Wed Nov 14, 2012, 07:37 PM
davidthegnome (1,985 posts)
Moving forward and the potential of humanity
What I've been reading here tonight has really shocked me. A man from Key West recently killed himself as a result of the Presidential election - Henry Hamilton was his name. He was found with two empty (prescription) pill bottles and a living will with the handwritten words: "Do not revive! (expletive) Obama!"
What would you think of such a man? That he was mentally ill? Depressed? Perhaps the first word that comes to mind is even "crazy". All of them will undoubtedly be used to define him, just as they have (at times) been used to define me. Having grown up in a community - and having come from a family with little understanding of mental illness, it was common that people thought of me as crazy for being very depressed. I did all sorts of things that were undoubtedly stupid and could certainly be described as crazy, so it comes as no shock really. Unless one understands what mental illness actually is. Or at least, how it is defined by the medical community.
In order to move forward, perhaps we need a greater enlightenment in regards to issues of mental health. Perhaps we might all benefit from a greater understanding of it, whether we suffer from it or not. The things I have seen said about this man, this Henry Hamilton, have shocked me. Republicans are our political enemies, no question about that... but does this mean that we cannot have compassion for them when they are ill? When they are so without hope that they take their own lives? Let me answer my own question (my personal answer, at least) by telling you a story about my life.
I was a victim of severe abuse in my early childhood - I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that it was nightmarish in proportion and lasted until I was a young teen (13). I was a very odd child to begin with - being overly sensitive and inclined to frequently daydream, but the experience I was going through at the time certainly warped my young mind and heart to a great extent. I became afraid of people, adults, other children... always afraid that someone would hurt me, I became far less inclined to trust, to open up to anyone... even to speak to anyone for fear of people in general. Agoraphobia, I think, is the clinical term.
In the years that followed I became very reclusive, living in an isolated area with my parents. My mind was a cesspool of self hatred and anger at the world, fury with the lack of justice, even anger at other children who had often harassed me and bullied me because I was so odd. To be truthful, I hated not only myself, but almost everyone else as well. The only exceptions were my family - and a couple of very close friends.
I learned to live vicariously through the internet and through novels, nearly all of my time was spent looking for escape, for distraction... for something better than the prison that I had made of my own mind.
In response, my parents made me undergo years of therapy, I was prescribed medication (which I still take to this day) and was able to gain a great deal of experience with psych, as a patient. Without going into too much detail, I was admitted to crisis units, even a psych ward at one time, because I wished to end my suffering....
What kept me from taking that leap, from going completely over the edge... was my fellow sufferers, my fellow patients. The compassion that came from them, the basic understanding of what I was going through, the empathy... it kept me going. Not just for myself, but because I discovered that there are in fact, people in the world worth loving. Quite a lot more of them than most of us would ever imagine.
It has been a long, difficult struggle that at times I felt certain I would lose. Yet now, for the first time in my life, I am moving forward... because people cared for me, because I had help from wonderful and compassionate therapists, my family - and society at large (to an extent). I spent years unemployed in my late teens and early twenties, I had little hope for the future or for anything else... it required learning to like myself, to move forward - and changing my notions of the world and the people in it. Hard as it was, I was finally able to do it at 27. I'm now 28.
This is my first year of college - where I never thought I would go or could go, because of psychological issues, because I am still a very nervous person and have to struggle to find the courage to talk to others. I'm doing it though, for the first time in my life I am moving forward and doing something valuable, something productive. I, a person often described as crazy, lazy and no good. I, who had no self confidence, no faith in much of anything... and virtually no ambition for most of my life.
I'm moving forward - because we have lots of great people in this Country and in the world. I'm moving forward because I was helped by Doctors, by social workers - and by people who understood that I was mentally ill, not crazy. People who understood that there was hope for me, people who went that extra mile to prove it to me. It was their compassion that enabled me to have faith in myself, to have confidence... it was their understanding that helped me to understand that I wasn't completely without value.
Post traumatic stress disorder is a very real medical condition that is horrendous to suffer. Ask any war veteran who has been diagnosed with it - ask anyone at all who has. Yet you can live with it - and live well, I am now living proof of this, though I was not in the past.
To answer the question I posed earlier... it is compassion that is the cure for modern conservatism, for the fear mongering and hatred of those like Beck, Hannity, Coulter, Savage, Limbaugh, etc. It is through compassion, through understanding and through education that we can change minds and perhaps help to heal hearts. It is largely because of my experiences that I am today a liberal democrat. I believe that we should strive to help others, as much as we can... to be empathetic and to demonstrate that we give a damn. Otherwise we are no better than our opponents.
I believe that everyone is worth something, no matter how foolish or crazy they may seem. This man taking his own life is a terrible tragedy - it could have just as easily been me. Though I'm agnostic, there seems no more appropriate phrase than this one at the moment: "There but for the grace of God go I..."
Mentally ill does not equal crazy. People who suffer from medical conditions should be treated with compassion - and it is always a time to grieve when, in acts of desperation, they take their own lives. This is regardless of their political views or what led them to commit that final act.
Whether you agree with me or disagree, I hope you will at least think on what I have said. Thank you for reading.
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Replies to this discussion thread
Response to davidthegnome (Original post)
Wed Nov 14, 2012, 07:52 PM
GitRDun (473 posts)
1. I completely agree...compassion is THE answer.
We're all (at least I am) going to have to fight ourselves at times to have patience and the grace to be compassionate towards those who fell into the abyss with Beck, Hannity and the like.
We must come together in the end.
Response to GitRDun (Reply #1)
Wed Nov 14, 2012, 08:12 PM
davidthegnome (1,985 posts)
2. It's not easy for me either.
Perhaps this issue hit a nerve because of my own experience in the past. I wonder, as I read the thread about this man... I wonder if I had done what he did when I was younger... would people make those comments about me? Would I be called an idiot? Would there be sighs of relief and even cheers at my demise?
There are few things on earth that I value more than empathy - and while it is hard to show it at times and always easy to ignore it or to choose not to have it... it is profoundly worthy of our consideration. That's my belief, anyhow.