Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killedhis mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”
“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
The poor woman who wrote this goes on to note the utter lack of meaningful health care provision for the mentally ill, or support for their carers, in the U.S. Especially if they lack health insurance. Her son’s social worker advised her to get him charged with a crime, because prison is the way the US now deals with mental illness and only the prison system is really set up to cope with severely mentally ill people of her child’s kind any more.
No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”
I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health.
Indeed. Let’s have that conversation alongside making it harder for people to get guns to kill people with. We’re going to need every possible route to a solution we can find.
Liza Long, the woman who wrote the viral post “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, is being held up as a heroic woman warranting sympathy for bring the plight of her mentally ill son to the public.
Her blog tells a different story. Long has written a series of vindictive and cruel posts about her children in which she fantasizes about beating them, locking them up and giving them away. In most posts, her allegedly insane and violent son is portrayed as a normal boy who incites her wrath by being messy, buying too many Apple products and supporting Obama.
I feel uncomfortable speculating about someone’s private life based on a blog. But since these children are likely to be the object of enormous media attention, someone should be paying close attention to the words of their mother.
These children could be in real danger if her goal was to capitalize on the Newtown tragedy by creating a media campaign designed to give her sympathy. If I am wrong about this, I truly apologize. But there is a 13-year-old boy who has already had his reputation destroyed and who may be facing serious harm.
This “national conversation” on mental illness needs to include the mental illness of mothers and the online privacy of their children.
According to the blog, Liza Long is going through a bitter divorce and has violent and paranoid fantasies about her family. The father of the children is also portrayed as abusive.
Unfortunately, even if Long isn’t the real deal, there are more than a handful out there who are. See my first comment on the thread.