Cape Fear

Fear can be exhausting.

I really know this because lately, I’ve been scared – well, more like terrified – of a number of things, and when they add up, it just gets to be too much to handle, mentally speaking. Enough fear and where your body would normally react in a fight-or-flight stance, it just seems to wash over you and, while you can feel your heart race and your mind go weird, you just can’t seem to make yourself do much of anything. Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks.

Let’s start with the news. I can’t imagine anyone who has access to the news in the US, and probably much of the rest of the world, didn’t hear about the shooting in Charleston last week, where a young white guy, in what seems like a calculated act to try and start another civil war, went to a high-profile, traditionally African-American church, killed 9 parishioners while spewing racist BS, left one person deliberately alive to tell others about what he had done, and then go caught fleeing a while later. I don’t know much about Dylan Storm Roof, besides him being a racist murderer, but one of the posters on an RPG discussion board (RPG.net) said what I thought sounded very apt about this guy, and I’ll quote that user, neutrondecay, here: “When a white guy with the middle name ‘Storm’, in a former slave state that still flies the Traitor’s Flag, who wears badges honouring racist nations from before he was even born, goes to an historic black church closely associated with slave revolts and the civil rights movement, kills people, and leaves a survivor to report what he’s said and done, I think we can reasonably say that this was an act of racist terrorism.

Indeed, we ought to say it, and not mince our fucking words.”

Of course, soon afterwards came the typical stuff you’d expect – that this guy was clearly mentally ill, only crazy people do things like this, it’s not a symbol of systemic racism just one lone gunman. That shit scares me, because, hey, I have a mental illness. I don’t shoot people. I know a lot of other people with serious mental illness issues. They don’t kill people, either. In fact, according to the facts (found here, and cited), people with mental illness are not only not a very large part of the violent population, but are in fact 2.5 times more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Jumping to the conclusion that because someone shot and killed a number of people, he must be crazy/mentally ill – because of course only crazy folks do that – is not only giving him an excuse he doesn’t deserve, but also lumping all of the non-violent people with mentally ill people into a group with him and saying that we, too, should be considered likely to do something like that. It makes it seem like mentally ill people are more dangerous than people with guns, and should of course have our rights restricted because we might have something in common with a criminal. God forbid that his issue be with a culture of racism and white privilege, or any number of other legitimate issues. That might mean taking an uncomfortable look at society as a whole, and we can’t do that, so let’s just call him crazy, shove him in a hospital with all the other crazy people,and forget about him. Well, until the next one.

Along those lines are other stories popping up about people with mental illnesses being mistreated. The one that comes to mind is a blog post that covered a couple stories, linked here. One has a man who was in police custody; the police were ordered by a judge to take him to a mental treatment center, but instead of bother dealing with that – because they didn’t want the guy around if he was crazy – they felt it was appropriate to just put him on a bus from Kentucky to Florida. Yes, the police just shipped a guy from one state to another, in defiance of a judge’s orders, because they didn’t want to have to deal with a criminal whose mental health issues might have been at the root of his problems. That was actually the easier of the two stories to take, because the other involved another story of police mistreatment of a mentally ill prisoner, but he didn’t get a bus ticket. He had committed a crime – forging a check – and was arrested for failing to make a court appearance in that matter. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013, and apparently been managing it, but the stress around the criminal proceedings seems to have driven him off the rails somewhat. A physician who visited him in jail said he had become “quite psychotic“, and he was denied visits from his family. On April 7 of this year, 13 days after he was brought to jail, he died there of – get this – dehydration and malnutrition. They let him starve in jail rather than do anything to help, and the Sheriff responsible, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, had this to say: “I am truly sorry for this tragic death. Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our inmates and staff and this report describes a systematic breakdown of policies, procedures and communication that led to this tragedy.” The punishment involved for this terrible miscarriage of justice? Well, according to this Island Country Herald article, the chief deputy was suspended without pay for 30 days, and a lieutenant placed on leave. Treatment like this scares the hell out of me – if I had been brought in my police after my last suicide attempt, when I was hallucinating and wandering around a hotel talking to things that weren’t there, could this have happened to me? It’s enough to keep me up at night. Several nights.

Add to that the fear lately of dealing with women – one in particular – who I have some degree of interest in, but am absolutely terrified of talking to about said interest. Largely because I’ve never been good dealing with anything involving a potential romantic relationship, and also because I think I am still getting over my last heartbreak, and I don’t want to hurt anyone else by trying to make them a part of my life in such an intimate way and risk hurting them with baggage from my past relationship attempts. It makes me feel a little haunted, because I don’t know how to tell if I’m really over someone, or if I will even be able to tell. I also don’t want to make a horrible mistake and ask someone out, only to be rejected and still have to interact with this person on a regular basis. But I only have so many venues in which to get to know women, and taking a leap and asking one of them out from any of my current options freaks me out.

Finally, and most recently, a friend of mine seems to have decided that because of events transpiring right now in her life, she no longer wants to keep living. Having been suicidal myself in the past, I can understand the impulse, and understand feeling so lost and alone that it seems better off to just end your life. It’s come up in discussion in that past, but is much more front-and-center right now because of something happening. I don’t know what to do, or if indeed I can do anything. She’s my friend, and I don’t want her to go, but I also know that she has been suffering a lot, and this current loss will just be the latest in a list of indignities and sorrows; she recently told me she felt she was clearly not meant to be alive. I don’t know if there’s someone I should tell, or something I should do, because while I can understand her pain and sorrow, she will be the second friend in just over a year I will have lost to suicide if she goes ahead with it.

So yeah, I’m all feared out. Spider invasion? Bring it on. Shark attack? Go ahead, make my day. What the hell can eight-legged monstrosities or living death machines do to my sense of fear that isn’t being done already?

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