This is hard to write. I have never told anyone this, but I think it is important. My worst fear, the thing that is the most horrendous for me, the thing that brings with it unimaginable grief and suffering, and a desire to die, is to kill someone while I am psychotic.
Now, I know the statistics, the majority of mentally ill people are victims of crime not perpetrators of it. I also know that I have never been a danger to anyone, but myself. But the reality exists that occasionally, someone with schizophrenia, who is suffering from psychosis, will kill someone. It has happened. The reason this has become a stereotype is because it has happened and been sensationalized. There are millions of people living with schizophrenia, rarely do we hear of them being violent – I know this, logically, I know this. But I am sharing my worst fear here, and worst fears are often highly unlikely.
The reality that it has happened though makes me shudder, because here is how this plays out in my mind:
I become psychotic. I am not living in reality. My mind and thoughts are spinning and turning. I hear voices. The voices turn ugly. I am paranoid. The voices convince me to harm someone and I do. Later, while I am in jail, I get treatment. The voices subside. I start thinking clearly again. I start becoming myself, and I remember, and the lawyers tell me, that I killed someone.
I get this news as me, as myself, with a clear and level head. The woman who is so opposed to violence that she can’t watch much of it on television or in movies has committed a violent act. The grief, the sorrow, the horror, the remorse, the memories of what happened all of these things would torment me. I am certain I would want to die.
To be in recovery (have a stable mind) and to try and live with that reality would be unbearable to me. It is not who I am. I hate violence. I have a very tender heart. I am filled with empathy. I am filled with compassion. I want good things for all people. I am not a monster, but psychosis can be.
I write this to you today, because a man with schizophrenia, James Holmes, may get the death penalty.
Let me just say that if James Holmes is getting the treatment he needs in prison, if his mind has cleared, if he is no longer delusional and has no traces of psychosis, then having him live out his life in prison is the worst punishment that can be handed down to him. Having to live with the fact that you are viewed by many as a monster, and that you were in fact, for one night, a monster, and caused untold pain, suffering, grief and terror – that is punishment.
I think James Holmes life should be spared and I think he should be given the treatment he needs. If you want him to pay for his crimes, let him think about what he did with a rational mind for the next fifty to sixty years.
The thought of it terrifies me.
I can’t think of anything worse.