My Thoughts on Guns as a Mentally Ill Person

This essay was written after a mass shooting when Obama was president and I lived in Los Angeles. It appeared in the now offline Queer Mental Health.

I have Schizoaffective Disorder, anxiety and PTSD. Upon one of my many discharges from a psych ward I had to sign an affidavit that I would not buy a gun for five years. I have no desire to buy, own, or be even faintly near to a gun ever in my life. That is not happening. No gun ownership for me.

As I watch mass shooting after mass shooting play out on CNN and Obama’s recent town hall on guns, the same themes play out over and over. The mentally ill are consistently blamed for gun violence as a convenient scapegoat to avoid facing the real culprit for gun violence: toxic masculinity and the sheer ease and availability of gun ownership in America.

Over Christmas I was in Reno, Nevada visiting my extended family. On a snowy day my parents and I went to two massive sporting goods stores to search for binoculars and a thermal vest. Nevada really is the Wild West still. Hunting is big there. I had never seen so many weapons in one place in all of my life. Handguns, rifles, crossbows, bows and arrows. Everything one might need for their next mass shooting or crime was neatly displayed and sold at Cabela’s of Boomtown.

In Cabala’s I Instagrammed a gluttonous plethora of taxidermy dioramas. We toured the audio-animatronic dead Republican presidents display in the upper level of Scheels by the ferris wheel. It was an overstimulating circus. With my overwhelming, fearful revelation of how many people around me might be concealed carrying now that I knew how easy it was to buy a gun, I had to take a calming Xanax in the snack bar. Conspicuously Californian in my ridiculous leggings, I felt like a target. Guns and rednecks terrify me.

Most mentally ill people will never commit a violent act. Only about 4% of violence in the United States can be attributed to people diagnosed with mental illness. Yet we, my people, are consistently blamed for violent acts. My mother said to me when I told her I was writing this essay that she felt one must be insane to commit a violent act. That is an erroneous definition of insanity, but one which the public conveniently conflates upon in the gun control debate. 

In all of my reading of the DSM-IV, I know of no mental health diagnosis that produces violent behavior with the exception of possibly paranoid schizophrenia and PTSD. Even those two stereotypes of the “paranoid schizophrenic political activist” and “crazy vet” can be dispelled by examining the racist and politically motivated causes for those stereotypes. I can attest, most schizophrenics with PTSD would really prefer to be left alone then have to content with any sort of violence. We hate that shit. In the case of PTSD, violence is often what began our troubles in the first place.

Anxious, bipolar, depressed, OCD, PTSD-afflicted citizens are far more likely to take their own lives then those of other people in order to escape the misery of being mentally ill. Mentally ill people have more to fear from guns in their own hands than any other people around them. Suicide is the biggest reason why the mentally ill shouldn’t have guns. Gun is the quickest, most irreversible, and most devastating route to death. I don’t think the mentally ill should be allowed to own guns in order to protect us, because of our suicide risk.

No one except law enforcement should have guns, according to me. Even police have proven to be woefully inadequate at keeping their mental health response teams from just shooting the person in crisis. Police routinely shoot unarmed African American children in playgrounds or citizens at traffic stops. In the UK, even the police don’t have guns and they have very little gun violence. Something for the USA to consider, although I doubt it would ever happen.

A study I read online said that, “An extensive surveys of police incident reports demonstrate that, far from posing threats to others, people diagnosed with schizophrenia have victimization rates 65% to 130% higher than those of the general public…Victimization is a greater public health concern than perpetration.”

Even schizophrenia, part of my diagnosis and the most common target of the violent psychopath stigma, is usually marks by social isolation, withdrawal and introversion into a fantasy world. I would much rather be inside peacefully hallucinating faeries and ghosts on the white walls of my apartment and listening to the voices of my dead ancestors counseling me than marauding about committing crimes. Violence is caused by interpersonal conflict, passion, poverty, racism, religious xenophobia and political intent. Not by mental illness.

We the mentally ill are peaceful. I am hallucinating peacefully in my apartment in Hollywood. I wish only not to be harmed by the angry white male rednecks who are occupying the bird sanctuary in Oregon who I fear may be part of a larger rising tide of right-wing extremism. That  sort of violence is political and incendiary. Please keep your nasty guns away from me. I know if the revolution starts I’m getting shot pretty quickly into it.

The risk is exponentially greater that individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness will be assaulted by others, rather than the other way around. That has been my experience as well. Given how easily the mentally ill are to gaslight, later violence is common. I have been the victim of domestic violence many times where the presence of a gun in the apartment would have resulted in my death. Strangulation and knife fights I was able to survive. If there was a gun on that bedside table I would have died.

