Yesterday a man in Baltimore County got pissed off at his wife for taking a bite out of his grilled cheese sandwich, went into his basement where he kept 15 guns (four of them loaded), and began firing shots at her through the ceiling to the kitchen where she was standing. She fled the house with their three teenagers and no one was harmed. A three-hour standoff ended with him, wearing a holster loaded with ammunition, surrendering to police.
While it sounds funny – thanks to the media who trivialized the incident on Facebook as “The Grilled Cheese Standoff” and in the Baltimore Sun as a “grilled cheese dispute” – there is nothing funny about this. Someone, or several, could have died. The man wasn’t legally allowed to own guns due to previous assault convictions. There is no further information yet as to whether the man is mentally ill or, perhaps, a veteran suffering from PTSD.
We’ve all seen the news recently. Another deadly shooting, this time in the Ft. Lauderdale airport that left me weeping on my couch late Friday night and feeling fearful of ever setting foot in an airport again. The shootings that make the big news are always the ones that seem so random or, lately, those claimed by ISIS. Gun control is a huge issue in this divided country and it’s easy to see why. I believe we have the right to bear arms, but I also think it’s vital to screen individuals who seek gun ownership, particularly in an America that appears to be backsliding into Wild West mentality. I want the right to bear arms, but who in hell needs an AK-47?
Is the grilled cheese evidence of domestic violence, or does it point to a larger problem? Veterans aren’t often getting the help they need, after returning from service in war-torn countries. And even when they do reach out for help – are they getting it?? It seems our fellow in Florida did not. Is the grilled cheese a symbol of our community’s failure to help someone who is crying out for help?
Meanwhile, I contemplated writing this post with a bit of dark humor – that if I were even slightly mental I might have enacted a Dirty Sock Standoff in my own home, albeit with a Nerf gun, or a Supersoaker. Because I’m sick to death of seeing dirty socks lying around the house. Or, dirty clothes littering bedrooms and making it hazardous to enter. One more unmedicated day of tripping over a shoe and I might just have to blow the house up. But I do have a sense of humor that is just risky enough to go to the local pet store and adopt three kittens, because I can.
Lucky for everyone, I AM currently medicated and of sound mind (body notwithstanding) and so I just move through waves of pissed-offedness and get over it. Sometimes I will remind the offenders, other times I find myself thinking snarky things to myself. Still others, I just pick up the socks and forget about it. It’s my lot in life, I suppose.
However, another individual who is a few chicken nuggets short of a Happy Meal might one day decide to carpe diem all those dirty dishes no one could see fit to put in the dishwasher and the next thing you know, their house is on the evening news via helicopter and the whole neighborhood is wondering who lost their shit today. It sounds funny, doesn’t it?
But there’s nothing funny about mental illness. And we need to stop stigmatizing it and brushing it under the nearest rug because it makes us uncomfortable. It needs to be open, front and center. People need to be able to say, I have anxiety and it makes my heart race and I don’t know why, but it scares me. They need to be able to say, I can’t think straight and it scares me. They need to be able to say, I’m afraid to leave my house. They need to be able to say, I don’t want to live anymore. They need to be able to say, my children make me feel violent sometimes. They need to be able to say, I have dreams about the war and people dying in front of me. They need to be met with compassion and direction about how to get the help they deserve, without judgement. Imagine how many lives could be saved.
It’s not funny when post-partum mothers drive their cars into lakes with their children strapped inside. It’s not funny when a friend kills himself because he can’t cope with his chronic illness anymore. It’s not funny when a service member is traumatized by horrors in countries we only read about, and they return home to cope with it alone.
What can we do? What can YOU do?