Mental illness is often mentioned when people talk about their ex. If so many divorcees deal with mental illness on a regular basis we (the divorce community) should be leading the charge on education and help for the mentally ill. The devastation in the lives of so many people by the choices of Elliot Rodger this last week has led to some deep and sad discussions between my 16 year old daughter and myself. Last night she asked me to come into her room and talk about it. She is conflicted, confused, hurt and scared.
As she poured her heart out to me, haltingly, because she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to feel, my heart broke for her. She has a tender heart, she is sensitive to mental illness because of her dad’s mental illness however she is also fully aware of the devastation an untreated mental illness can wreak on innocent people. Her dad taught her those valuable lessons early. She sees similarities in her dad and Elliot Rodgers. Her dad is not a threat to society, he has been and sometimes continues to be a threat to me. It scares my children.
Elliot Rodgers hated himself, because of that he hated women. Per my daughter, he was very goodlooking, he probably could have had any girl he wanted if he had only stopped focusing on himself and paid attention to those around him, paid attention to the good. Her thought is there were probably a lot of girls interested in him but he drove them away with his anger, bitterness and hatred. Her thoughts reminded me of my grandma telling me pretty is as pretty does and to find friends one must first show themselves to be friendly.
If we want situations like the UCSB stabbings and shootings to end, the answer is obviously not gun control as much as we would like that to be the answer. Gun control would not have stopped this young man, he used a knife to stab and murder three innocent people. The answer is awareness, education, and love. Live the golden rule – teaching our children to love themselves enough to treat those around them with respect and love.
Even though mental illness was involved in this situation, my children and I deal with untreated mental illness every day. We know the triggers, we know how to avoid confrontation and how to appease his madness without giving in to his unreasonable demands. Educating ourselves, paying close attention to their dads cycles enable us to protect ourselves.
Society MUST realize there are mentally ill people all around us, they are not monsters. We become the monsters when we fail to educate ourselves and one another on the needs of other people. Imagine a blind individual using a cane, walking into a society that has never seen a blind person before. Their blindness would scare everyone around them, they wouldn’t know how to react to the cane, they wouldn’t get out of the way, their ignorance would literally hamper the blind person and limit the success of the blind individual. We, society, do this to mentally ill people all the time. Every single day.
A lot of divorces involve mental illness, we say he is a narcissist or is bipolar. As often as I hear these terms thrown around by people in the divorced arena, I think we have no excuse. If so many divorcees deal with mental illness on a regular basis then we need to step up to the plate and do our part educating, not just other divorcees but our children, our friends and our families.
This isn’t a war. This is a societal disease that we are ignoring. We love to say “oh my ex is a narcissist” because it emotes sympathy, if you say your ex is bipolar people automatically feel sorry for you and your frustration. Instead of just throwing the terms around, instead of using them to get people to understand your frustration each one of us is responsible for handling mental illness in a mature and loving manner.
When my ex makes choices that seem insane to me, irrational and hurtful, you know those times my kids come crying to me saying “Why can’t dad just love me? Why does he do these things? Why can’t he be like other dads?” That is when my choice makes all the difference. I sit them down, remind them that their dad is sick. We need to help him through his illness, through this cycle. I remind them that he loves them, give them examples where they can feel or see his love and then tell them to remember when their brother had cancer, he was in treatment and was so very sick, he couldn’t help his reactions. He couldn’t help the disease that was ravaging his body.
Neither can their dad. His disease makes him believe he isn’t ill, makes him believe he doesn’t need medication. It is our job, to love him anyway (I am not talking about being in love with him), it is our responsibility to protect ourselves by knowing what is going on in his emotional process.
So, I ask you to do the same. Educate yourselves on mental illness; learn to recognize the signs and how to help someone with mental illness through the hard times in their lives. If necessary help them find professional help.
Whatever you do – do not ignore mental illness – it is destroying so many families.