Friday, 17 June 2016

It doesn't make it better if Jo Cox's killer was mentally ill

Yesterday one of our MPs was murdered, as everybody in Britain knows.
Jo Cox, MP, 1974-2016

There's been reports that the presumed murderer had mental health problems. For example, as I write, the Wikipedia page on her murder states "A 52-year-old former psychiatric patient was arrested in connection with Cox's death."

And the tone of a lot of the reaction to that is kind of "well that's ok then." I mean sadness about the loss but relief that it's not terrorism or racism or sectarianism or ...


An oft quoted statistic is that about 25% of the population has a serious mental health problem sometime. So it's ok to paint a quarter of the population as potential murderers?

And just because somebody has had mental health problems, who says their actions yesterday were in any way related to their mental health? The police have - quite rightly - said nothing to indicate that, just as they have not indicated that it was related to the words the murderer supposedly shouted. We simply don't know the motive.

Let's say for a minute that the murder was in some way related to mental health. That is certainly a possibility.

Then what does that say about our society?

It says that we are completely failing to care for the mental health of our population, to the extent that they become murderers. Yes, there could always be an isolated incident where somebody snaps from nowhere, but then the rumour is that this person has had mental health problems. So where was the right drug treatment, the right talking therapy, the right care in the community, or if absolutely necessary the right hospitalisation? It wasn't there, was it?

So if it was mental health related, it doesn't make it better.

It makes it worse.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The sheer terror of self worth

My therapist and I have discovered that a good project for the rest of my life might be to get myself to … well … not love myself, necessarily, but like myself. See my own value. See me like my friends do.

Become a good friend to myself.

The mere concept fills me with terror: when we first talked about it, I started crying just trying to think about it as an abstract idea. Returning to it, I start crying as soon as we skirt near the idea of building up my sense of self-worth.

I have a suggestion to work with, have had for a week and a half now, and probably will carry for quite a bit longer before anything happens: make two lists.
One with all the things that have hurt me. All the hurtful slurs, shouts, names, attacks from my school mates.
One with all the things everyone tells me and show me now. All the things that I am, that are valuable, that make me as loved as I am.

The idea is to build up an alternative narrative, that can take up place in parallel to the one cemented through years and years of school harassment.


I didn't get as far as to writing, but trying to get to sleep tonight, I found myself thinking of document titles for the first list. “Sticks and stones” is a favorite, or reading it out further “Sticks and stones break bones that heal, but words tear me down and leave eternal scars”
And then thinking of things that go into the bad list.
“Micke Toansson” — something vaguely like Mike the Toilet, sounds silly now, hurt incredibly much back then. I still don't like the (incredibly common) nickname “Micke” to this day.
My classmate screaming and running away rather than open a door she had seen me touch.

And as I think about these things, not much happens. I'm comparably euthymic, so these ideas don't spin up a self-hating spiral right now — so not much happens. I'm indifferent to these old, ugly, hurtful words and thoughts.

Then I try to think of the second list. The one about me being good, me being lovable.
The very word brings me to tears. This is a word that terrifies me. I can't understand why, but even trying to think of myself as someone deserving of love sends me crashing down.
I'm surrounded, daily, by evidence to the contrary. People seek me out to spend time with me, to do research with me. I have friends that I love. I have a wonderful wife, whom I love. I love my family.

But the very idea that I could be lovable has me crying in front of the computer. Utterly terrified.

“You carry that bright blue really well — not everyone can do that, you really can.”
«The singer for Shpongle running up to give me a hug before their latest concert»
“We should find a new research project to continue with — I'll bribe you with daily St Louis frozen custard if I have to.”
«My survey article has gotten assigned as introductory reading for people getting into my field of research. At Oxford.»

I write down ways in which I was hurt as a child.
And I feel nothing.
I write down ways in which I am loved right now.
And I am crying onto my keyboard, my head is screaming on the inside.