Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jared Loughner and mental illness

So, the guy who shot former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, taking around 20 other people out with her (dead, injured), pleaded guilty today. It means he gets life without parole instead of the death penalty.

I am NOT going to argue the death penalty here. I don't happen to believe it's a deterrent and I find it pretty well useless. (Hey, that's my opinion and this is my blog!) What I *do* want to work through is how I feel about this -- this case, my case.

Nope, I haven't gone on any shooting sprees, and I wouldn't -- if I kill anybody, I will limit it to myself. But this guy has spent over a year being force-fed psychotropics, after he was dx'd schizophrenic, and supposedly that's part of what made him competent to plead.

His psychiatrist said "he's become human" and has cried and apologized and shown remorse for his heinous act. The U.S. attorney general said he thought a trial would have just kept the wounds open, and that Loughner's "significant mental illness" was cause enough to toss him in the pokey, as my dad would say, until he dies.


You know what? I have a "significant mental illness." Bipolar is considered up there with schizophrenia as one.

Better yet, my bipolar comes with psychotic features, meaning that yep, just like Jared Loughner, I hear voices. (Mine haven't told me to go on killing sprees, though, they just annoy me by having inane conversations in my head.) I don't know whether Loughner's psychosis also involves visual hallucinations, but mine does. (Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're creepy. I loved the black dog one, though. Winston Churchill called his depression the black dog. I, currently in the midst of an episode I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through, saw a friendly big black dog at the top of my stairs the other night, even though the neighbors don't have any of those and my housemate and I have cats. I figure it's my fucked-up brain's way of trying to commiserate with Winnie.)

I just wonder if it's really an excuse. If I somehow snap and go do something evil, will my "significant mental illness" score me a get out of jail free card, so to speak? Will people dismiss it as "oh, she's just crazy, she can't help it"? Most of all -- do I really want to be defined that way??

I'm pretty sure the answer is no. The question is whether it's avoidable.

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