Life is beautiful — and a letter I wrote

For the past six weeks or so — my horrible almost two week hand, foot and mouth disease aside — I’ve been doing really well. Everybody thinks so. I’ve been feeling quite cheerful, but not manic (something I always have to keep my eye on). My therapist recently pointed out a big thing I’d accomplished, which I hadn’t noticed till he said something: I was talking about something that bothered me and I said, “I was furious and had every right to be.” He said that since he started seeing me years ago, this is the first time he’s ever heard me say I had a right to be angry. I usually repress my anger, saying things like “I shouldn’t be angry, it doesn’t do any good” or “I was angry, but I really ought to just try to understand why he/she acted that way.” That doesn’t help matters and the repressed anger probably contributes to meltdowns I have occasionally.

I’ve had some challenges but been able to cope with them admirably. An example of a challenge was when I found out Rollo was staying in an immigration detention center called Farmville, like the Facebook game. (Thanks again to the person who alerted me to this fact. I really appreciate it.) I was curious and checked out the Farmville website and discovered to my horror that it was “designed to house adult male, adult female, non-criminal immigration detainees.”

Obviously Rollo did not fit the “non-criminal” designation and I was both outraged and afraid for the safety of the female detainees. I made a load of phone calls over the next several days, even calling my representatives in Congress, trying to get him moved to a more suitable place. BUT — and here’s the great thing — I did not become incredibly depressed or anything at this news. I was upset, yes, but no more than I should have been, and instead of crawling into bed for days on end I took action.

As it turned out, after several days, I found out that the Farmville facility has a small maximum-security section and Rollo was housed there. The guy I spoke to knew who I was talking about even before I told him Rollo’s real name. He was like, “Yeah, we know what he did. We know what he’s capable of and trust me, we’re keeping a very close eye on him.” I felt so much better and imagined him in solitary confinement with a tiny, windowless cell with cinder block walls and a steel toilet. As to how it really was, I don’t know, but it’s a nice thought.

There would have been a time, not too long ago, when the idea of Rollo being in a regular, coed, presumably dormitory-like setting for undocumented immigrants would have caused me to go into an “I wish I was dead” sort of crisis. But it didn’t. I’m proud of myself. Instead of curling up into a ball, I stood up and took action.

I’ve been in treatment for almost exactly six years — since late June/early July 2008. And I’m convinced it’s kept me alive. I’ve worked very hard and I know I will always need psychiatric treatment. My illnesses and my autism are never going to go away. Once I get some money — probably years from now — I’m planning on going on a big vacation, hopefully overseas, and I know I will have to bring a friend or relative with me, one who understands me and can keep an eye on me, for safety purposes in case anything happens. (There was a time, two vacations ago, when I had a — relatively minor — mental health crisis while I was vacationing in Connecticut. I was visiting a friend who freaked out when she found out I was feeling depressed. The results were horrendous; it was one of the worst experiences of my life.) Much as I hate needing a “babysitter” when I travel, I know I have to be realistic, and also, knowing my limits is another sign of just how far I’ve come.

I know certain people have tried to disparage my reputation because I suffer from mental illness. I want to say: stuff it. I wish they would not do this, but for me, I’ve found that there are more good things that come from being open about my conditions than bad things. For example, I can connect with people who have similar problems. I can also serve as an example, like, “If she has bipolar disorder/whatever and she can do the things she does, then maybe I shouldn’t be afraid to try to accomplish things.” Or, “I thought all people with those conditions were just nuts and totally incapable of accomplishing anything. But maybe I was wrong.” I figure, if I meet someone and tell them I have autism or a mental illness, and as a result they don’t want to be friends with me or they say nasty things, well, that shows me right away it’s not worth wasting time on them.

So…right now life is good. I know I haven’t been updating Charley every day like I sometimes do. I’ve been lazy lately. Today I spent much time playing the Sims 3 (I can’t wait till September 2 when Sims 4 comes out!) and reading books from Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited and doing stuff on Goodreads. But it makes me feel guilty. I think I’m better off updating than not. So are you guys. So I will promise to be more reliable in the future.

