What to Carry

Last night I looked up how I could get a concealed carry permit. I checked my county sheriff’s website for what paperwork I would need to obtain the license that would allow me to carry a handgun. My husband was incredulous when he glanced over to see what was on my screen. We own a lot of guns, ranging from your average pistol and hunting rifles to muzzle-loader flintlock rifles that when stood on end are taller than their owner. I don’t worry so much about having guns in the house because we’re extremely open about gun safety and proper use; my husband is a Veteran as am I, so we’re familiar with weapons. But I swore I’d never have a pistol of my own or try to obtain a concealed carry permit, despite the frequent suggestions from family.

We’ll get back to that in a moment. First, I need to disclose some information to make you understand just why I have my concerns. What I’m about to tell you, whether you intend it or not, will likely cast both myself and my words in a negative light in your mind, even though anyone who knows me could tell you it isn’t warranted. There’s a huge stigma that we as a society haven’t been able to overcome. When it comes to my illnesses though, I like to be open and have conversations to normalize it. I’ve got a pretty great grip on the traits and symptoms of my borderline personality disorder, but I still live with major depressive disorder and anxiety. I’ve worked quite hard on my mental health stability, and I’m leagues ahead of where I was years ago. Still, I have days that I struggle with urges to self harm. Worse, I’ve been suicidal or struggled with suicidal ideation for over sixteen years. Some days I’m great and you wouldn’t have a clue that I’m mentally ill — that’s why my disorders are often referred to as invisible illnesses. My good days are very good, but my bad days that are few and far between (but still lingering) can be full of paranoia, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, emotional outbursts, dissociation, or, if things are extremely bad, hallucinations. Luckily that is very, very rare. A normal day for me is probably like a normal day for any mom, and I wish I could tell you all of that and have you still treat me like I’m just a normal person. I can feel future readers scoff at that as I write it. “How is any of that normal?” you may be thinking. Unfortunately, this is my normal.

Knowing all this, I never wanted easy access to a gun. Not for fear of the safety of others — I have no fear that I might hurt someone else; I worry that in my worst moment I might turn it on myself, if anything. Again, my normal. But this fear, this distancing I’ve done between myself and guns shows how cognizant I am in being able to recognize I’m mentally ill and that having a gun on my hip isn’t the best idea. I believe that it’s the people who don’t understand that they’re mentally ill who commit atrocities, and it is my responsibility as a citizen to be honest with myself about my capabilities.

So why would I still be considering getting a concealed carry permit?

I don’t feel safe anymore. It’s only been a week since the inauguration, and with every passing day I become more afraid of my future and concerned about the safety of myself and my children. I’m afraid of white supremacists, of an oppressive government, of fascism dressed in a suit and tie with a flag pin on its lapel. I’ve had to confront myself multiple times to ask if I’m reading into things, if I’m letting myself slip into paranoia, or if maybe, hopefully, I’m wrong.

I go to bed every night tense with anxiety, scenarios of ‘what would I do if’ parading through my mind until I’m on the verge of a panic attack. I wonder when or if I’ll have to have a ‘defending your country against enemies, both foreign and domesticconversation with my husband. I think about setting aside cash-money in case things go bad. I worry that healthcare will get bad enough that I won’t have my medication to keep me well. I focus on how I might be able to minimalize my life and think about what would I carry if I needed to leave at a moment’s notice. I look at my life logically and see changes I should make now for a better future. I go through my list of friends to see who I can talk to openly about our democracy and discuss how we can legally push back against those who impede upon our rights. I wish that I knew what to do next to help prevent what feels inevitable and wonder how I could get my conservative family to understand why these fears are valid, and despite my emotional regulation disorder, I’m not crazy. This is happening.

I won’t be getting my concealed carry permit. I’m of sound enough mind to know that carrying a gun close to my body day after day, however legal it may be or how well I fire a weapon, would be a poor decision for my personal circumstances. I hope I’ll find other ways to make myself feel safe and as if I could defend fellow citizens from tyrants or deplorable humans who mean us harm, but for now, I’ll use words. Whether we speak in front of large crowds or make an effort to remain anonymous, for some of us, our words are the most dangerous weapon we could brandish.

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