After this post, I will likely have a new “regrets” post to write. But as I have watched the conversation around mass shootings, I feel compelled to write.
First, let me explain to you why I feel I am qualified to have a voice on this topic (here comes the regret post). When I was around six or seven years old, one of my best friends tried to psychologically manipulate me into participating in anal intercourse with him. No, I new nothing about the birds and the bees at the time. Nor did I at age nine or ten when I was exposed to hard core pornography. Nor did I at the age of 12 when I was molested by a leader at a scout camp (I didn’t connect the dots until roughly ten years later, when I saw a new report of that individual being arrested for similar offenses).
I was… am… moderately socially incompetent. I am also an introvert, with a social anxiety disorder, and a predisposition to compulsion and addiction.
On my mission, I had a companion who was fostering a relationship with a young woman. Everyone else figured it out, I didn’t catch on until 3 days before I got called in and yelled at for not reporting it.
In my late twenties, my employer took all his employees to the lake one weekend. As we were unloading his personal water craft, a young woman came and very overtly came on to me. Everyone at the lake could tell. Except me. I got teased mercilessly for that. Later that year, the same employer took us to see a comedian in Las Vegas while at a technology convention. This comedian’s humor consisted mostly of picking on audience members (aka bullying). I was in the front row. Nearly his entire 1 hour on stage revolved around jokes about a nearly 30 year old computer nerd/virgin/loser from Utah. I went to my hotel room that night and cursed the window locks that prevented me from jumping.
Prior to that job, I was in college, relying on a scholarship to pay my way. Somehow, when trying to transition to off campus housing, I got trapped with two apartment contracts, one on-campus and one off-campus. I tried to get help resolving the situation, but… large bureaucratic organizations aren’t sympathetic to quiet, introverts who have neither the social nor financial connections to get the wheels turning. At the time I was struggling to keep myself fed. I had no idea how I would pay two contracts. I was shuffled around from one bureaucrat’s office to the next, listening to a steady drone about “policy and procedure…”. When I finally lost my mind and had a full-blown screaming meltdown in one office, they finally released the contract, and sent me on my way with a token for a free ice cream cone.
I tried to get additional scholarships after that. I spent a fair amount of time perusing an enormous book of scholarships, looking for some I could apply for. There were pages upon pages of scholarships with requirements I could not meet; African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Female (there was one specific scholarship restricted to women over 6 feet tall in fact)…
I finally had to drop out, of school due to illness brought on by stress. Every test was a trigger. Group critiques were even worse. Finances were always a matter of just getting by. I had found it necessary to take on school loans when the one scholarship I had ran out. So, I left the university – without a degree - to a low paying job, with the burden of student loan debt, and a maxed-out credit card to cover medical costs.
A decade later, I managed to finish a degree by taking one class a semester, and thanks to a series of fortunate events which placed me with an employer who funded those courses. and with a manager who saw my intellectual and ethical value, in spite of my social incompetence and lack of degree.
Sadly, such things don’t last. The company was acquired by ever larger corporations, and once again I find myself a quiet, insecure, introvert in a boundless bureaucracy which rewards extroverts. And grinds my lot to dust.
I live In a world which continues to send the message that I am somehow inherently bad because I am white, male, straight, religious (it is funny how exclusionary the inclusivity rhetoric can feel)…
I live in a world that utterly disregards my struggles with addiction, deriding any who dare speak out about the proliferation of sensual media as prudish, and demanding their freedom of expression.
I live in a world that produces mountains of negative, contentious media which overloads my introverted anxiety-ridden mind. I live in a world where I am all to often alone in a crowded room, enduring levels of stimulation I cannot bear because it is “the norm”, and because I must, in order maintain my career, to feed my family.
I believe I am qualified to speak on this topic because I understand. I know the feeling of hopelessness, of Isolation. Of not fitting in. Of seeing no path forward through the morass of rules and regulations, policies and procedures, cliques and clans, social barriers…
More rules and regulations won’t fix this. They are in fact part of the problem…the frustrating, uncaring, bureaucracy they foster helps create the environment where isolation, hopelessness and anonymity wreak havoc on the tender mind.
The mental health conversation as it stands won’t help either. This group already feels like victims of discrimination. They are already isolated, already on the outside. Do you really believe further stigmatization, further restriction, further discrimination will help?
What will help? For starters, practice that “Inclusiveness” that you pretend to believe in. stop picking winners in the victim game. We are all victims in one way or another. Life is hard, bad stuff happens. Demonstrate a little tolerance and empathy. For everyone. Especially those individuals you don’t easily relate to.
Don’t demand that everyone conform to your standard of “normal”. We as a society spend millions to accommodate the hearing impaired, the blind. We construct modern buildings to accommodate those who are wheelchair bound. We have special schools for the autistic and for various mental handicaps to tailor the learning experience to their specific needs, we create work environments to accommodate their limitations, capitalize on their strengths and help them to be able to thrive as they are. Yet those who deal with attention deficit disorders, anxiety, even to a lesser degree introversion are expected to conform to the “norm”. and if they are unable to do so sufficiently on their own, then we medicate them to make them behave more “normally”.