Also, here’s an letter to the editor I wrote back in May. It was published in the Lima News, Lima being a small city about 45 minutes from where I live, and I scanned the article. (It’s pronounced ly-ma, like the bean, not lee-ma, like the city in Peru.) After Elliot Rodger’s mass shooting in California, my dad suggested I write a letter to the editor about gun control and mental illness. Dad said he’d thought about writing one himself, as the parent of a child with mental illness, but he thought it have more impact if I did one. He kept saying “I understand if you didn’t want to write one, but I would feel SO PROUD of you if you did.” After a few days of that I thought, okay, I’ll write the letter.

I didn’t publish it on this blog before because I didn’t want to start a big commentroversy about gun control. But when it was published online on the newspaper website, hardly anyone was nasty, even those that disagreed with me. One guy who I knew to be a big gun rights advocate had to concede I had a point.

It had more response than I thought it would. My parents go to a certain church in the village where Mom lives and Dad used to live before their divorce. It’s two doors down from Mom’s house. Until I was ten or twelve or so, they went to a church in Lima. They switched mainly due to convenience, I think, so they wouldn’t have to make the 45 minute drive. Well, some guy at the Lima church read the editorial, recognized my name as having attended the church as a child, and read the letter out loud to the congregation. (Mom told me. She found out cause she has a friend who still attends that church.) That was kind of cool.

It’s okay to discuss this letter in the comments section, and say what you want, even if you disagree with me. Given the topic of this blog, I’m sure there are lots of pro-gun people here. I don’t think I really need to tell you guys to be civil. I don’t attract a lot of trolls on this blog, and generally if I do, I just delete their comments.

Anyway…I’ve been rambling. But I’m happy, and I wanted to tell you I’m happy.


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13 thoughts on “Life is beautiful — and a letter I wrote

  1. AngelHart July 20, 2014 / 10:01 pm

    I think it was very brave of you to write it. And I’m glad to hear your doing so well. I have close relatives who have similar mental conditions and I think it’s great how open you are about discussing them. Sets a great example for others.

  2. NH July 20, 2014 / 11:54 pm

    To just address on point, my therapist says that depression is anger turned inward. So letting yourself feel it is a major step forward and may help prevent future depressions. Another therapist of mine has said that therapy is about letting yourself feel the feeling – both good and bad.

  3. William Baraby July 21, 2014 / 9:33 am

    Glad your feeling well! Life is good.

  4. Angie July 21, 2014 / 11:45 am

    I’m glad to hear you’re doing well!

    I don’t think that seeking psychiatric treatment should cut someone off from being able to possess a firearm FOREVER — there are different gradations of mental illness, it’s possible to recover from mental illness, and also that might prevent people from seeking treatment. I know that many cops and military personnel don’t seek mental health treatment because they’re afraid it may lead to them being fired. Not to mention that some psychiatrists are total hacks — my fiance was prescribed Risperdol (same antipsychotic that Elliot Rodger was prescribed) for depression years ago, with no psychotic symptoms.

    It’s basically saying that being depressed or suicidal at any point in time in your life, no matter what was going on in your life at the time, brands you with a scarlet letter forever and makes you a second-class citizen. But that’s just my opinion.

    • Meaghan July 21, 2014 / 12:23 pm

      I didn’t mean to imply that anyone who ever suffers from mental illness shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. Elliot had been having problem behaviors and seeing professionals since he was a child–like me. There’s a big difference between, say, six months of Zoloft caused by situational depression and what I, and Elliot, have to deal with.

      Risperidal is actually used off label for depression, particularly as kind of a booster for regular antidepressant drugs. It’s also used to reduce aggression in autistic kids and people with anger management problems.

