Archive for the ‘Sandy Hook Tragedy’ Category

Why I Carry.

December 18, 2012

Hello, Friends.

Friends will sometimes ask me, “Why do you carry a gun?  You gonna be a hero?” then they snicker.  The CT Tragedy has once again ignited the gun control debate.  CT has the 4th most restrictive gun laws in the Nation.  I live in a “Shall Issue” state.  Our state will issue a concealed carry permit to anyone who presents a record of military service showing weapons training or to anyone who completes an authorized firearms class. 

For Veterans – it takes anywhere from 7 to 14 days to receive your permit in my state.  They do a full background check and they can even check references. 

I carry as often as I can – and I carry concealed.  I follow all the laws – I don’t carry onto my work site because it is federal property and that is illegal. 

I always carry at the mall – regardless of their little signs on the door!  After all, no one about to shoot up a mall looks at the sign and says, “Oh, Shit!  Gotta do it somewhere else!”  I often carry to church.  I often carry into Wal-Mart.

I have no intention of running towards gunfire in a crowded mall looking for the shooter.  Anyone who has an understanding of active shooter scenarios knows that this is the worst thing you can do.  If you are close and can take cover and get a clear shot without shooting an innocent bystander – then take the shot.  If not, you are better off finding a safe place to barracade yourself into.  The purpose of the weapon is to protect yourself and the innocent people with you in the event of a direct attempt by the shooter to access your barracaded location.

There has been talk about making sure that people with “significant mental illness” don’t have the ability to purchase, access or carry weapons.  I can understand most of that – most of that.  However, I wonder how they will label those of us who have Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (okay – I know the term is “disorder” but I hate that term.  The only thing “disordered” is what was done to me to injure me!)  I fear that if they include PTSI on the list that it will prevent Veterans from getting the help they need and their compensation for their injuries.  “I can’t go to the VA – I will lose my right to own a weapon!”

I don’t know a single survivor of military sexual trauma that has killed their attacker.  In fact, these mass shootings are not perpetrated by Veterans – except for the Ft. Hood Shooting that was motivated by radical beliefs.  I can only think of two that have been committed by service members.

As for teachers learning how to use a firearm to protect their classrooms.  I have taught – I was adjunctive faculty at a Community College for three years.  One of those years I taught high school students.  No, I could not carry or possess a firearm on campus and it was long before our state changed their carry laws.  However, I can honestly tell you that I adored those kids – I would have died for those kids – and if necessary, I would have defended those kids with deadly force!

I was a soldier in the US Army.  The oath I took did not go away when they sent me away.  I took that oath for life.  Part of that oath includes defending the innocent from all enemies foreign and domestic.  Who are the innocent?  My children are the innocent, your children are innocent, my neighbor, my church, my community, the stranger in the mall, my co-worker. 

I am prepared to give my life in their defense. 

In honor of those in Sandy Hook School that did give their lives trying to protect the innocent.  Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto. 

American Heroes – Gone…but Not Forgotten!

Peace,

Joan

Mental Health in America – Mature Content

December 17, 2012

So, why have I shared the stories of my sons, Creed and Jude, with you.  What do their stories have to do with what happened in Sandy Hook or Ohio or Columbine or a movie theater in Colorado?

If we could speak to Adam Lanza’s mother, I believe she would tell us that she knew something was wrong with her son.  Same thing that so many parents and friends and relatives and educators  of other mass murderers tell the courts and the media…after the tragedy.  “There was something wrong!”

There was something wrong – but there was no help.  As a Survivor of Military Sexual Trauma I can tell you that finding help is not easy.  As the mother of two sons who battled mental illness I can tell you – there is no fucking help!  No one gives a damn until something like Sandy Hook happens.  Suddenly, everyone wants to talk about gun control – but no one wants to talk about mental health issues.

We have seen it time and again with our brother and sister survivors.  We don’t want to be labeled, we think we are alone, the VA doesn’t believe us, we were discharged with “personality disorders” or other than honorable conditions so we don’t qualify.  The list goes on and on and on.

Then there is the name Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I don’t have a “disorder” – my brain was fine until I was raped, assaulted, abused, degraded and generally fucked and fucked over.  Drop out on the street corner, no job, no benefits…nothing but shame. 

I have an injury – I have a mental health condition because of what was done to me…not because of what is wrong with something in my head. 

They can take away the guns – but the only one’s that they will get are the LEGAL guns.  That leaves all of the illegal ones on the streets.  They can’t stop a person bent on murder and destruction – bombs are easy to build and knives can be bought at Wal-Mart or on Television for 10.00 – and the second set is free if you pay shipping and handling.

