Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Defies All Words

I am not a parent.  And though I have loved children fiercely in my years as a nanny, and have wished sometimes idly and sometimes passionately over the years to be a mother already, on Friday afternoon when I learned of the shooting that happened not even an hour from where I live, I was suddenly and profoundly grateful to not be a parent.  Partly because I simply could not fathom being one of the parents of the 20 children killed, or even a parent of the hundreds of children who survived but will go on to face a life whose innocence has been ripped away far too early.  But also because whether 45 minutes away or 12 hours away from the small town of Newtown where this happened, for every parent whose life and family was not touched by this horror, I don't know how the fear and the powerlessness and helplessness doesn't drive you into the basement, holding your babies close and never letting them go.  I mean, I do know.  I know that you can't live your life in fear.  I know that you still need to send your kids to school and you can grieve for the lives lost and affected and accept that there is no way to know when or where things like this will happen.  I know those things.  But I also remember how it felt when a classmate's dad died suddenly of a massive heart attack on a random Tuesday afternoon when we were fifteen, and how I went home and hugged my father more tightly than I had in a decade and I felt how fiercely my love for him could not ever stop something like a heart attack (or cancer, for that matter) from touching him, from touching our family, and that scared the shit out of me.

Love cannot stop bad things from happening.  I still believe in it, like I believe in God - not because something or someone tells me to, but because I can feel and I can see what love and God (the same thing, essentially) looks like and feels like in the world around us but it is not all powerful.  It doesn't stop mass shootings.  It doesn't keep people from getting cancer or dying of heart attacks or facing mental illness that threatens to eat them alive.  But just like we treat heart disease with Lipitor and Coumadin, and we treat cancer with chemotherapy and radiation, we have ways to treat mental illness too.  And we need to treat it.  We need to allow people access to this care, and provide for continuity of care, and yes, maybe even force people to accept treatment when they might not want to for the safety of themselves and those around them.

Out of the many, many pieces being written about Friday's tragedy, these are three that have profoundly moved me, made me think, and educated me.  I encourage you to take a look.

Did This Really Happen in My Elementary School?
"...How could the elementary school where I wrote my first story and got in trouble for calling Ross Perot a butthead also be the site of the nation's second-deadliest school shooting? I can't reconcile the memories I have of Sandy Hook School with the events of today. They simply aren't the same place."

Thinking the Unthinkable
"...On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense."

"...The idea that the only thing between you and twenty dead kids lying at your feet is a couple of functioning neural pathways.  That all it takes is one break somewhere inside your brain and suddenly you are hearing voices and think everybody is out to get you.  That in six months you can go from being a well-liked and reasonably happy individual to planning a mass murder."


Sassy Sarah said...

Long time reader but first time commenter.

This rings so true to me. I've said this to my husband all weekend. We need to take the stigma off mental illness and help those who need it. If I had something wrong with my leg, we would go to the doctor and treat it. If there's something wrong with my mental state, I should be free to go to the doctor for the appropriate treatment.

Mental illness has a long history in my family. Thankfully everyone has had the love, support, and treatment to get through it.

These individuals aren't "freaks" or "weird". They are sick people who need our understanding and help.

Cait said...

Sarah, thanks so much for speaking up. I absolutely agree with you. I feel so lucky to have been able to get the help and support I have needed in the past and I shudder to think where I would be in my life had that not been possible. Every day people seek help and are turned away. We need to change that, for everyone's sake.