Monday, May 26, 2014

On Elliot Rodger and depression

So, while everyone was foaming at the mouth about what an entitled and misogynistic monster Elliot Rodger was, I decided to read through his 140 page manifesto, the bulk of which is an autobiography. For those who can't be bothered to read it here's a quick summary:

· From his childhood up to his middle school life he was like any other shy and lonely kid, keeping to himself and having a small group of friends doing stuff kids do, playing Pokemon and videogames and riding skateboards. He tries hard to fit in and be one of the cool kids but eventually accepts life as an outcast.

· Come high school, and the usual teen angst and bullying we all went through is amplified by his social anxiety problems, and his parents pull him out of high school and into part-time/home based schooling. Unable to obtain a social life, he spends these years playing MMOs and talking to online friends.

· Come late teens and college, you can see the depression seriously taking effect. Even the smallest things set him off and trigger his mental issues, and his schizophrenia swings between being a nervous wreck to having delusions of grandeur of ruling the world and punishing everyone for his persecution complex. And the thing is, instead of just sitting in his room forever and wallowing in self-pity, he actually tries to do something about his depression. He sets goals and ambitions and takes up activities and spends his time productively bettering himself. But everytime he goes out he ends up rushing back home suffering from nervous breakdowns.

· Unable to better his personal life in the real world after years of attempts, he gives in to his schizophrenic illusion of taking revenge. The police were actually called to his house at one point after he made anger-filled YouTube confessions, but according to him they didn't seem to take it seriously or search his house (where they would have found his guns).

This a quote from his entry about visiting a shooting range in 2012:
As I fired my first few rounds, I felt so sick to the stomach. I questioned my whole life, and I looked at the gun in front of me and asked myself “What am I doing here? How could things have led to this?” I couldn’t believe my life was actually turning out this way. There I was, practicing shooting with real guns because I had a plan to carry out a massacre. Why did things have to be this way, I silently questioned myself as I looked at the handgun I was holding in front of me.
And the rest as we know it, is tragedy.

Reading his autobiography from his early years up until the bitter end is sobering and what really struck a nerve with me was how much you could relate to him. If you put aside the wealth, his early life was like any other kid. He wasn't just born as a murdering monster.

He went through high school, and just like all teenagers do, he suffered from teen angst and anxiety and inferiority, struggling to fit in and feeling out of place. Where things went wrong is that it was all amplified by depression and social anxiety, and at this stage you could see things taking a turn for a worse.

After he finishes high school his life languishes. He tries college numerous times and drops out repeatedly after each attempt. Contrasted against the rose tinted college life of everyone else only serves to highlight his social and mental issues. With glaring social anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, his delusions of grandeur lead to a massive ego problem, seemingly developed as a coping mechanism to his inferioty complex and continuous rejections. When you finally finish the autobiography and read his manifesto, it's hard to see it as anything but the ramblings of a mad man.

This wasn't just about a virgin loser who killed women for not giving him sex that he belived he was entitled to. It was about a severely depressed person with psychotic tendencies who only wanted someone to love and be loved by. He wanted to live a life like everyone else, and he pinned the happiness of his entire life on not being single, and mistook that failure to be the root of his depression.

What he did was wrong. But we can't just say he was a horrible monster. We need to try and understand why he did what he did, and understand things from his point of view, because if we don't, these incidents will keep happening.

People with problems like Elliot need to know that they aren't just monsters whose only fate is at the end of their own gun barrel. They need to know that they don't need to murder people to ease their own suffering. They need to know that there is help for people suffering from depression.