It is time we have serious discussions about Mental Health.  Mental Health Conditions are a chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma, and they have to be treated as such.  We don’t cure them – we learn to manage them.  We have to get rid of the stigma that goes with these conditions.  We have to stop telling People and Children that there is only one way to be and that if you don’t fit that mold – you don’t fit period. 

But Mental Health isn’t what they want to talk about.  They don’t want to think that our society and our medical and psychiatric professionals and the court system might share some responsibility.  They don’t want to talk about the fact that faith and values have been removed from schools.  I’m not talking Christian faith – I am talking ALL faith.  We must divide church and state – but we must adopt a “moral code” for our children.  Much of that comes from faith, from consequences for evil and love of your neighbor.

I was a very lonely child in school, I was picked on, I was teased.  I grew up with an unlocked gun cabinet and easy to access ammunition.  It never occurred to me to kill my tormentors. 

In fact, most of you who read this page had a real reason to kill and the means to do it.  How many of you killed your rapists?  Could it be that you have honor – you have values? 

Could it be that you are better than your tormentor?  I think so.

Peace,

Joan

Little Ones Lost – Part II

December 17, 2012

Part two is about my other son, Jude.  Jude, like his brother, is brilliant.  Unlike his brother – Jude was always very compliant.  He was my “easy” child!  Always warm, snuggly, compassionate and friendly toward everyone.  Unlike Creed, Jude had lots of friends and was very popular.  Jude was a gentle giant – he was always bigger than most of the other kids – but he never hurt a soul.  His little sister, Willow, adored him and he was her protector and her defender.

One time – we thought Jude had missed curfew.  We weren’t sure what to do, he had NEVER been punished because he had NEVER done anything wrong!  Turns out, he was sound asleep on his bed…he had been home the whole time.

In 10th grade Jude became more withdrawn and quiet.  He would start to defy us.  His grades slipped.  He started to display anger that we had never seen before.  I wrote it off to puberty and to the new school.  I was so wrong!

I picked up Jude’s back pack one morning and a funny pipe rolled out of it.  My husband knew it was for marijuana.  I confronted Jude and his response was, “Yeah – it’s mine…so what!”  I was stunned!  We immediately started home drug testing and lots of conversations.  Things got worse…much worse.

Soon he was suspended and then expelled from school.  We now know that the school knew he was using before we did!  He broke through our basement door and stole a change jar, we pressed charges.  He tested positive for drugs in the juvenile court officers office.  We attempted to have him committed.  I was very lucky, our insurance company was trying to help us – “The bill is paid…100 percent…just get him help!” was their response.

It took us three attempts to get him committed.  Finally, after he tested positive for cocaine and I had done all the leg work the judge filed the papers.  The facility we finally got him into, private pay, claimed to be a dual diagnosis facility…they weren’t.  It came out that a neighbor boy had sexually assaulted Jude when he was 6.  I had no idea!  They weren’t allowed around the kid who did it.  The facility sent him home early – they couldn’t deal with him.

Jude went into court ordered treatment and the therapist was great!  Jude didn’t want help.  He was now burning himself to feel anything.  He was using again.  My husband and I often slept with a dresser against the door to alert us if he tried to enter.  We had to padlock the door after Jude spread dirty cat litter in the bed.  He had dropped out of school.

On Dec 31, 2011 Jude threw a brick through the truck window and then went after my husband.  Jude is 6’3″ and weighs 280 – my husband is 5’11” and weighs 190.  My husband finally had to swing his fist.  Both were arrested.

Jude was sent to Juvenile Detention – he was now charged with a Class B Felony (for the earlier break-in), possession of controlled substances, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. 

Arrangements were made for Jude to go live with his father – that is what he had wanted all along.  His father is a real piece of work and spent his time with the kids telling them how mom robs him (child support) and what an evil person I am.  He had Jude convinced that I was a horrible person.

My husband, Jude’s step-father, was fined 290.00 for disorderly conduct and another 300.00 to fix his window.  He wrote a letter to the court on Jude’s behalf begging them to give Jude one more chance.  Hold the charges one more time – if Jude lives with his father, stayed clean, got a job and went back to school – the charges would disappear at age 18.  If not, then Jude would have to live with the consequences.

Jude graduated high school in May.  He completed 18 months of High School in just 5 months.  He is working in food service.  He is clean and sober.  His father is unemployed and so Jude is supporting himself and his father.  He came down to visit us in Oct, I paid for a hotel room, and he is the Jude I used to know.  He is coming back from the brink.

