me worry. You or someone you know has a mental health problem related to depression or some other mood disorder. Specifically the NIMH gives statistics for reported cases at about 10% of adult Americans suffer from major depression or severe bipolar disorder. There is a severe stigma that surrounds admiting that there is something wrong, or asking for help. No one wants to admit they can’t handle how they feel on their own, we are full of shame if we appear needy, so that number is probably disgustingly low compared to the number of people suffering. The simple truth of the thing is that is the biggest lie that was ever sold, we need each other more than any of us will ever know, probably one in five of us needs some kind of help.
That’s a lot of needy people out there. Shame we don’t seem to do much about it. And the thing to do is so simple; listen to each other and recognize that its a real problem that people can’t just “get over” without help.