When I becomes We, Illness becomes Wellness

I said I wasn’t going to write about this, so naturally I am writing about this. I’m working on this piece and would appreciate feedback. Even what medium this is best for. Is this a post, or is this a script? Is this a TikTok? Is it all the things? Is it none of the things? Thanks for your time.

Nuance and brevity go as well together as attention spans and social media. I will give every attempt I have to captivate your attention, you give me every attempt you can to hang in there. Maybe my words can make a difference, or maybe they’re not for you and just keep scrolling. But I believe awareness changes everything, and it’s my responsibility to do what I can when I can.

It feels wrong and weird to type that there’s nothing more for me to say about my feelings on school shootings as that implies that this is now such a given, my feelings can be assumed. To share my feelings on these deaths would be redundant because they are happening so frequently that – God help me when I admit to you – my first reaction was “why is this shooting getting so much more attention”? I’m sorry, but what bizarreofuckingland do I live in that those words can be strung into a sentence, let alone actually be a thought or feeling I experienced?

But that’s the thing, it is not new. That’s the disgusting weird fucked up truth, that admission too isn’t new information, because if I felt it, I know someone else feels it too. I mean, that’s pain isn’t it? If I’m hurting, others are going to feel it too? And doesn’t it always help if someone makes you feel less alone?

The pain I’m feeling is for those kids, those families, all these human beings that suffered the pain that the child – the baby really – felt when he took a gun and spread his pain around. And it keeps happening. People are telling the world how they felt with the sound of a gat everyday.

I cannot comprehend the pain these babies were in when they hurt so many others. The pain we cause is a reflection of the pain we feel. These childrens’ pain is spreading, it is growing, and it is contagious. How can they hurt so badly, and no one could help? We didn’t hear any cries for help before they helped themselves? How could we – we, not they – all fail this child to the degree his pain literally traumatized a nation? Again!

I can’t be the only one to say, I feel the fear what if my kids could be in that much pain? What if I could raise a shooter? That’s terrifying. I know I’m doing all I can, and seeing how the blame is being shared, it feels like I could do it right and still be wrong because I can’t even comprehend this pain. I feel this pain and I feel responsible to do whatever I can to do something to stop, heal, help, repair, and fix the pain. Even if the best I can do is help someone else feel not alone. Sometimes, I’m not alone can save someone’s life. It has saved mine.

I don’t think I’m the only one to be afraid that laws will make it worse. My brain can’t compute more laws stopping illegal behavior. I don’t want the gun debate because my mind is darker than most. I am afraid the guns can become worse things. Things I can’t and won’t imagine. One of my favorite sayings is better cops make better criminals, and I don’t want better criminals with this one. I just don’t think the war on drugs made anything better for any of us. My god, crack has become fentanyl. I don’t know what a war on guns creates, and I don’t want to.

As all sorts of wars rage on, I don’t see any way for us to truly and meaningfully legislate The Golden Rule, because while we want to treat others how we want to be treated, we teach our kids the same, the hard, complicated, and unlegislatable truth is that we can only treat others the way we treat ourselves. It’s not so simple that if we want others to be kind, we must be kind. If this were true, I’m not typing these words right now, because nobody shoots anybody. We can only treat others how we treat ourselves. So if we want others to be kind, we must be kind to ourselves. If the golden rule were true, hurt people wouldn’t hurt people because no one would be hurt. It’s even more complicated when hurt people don’t know they’re hurting people, or they don’t even know they’re hurting.

I taught my kids the mean bug to deal with bullies. I said the mean bug was their bully’s pain. And if someone was trying to hurt them, it was them trying to pass their mean bug, so you could hurt like them too. You don’t have to catch their mean bug. You don’t have to even let their mean bug upset you. You can just let them have their mean bug, and if you want, you can feel sorry that they have such a big mean bug today. Because we all know what it’s like to have a mean bug and it sucks, we all know what it’s like to be in pain, and it sucks.

You know what my kids did with that tale? All three of them? They each made friends with their bullies. Different times, different situations, same results. They each made each bully they had into a new best friend. Granted, they hurl their mean bugs amongst each other like it’s going out of style, but at least there are three kids in PA that, when they were hurting, my kids made them feel love.

My children are so much smarter than basically every adult I see in this world. I taught them the mean bug, they changed the world, even just a little bit. But someone, please tell me, how am I supposed to explain a mean bug the size of “I want to gun down 18 kids and 2 teachers in school?” or the grocery store, or the gym, or church? How do I explain active shooter drills in case someone’s mean bug decides to shoot? I have the weird uncomfortable conversations in hopes I can avoid weird uncomfortable situations. This is a lot to say the least, but the message is the same, and it doesn’t seem like many people want to look at that uncomfortable truth.

