Over at Defector, Diana Moskovitz has two recent articles about Chad Wheeler almost beating Alleah Taylor to death.
I feel really conflicted about writing this. I don’t want to excuse Wheeler’s violent assault and near homicide, nor ignore Taylor’s trauma. Domestic abuse is a huge problem in this country.
But so is abominable mental healthcare. Wheeler does not belong in jail; he belongs in a compassionate and effective psychiatric treatment facility. (Compassionate because without that effective treatment is impossible).
I suffer from severe depression and have lived at a treatment center for the past three and a half years. For all my struggles, I thank god that I don’t have bipolar disorder.
Mania really is the opposite of depression. At my worst depths I truly believe that I am the worst human being to ever live. Worst than Hitler.
People in the midst of mania believe the opposite. I have known enough of them to be pretty sure that Wheeler truly and utterly believed he was akin to Jesus Christ when he demanded Taylor kneel down before him. The sudden change from being a loving boyfriend to being a nightmare is so familiar. I’ve known people who have betrayed their spouse’s trust in the most profound ways imaginable; who have put their children in danger without a second thought; who have spent their family’s life savings over a weekend.
And all of them, once the mania had subsided, were horrified by what they had done. It’s what makes the depression part of bipolar even worst than monopolar depression. My miscalculating a tip and leaving 18% instead of 20% does not make me the world’s greatest monster, even if sometimes I am convinced it does. People in the midst of a manic attack actually do terrible things.
Depression leads to suicide attempts; mania leads you to harm those you love most.
I wish that was more widely known so Taylor would never have thought for a moment to try to help Wheeler in the midst of his mania. We live in a society that doesn’t teach people that doing so can be truly dangerous. He needed a trained medical professional who knows how to help people in a manic episode while staying safe themselves.
It also breaks my heart because it sounds like Taylor was falling in love and it doesn’t sound like she understands that Wheeler really is both the person she was falling for and someone with a disease that leads him to horrific actions. I’m not suggesting she forgive him, but I can imagine the self doubt and trauma coming from “misreading” an intimate partner. I think it is likely that there was nothing in his behavior that would have been a red flag. Though he is certainly responsible for not warning her of what he might do while manic.
Moreover, I think Wheeler’s attack has a significant difference from most violence against women. If we do someday create a world without toxic masculinity and impunity for powerful men, people Wheeler’s size1 will still be a physical threat to others when they are in the midst of mania. A person who truly believe they are God will always be capable of horrible things.
Moskovitz rightly focuses on Taylor. I just wish she had added a little more context around bipolar disorder. Because what it would have taken to make Taylor safe is different than the changes that must happen to prevent most domestic violence.
- I once had a roommate in a trauma ward who was a big guy. He had reoccurring dreams in which he relived his childhood abuse and that would lead him to bang his head against the wall. I saw a nurse who didn’t know how to deal with such patients wake him poorly and he took a huge swing (“at” his childhood abuser) that left a dent in the wall. If that punch had connected, the nurse would have been seriously injured. ↩