Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

Controlling Opinions

I know I don’t usually write about highly political topics and usually stick to my life and personal experiences……however, this post will be about my personal experiences in regard to a highly political topic.

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About 2 years ago I had a conversation with a friend of the family in regard to having guns in the home.  I made the statement that I would never have a gun in my house and was instantly lectured on the rights of all Americans, the constitution and my narrow-minded views.   Not once during the conversation did I say it wasn’t a person’s right to have a gun in their home, not once did I mention my views on their interpretation of American history…..and not once was I asked why I felt the way I did about guns.

I have seen a lot posted on the subject of gun control on Facebook by friends all over the country, yet I stay away from commenting for fear of the same reaction I got 2 years ago.  Opinion is our own truth and your truth isn’t always the same as everyone else’s……but why can’t I voice my own opinions….my own truths without being condemned as un-American? This is the beauty of blogging….this whole page is my truth and my opinion, based on my life experiences.  I didn’t feel I could speak up to defend my choices 2 years ago, but I am going to explain them now.

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Like many people, while growing up, things happened around me that affected my point of view.    A couple of things caused me to fear guns from a young age.  When I was 8, my uncle committed suicide by shooting himself.  I was not aware that he was manic-depressive at the time…….being 8, all I knew was that he was dead because of a gun.  A few years later, my dad’s cousin (whom I never met) was shot by her boyfriend during an argument.  Both of these incidents happened with guns within their homes, not by some stranger invading their space.  These incidents put a fear of weapons in my heart.  By the time I got to high school I found myself bothered by the fact that my Eagle Scout boyfriend was out having paint ball wars.  He would come back with massive welts on him and I thought “even a gun that is meant for gaming is harmful”. My dad even kept 2 antique rifles on the wall.  They weren’t loaded, he didn’t even have ammo for all I know, but I hated them being on the wall.  I never told him…..they are still there.

As I got older, and I became a mom, this fear stuck with me.  I know that all boys play cops and robbers…..cowboys and Indians…etc., but I had a strict ‘no gun’ rule.  My luck was that CJ loved medieval culture and preferred plastic swords anyway.  Once he got older, any toy guns allowed in the house had to look ridiculous…..bright colored Super Soaker water guns, silly looking Nerf guns.  I only broke down once and bought him an antique looking cap gun at a  Civil War re-enactment to use with his costume one Halloween, but bought no caps.  I have always been adamant about not playing video ‘war’ games.  I still will not allow him to own those games.  I am aware that he plays at friend’s houses, but by not having it in our house, he can’t be lost in that world for hours on end.  A lot of people think I am being over-protective because of these rules….I just never wanted him to confuse fantasy with reality.  I never wanted him to become desensitized to the value of life.

I am glad I kept these rules over the years.  It has been less than 2 years since CJ received his bipolar diagnosis, but I knew years before that.  With mental illness comes impulsiveness …..sometimes explosive impulsiveness.  When he is in the midst of a manic rage, he doesn’t know what he is doing.  Last month, my son went through a rough spell.  I knew that things were getting bad and he needed a medication adjustment.  Just days before his appointment, he had a manic episode that  involved an incident where he threatened to harm my husband and then ran to the kitchen for a knife.  My son has threatened to harm himself before, this was the first time he earnestly threatened one of us. By the time he had the knife, they were in 2 different rooms, but I had to make the decision to call the police.  This caused a series of events that put a lot of stress on us as a family. Due to the nature of the incident, the charges were out of our hands.  Finally, last week, the DA called us to tell us that the charges were dropped.   I still plan on carrying out a series of consequences, such as community service, but this is a relief to us all. What if things had been worse?  What if we had a gun in the house?

My decision to not keep a gun in my home is to keep my family safe, to keep my son safe.   The truth is, regardless of what he might do to us in a rage, I am even more worried about what he might do to himself. On average 25% of people with early on-set bipolar disorder will commit suicide, males 4x more than females.  Another truth is; more people shoot themselves with guns than kill other people.  There was a study done following the Sandy Hook shooting that showed in 2010 approximately 30,000 people in the U.S. died due to gunshot wounds……of that  more than 66% were suicides.

So, my choice to not have a gun in my home has nothing to do with debating anyone else’s political beliefs.  It is one of the ways I keep my family safe.  I think my fears when I was younger were a tool that I was given in order to raise this challenged boy in a safe environment.

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So the moral of this story is; if someone has an opinion that is different from your own, maybe you should take the time to listen why, instead of taking the offensive.  This whole world needs to learn how to communicate better, to understand each other’s differences and choices.  Allowing someone to voice their opinion doesn’t mean that you have to give up your own, it just means that you are open-minded enough to accept that theirs is different……and that’s ok.