My kids are doing more to solve the problem than all of the adults, all of the blame, all of the noise, all of the laws, and all of the hashtags combined. To them, this problem is solved by the golden rule, and their biggest confusion is why more people don’t get that.They helped someone’s mean bug go away, they were a friend to someone who needed it, and they stopped someone else from getting bullied too.. You tell me that doesn’t make a difference, and I’ll tell you that you’re part of the reason it’s not working.

It’s not working because we’re blaming, not fixing. If my toilet was clogged, I don’t call the restaurant I ate at to holler about the food they cooked that caused the shit that blocked my pipes. I don’t call government to ban Taco Bell. I don’t blame my neighbor for electing the guy that voted for low flow toilets that couldn’t handle the epicness my ass created. I get a plunger, I phone a friend, I hire a plumber. I don’t stand around arguing about why the toilet is clogged. I just do whatever I can to unclog the toilet.

And I feel like if it was a true metaphor, our current reactions are akin to a clogged toilet means go next door, shit on the neighbors’ carpets, set their curtains on fire, scream for or against Trump or Biden, and assert the rights to shit on any carpet you damn well please because ‘Murica or because it was offensive. This is done while shouting in and reading echo chambers supporting the confirmation bias that someone else clogged the toilet and someone else needs to unclog it. And I suppose that is one way of handling it, and it seems like that is how every complicated, nuanced issue is getting handled, period. Everybody fights, everybody keeps losing. Or maybe it’s the extremes fight and all the folks in the middle are wondering along these lines. Either way, kids are being raised in this insanity.

I always hear “it takes a village to raise a child”. What is up with this village? If it takes a village, why are so many babies we’re raising hurting this badly? So many mothers hurting this badly? So many fathers hurting this badly? If it takes a village, where were each one of us when each one of these kids hurt this badly and nothing happened to help? It feels repugnant to be a mother, a woman, a member of a tribe that treats our people this way. Somehow a pain, a mean bug, this big was untreated, untended, unnoticed. And in the sense of blame, we all can be blamed and blame. It sucks, and it is the truth. But owning the problem and taking responsibility for it is how change happens. It’s not he’s a monster, it’s not they raised a monster: it’s we all raised children who are committing monstrous acts.

If we are a village, we are a village of some of the deepest, disturbingest clogged toilets I have ever seen in my life. We are a village of burning outhouses exploding shit everywhere. We’re a village of idiots killing our kids and arguing about plungers and plumbers instead of I don’t know, literally any action. Anything. And the worst part is, we call this freedom. We call this choice. We scream about rights and refuse the responsibility of those very rights. We call it everything but a wake up, because it’s clearly not changing. Our definitions are all wrong, worse yet, we insist everyone else’s wrong definitions are wronger. It is not what everyone else is doing is not working, it is not the other party screwing it up, it’s not the shooter, it’s not the parents, it’s all of us. We are all responsible for all of these issues, solutions, and outcomes because we all are responsible for the wellness of ourselves and, to the best of our abilities, our villages.

Responsibility is a lost art and that’s not in an old man yells at cloud talk. It is a lost art because responsibility feels like this to me: on my watch, in my village, in my reality, there are people in such unspeakable, unfathomable, incomprehensible pain that the best decision they felt they could make at that time is to inflict the kind of pain that eludes the English language, and though I didn’t do it, I must do what I can.

Think about it – there’s no words for that pain. Orphans lost parents, widows lost spouses … what is a parent who loses a child? And like this? The only words I can think are dead inside. And that is the byproduct, the collateral damage of the pain a child, an 18 year old child, several, many, lots of, shockingly alarming quantities of children are in this much pain that they thought this was the best decision they could make at this time. In our village. The pain we are all reacting to was caused by a pain we don’t seem to fully comprehend or even be aware of. We do not know how this child suffered, but I know for damn sure our words, blame, anger, accusations, hatred, rejection, and isolating only creates more suffering, not solutions.

We cannot solve a problem if we do not define it, nor can we provide a solution if that solution cannot be defined. Currently, we can’t even agree to definitions of words, let alone highly nuanced, complex problems. We cannot treat pain with more pain in the same way we cannot treat a clogged toilet with more shit and yet both is what we seem to persist at most.

Many of these are suicides. I always say suicide is not selfish. It’s pain that was too great, it was pain so great that death felt like the best possible option. It is a terminal result of a tragic disease. These diseases have so many names and faces, we don’t know where to start. They say not to ask what you could have done differently when someone dies by suicide, but I have to say in these cases, we need to know what happened to these babies, what happened to these families, that this pain was the lesser option. But, most importantly, we all need to help heal this pain, or at least not create more. All the pain we feel is but ripples and reflections of this child’s pain, which probably started as a mean bug someone else gave him. This pain that one child, and now many children are feeling, and using their dying breaths to scream help. And I’m honestly not sure we’re hearing them.

