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Last spring, I spent about forty-eight hours in a psychiatric hospital for a major depressive episode. I had checked myself in. It was some of the most revealing forty-eight hours I've had in my life. I thought about writing a diary about it, but there's almost nothing as stigmitizing in this world as mental illness. While I was there, I met some of the sweetest, gentlest people I've met in my life. Sure, there were a couple of people who seemed to be what people might call disparagingly "crazy." However, most seemed fairly lucid much of the time. A suprising number of people had been victims of child abuse and sexual assaults. There were moments when I felt that we lock up the victimized in this society so we can let the victimizers go free, because as a society what we respect is strength and force. The scariest thing was not the other patients, but realizing that in order to get help you had to give up control over your life. I know that is a simplification, but talking to the people in there, that is how it seemed sometimes.
Another thing I saw was how responsibly many people deal with their illness. Not a few people had checked themselves into a place they did not want to be because they felt that their medication wasn't working or some other problem. Many people with mental illness try to deal responsibly with it. This is a side most people never see, not even those who are mentally ill because, frankly, we don't know each other.
I never wanted a gun before and I most certainly wouldn't want one now. Obviously, people with violent tendencies, whether towards themselves or towards others, should not have guns. However, right now I'm feeling like everyone's punching bag. Over a quarter of Americans have a diagnosable mental illness. That's a large number of us whom you would deem "defective."
Will we allow guns to the victimizers of the vulnerable? The child abusers and the rapists?