  5. perl July 21, 2014 / 3:09 pm

    I’m so glad that you are acknowledging your accomplishments! You have worked so hard to get where you are and you deserve to feel proud of yourself. I, too, suffer from mental illness (dysthymia and OCD) and worked in the mental health field before I had children. It’s amazing how a little self-disclosure can open up a dialogue and a sharing of experiences. I thank you for being so open about your journey thus far and for keeping all your readers updated on how you’re doing!

  6. Mer July 21, 2014 / 7:19 pm

    Glad you are doing good. Myself having High-Function Autism, Major Depressive Disorder, and a history of suicide attempts (years ago though), I too don’t think that people who are unstable mentally should not me able to purchase guns. Not cause they might go on a rampage shooting and other stuff, but also due to self safety if one was to shoot her or himself. However if one was to live in a unsafe neighborhood or live quite far from their nearest police station then that would be a good exception.

    • Meaghan July 22, 2014 / 3:51 pm

      It’s like I said in my editorial: I’m far more worried about a mentally unstable person shooting themselves than anyone else.

      I showed the editorial to my psychiatrist. Naturally as per his career he’s had a lot of patients attempt suicide. He says the ones who tried with pills, etc., are mostly alive. The ones who used guns are all dead.

  7. jaclyn July 22, 2014 / 12:04 am

    I agree with your article. My concerns about it are this: If determined to do so anyone can get a gun to carry out a crime. In the case of Elliot, and those documented to be under care for particular types of mental illness, I DO agree that there should be something place that would prevent access to guns. For themselves and for others. I feel so sad that he was going through what he was and didn’t submit himself to the care he had been receiving. It’s also very concerning to me that mental illness is treated so much like a contagious disease! I don’t know his full story, but I do know he had been isolating from his family and friends.
    I, like yourself, know that I do NOT want guns around ME, and I choose that for many reasons. Divulging mental health issues CAN and DOES result in stigma, change of job prospects, relationship issues. Interestingly enough, getting help and getting “better” comes in part from sharing life’s ups and downs with others—safe people, therapists, psychiatrists, as well as getting the right medication.
    Additionally, I am concerned about those that are incarcerated, and then set free without any mental health support…I could go on and on… Mental health should be a priority in this country!!

    • NH July 22, 2014 / 8:07 am

      I think that the mental health system in in shambles. Especially for people with with more extreme manifestation and especially for minors. For example there are no treatment facilities in NYC for kids that are depressed but not into drug in NYC that day programs. Most in patient programs are in a handful of states (UT, MT) due to regulations primarily on restraints and all are private pay. Hense many of the homeless are mentally ill.

      Combining easy access to guns with a broken mental health system is just asking to more mass shootings and other problems.

    • Meaghan July 22, 2014 / 3:53 pm

      “If determined to do so anyone can get a gun to carry out a crime.”

      Well, look at it this way: if sufficiently determined to do so, anyone can steal something. That doesn’t mean we should not have laws in place, and other things designed to prevent theft.

      • jackly July 23, 2014 / 11:21 pm

        Agreed, Meaghan. That is why I added that there should be “something in place that would prevent access to guns.” I should have clarified that I meant there should be “laws in place.” I guess the complicating factor is how challenging it would be to determine who has that restriction or “law” placed upon them. Do they have to agree to it? Do they have someone else, like a psychiatrist or guardian, insist that they be restricted? Would it take a judge to decide? I know that if one is convicted of a felony they cannot have a gun or live where a gun is in the house. Yet there is so much rigamarole to have that law finally be placed upon a felon, I can’t imagine the red-tape for “laws in place,” for someone that has been determined by themselves or others to have mental illness.
        So much of it comes down to the stigma of mental illness.

  8. eeniebeans July 22, 2014 / 8:23 pm

    It is so wonderful to see how healthy a person can be with a good support system, the right medication and the help of a mental health professional. If only all people who needed it could adequately utilize these things. I am so glad you are in a good place right now!

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