I was told suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That was a North Star for me in the darkest of my nights. I want to know and understand what problems created this solution, but I also know and understand it’s an intersection of all the things we are clearly doing wrong as a society. We are only as healthy as our sickest parts, we are only as strong as our weakest links, etc. This is not someone else’s problem, it’s everyone’s. If someone is to be blamed, we all need to be blamed. In a world of this many people, how can anyone be left this alone and desperate that their final solution could create this many problems?

These children are being called monsters everywhere I look. Does no one think what happens when you toss a mean bug like that out there? The eyes of the next child who feels a pain similar to this child? To see how much everyone hates, isolates, rejects, and blames? Is it not possible this exact behavior exacerbates and encourages more? “You wanna see a monster, I’ll show you a monster” if nothing else, don’t these words reinforce and strengthen the very thoughts, feelings, and mean bugs we say we don’t want?

Their parents are being blamed while we have no idea what their reality was. If blaming mental health is the thing- I can tell you the monkey dances I have had to do to manage my mental health care as well as the kids. I have done it as a married working woman, a single working mom, and a feral housewife. I tell you it is a full time job, and it is a labyrinth at best. If you are new to the mental health industry, if you are uneducated or unfamiliar with mental health, and if you don’t have a lot of time — good luck. Me being “good at this” now has still taken me almost 3 years to get my family finally set up with a doctor and a therapist. This is all before, during, and after the pandemic.

These parents could have done all the things, and they were on waitlists. They could have done all the things, and their child was prescribed the wrong medication and it fundamentally altered him. Side effects can kill people. The wrong medication can kill people. They could have done all the things and had their child placed inpatient – if they managed to get a bed, which I can tell you was difficult before the pandemic. Their child could have come out of the mental hospital worse off from the sheer hell hole most of these facilities are. I know because all that happened to me several times.

They could have done all the things and nothing worked. I can’t imagine what those poor parents are feeling and I don’t think they raised a monster. They could’ve. It could be they just destroyed a kid and this was the result. It could be combinations of causes. It could also not be any of these. We don’t know. I can’t see how blaming them does anything but proliferate the pain hot potato game we are all losing.

We need to understand that we don’t need to be George Clooney to call a perfect storm when we see one. One solution, quick fixes, quick posts, memes, and hashtags cannot help, heal, or fix the damage of these deeply complicated and painful isssues. Black and white thinking is a factor of mental illness, yet we try to solve the problem of mental illness by…mentally ill black and white thinking? Emotional reactions do nothing, logical response, rationality, reason, communication, and compassion are desperately needed in every facet of this village.

It can be easy to feel powerless, but any change, every change, any action is more than nothing and that can make a difference. There is nothing more worthless, ineffective, soul sucking, useless emotion than blame. It does nothing. Responsibility – radical responsibility even – says that while maybe I didn’t cause the problem, I can and will take care of it. It is the opposite of blame, and it is truly empowering.

Responsibility like: this is happening on my watch. Our children are hurting. Our children need our help. I can’t control Texas. I can’t control my neighbors, their kids, the schools, or the politicians. Hell, I can barely control my bowels some days, not to mention my kids. I can exercise my locus of control and my sphere of influence to make a difference. I can teach and raise my kids. I can listen. I can learn and continue education especially on mental health. As we all can. I can help where I can, as we all can. Our collective power and energy is … tremendous, and we are useless divided and fighting. That’s why things aren’t working. It says so on the currency so many worship. If the current state of affairs isn’t an accurate definition of divided we fall…? So many things aren’t working, and I have to think these are some very sick canaries screaming in the coal mines. Are we really even hearing them? Are we even asking the right questions? Can we do literally anything differently than the last how many times this has happened? If we as a society persist in embodying Einstein’s definition of insanity, can we really blame anyone for being insane?

Maybe I don’t have the answers, but I can ask questions, and maybe inspire someone else that can solve it. If a man can raise 100k to make a potato salad, I feel like I can use the internet to at least raise awareness that maybe, just maybe, we could consider any and all available resources we have in our immediate circles to make changes, to heal, to repair, to prevent within our locus of control and our sphere of influence, including but not exclusively the internet. And, if nothing else, can we just all try harm reduction in our words, actions, and examples?

Better yet, let’s stop using and setting examples for our children of unhealthy processing like black and white thinking, arguing, emotional reactions, and blame so we can effectively process our emotions and logically converse to reach solutions. And we can collectively work together to define, fix, change, overhaul, you name it – the systems that are proliferating the problems.

