Monday, December 17, 2012

All Is Not Broken. But It Still Hurts.

I am in the mood to write and I'm all jammed up.

I do and I don't want to do a post about the CT shootings, because how could I? How could I possibly understand how those people are feeling?

The news is full of searches for answers: gun control, mental health, cracking down on school safety.

One sound byte caught my ear tonight on the PBS evening news:  "In many states it's easier to buy a gun than to get authorized to seek help for mental health problems.  And, of course, there's the stigma of admitting you need help.  That keeps so many people from seeking the treatment they need, and their family members from insisting they get it."

Now, I realize this is a generalization.  Many family members support their loved ones getting help.  Many brave people DO reach out for mental health (those who are lucky enough to have health insurance and can take that deep, courage-inducing breath and turn the card over to find the "mental health hot line").

I've had to do that.  A couple of times.  I'm not ashamed to admit that, because I know it takes a boatload of guts to ask for help.

But I also know that most people don't, can't or won't take that step.  Over time, perhaps, getting a gun or engaging in some other form or rage and fear induced retribution starts to seem like a good idea, I guess.

Who really knows?  There aren't any pat answers to this tragedy, or any of the other times someone walks into a public place and kills innocent people.

It's not just gun laws. It's not just school, or movie theater, or college campus safety. It's not just mental health reform.  Granted, all of those are contributing factors, but it's OH so much bigger than that.

Stigma. Think about it for a minute. Do you have one?  Do you know someone who does?  An alcoholic that everyone whispers about but nobody helps?  Someone who is on the fringe of accepted - socially awkward - who is avoided at parties?   Someone who is morbidly obese?  Or a hoarder?  There are a many ways to be on the "fringe" of what is considered socially acceptable. I don't know who made up what constitutes socially acceptable, but somehow we all know what it looks like.

So when we have a secret, or feel shame, remorse, abuse or addiction, it is so hard to put your hand up and say "I need help", because of that damn stigma. A man on PBS news spoke so eloquently about it tonight.  His point, essentially, was that there IS no social norm. And we need major reform in how easily we allow people to get access to help with mental health issues.

This unspeakable tragedy in CT has us all twisted up. Myself included. I'm walking down the aisle of Target contemplating this kind of coffee creamer, or the other one, and it hits me like a punch in the gut:  there are dead children. Dead teachers. Just because someone woke up one morning with the idea that going to that school (after shooting his mother) and executing kids was going to fix something in his broken soul. Oh, Dear God.

I am not going to search for answers. I am going to pray like mad for all the people directly and indirectly involved in this horrific event. I am going to pray for the shooter and his mother and their family.  I am going to keep praying, and I am not going to succumb to the notion that "humanity" is broken.  People keep saying "what has humanity come to?""

I think that's the wrong question.  I think the right question is "how can we not let events like this allow us to give up on the fundamental goodness of humanity?  How can we crush stigma, act with compassion, reach out to the suffering?"

Because we all understand suffering. We don't like to think about it, but we all do.  And every single person involved in this tragedy is suffering.

I am holding them in my heart, and I am not going to let these unimaginable horrors break my faith that there is more goodness is the world than not.

I'll end with two quotes. One from the Dalai Lama:

And then this, from my friend Susan, who is a beautiful soul inside and out. She left this comment on my wall, the day of the tragedy, and to me it is so wise, real and full of truth and light I had to share it here:

"Am trying to remember that when my heart holds such brokenness in the world that I am tricked into believing it is all broken. But it is not. Love always wins. Eventually. But this is beyond words. Gaping, hard, heavy and painful. I cannot imagine. So we pray, and we hold those we love and our hearts break and we let ourselves feel the brokenness and hopefully the love." -Susan McDonald


  1. Ellie, you have put into words here so many of the maelstrom of thoughts of these last few days; thank you for reaching so deeply to find them.

  2. Bril­liant! Great talk that was extremely insightful and very enter­taining. It’s given me loads to think about.