I had a pretty big meltdown on Sunday.
I suppose a meltdown is better than a breakdown, although I doubt seriously that modern medicine has identified a “meltdown” as a real thing. They should, though. Because when a meltdown happens, one is left with repercussions that need to be dealt with. And, just like with a breakdown, it’s not really possible to fix these things alone. Help is needed.
Quite often after a meltdown, one must ask for forgiveness.
I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I struggle with depression and anxiety. I see a therapist every couple of weeks and, while I’m still looking for the right combination of medication that will help me without having an adverse effect on other aspects of my life, I do acknowledge that anti-depressants are a useful and important tool in combatting this all-too-common malady. Currently, for a number of reasons, I’m not taking anything. I’m “off my meds,” as they say. I don’t admit this as an excuse for anything, other than to perhaps comfort myself.
You see, I posted something on Facebook on Sunday, that has me deeply embarrassed and ashamed. I put it up on Sunday morning, and took it down Sunday night. It read:
“I’ve seen a lot of people saying ‘Things like this didn’t happen when we spanked our children and Jesus was in our classrooms’ with regard to the shooting in Parkland, Florida last week. If this is your belief please do three things:
A.) Identify yourself to me so I can remove you from my Facebook feed.
B.) Spank your kid and say a prayer and see if that prevents another of these things from happening.
C.) Go fuck yourself”
This might not be the absolute exact wording, but it’s close.
I wrote that, and I posted it in public for anyone to see. I insulted those of you who have deeply held religious beliefs, with coarse and base vulgarity. I was flippant about not one, not two, but three incredibly important subjects. And, while it isn’t the first time, I chose to shut people out because of their beliefs rather than to try to facilitate the kind of discourse we need in this country.
First, I need to apologize. Not for my opinions, mind you. Those are mine, and are the results of long consideration and the priorities I have for both myself, and what I would like to see in society. But, I need to apologize to anyone who disagrees with me and to anyone with whom I disagree. That post was as disrespectful a thing as I have ever said. It was dismissive and it was mean. To all of you, I say that I am truly sorry.
I offer no excuses for my behavior. My struggle with depression and anxiety often leads to my emotions running very high and I tend to make some snap decisions that are almost always wrong, but this was a calculated shot at anybody who looks at the situation our country is in and doesn’t see things the way I do. I took my grief, my anger and my disgust with anyone who doesn’t agree with me, and I weaponized it. I am ashamed of my actions and disgusted with my lack of personal responsibility and self-control.
This is not who I am. While I am a staunch liberal, I have never believed that the conservatives of this world are wrong as a matter-of-course. In fact, there are some rare occasions when I tend to agree more with the righties than the lefties. I grew up in a conservative household, the lone Democrat in a Republican household. There were lots of, um, let’s call them “loud discussions,” in my house while I was growing up, particularly between myself and my father, a captain in the United States Naval Reserve. But while I disagreed with the things he tried to tell me, I never dis-respected him for his beliefs. Certainly, I have said some things about politicians with whom I disagree. But those statements have always been from afar, the way we all criticize politicians in this country. (To be sure, I have said some very nasty things about President Trump, and, while I stand by the majority of those statements, I am now re-thinking the language I choose to use when talking about him from this point forward.) And I’ve disagreed with people to their faces before, but I’ve rarely gone looking for a fight. And I’ve never just decided to flat out publicly insult an entire segment of the population in such a derisive manner. I was upset and I lashed out like a toddler with a thesaurus.
The thing that really disappoints me is the fact that I have, for years, called for a higher level of discourse in this country. I think back to my youth and marvel at how men like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could come together, make compromises, and lead a country. There is nothing like that happening in our government right now, nor is there really anything like that happening in society. We can blame social media and the “news you choose” networks, but for whatever reason, we seem to be only talking with the people with whom we agree these days. We have reached a dangerous level of polarization, and on Sunday, I became part of the problem. I am in the process of getting a website off the ground that seeks to reach out to both sides of an argument, or at least invite both sides in for some truly civil discourse. My stated goal with The Next Ten Words is to bring people together. And then on Sunday, I told more than half of you that I think you are wrong, I insulted you for it, and I used words that I knew would be hurtful.
If you will please allow me to say so, I do not believe that you are “wrong.” Yes, I disagree with your opinion, but I also think your opinion is valid. I also believe that you have a right to be heard. If you would care to write an opinion piece, perhaps something a little more dignified than my post, please, I would encourage you to send it to me so I can publish it.
I’m taking a little break from social media right now, and I’m limiting my exposure to current events. I’m not watching my chosen favorite news source, or for that matter, my chosen least-favorite news source. I’m reading the paper, and that’s about it. I’m just trying to calm down.
In doing so, I’m also renewing my efforts to contribute to a calm, dignified national discourse. If we don’t come together and start talking about problems like Public School Mass Murder from a number of different angles, we’re just going to lose more and more of our kids. We have to find our way back to mutual respect. I’ve hit rock bottom on this thing, and it’s really ugly. I don’t want to see those words come from my hands ever again. I don’t want to say those awful things. I don’t want to think those hateful thoughts.
I promise you that I’ll get my act together. I’m inviting the rest of you to join me.
Rich Larson is the publisher and managing editor of The Next Ten Words. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.