Getting Caraway’d

I’m listening to the tape of Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway’s conversation with police about the domestic disturbance that resulted in officers being called to his home on Jan. 2.  It is difficult to listen to and there is abundant rough language.

Here it is if you’d like to hear it.

As he tells the story:  His wife, State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway was wielding a knife after she became aggravated and he tried to leave.  Mayor Caraway said his wife’s done this kind of thing many times before but “She took it too far tonight.” As he tells it, what sent her over the edge was the fact that he touched her apron.

She blew a gasket over aprons?  The facts are confusing, but would it make any more sense if she was wielding a knife because someone had used the last of the toothpicks in the house or her internet connection wasn’t working?

Here’s the most troubling part to me:  Caraway tells the police he’s afraid his wife has a chemical imbalance in her brain and he “hates to say that.” My thing is why does he hate to say that?

It seems to me that he hates to say that and fought so hard to keep this a secret because he loves his wife.  I think he’s also ashamed of her illness and wants to protect her and himself from the embarrassment cast on those with mental illness.

I don’t like that their private tragedy is playing out on the public stage.  But, maybe it’s a good opportunity to open a discussion about why our society looks down on mental illness with such disdain.

A chemical imbalance in the brain is a medical condition that can and does lead to episodes like this many times every day around the world. Why does our society drape cases of mental illness in shame?  No one would ever say “I think she has cancer. I hate to say it.” That’s an illness just like the chemical imbalance.  Sadness surrounds both.  Shame is only reserved for one.

If someone has cancer, you’d know it after a diagnosis.  But, mental illness goes untreated for years because it will be largely ignored until the sufferer wields a knife and 9-1-1 is called so folks in blue uniforms, instead of doctors in white coats, can deal with it.

A mental health expert once told me it is not uncommon for the sane person in a relationship to be mistaken for the one who’s nuts.  That’s because they are always in a reactionary mode.  The sane person is always trying to guess what might send their loved one over the edge.  If you’ve never lived with a person with a chemical imbalance, it’s hard to understand that touching an apron or a crying baby might cause a situation that’s potentially fatal.

There are poor people all over Texas who will see already meager funding for their treatment slashed in the midst of a budget crisis.  Their stories won’t be splashed on the evening news.  Their tragedies will stay private.  Police will keep showing up to deal with a problem for which they have little expertise but more and more experience.

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