It has been a few days since James Holmes, a young man who was a brilliant, budding scientific researcher, dressed himself in black body armor from head to toe, took four guns and killed and injured dozens in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.
Bullets in a darkened theater delivered by a man dressed black must have been absolutely terrifying. I hate to think of the children who have to live with this for the rest of their lives. I weep with the parents and families of those who killed, and of those who will never be the same for their injuries.
It bothers me that the news stories rarely take into account the victims who survived. These kinds of stories often bring out the black and white dichotomy. Black: the man with the gun, the dead. White: the unharmed and the survivors. But it's not that simple.
The victims who are lying in intensive care at this minute, even those who are not in ICU, but wounded, will sustain physical injuries that may take away their potential almost as cleanly as the gunman took away the entire lives of those who died. These victims will have psychological hurdles, PTSD, any manner of emotional problems to deal with on top of that. Are they lucky? I don't think I'd feel lucky, even though others died. Would you look forward to life as a quadriplegic?
What if you were one of the people who escaped physical harm? Depending on who you are and your state of mental matuity and health, would you be just fine, totally okay? Of course not. I know I'd be afraid of the dark, afraid of crowds, and afraid to go to the movies. Some may barricade themselves at home. Some may need extensive counseling to be able to function on a day to day basis. Some may commit suicide. And some may adjust and be able to move on with their lives.
I don't know these people, but the aftermath of this thing will go on for decades for most of them.
And what of James Holmes? I strongly suspect that he had a psychotic break with the onset of schizophrenia. He's the right age, it often hits in young adulthood. It's not something he could control, and as brilliant as he was, eventually it started controlling him. I heard that he'd started counseling, and I'm sure he was struggling with it before it took over his life and he lost touch with reality. Perhaps he would have committed himself if he had known ahead of time how bad this was going to be.But I bet, being so smart, the thought he could manage. And unfortunately, he was wrong.
I'm interested to find out what his parents have to say. It has been reported that at first, ABC news thought the "James Holmes" that was responsible for the massacre was a different "James Holmes" associated with the Tea Party. I think it was this that caused James Holmes, the student's mother, to call ABC and tell her who she was. I suspect this quote is out of context of a conversation where ABC is trying to make sure that this time they have the right person on the phone, a person related to James Holmes, the shooter. And so she says, "You have the right person." She wasn't saying that the police have the right person, her son. She was saying, "You have the right person," the mother of James Holmes the actual shooter. I could be wrong, but this makes much more sense than the way it was reported.
There is a possibility that she knew something was seriously wrong with her son. But being so far away from him, he in Colorado and she in San Diego, it is doubtful that you can blame her for anything. She probably had an inkling something was wrong. Mothers are like that. Or maybe she was already getting ready to go see James, perhaps he'd made an alarming phone call and she was already making plane reservations. Who knows? But you can't blame her. Until very recently her son was a brilliant student.
What I'm getting at is there are no Bad Guys. No Jokers. No one to blame.
Holmes was secretive, quiet, and outwardly nice, if a little "off," the days before the shooting. When someone is psychotic, it's not always visible. Someone as smart as he is can fool a therapist. Can "pass" among us. It's only when people walk around talking to invisible friends out loud that we really see it. As far as the reports go, James Holmes was acting socially inept, but not unpleasant.
Schizophrenia doesn't make someone a killer. In fact, schizophrenics are more likely to commit suicide than any other crime, according to the federal National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). See this link for more information: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/are-people-with-schizophrenia-violent.shtml .
Our local theater is now saying they are going to be scrutinizing everyone who comes into the theater. Well that's stupid. James Holmes came in through the back door, he didn't stand in line in his body armor and carrying all those guns and buy himself a ticket. He sneaked into the theater through the back door emergency exit. We, the theater goers, are being blamed. This is absurd.
Everyone in that theater is a victim. There is no blame that can be assigned. We want to, oh how we want to assign blame! It's a horrendous, nightmarish thing and it makes me cry. I wish that James Holmes had gotten help, had committed himself, or that someone had figured out what was going on with him. Likely this thing came on him slowly and it was too late by the time he was completely out of touch with reality.
Nothing is left but pain and sadness. Pray for everyone in that theatre, including James Holmes. Including the parents and families of every single person there, those who lived, those who will survive, and those who won't.
One last thing. There was a campaign years ago in the 70s when public service messages ran on television. The text was simple: Practice Good Mental Health. It was up to the viewer to figure out what that was. I took that message to heart and began reading (extremely helpful book: Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer), getting counseling, and learning how to keep from destructive mental habits, to pay attention to stress and negative thinking. To get help when I needed it.
I can't help but wonder if we need a renaissance of this sort, to encourage people to take care of themselves emotionally, not just physically. No one ever mentions how powerful our thoughts are. Your thoughts and your emotions are who you are. We live inside our heads.
I grew up with a mentally ill parent who never got treatment. I suffered. I vowed never to be like that parent, and I never have been, thanks to that public service announcement. So all of you, ALL of you, take a good look at yourselves and take care of yourselves. It's important.
Don't think I'm saying that this sort of thing could have avoided the theater massacre. I doubt that it would have made a difference. Schizophrenia is a physical illness that no one can cure, and no amount of counseling can "fix." But other emotional problems that can become serious, such as phobias, OCD, depression, violent acting out, and lots more, can be headed off at the pass if you can recognize what's healthy for you and what's not. We can all learnt to take care of ourselves, and each other if we all practice good mental health.