I struggle with mental illness. I don’t mean I have a problem understanding it; I mean I live with it. Anyone with whom I have shared my story knows this to be true.
Mental illness (depression/anxiety) is one of the reasons I am up at this hour writing and also one of the reasons I haven’t written a darn thing worth posting in over a year. My brain and body won’t cooperate, and I also operate out of fear.
I fear my words will be taken out of context or will be too true. I do vulnerable and sharing well, yet, I have not the focus nor mental well-being to sit and write…at least until now.
Yes, I post on FB statuses that sometimes to allude to grander issues (and I have also gotten in trouble for doing so). But my mind cannot get passed, and I experience a visceral reaction, when mental illness and gun violence is combined in the same sentence.
“Only 4 percent of the violence—not just gun violence, but any kind—in the United States is attributable to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression (the three most-cited mental illnesses in conjunction with violence). In other words, 96 percent of the violence in America has nothing to do with mental illness.”
As I understand, those living with mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than someone else. Period.
I personally know people who have used razors or their own nails to cut themselves, overdosed on drugs (accidentally or on purpose), starved to near-death, and yes, used a gun to die by suicide, as a result of depression. I have never experienced suicidal ideation, but I am not immune to self-harm. I have picked my scalps and scabs till they bled, stuck my fingers down my throat to purge, made poor choices about my body and behavior, and caused damage to my closest relationships. But I have never known anyone, or been inclined, to commit mass-murder.
No, I do not own a gun, did not grow up with one in the house, but yes, I have loved many hunters and gun-owners. (BTW I hate that this is caveat we must write nowadays.)
And yes, I have access to mental health care. I know it is hard and expensive. Just making an appointment to see a psychiatrist made me lose my mind even more. But I managed, and now I am under care of a counselor and psychiatric NP. I have taken meds for half my life, and they need adjustments every now and then. I am amid a month of change (meds and life), and I am getting used to how my body and mind react. Anti-anxiety/anti-depressants can’t fix situations, but sometimes, they make them more bearable, even as I continue to be a bear to live with as partner and parent. I think it is getting better. I pray.
All of this is to say STOP TALKING ABOUT MASSACRES AND MENTAL ILLNESS! For the love of God, who weeps when lives are lost, leave those of us just trying to get by day-to-day alone.
When gun violence dominates our news cycle, I either crawl under the covers or attend a vigil or join Moms who demand action for gun sense (read that sense, not control, because that is a dirty word), so no more of God’s children die before we DO SOMETHING.
As a sensitive soul, someone whose “senses” get out of whack or feelings leave me falling and flailing, I seek peace and understanding. As one who empathizes with others, the last thing I want is to hurt someone. And I am doing the best I can to take care of myself. I can keep it together most of the time. And when I can’t, I mostly hurt myself, and not violently. I’m just sad and mad and irritable.
As we process another senseless, as in without logic, please leave me, one who senses, as in feels all the feelings, out of the conversation except to cry and comfort and confront and challenge the current culture and conscience. Thank you.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.