The Shame Monster

Lawyers for mentally-ill killer want inquest

That seems backwards, at first glance—the schizophrenia got to him and he killed his family with a meat cleaver. Why would he want an inquest?

Imagine waking up in the hospital after having a horrible nightmare about killing your own family. How would you feel after dreaming such a thing? Now, imagine the doctors telling you it wasn’t a dream, you really did those things. Now how do you feel?

There is a particular shame that accompanies mental illness, and I don’t mean the shame of just being mentally ill in our society. I mean the shame that comes when you realize that you have done some truly awful and loathesome things as a result of your illness. That’s a shame with claws that dig in and do not want to be let go.

In the recent chaos of no more Seroquel and no other alternatives available, I have said and done some things that were truly shameful. It’s hard to say it, but since the point of this blog is to see, really see, what’s going on in hopes of helping others who walk this road, it would be best to be honest. Okay, this is what psychiatrists refer to as “irritability-severe”. I told my child, “Shut up you fucking cunt.” It really doesn’t matter what this 6-year-old girl was doing, it wasn’t worthy of that remark. So here I am, in the school parking lot, standing outside the car and wondering what the heck do I do now. Running away wasn’t much of an option and continuing to speak to my child like that was not acceptable. How do I move forward from here? How do I step off the hundred-foot flagpole?

A few depths breaths in the cold winter air helped me regain some composure. I got in the car and apologized to my daughter for using some very bad language and calling her names. It wasn’t right and I was very sorry. And I was. She accepted my apology and then we were discussing how her day went.

Over the course of the next few days, memory of the incident and its attendant shame would well up time and again. How do I practice that? Acknowledge the thought and let it go. Radical acceptance: it is what it is and I can’t go back in time and undo it. Refusal to beat myself up and resolve to do whatever is necessary to ensure that my kid doesn’t suffer because my emotional regulator is shot and she is my trigger for reliving the trauma of my childhood abuse, with me playing the role of foul-mouthed hateful mother.

Do. Not. Want.

Of course not. But I’ve got, so now what? Adjust medication, cry, forgive self. Remind myself that this is not me, not the true me of onesuchness. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So why does Steven Chau want an inquest? Because like me, he trusted in the medical system. His doctor failed him: signs were missed, actions went untaken until lives were lost. Now that he’s properly medicated, he wants to know why. Why was he allowed to go so far off the rails?

It’s a good question. Mental health treatment is difficult to come by, and frankly, a whole lot of it out there just plain sucks. I’m glad he’s asking the question and hope he finds a way to forgive himself.

I keep trying to forgive myself too. Then morning comes and it’s time to get out of bed and get things done. Somehow, I let go long enough to enjoy hearing the whoosh of swooping wings as three ducks bank sharply over the yard and land in the creek below with a splish splash splish.