MY ARTICLES What makes a criminal

Crime and mental illness writing by Sherry Joiner Schizoaffective


I wrote an essay-    What makes a criminal want to be a criminal?

Imagine yourself sitting in a movie theater chair with a tall bucket of butter popcorn and big cup of ice-cold Coca Cola, maybe stealing a nacho or two with your sister or friend next to you, chatting away about your day’s events – who sent you an email or a text or whatever makes you happy. You might be at Carmike Hickory 8 Theater in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, watching “Mad Max: Fury Road,” or in the Lafayette Louisiana Theater laughing at a comedy “Train wreck.” Maybe at the Aurora Theater in Aurora, Colorado, taking in “The Dark Knight Rises.” You are being targeted by a killer. You don’t have time to think. The lights go out, the curtain drops, and you are the victim of a man standing with a gun pointed at you. He suffers from a mental illness. Maybe, better gun laws for people with a mental illness carrying a gun could have been saved you. I call these acts and the events that take place in your world; “Dates with horror. “ Shouldn’t have happened.

My first ‘date with horror’ was when I went to a cinema in Salt Lake City to see a gory, scarry, horror movie. Horror films took place in the 1930’s where James Browning’s “Dracula,” with Bela Lugosi, and James Whales’s “Frankenstein,” who was played by Boris Karloff, trapped people in their deepest fears and anxieties. Along with Alfred Hitchcock films and later films on War, they had a manipulating power on the public by persuading the viewers to believe a particular way. I can remember, the subliminal ‘thrill’ that came with me grasping my hands underneath my body, pressing them into the theater chair, kicking my heels at the back of the seat below me- and giving a big, “Scream.” “The House of Wax,” was a film I visited in grade school which I will never forget. The burning of the sculptures, who I thought were real people, and the transferring the figures from the morgue was too much for me. The elation of seeing something horrific happening to me, or to someone else, before my naked eyes triggered my brain to speed up the excitement, and have negative impulses at the same time. The crystallization of the real ‘thrill’ for me came when Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Psycho,” was out in 1960. After I watched part of it, my biological clock went walking backwards, and I couldn’t shake the murder scene out of my mind. My mom’s psychosis kept me busy, as I got ready for another one of her erratic attacks. She was an alcoholic in those days and switched from paranoia to depression and back and forth, when she was on a binge, and when she was not on one. On her ‘off’ day, I was a victim of objects flying through the air, like a heavy black iron frying pan and hairbrushes with sharp metal teeth, that stung and held tight to the body. As years past, I learned to cope with her, while I lived with my mental condition called schizoaffective disorder. I still saw horror flicks, when life denied me the cause to function and socialize in society, but the spring flowers came to replenish my soul. My mind, body, and spirit were strengthened through medication, art, walking and meditation.

But, what drives a guy to walk into a movie theater with a pellet gun and an ax with intent to kill, as David Montano did?

David Montano, the man who walked into the Carmike Hickory 8 Theater with intent to harm and possibly kill, who was committed to a mental hospital four times in his life, had paranoia schizophrenia. Did he have traumatic experiences of the past he refused to remember? Was he on illegal drugs? Did he have hallucinations? How was his sleep? Mania? Psychosis? How did society treat him as a whole? I want to know the answer of these questions because many times I have wondered how others survive with mental conditions and how they deal with a mental condition, like the one I have. How they deal with their deepest thoughts? Taking a life is not an answer. What kind of space was he in, and what steps could he have taken to make his life better? Gory movies intensify by psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety. So I no longer view them, but I think it is okay for the public to do that if that is what they like for entertainment. David Montano was possibly reenacting the other shootings that happened at movie theaters like the incident where John Houser fatally killed 2 people at a Louisiana Theater, or perhaps when James Holmes killed 12 people and injuring 70 in the Aurora Theater. Could he have had illusions of grandeur going through his head like thinking he is Jesus Christ? What makes a criminal want to be a criminal?

We need more background checks and mental institutions with better doctors and medicine to house the mentally ill. More free health clinics where people affected with mental illness can go to anytime for more help.

I am fortunate that living with schizoaffective disorder, that I am still working through the hurt, mistrust, and blame in my life. My doctors, medication, family, and friends are the reason for my stability. My hard work has also paid off. I hope that others can turn within and ask for help when they need it. I have created Sherry’s Master Plan which is in my book Sherry Goes Sane: Living A Life With Schizo-Affective Disorder. It has helped me to get in touch with my life and helped when traveling through one of the darkest journeys of my life to my sanity. My book can be found on Amazon, Create Space, paper back and Kindle, and Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books. It can also be found in Central Library, downtown Portland, Oregon.

Sherry Goes Sane

Sherry Goes Sane

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