Mental Illness/Guns; My Families Tragic Story

About 50 years ago my paternal grandmother decided she wanted to end her life. She simply went down to the basement, opened the gun cabinet, and shot herself. For the past several years she had been suffering from mental illness. Although she was never given a diagnosis, we believe she was Bi Polar. Her mother also had mood swings and we called her Granny Crank (not to her face). Back then, they didn’t have the meds and the therapy that they have now. She was in and out of the mental hospitals.

Who knows, if there hadn’t been guns in the house, if she would have still been alive today. She might have chosen another method to pass or gone back to the hospital. Either way, guns and mental illness are a lethal combination.

The week leading up to her death, she started giving things away. We now know this is a sign of serious depression and suicidal thoughts.

She left a husband, and two college aged sons. She broke a strong loving Irish family apart. They chose never to talk about her. She was a black cloud in all our lives. For years, I was told she died of cancer.

One day, my mother confessed. I had asked for the umpteenth time what type of cancer she died of and if it was hereditary. The story then came out. As you can imagine, I was in shock. I finally understood, the silence.

My family still doesn’t talk about it. My cousin only found out the truth this year(I told him). His father doesn’t mention it either.

I know her through the few pictures that are displayed in our home. I have her china. I also have a few pieces of her costume jewelry. I inherited her love of cooking and reading. She read all the classics, as I have done. I like to think that we would have had an amazing relationship. I fantasize of afternoons spent cooking in her kitchen!

I don’t ask questions anymore. I have accepted that I will never fully know this wonderful women. Fifty years later, the pain still exists for her sons.

When the shooting at Sandy Hook occurred, it brought it all back to me. I am sure that many other people feel the same way. It’s not the first time someone that is mentally ill has used a gun to harm themselves or others.

As you can imagine, I don’t like guns. I cringe when I an near one. I get freaked out when I find one in a client’s home. And yes, I grew up in Texas.

But ironically, a gun saved my life. One summer when I was in third grade, and visiting my grandparents in Connecticut, an intruder broke into their home. He was drunk and out of control. We ran upstairs and hid in a bedroom. My maternal grandfather, a retired police officer, calmy got his gun and shot him. He didn’t aim to kill or wound him. He basically grazed his forehead with a bullet to drop and stun him( who knew papa has snyper skills).

He calmly called the police and we all ran out of the house. He did what he had to do to protect his family. I was shocked that my sweet papa would shoot someone. He had no choice! He was and is my hero!

While in certain cases, guns do save lives, I am here to testify to that one! Guns and mental illness don’t mix!!

Think of those precious children in Sandy Hook!!

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