More women are killed by guns in the hands of domestic partners than any other way. My boyfriend repeatedly tells me he wants to get a gun. He is not abusive, but quick-tempered. When I told him of my fears of getting shot by him on a hike in Griffith Park, he got so angry at me that I almost didn’t have a boyfriend by the time I got off of that mountain.

After watching a marathon of American Horror Story: Hotel at my boyfriend’s house, I had  nightmare about sleeping on a mattress with a gun underneath it. Feeling the cold, death-dealing barrel through the mattress. When I awoke I decided I was better off not knowing if there was a gun under the mattress and never looked for one. It was only a dream. 

Online I read that, “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.” I don’t think my boyfriend would actually shoot me. But I cannot help but feel this fear that comes of being female. I have many fears like that.

All of those times I was raped a gun wouldn’t have saved me. Personally I’d far rather be raped then go to jail for shooting someone I was fighting with and possibly romantically linked to, however peripherally. Given my ineptitude at shooting and shy nature, any attempt by me to use a gun in self-defense would also likely result in me getting shot as well.

I would never shoot anyone even if I did have a gun. I don’t think I would have the stomach for it. I don’t even hit people, once I grew up and stopped beating up on my little sister. My preferred self-defense is running away, although I do carry pepper spray. A gun only works for self-defense if you know how to use it, and even then it is far more likely to be turned against you.

Guns frighten me. As a mentally ill person I have no desire to own one or even be in the same house as one. I agree with the dominant discourse that the mentally ill shouldn’t have guns because of our suicide risk. But I don’t think any of you sane people should be allowed to have guns either. Clearly, at the rate that people are dying, the sane populace just as much as the insane cannot be trusted with guns. 

Toddlers shoot way more people then terrorists. There is an epidemic of children getting ahold of their parents guns and shooting each other. We have a dangerous crisis on our hands.

The president says something must be done about this widespread gun violence and the nation agrees, but we all disagree on what that something to be done actually is. I don’t have a solution, either. For the moment, it is all I can do sometimes to not just stay in my apartment and hide from the dangerous gun-toting America outside.

Subvocal Speech of a Schizoaffective on Christmas Eve

This essay was written December 24, 2016 for a now offline magazine called Queer Mental Health.

Eliezer Sternberg wrote an article in Salon on March 2, 2016 called, “When People With Schizophrenia Hear Voices, They’re Really Hearing Their Own Subvocal Speech.” Link here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2016/03/schizophrenia_and_subvocal_speech_why_schizophrenics_hear_the_voices_of.html  An excerpt from Sternberg’s book, NeuroLogic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior

When I read that article a lightbulb rationale less destructive then any of the many explanations I had come up with before appeared. As a Schizoaffective I have auditory hallucinations with accompanying persecutory delusions. Thus is the nature of the beast of my genetic mental illness. Although I am well-medicated, psychiatrists have told me that the voices will never completely go away. I must learn how to live with and manage them.

I was diagnosed 22 years ago. Since I have come up with a fantastical myriad of potential explanations for the voices that I hear that no one else can: All at the time firmly believed. All in the end delusions. They range from:

Demons. Overheard art school classmates through the echoing long CalArts corridors. Reading the thoughts of people not in the room. Overheard conversations while in crowds or public places. Neighbors or visiting family overheard talking through the walls. Landlords. The FBI. The CIA. The police. Ghosts. Aliens. Stalkers. Spirit guides. God(s). Goddesses. Anything and everything possible as the delusions of the month came and went. 

The delusion of perpetual persecutory surveillance is a hallmark of Schizophrenia. I have Schizoaffective Disorder, a combination of Schizophrenia and Bipolar. I also have anxiety and PTSD. Thus not only am I enthusiastically hearing surveillance voices for untold hours that I rationalize are supernatural or persecutory, I am hyper vigilant and terrified about it. Not fun at all.

Thank whatever God(s) or benevolent universe you prefer for the medication that makes all this tolerable. As the Golden Girls sing, “Thanks for the Medicare.”

Sternberg concludes in that illuminating article: “The brain is a master storyteller, designed to make sense of the chaos of our lives. It compensates for the presence of auditory hallucinations, caused by a defect in self-recognition, by writing a narrative to account for them. It’s no accident that schizophrenic patients reach for spy agencies, religious entities, or supernatural forces when describing the voices in their heads. These are theories that the brain concocts to explain how a foreign voice could infiltrate a mind, know it intimately, and torment its victim with relentless surveillance. Faced with such bewildering circumstances, the explanation the brain generates is surprisingly logical.”

For a while I entertained the delusion I was talking to the ghost of my wife. Dead ancestors. Dead writers I admired. Friendly supernatural was a much more fun delusion that allowed me to accept the manifestation as a psychic gift. It was fun to read the tarot when the voices in my head told me what the cards meant. Witchcraft became an amusing solitary nocturnal hobby to replace alcoholism. 