I believe that to a considerable extent this country exists because of ADD. It would take a certain degree of dissatisfaction and disregard for personal safety in order to cause a person to leave the “civilized world”, cross a massive ocean on a little wooden boat, then attempt to carve out a livelihood in a new, untamed, unfamiliar land. Yet we now consider that trait which played such a key role in the creation of this nation as a blight, an undesirable trait that must be quashed. That is part of why I don’t think it is valid to compare Europe to the US. The US was created by those who could no longer tolerate the European way of doing things. They came here to get away from that. It is simply not in their DNA. I don’t in any way imply one is better than the other. They are simply different. If you are so fond of the European way, then perhaps you should move to Europe, and leave America for the “Crazy”, Anxious, ADD Americans.
Can we not find a way to accommodate their needs, and capitalize on their strengths, and help them to be able to thrive as they are? Must they be forced to deal with the cost and side effects of mind altering medications in order to fit in? Can they not also be included, accepted and celebrated for who they are?
Do you know what kept me from being one of the headlines? My Family, and my religion.
I love my family. I feel loved by them. The thought of causing them pain or sorrow has more than once brought me back from the precipice.
My religion gives me hope that at least some portion of what I think and feel is because I am “broken”, just as a person born without limbs, or eyes, or hearing, or with a malfunctioning heart… is broken. That it is not really - who I am. It gives me hope that someday - perhaps not until after my time on this earth is over, but someday – Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I will be made whole. I will be repaired. I will be able to think and feel as I really am, without the limitations imposed on me by this imperfect, mortal body.
My religion gives me the book of Mormon and with it, stories of a few brief periods when groups of people on this earth managed to live “after the manner of happiness”. Periods when they treated each other with respect and kindness. When they reached out to their neighbors and made sure that none were left without food, clothing, or shelter. When they spent their time looking for opportunities to serve and lift rather than working to get their government to make sure everyone conformed to their particular view of “fairness”, or compensate those who in their eyes suffered more. I cling desperately to the hope that someday, maybe I can experience that.
Of course this, will likely be ignored or “poo-pooed” by many because I am just another one of those “uneducated backwoods folks, with his inherent privilege, clinging to his religion”. And because “statistics say blah blah…”. What you are failing to understand is the people you are talking about are part of the three, four, or even six sigma. They don’t fall within the standard deviation. They are the anomaly in your statistical analysis. Your way of viewing the world fails to account for their experience. Your intellectual superiority is really just blind arrogance, and lack of real empathy.
You really want to make a difference? Then YOU make a difference. Be kinder, be more tolerant, look for opportunities to encourage, serve and lift others.
Stop spreading negative memes and stories. The country has survived over a century of “bad presidents” who were going to be the “ruin of the nation”. Some of those terrible presidents are even revered today. This president won’t be any different, nor will the next one, so long as “we the people” make kindness our watchword. And that starts with you. There have always been groups who were misunderstood, mistreated. Continuing to dredge up the past in order to lay blame, or claim reparations only perpetuates the problem. All the negative rhetoric does is contribute to the sense of hopelessness that threatens to engulf those who deal with anxiety and isolation. All it does is make us look down, rather than up. They become Self-fulfilling prophecies.
If everyone stops watching the negative news, then those who produce it will be forced to find more productive ways to earn money. It will dry up, and the cycle will stop.
You really want to make a difference. Make a sincere effort to see the world through the eyes of others. For example, you know those Victoria’s Secret posters and other sexy ads you feel are no big deal and are protected by free speech? Those yoga pants that show off those curves you’ve worked so hard to achieve, and deserve to show off? To those struggling with sex addiction, those are roughly the equivalent of a handful of cocaine blown into the face of a recovering drug addict. Imagine taking a super soaker full of bourbon and hosing down a struggling alcoholic. It’s kind of like that. I’m not suggesting passing restrictive laws. I am asking you to consider the millions of people around you every day, and make an effort – if not to make their lives a little better, then to at least not contribute to their personal hell.
You really want to make a difference? Then Serve. Love. Follow the Example of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to believe he is the Son of God to study his life – his example of kindness, healing, serving, humility, encouragement, mercy… – and emulate it. A staunch atheist can appreciate and emulate him as easily as a faithful devotee.
Of course I imagine none of what I have written matters. I remember a conversation I had with someone not long ago, somehow the subject of Marijuana came up. He said that "If there were any real medical benefit to be had from Marijuana, the big pharmaceutical companies would have already capitalized on it. Having worked in close proximity to Big Pharma, a Noted that Marijuana was a difficult play for them, because as a natural substance there was little opportunity for patents or other means to be able to recoup the inordinate cost to bring a product through the regulatory hurdles to market. Additionally, int he US at least, the legal classification of Marijuana makes it more difficult to work with than Heroin. Finally, I noted some studies which have shown efficacy relating to certain specific treatments. He stared at me blankly for a moment, then repeated the exact same comment as before, nearly word for word.
In other words. Nothing I have said will matter, because nobody will really listen.
And with that, I will close this, and begin my cycle of regret for having written it in the first place.