If you’ve watched the news lately, you may have seen that there was a shooting in Michigan on Saturday night. It was fairly close to home for me.
“Close to home” as in, they caught the guy within three miles of my house. I heard the sirens. That close.
As happens with most shootings, people immediately begin discussing how something this tragic could only occur because the man was probably mentally ill. And they whisper it, like they don’t want to say it too loud or they might catch it themselves. Put some hand sanitizer on, people. You don’t want to catch a mental illness.
The man very well could have been mentally ill. He probably was. What bothers me about this conversation is that we should shine a spotlight on mental illness awareness, but not like this. People like this man are the reason why people are scared of mental illnesses. This man is the reason why, when I tell people I have bipolar disorder, many react with fear. They try to act normal, but I see it in their eyes. I slowly see a difference in the way they treat me as well, like I’m a ticking time bomb who could explode into violence at any second. Ummm… I’m not violent. I don’t even let Andy kill spiders – I make him take them outside so they can frolic freely in our garden.
I wish we could shine a spotlight on mental illness when someone awesome has it and has overcome its challenges. Why can’t we say, “Hey look…Catherine Zeta-Jones just won an Oscar. She has bipolar disorder. Look how far she’s come.” Why can’t we stand in art museums and say, “Did you know it’s suspected that Vincent van Gogh had bipolar disorder? But look at what amazing things he was able to accomplish because his brain worked differently than other people’s…” Good, successful people have struggled with mental illnesses. Why can’t we choose those moments to bring awareness to these issues? Then we would be bringing a message of hope instead of a message of fear.
Yes, I have bipolar disorder. Yes, that is a mental illness.
No, I’m not going to kill anyone.
We’re not all shooters.