Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August 2: Nothing's Gonna Happen, Mental Illness, Stigma

Lazzaro said that he could have anybody in the world killed for a thousand dollars plus traveling expenses.  He had a list in his head, he said.

Derby asked him who all was on the list, and Lazzaro said, "Just make fucking sure you don't get on it.  Just don't cross me, that's all."  There was a silence, and then he added, "And don't cross my friends."

"You have friends?" Derby wanted to know.

"In the war?" said Lazzaro.  "Yeah--I had a friend in the war.  He's dead."  So it goes.

"That's too bad."

Lazzaro's eyes were twinkling again.  "Yeah.  He was my buddy on the boxcar.  His name was Roland Weary.  He died in my arms."  Now he pointed to Billy with his one mobile hand.  "He died on account of this silly cocksucker here.  So I promised him I'd have this silly cocksucker shot after the war."

Lazzaro erased with his hand anything Billy Pilgrim might be about to say.  "Just forget about it, kid," he said.  "Enjoy life while you can.  Nothing's gonna happen for maybe five, ten, fifteen, twenty years.  But lemme give you a piece of advice:  Whenever the doorbell rings, have somebody else answer the door"

Lazzaro is crazy.  That much is clear.  His whole existence orbits around anger and judgement and retaliation.  His advice to Billy is intended to ruin Billy's life, make him spend years and years worrying about some unknown gunman appearing at his front door.  That's all part of Lazzaro's plan--to make his victims suffer as much as possible.

I am not one to minimize the severity of mental illness.  Mental illness has touched my life in significant ways.  Still does.  Depression.  Bipolar.  Mania.  Obsessive compulsiveness.  Addictions.  They are all part of my daily existence.  I'm not complaining about this or trying to make you feel sorry for me.  Mental illness is simply a part of the fabric of my day-to-day.  I accept that.

What is difficult for me to accept is the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.  Rather than seek effective treatments and medications, the government cuts funding for mental health and addiction services.  When hospitals look for ways to save money in their budgets, they usually start with mental illness treatment.  I have seen it happen, up close and personal.

People with mental illness are expendable members of society.  Rather than help the mentally ill before they harm themselves or others, it's easier to wait for disaster to strike, throw them into the criminal justice system.  Throw the crazy people in jail.  Don't give them a chance to become functioning members of society.

Yes, I'm on a soapbox right now.  I'm on vacation, and I'm on a soapbox.  I'm in a privileged position.  My family members who have mental illness are able to seek treatment.  They have the help they need.  I don't spend every waking minute of my life worrying about them.  That's unusual.  I'm lucky.  Most people aren't that lucky.

Today, when I take my son to the water park, I am going to give thanks that he is happy and functioning.  It may not always be like that.  I know this.

But, for today, as his son goes shooting down a slide on an inner tube, Saint Marty knows he will come out the other end, safe and laughing.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, we should obviously all know this, but where is this passage from and who is the writer? (Being on vacation does not remove the duty to teach my friend ;-) )