Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Since the shooting rampage in Tucson, I've heard a great deal about the rights of all to buy a fully automatic Glock and an extended ammo clip but very little about the rights of all to receive mental health counseling. In fact in these hard economic times most states are cutting budgets for mental health coverage just as we're ramping up the fear and loathing of the mentally ill.
I know from my own experience with the mental health care system that it's not easy to diagnose a specific mental illness. I have been depressed since early childhood, but my depression wasn't treated until I was in my late twenties despite two suicide attempts, one in my late teens and one in my early twenties. I was called "moody". And despite the many years of therapy, it took an internist to put me on an antidepressant in my late twenties. She was smart enough to tell me that I would always need to be on an antidepressant. In fact, the first antidepressant was so effective that it's still a great drug for me, for my specific brain chemistry, despite all the new antidepressants on the market these days. I was in my mid-forties when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The reason this diagnosis took so long was that my mania was seen as unlimited drive, mercurial range, access to vast energy. I was called high strung. I was compared to a race horse. My whole system was speedier than average. I was a tightly coiled spring. I was a disaster in the making. But on the way to disaster I did a lot of very interesting things. I was articulate enough to get away with almost anything. I even owned a gun. And I almost pulled the trigger on a man in a moment of exasperation with him for not leaving me alone when I asked him to. Luckily for me, and for all the annoying men to follow, I got rid of the gun and never replaced it. Where is that stylish little Browning Semi-Automatic Pistol now? Probably in the hands of someone like Jared Loughner.