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Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Know What I have to Do Now

Taking Action in the Wake of Newtown
 By Lin Collette

The stupid little details of my life seem so trivial compared to what happened in Connecticut on December 14.

Like most caring people, I was badly affected by what happened but it was from an additional perspective.  Not only did I identify with the children and adults killed in the shooting attack, but I also was taken back to a dark time in my life when I was so filled with rage that I was making plans to do much the same thing as he did. 

Thankfully I came to my senses before I got too far, and checked myself into the hospital.  But I'm still conscious of the rage that simmers deep within me--although I have it in check.  Most of the time.  When I sense that it's beginning to bubble up I've learned to separate myself from the trigger as quickly as possible.  When I've noticed my anxiety beginning to ramp up, I've learned (more or less) to distract myself with something creative.

My psychiatrist, whom I saw this afternoon, says I've come a long way since that dark August Sunday when I begged a friend to bring me to Butler Hospital for fear of what I might do.  And I remember well her asking me if I thought I was possessed.  "It would be easier if I was," came my reply.

It is my hope that, in the wake of this tragedy so close to the traditionally joyous Christmas holiday, we finally have the courage to address issues of inequities in the treatment of mental illness.  That we finally have the courage to say "I need help and what you're offering isn't adequate."  And demand a solution.  There are millions of people in psychic, emotional, psychological pain--and they're getting nowhere in the current mental health "system."  

It is a crisis.  It is catastrophic.  It threatens to worsen, especially if we fall over that vaunted 'fiscal cliff.'

Yes, we do need to address gun control issues.  There's no reason for an individual to possess the firepower that this young man had unrestricted access to--especially if, as been reported (and no one really knows the accuracy), he may have had psychological issues in addition to his Asberger's.  I know there are those who differ--that's fine.  But in light of what has happened, we need to take some kind of action that might put a damper on this sort of tragedy.  Of course there's no guarantee that any action taken will prevent it--we all know it's easy to buy guns if you know where to go.

For me, though, it's more imperative that we deal with mental illness.  Stop making the cuts to Medicaid that so many of those depend on for their psychiatric and medical survival.  Stop making it so hard to find providers who take Medicare and Medicaid and properly compensate these professionals.  I was aghast when I found out that my therapist on whom I depend so greatly ONLY gets paid $65 (that includes my co-pay).  And my psychiatrist gets $43.  That is crazy, to coin a word.

I hold no illusions that anything actually will be done.  I know how effectively politics stonewalls progress and rewards regression.  I know that politicians are generally better at pontificating than promoting action that actually benefits their constituents (especially those who aren't able to hold rallies and write letters and emails).  

I am angry but it's a healthy kind of anger, one that bespeaks action.  I've been reminded that I have a responsibility because of my background, my skills, and my articulateness.  I'm adding this to my list of goals for 2013.  I just hope that it doesn't go by the wayside.