I Have Violent Thoughts And I Am Not A Bad Person

The past few years have not been easy for me. Without getting into sob stories: an unstable homelife, several traumatic events, and relentless mental illness has left me at a standstill. But what I’ve learned to come to realize over the course of actively working on and coping with mental illness; the symptoms of mental illness aren’t the only thing that is impairing. It’s the stigma and the treatment from other people.

I remember one of my first instances of this. I was in third grade, and like most third graders, I had a best friend. When they started hanging out with another third-grader — I can hardly remember her name — it invoked some sort of child anger in me.

“Hannah doesn’t want to play with me anymore,” I told my mom one afternoon, right after she picked me up from school.

“Who is she playing with now?” My mother asked.

“Sarah,” I replied, and by now, I was upset.

“Why don’t you play altogether?” My mother asked.

“Because Sarah is mean to me,” I said back. And it was true, she had always been mean to me.

By now, my mother was trying to comfort me, but she never expected the statement that came next.

“I want to kill her,” I mumbled, looking at the floor.

Although I don’t remember if I actually wanted to kill her, I do remember my mother’s reaction. She gasped, surprised, and frantically told me never to say that again. She explained that having that thought was terrible, that only bad people killed. I was a child and didn’t understand how powerful of a phrase that was yet.

However simple this memory may be: it was an early lesson on my journey of coping. I was soon taught that having violent ideations automatically makes you a bad person, no matter where they’re coming from. I was constantly reminded of this whenever media would demonize violent mentally ill people.

Eventually, I began believing this and shoving my violent impulsive thoughts under the rug. I really, really did not want to be a bad person. Being a bad person was the end of the world for me, and with what I’d been taught, being volatile was something to be ashamed of. Therapists and family punished me for my violent ideation, instead of teaching me to cope and externalize it in a healthy way. Soon, my only method of wrangling the violence was to bottle it up for a few months and then let it loose. After these meltdowns, it only furthered my delusions of being a bad person.

Don’t get me wrong, not all mentally ill people are violent. I’m just saying to stop demonizing the ones that have violent fantasies and intrusive thoughts. An old friend told me that violence never comes first. So, for a person to start having violent fantasies is often a product of trauma, stress, or upbringing. Violence is an unhealthy externalization for strong emotion. It ranges from fantasies to simple impulses, and it is never, never black and white.

My violent thoughts don’t come from a place of wanting to hurt innocent people, they come from a place of fear, of wanting to be treated right. Sometimes I’ll dream of slaughtering my abuser in cold blood; that doesn’t mean I’ll act upon it, or that I think it’s the right thing to do. At times I enjoy these maladaptive fantasies and use them as a coping mechanism. Other times, I’ll be downright disgusted with how fucked up these images are. I can sit there are stew for hours about the past and what I can do to get revenge. But at the end of each dream, I always pray and apologize to myself and the universe. I pray for happiness, for protection, that someday I’ll learn to accept myself and my trauma.

It’s not always simple to get to that point, to forgive yourself for being violent. Sometimes it takes some realizations and self-love. But you can help other people, and teach them that having violent thoughts doesn’t automatically mean they are a monster. Teach them to cope, to protect themselves, to go to an accepting therapist or support system. Only then can we end the stigma against mentally ill people, and improve their lives.

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