I keep hearing about the "nutcase" who shot Congresswoman Giffords (I've forgotten his name, and it deserves to be forgotten, so we'll leave it at that); I keep hearing every radio host, Progressive and Republican, hurtly names at each other such as "crack-pot," "nutcase," and even "psychopath," insulting the sanity of their opponent. Questioning the sanity of another person is an attack upon their character, offers an excuse for their behavior, and dismisses of the validity of their opinions, all in one. That needs to stop.
"Mental illness" is thrown into one great big bucket, a bucket that makes exactly as much sense as "Physical illness." By that logic, a broken leg is in the same exact category as terminal cancer, right? Someone born with a birth-defect is just as responsible for their disease as a person with diabetes due to poor diet and exercise; the victim of an industrial accident is just as much to blame for the cost of their treatment, their "burden on society," as a smoker with lung-cancer--is that the concensus? Most people would agree that, no, these different illnesses involve different levels of choice and responsibility, both in the progression of the disease and the likelihood of successful treatment. They involve different symptoms and levels of pain. However, the consensus seems to be that "Mental Illness" is one giant bucket, into which all sufferers of damaged brain-chemistry can be thrown. We are met with mistrust and dismissal from coworkers and employers, family members, even doctors, regardless of the type of disorder. It offers an undeserved slur to many, and an undeserved excuse for others.
The person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may well wash the skin off of their hands, but they will not pick up a gun and shoot a congresswoman, and 18 other people who just happen to be standing around. The person with Hoarder's Disease may bury themselves and their family in mountains of junk, but they won't start telling other people to ferociously go after their opponents without stopping, except to "reload." There are specific categories of mental illness that produce violent behavior, and specific personality types, such as the personality displayed by Rush Limbaugh, that lead to constant vitriol and black-and-white thinking.
So please, folks; stop throwing me into the same bucket. I've successfully held a job since I was 15 years old. I've raised a daughter, who by all outside accounts is a very sweet, smart, funny, healthy young woman. I've earned a Biology degree, taught school, and owned a home. I'm bipolar, and I've struggled horribly with the disease, but I am responsible for it--just as someone with childhood diabetes can choose to be responsible for it, and live a close approximation of a "normal life." I have, on my own, sought treatment, found medications that work, and taken them reliably. Even before I found the right doctors and treatments, I did not harm another person. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I spanked my daughter--a total of 5 times, and I remember the number because that was 5 times too many. I pay for my doctor and prescriptions out of pocket. I am uninsured, and damned lucky that I can afford the doctors and prescriptions that keep me from living a life of agony. My life, my agony or the treatment thereof, my responsibility--not my excuse.
Stop giving people like that creep that shot Mrs. Giffords the excuse of being "mentally ill." He may need treatment, but I've heard no evidence that he was hearing voices or had complete delusions about the nature of reality. If he did, that is a specific mental illness, as much as varicela pneumonia is a specific physical illness; take him out of the bucket and give his diagnosis a name. Until he has that name, he has another diagnosis in my book: evil, cruel, irresponsible, infantile in his disregard for life or morals. (Let no one blame his parents, either; I was abused and neglected as a child, and again, I was not a child abuser as a parent, as most child-abuse victims are not, nor did I take up a gun or other weapon and go out to hurt someone.)
Stop using "crazy" and "sick" as synonyms for a person of low character. I fight constantly against the equating of mental illness with character weakness; in fact, my friends tell me that I have a heart of gold, that I'm smart and talented, or that I am strong--of course I could be boasting, but my point is valid regardless. Those who come out on top of any mental illness most likely do so because they have a strong character and drive to overcome. Rush Limbaugh is not crazy; he is not sick. He is cruel, insensitive to anyone's station in life but his own, self-centered and self-important. He has a character flaw; not a mental illness. I wish it were a mental illness--it could be treated, his vitriol stopped or at least confined to a hospital ward.
And please stop dismissing the opinions of others by calling them "nut-case," "crack-pot," or "psychopath," when in fact their opinions are just bull-headed bull-sh*t. We do not marginalize and diminish people for having a missing limb, a skin-cancer; please do not diminish and marginalize me because I inherited a family tendency toward Bipolar disorder. That's part of what started this mess in the first place--Reagan's dismissal of mental patients from the nation's health-care system. How many people would be active, contributing members of society if they had access to the medication that keeps them healthy and able to work? The marginalizing of the mentally ill with those words continues to damage us all.
A cruel man like Rush Limbaugh is CRUEL, not sick. A killer such as the one who took after Ms. Giffords is a murderer, troubled though he may be, until a diagnosis is declared. I, when given the excuse of "mental illness" as an out for not working as hard as the next person, choose to work harder than they do so I can accomplish as much or more. And those who are truly disabled, physically or mentally, actually do deserve compassion, and should not be lost in the verbal shuffle. Given the current climate of slander and lies, let the words be as clear and accurate as possible. It's only fair to all of us in the "Mentally Ill" bucket, and also to the countless victims of people who are self-centered, heartless, arrogant, and just plain wrong. Call it as we see it, without euphemisim, and let there be no excuses.