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Comments on: "Controlling Opinions" (4)

  1. “So, my choice to not have a gun in my home has nothing to do with debating anyone else’s political beliefs.”

    Having read your post, and knowing more than a little about bipolar disorder (or manic depression as they used to call it) I fully understand your view. I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but that is no excuse to lecture people about personal decisions that are based on factors other than politics.

    I have a firearm in my gun safe that belongs rightfully to a relative, but he will never have it again in this lifetime because he simply can’t be trusted with it.

    “I had a strict ‘no gun’ rule.”

    Pardon me if I found that funny, having raised two boys. I had a “no _toy_ gun” rule for many years as my kids were growing up. I wanted them to consider that any gun was a real gun and act appropriately as I tried to train them.

    One day I came out my front door looking for my younger son Patrick (about 7-8 at the time as best as I remember). I saw him racing up the street with a toy rifle in his hands, and behind him half a dozen other boys chasing him. Apparently temptation had overcome him and he tried to steal a toy gun and was racing home pursued with a vengeance by the rightful owner and his friends.

    He was a difficult kid. 🙂 One day he loaded up his backpack with his favorite toys and told me and his mom he was leaving home. Fortunately a big dark thunderstorm was coming up and he changed his mind. He is now a United States Marine, hopefully having only one last deployment.

    “There was a study done following the Sandy Hook shooting that showed in 2010 approximately 30,000 people in the U.S. died due to gunshot wounds……of that more than 66% were suicides.”

    Yes, a lot of people commit suicide with guns in the U.S. It is a distressing statistic and there is a lot opinions on what it means. I personally used to believe the “common sense” idea that firearms facilitated suicide. In other words if guns are available people prone to suicide are more likely, on impulse, to kill themselves.

    Suicide is not entirely a theoretical subject for me either. I had a cousin who returned from serving in the Army (peace time). He was a tall, well built, handsome young man with all the qualities that should have led to a happy and successful life.

    But he ended up killing a man who broke into his house to kill him and his girlfriend. He was totally justified (and in the view of the law too). But he couldn’t live with it and killed himself, with a gun.

    But a while back I noticed something. If you look at the suicide rates for the U.S. and the U.K. you will find they are nearly identical. In the U.S. guns are easily available in most places. In the U.K. much less so. Much less. So if guns really “facilitated” suicide and people might not commit suicide if they didn’t have them, then the U.S. ought to have a much larger rate than the U.K. The U.S. and U.K. comparison is good one too, due to similarities in culture.

    Today I believe that maybe there are two kinds of people who might attempt to commit suicide. First there are those who are really just trying to get attention, a cry for help so to speak. On the other hand there are those who absolutely will kill themselves with whatever means they can find. If guns are available then then maybe they use them. If not, run the car in a closed garage, or some other gruesome method.

    But I no longer believe that in the majority of cases guns cause suicide. They are tool some people who really mean to kill themselves will use if it is available. If not they will find something else.

    “So, my choice to not have a gun in my home has nothing to do with debating anyone else’s political beliefs. It is one of the ways I keep my family safe.”

    This is always (or should always be) a personal decision. I get frustrated by people who want to make it impossible for me to own a gun, but I have no problem with people who evaluate _all_ the facts and decide maybe the risk is too great, or at least that is how they see it.

    I would like to apologize for all the “gun ho” gun activists who might have lectured you. I would try not to be one of them, and believe me, I own guns and am a prototypical “gun not” if there ever was one. 🙂

    Good luck, and best regards,

    lwk

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    • Thank you so much for your reply. I sometimes wonder if people read and understand all that I am writing…..clearly, with your thorough reply, you honestly understood where I am coming from.
      I appreciate your point of view regarding the comparison of UK and US statistics. In that same study I quoted, it did state that most suicide attempts are done by over- dosing on drugs, not by guns….it just happens that more people actually die when they use a gun. More often than not, a person that over-doses can be found and treated in time to save them. My choice not to have a gun has more to do with the impulsivity of bipolar disorder. The reason I fear this with my son is that when he is in the state of mind that he does not want to be on this earth, a gun would be his fastest way ‘out’. Usually, his manic episodes don’t last long. He would be aware of what he was doing before gas filled the garage, or would realize he took too many pills and call someone fairly quickly…..but using a gun in the heat of the moment, that isn’t something that can be stopped.
      Again, I thank you for your response and appreciate that I have such amazing people reading this little blog that are willing to understand my point of view.

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  2. Reconnecting with your blog. I will not allow my husband to have a guns in our home. However, I have allowed both my boys to learn about gun safety.

    Like

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