Michelle Knight, one of three heroines who survived eleven years of captivity in Cleveland, today faced with poise the criminal who stole a third of her life. As charges were revealed and one criminal act upon another was read in court, these two people had opposite reactions.
Michelle spoke of abuse and tragedy. She had cried every night missing her son for whom she had been trying to attain a puppy when she was captured. In court documents she described being afraid, of nearly despairing, and torture. Her other children had been murdered in her womb, she’d been starved and beaten.
After her testimony, the cowardly thief who stole young women from their friends and family, dared look at her and defend himself. He denied torturing anyone, claimed his rapes were consensual, and blamed his behavior on his late wife, his three prisoners, and even the FBI. Finally, he laid blame on a disease.
“I’m not a monster,” he whined, claiming his sex addiction made him do the things prosecutors had described. “I’m sick.”
Some of the stigma that surrounds behavioral and mental disorders is no doubt because of men like this. People who want to lay every one of their faulty decisions at the feet of others have always been with us. Those with disorders are part of the human race and some can be childish too. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that a man so consumed with power and control would be upset because he got caught?
Addiction is not what defines a person. A disorder is not the whole of one’s being. The past impacts one’s present thinking, and overcoming all of that is possible. To allow blame to overshadow personal responsibility is unhelpful at best. It happened. Now what?
As a person with Major Depression Recurrent, there are times I wish the disease had not left me so irrational. Now, I ask myself every morning, who do I want to be? What kind of wife, mother, friend, and worker do I value? What can I do this day to take one step toward becoming that person?
Who I am in the moment is not limited to how much pain I feel. If I want to triumph even a little, it is my choice to take one step, no matter how small or big, to achieve that short-term goal. For example, if I am seriously depressed and perceiving that no one loves me, I can choose to blast that everywhere or remember the consequences. Do I want to hurt everyone’s feelings? No.
No one ever said this was easy. With the support of knowledgeable mental health professionals, I am learning new steps. The difference between staying stuck in a negative cycle or moving forward is choice. This is hard and doable!
The insidious monster of Cleveland decided to take what route seemed easy for him; he was lazy, selfish, careless, and had no concern for the well-being of others. He is not what defines addiction or disorder. Who he chose to be is not the umbrella under which to throw all those who struggle with mental issues.
Michelle Knight had it correct when she said last month, “The situation does not define me; I define the situation.”
Today she is at liberty to thrive. To her would-be conqueror she said, “The captive is now free and the oppressor will be locked away forever to die a little every day. You took 11 years of my life and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”
That was his choice.
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
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