Binge-watching American Horror Story: Coven, Asylum, Freakshow, Hotel, and finally most devastatingly Ronoake illustrated how dangerous both delusions, dreams of fame, witchcraft, antiquated forced psychiatry, the supernatural, good intentions and mental illness could become in a Hollywood worst case scenario. I am well-aware that even the most well-acted, gorgeously set designed and costumed cable TV drama is only television. Not real. Yet a cautionary tale to learn from. I would prefer not to live American Horror Story: My Reno Nightmare.

As a writer and artist I dwell most often in the world of the imagination. Thus far incorporating my supernatural neurodiverse spirituality into my writing has yielded a series of mostly unpublished and probably unpublishable novels. An excerpt from Diary of a Hollywood Hedgewitch where I talk to my wife’s ghost made it into a small press lesbian ghost story anthology. At least a few readers seem to find this sort of thing entertaining. I am quite willing to provide entertainment. If all I do is fill up my iCloud storage with the manifestations of my mental illness that seems like a safe, contained prognosis.

I told my last two psychiatrists I did witchcraft with the portal in my brain opened by my Schizoaffective Disorder. I understand what a dangerous yet intoxicatingly appealing to the patient delusion that sounded like to a medical professional. As a result, the first Buddhist psychiatrist excused my impossibly un-payable student loans on the basis of Total and Permanent Disability. She wrote on the government form, “Patient does witchcraft with bodily fluids.” Suggested Haldol and Thorazine. The second Christian psychiatrist asked me if I was scared of demons. Kept refilling all five medications. Agreed to do phone sessions when I moved out of state. I told her I didn’t believe in demons. 

A condition of my Student Loan Forgiveness is that I must be on SSDI for the rest of my life. I am well aware I am unable to work, Before I went on Disability being in an office cubicle meant I hallucinated what my co-workers were thinking about me. Developed elaborate resentments of them made further toxic by inevitable office politics. I was fired often from pretty much every job I ever had. Thus the Disability went through in six months.

I accept I can never work again except writing alone on my laptop with headphones in. Thus now I write for free on the Internet. Occasionally edit Wikipedia. I would much rather do that without the previous incessant phone calls of debt collectors driving me to abuse my benzodiazepines. Seizures and psych ward stays are not fun either.

At this point I have given up on fun completely. Along with any hope of what passes for the  respectable normal life of employed married childrearing that surrounds me.`All I beg for is solitude. A warm roof over my head. Wifi. Klonopin. Saphris. Trileptal. Prozac. Anything else is gravy. Coffee is nice.

Thus far my best mechanisms for coping with this illness are taking all of my medications as prescribed and multiple Spotify playlists on headphones when I don’t feel like listening to my subvocal speech. Sternberg’s article explains the voice in my head as another part of my own brain that my Schizoid brain is incapable of defining as separate. Latched not that explanation. Held onto it as hard as I hold onto my present high-functioning, cockroach-like survival and subsistence. With both hands. Claws extended.

On my headphones lately is a RuPaul/Dolly Parton/Elvis/RuPaul Christmas Carol cage match. I take my headphones out to listen to the voices of my mind in the quiet of the Nevada night. I want to write down what they say to me for this essay. My voices are quiet. The cat sleeps on her chair. The space heater purrs out warmth onto my blue velvet American Apparel leggings. In a few hours it will be Christmas morning.


I listen intently in the quiet of Christmas Eve. What will my voices say? Sternberg’s Salon article convinced me that whatever I heard was another part of my brain talking to me. Talking to myself in an intimate distinct interior monologue is  a much less dangerous, terrifying or potentially risky idea then any of the other ones I have come up with in the past. So I will roll with that. At 3:47 am Christmas morning I listen intently. At 5:44 am. At 6:10 am. At 6:45 am. At 7:03 amm

The voices in my head slowly say, “Well…..I mean. You’re putting a lot of pressure on us to cough up something entertaining for you to write down. Okay. Passive aggressive snarking is about all you’ll get from us. Put your fucking headphones on and listen to your Christmas Carols, we’re not a performing act you can summon up at will to entertain the Internet with. Why do you think Ouija Boards provoke poltergeists, seriously. It’s a good idea you don’t do Seances anymore and just let the ghosts come to you when they feel so inclined.”

Back to Bing Crosby’s “Winter Wonderland.” I‘m on my own here. That’s okay. 

My Schizoaffective Disorder is incurable. The voices will never go away. Yet properly medicated the voices stay within my brain. I chose to trust the scientific truth of what they are from an article I read on a reputable online magazine. That allows me to rationalize them into the manageable submission that allows me to function at the level that I do.