Jude admitted to me one day that he had plans for his Dean of Students at the school – but it would have had “heavy repercussions.”  Yes – my sweet and darling Jude almost became Adam or Eric or any one of the other kids that perpetrate school violence. 

I was blessed…or lucky.

Joan

Little Ones Lost – Part One

December 17, 2012

 

Hello, Friends.

 

With the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT I feel that I must go off topic today.  When I heard the news on Friday I was sick…physically sick!  26 lives ended for no other reason than someone with evil intent chose to take them.

 

Of course, the political debate is already starting.  In fact, it started the moment the news announced that someone used a gun.  Regardless of opinions of gun control – I wanted to share a story from my life and explain why I could have been the parent of any one of those shooters. 

 

I have two sons, Creed and Jude (all names changed, of course) and then a daughter named Willow.  Creed is 20, Jude is 18 and Willow is 16.  Both Creed and Jude have had mental health issues at certain times in their lives.  

 

Creed was often the “smartest” kid in class.  His grades didn’t reflect it – but he is a brilliant individual.  In kindergarten no one could get him to read.  He just acted like he didn’t get it.  I read to him all the time and I would say, “can you read this page to Mommy?” but he would refuse.  One day during Christmas break I found him sitting quietly on his bed with a book.  He acted embarrassed, like he had been caught doing something wrong.  I asked him if he would like me to read to him and he just started reading the book like he had been doing it his whole life.  The teacher figured that he had really been reading all along but was just not interested in sharing it with anyone.

 

 

When Creed was in kindergarten I left the kid’s father.  He was violent and abusive and despite counseling, he didn’t want to change.  This set off an entire firestorm for Creed.  He felt that it was his fault that his father left marks – I reminded him that he was not to blame…his father was. 

 

In first grade we were living in transitional housing and on welfare.  It was not a good time.  Creed was already struggling and then Christmas came around.  His very young teacher had decided to use Santa Claus to control the children’s behavior – but Creed didn’t believe in Santa Claus.  Creed always had problems separating reality and fantasy, so we chose to avoid fantasy as much as possible with him.  When he spoke to his teacher about this, the teacher said, “Your mother lied to you…there is a Santa Claus.”  Now we were really in the shit!  You see, Creed decided that because I had lied to him it was because I was angry with him, didn’t want him to have a Nintendo  and his angry outbursts became uncontrollable.  After an outburst where he attempted to jump out of a moving car we finally had to have him admitted to a pediatric psychiatric unit.  They kept him over the weekend but did no evaluation and then sent him home on drugs.

 

Creed suffered from outbursts of anger until he was around 16.  He was tried on different medications, all of which did not work, and so we tried every behavioral program we could think of.  For a time we even had space in the house that was called the “Quiet Space.”  This is where he could go to calm down and relax.  It was usually a closet and at first I had to lock him in there.  I sat outside the door and talked to him to entire time.  It was never dark.  I had the light on and I had extra “tap lights” so he could have it as bright as he wanted.  There were books, toys, coloring books…he had his favorite stuffed animals.  I never left him alone – he could hear me telling him I loved him, that it was going to be alright.  The shrinks went nuts, “How dare you lock your child in a closet!!!”  I questioned myself constantly but he would harm himself and he would harm others if left to his anger. 

 

As time went on, Creed would look at me and say, “Can I have quiet space?  I think I need a moment.”  I would walk with him and tell him how proud I was that he realized he needed a moment.  I would offer to stay with him.  I would show him that the door was not locked and that he could come and go as he pleased.  I often asked him if he wanted a snack or a glass of milk.  Quiet space worked like a dream and he continues the practice to this day on his own.  There are times when Creed asks not to be disturbed – and we grant that wish.

 

Now that he is 20 he has grown into a very empathetic and caring young man.  He is not sure of directions in his life but he is sure of whom he is.  Suddenly, at age 18, a flip switched and he became an entirely different individual.  He takes no medications – he works two different jobs that involve the public – and everyone talks about what a wonderful person he is. 

 

We did it alone, his father, step-father and I.  Creed did it alone.  We received no help from the mental health community, no matter how hard we tried.  We would do therapy but they would just want to do more drugs.  We would hold him until he broke down sobbing.  I prayed constantly.

 

I am very proud of the man that Creed has become – I don’t know if we were blessed…or just very lucky!

Stay tuned for Jude’s story.

Joan