I Do Not Fear Mental Illness – I Fear Our Perception Of It

I sat in a park in Menasha, Wisconsin by the water with my 8 year old son last night. It was beautiful…and scary. It wasn’t like this before. I found myself looking over my shoulder every time I heard voices coming in our direction. I kept a judgmental eye on people who seemed to be moving in a way that didn’t seem normal.

The typical safety I feel by being surrounded by a baseball diamond full of players & other folks enjoying the weather… was gone. It does not matter how many people you’re surrounded by when there could be one individual in the crowd who is unstable and battling an inner struggle that you or I cannot comprehend.

mental illness quote michelle obama

[Police: 4 dead, including suspect, in Menasha shooting]

At 7:30pm on May 3rd, 2015 in a park in Menasha, Wisconsin four people werementalillness killed, including an 11 year old girl.  Grief struck me last night as I sat with my son; I felt sadness for a child that will never experience life & for her mother who survived. I looked at my son, put my arm around him & realized I cannot protect him from a mentally ill person with a gun. When a human being is overcome with a negative shadow, rarely is an offense they commit planned out. Randomly, they seem to take their aggressiveness and feelings out on innocent people who never see it coming.

Gun control, gun control, gun control… in America we all have an opinion. We read about it, we talk and debate about it – if we, as a nation, discussed mental illness the way we ranted about gun control… we might get somewhere. But, the focus remains on a belonging, rather than people.


I’ve always been an overly-analytical person, trying to understand things by dissecting every aspect of a scenario, regardless how big or small. While watching people in the park last night, I started to wonder how the shooter’s family and friends are grieving the loss of him.

Were there red flags that now haunt them? Had he attempted to reach out for professional help, what steps would have been taken by doctors… medication?  I can’t help but get angry when mental-illness is downplayed or not taken seriously.  We’re failing not only a person who has something terribly wrong with them… but we’re failing the 11 year old girl whose life got cut short.

Sitting in a quiet park in Wisconsin with my son, should be anything but an anxiety-ridden experience. The pleasantry of the trees finally being filled with green leaves & the sounds of kids running around, without a care in the world have been replaced with an uneasy pit in my stomach.mental health quote glenn close1

Observation Vs. Judgement

photo prompt Plant in Van Flower

I sit up for the first time & fully soak in my surroundings.

The sun shines above me.

For a little flower – here will do just fine.

I like the shade & protection; safety.

How lucky I am to have been provided this space to call mine.

Thank you, Mother [Nature].

Time passes and occasionally

I see appalled eyes shift in my direction with dismay.

More time judging & Less time observing.

Why can’t they see what I see?

Time passes and occasionally

I see intrigued eyes look with wonder; some even appreciate me.

More time observing & Less time judging.

photo prompt Plant in Van Flower
Copyright-Roger Bultot

This was written in response to: Friday Fictioneers.
The objective of Friday Fictioneers is to challenge yourself to write a 100 word story that is influenced by a single photo. If you’d like to learn more and/or participate, click on the photo prompt above. 

Perhaps It’s My Perception That Needs Tidying Up

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye. -Helen Keller

Every once in a while… words, people or things are placed in front of you exactly  when you need it most. One week ago today, my friend Adelie published a post on her blog  inviting her readers to take on a challenge.

I wasn’t really aware of it at the time…but this was one of those times. I needed a reminder to hold my head up. I needed a reminder to stop apologizing for things I have no control over. I needed a reminder to be myself with out holding back; not for my husband, or my son…my friends or co-workers…for me.

“How am I going to make today a masterpiece?” 

Instead of driving straight from work to Bennett’s school that day I dropped the car off at home; I ran inside, grabbed my dog & we walked. I did not to stare at the ground below me, or Trapper’s fat behind sway from side to side. I kept my head up high. Making an unusual effort to see the things around me.

I watched the tree’s & gnats. I saw couples riding bikes. A slew of children outside without a single care in the world. A nice lady, while sweeping off her sidewalk gave me a sincere, “Hello”. I wonder if that would have happened if I wasn’t making a point to hold my head up? The neighborhood that I often complain about looked pleasant, even…pretty.

Perhaps it’s my perception that needs tidying up, not so much my surroundings. 

While inhaling deep breaths of fresh air I could feel the jittery tension that has recently began feeling grossly normal… begin to slowly let up. With my head up, I’m able to see  the good that I’ve missed out on…for longer than I’d probably care to admit.

Saturday came. I reminded myself of the eye opening accomplishment (I like to think of it as that) from the day before.

Let’s do it again.

We took a drive through hilly & curvy two lane highways in the country. I appreciated the beauty of the countryside that I used to find so boring. I allowed my window to be down – the whole way. When I felt the chill of the air… rather than complain about it, I allowed myself to feel it. I kept my head up.

There were hawks soaring in the bright blue sky. I watched the barns & cows. I felt Bennett’s excitement as we approached the steep hills ahead. I saw houses I’ve never seen before on the same roads I’ve been down again…more times than I’d care to admit.

Taking a unexpected challenge from a friend has opened my eyes. I’ve made a promise to myself to hold my head up and really observe what is around me. To continue looking past the bad & appreciate the good. To stop apologizing for things that I have no control over. To stop letting past experiences dictate my life today. To live fearlessly and passionately.

I invite you to take the same challenge. What have you been missing out on?

As my dear friend said:

“It might go without saying, but I’m going to add this anyway, as a reminder to myself. It takes more than just one day to banish a habit of hiding. The point is to challenge yourself, every day, until living authentically no longer becomes a challenge”

Thank you, Adelie for the eye-opener.