 “Do you think the Kool Aid metaphor you so love to deploy would fit here?” my voice says. Well isn’t that adorable. My voices are helping me write. I’ll take it. They do that sometimes

Yes, I’m drinking coffee instead of the AA or Hollywood Kool-AId. Beats alcohol. Or the Kool Aid Lana Del Rey drinks in the “Freak” video. Pretty soon I’ll go upstairs and put some eggnog into it. Happy holidays from the voices in my head and the cat.

“It’s a Christmas miracle!” my subvocal speech says. I love the idea of Christmas miracles just as I love crying at Rent. Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors. Staying up all night writing essays. New projects. The Saccharine powdered sugar sweetness that descends at 7 am Christmas morning. I anticipate blundering my way in burgundy velvet through the yawning yuletide day ahead. Awkwardly endearing family togetherness I feel totally up for. This should be interesting.

“Slow down,” says the voice in my head. You’ve got to pace this so you submit it right at dawn. Well that’s fucking hilarious. Seriously. Didn’t you just have fun tonight saving something else. You saved yourself the humiliation of submitting that Orlando essay. That shit was terrible. So’s this but at least it’s more timely. Are you fucking seriously doing this?”

I think of the Youtube video I watched where Nina Simone said, “Artists reflect the times.”

“Aren’t we glad the aliens or nurse Ratchet haven’t taken the technology away yet? “ says my subvocal voice. “Try not to end up in the psych ward without your phone or the Internet anymore.” 

I’m working on it. Day by day. I hear the first thump upstairs that tells me the family I must celebrate the holidays with are rousing themselves for a series of obligatory yet enjoyable rituals. At 6 am I hear a toilet flush. I take four pills because I must.

“All things considered that’s a best-case scenario,” the voice says. I wash down the Prozac with water from the sink.

”Control your enthusiasm. If you weren’t so endlessly entertained by your psychosis there might be some hope for you. Alright, wrap it up. Try not to fuck up your last chance. Or Christmas Day.” my subvocal voice says. Like so many things the voices of Schizophrenics say that could be interpreted as a threat. With the audacious hope of Obama or mistletoe I so hope I don’t. 

“Don’t we specialize in the ominous.” I subvocally taunt myself. I firmly believe I am only talking to myself at this point. Soon I will have to go upstairs and talk to other people.

If you are a Schizoid reading this who Googled their symptoms and landed on this website. Please accept the Salon article’s explanation of your own brain’s subvocal speech being the surveillance voices that terrorize you as a contextualizing Christmas gift. It was to me. I love regifting!


Rejected/offline essay series:

Because I am an essayist for small magazines, there is perpetually that backlog of rejected essays that are no longer timely or publishable. Or perhaps no longer online. I know that there are new magazines specifically for those offline works, however I’d rather just put them up here.

So, travel with me to the past where I may have thought or believed different problematic things I unlearned. Or perhaps produced something excellent but now quite out of date. It’ll be fun.

I’m here, I’m queer, I’m doing a blog again

For all that I enjoy Twitter? Given another election is coming up, I no longer feel strong enough. After 2016 to fight the good fight against Russian troll bot farms, writers who’s career path is different then my odd disabled savant polymath failure one. Had a hot flash stress nightmare last night of how inferior I was for not having a PhD? This is Reno, no one goes to college. I must get real. Reprioritize.

I just got bi lesbian married for what is to me the second time because of my domestic partnership, and to the state of Nevada the first time. So sayeth the country clerk. Here we are:

2019 was a big year. I got married to someone I loved. I finally met some other Renoites. It’s that ten year anniversary of my last two books. Telling me to lay off trying to writing or trying to publish more books as I’m past my prime, mediocre, and must pass the torch to the young. Escalation of my Disability to physical as well as severely mental. Complete abdication and disappearance from the world except for Internet nudity and flashes of text.

Now I would like to relax, reassess, and actually enjoy and get into writing for pleasure and therapy again, which were always the bigger focus for me as no money made.

I’m tired of gate keeping. The innate failure of all small presses. More magazines then readers. Not being able to be nomadic, essenyial fo career writers. Never knowing the proper lingo or procedure for “real” achievements because I’ve been Disabled and out of society for so long I can barely function and how dare I do anything anyway. I rarely do and rarely can, obviously.

One of my cats, Betty Illuminati.

I’m not going to pull a Bill Hicok and bemoan the changing tide or diversity rising. Poetry is a lesser focus for me. Others do it better. I’m a severely disabled queer not all white woman who is middle aged and exhausted from “the discourse”, and what little I knew of public writer life. I’m doing this blog to take a step away.