We the people, for whom the government works and upon whom the system relies. Remember what happened when the ants realized their power against the crickets? Or when the tuna all swam against the net? If we are in the age of making movies become reality, can’t we all do the one where everybody works together, changes themselves, and becomes the change that changes the world? Montage!

I don’t see how a broken system can fix itself like a clogged toilet cannot unclog itself. I don’t see how doing the same thing will ever get different results. I don’t see how voting for either party does anything – neither red nor blue have solved, helped, alleviated it. If the systems are the problems, they need to be changed, eradicated, whatever. They don’t change until enough people change it. I don’t believe people are the problem, and I don’t believe fighting other people is the solution.

It’s easy to say mental health, it’s impossible to define. So mental health can’t be a solution. There are steps we can all take to support our own mental health and inflict as little harm as possible on others. We know the mental health system is a disaster. It’s downright frightening, maddening, insane trying to get help in the mental health industry especially if you are in crisis. And that industry can’t handle volume of the people who know they need help. We don’t know how many people aren’t aware they need help. And we keep finding out people needed a lot of help way too late to fix it. Not to mention that mental health is an industry and a system and is that really the best thing? Should business graduates in insurance companies get to dictate, delay, inhibit, prevent, or make it unaffordable to get mental health support? And are we really okay paying for these companies to tell us they won’t cover it? But is it as simple as having the government do it? Are there other ways and communities to support, teach, and nurture mental health?

Aside from active shooter drills, can schools help to teach and raise awareness of mental health? Emotional intelligence? Meditation and mindfulness? Can preventative mental health care become a practice, just as kids have access to physicals in school? Are we applying these same principles in our lives, even if the schools aren’t?

Hell, do as many of us as possible strike after every shooting from this point on? Don’t send kids to school the next day, don’t go to work, don’t buy, don’t participate in or support a society that allows this? Can we at least stop feeding the algorithms with our comment wars and attention, so we don’t enable systems to profit on our pain? Can we work to close gaps and heal divides wherever we communicate to reduce isolation and loneliness, or at least not make new ones? How can we vote – not just ballots – with our dollars, and our invaluable and profitable time/attention/energy/focus to make the changes we want and not exacerbate, encourage, and affirm a reality we don’t?

Holy shit, it can be overwhelming and terrifying. It is easy to feel small and powerless. But there’s so many of us. There are so many people that feel this, and think this, and know there is a better way. It’s good so many of us are hurting and angry. We should be. We’re human. This is inhumane. It’s just a matter of all the things we’re struggling with and that this post was designed to infuriate: attention. Focus. Energy. Time. Empowerment. We are all in a system that benefits from us having none of these, encourages illness, and the very infighting that is allowing these cycles to worsen.

If most people can’t get through a few minutes of this, I just don’t know how communication is a thing. If most people don’t listen to hear, but wait to speak. If most people don’t want to ask questions, they just want to make declarations. If most want to blame. If most want to control. If most don’t care about responsibility, just having rights and being right. But if more want something else: If this is not a life we want, how do we make it a life we want? What can we do today to create a better tomorrow? We gotta start somewhere, and for lack of better words, we gotta take our power back.

If nothing else, as the kids are watching the adults screw the pooch on this one, could we maybe consider the butterfly effect? How can all of these behaviors create ripples and affect others? What if you or your kid befriends the bullies? If you or your kid is nice to the lonely kid? If you or your kid includes the one that’s left out? If you or your kid stopped bullying others? If you or your kid understood the mean bug? If we all understood the mean bug? If we took care of other people’s mean bugs? If we took responsibility for ourselves, and our village? And if they’re not learning these things, what are our examples teaching? How are we teaching the golden rule, and how are we treating ourselves? As so many are judging, blaming, and condemning others for the size of their mean bugs, is anyone looking at their own mean bugs? I feel like someone said something like that once.

How many rounds of pain hot potato are each of us playing – alone, in our homes, and in our world, and how long do we want to continue?

It is not what we say, but what we do. As individuals and as a village. What can each of us do individually and collectively with our gifts, talents, and abilities to take responsibility for our villages and our problems? How can we truly hold these elements accountable, and create lasting change?

Are we really going scream at toilets, blame shit and everything else that clogged the toilet, beat everything and anything with plungers instead of unclogging a single toilet…

Do we really just wonder “what’s wrong with kids these days…and where are their parents”? And if we’re all being honest, do we even really need to ask that one? And last, but certainly not least: if you do have to ask, aren’t you part of the problem?

And if you made it this far, thank you for helping me not feel alone today.

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