I spent Friday morning with my little granddaughters at an interactive museum filled with gleeful kiddies. At the same time, a young man was killing 20 children — first graders, as it turned out — teachers, a counselor and the principal at a Connecticut elementary school. He’d started by killing his mother. Why didn’t somebody do something about Adam Lanza? Anarchist Soccer Mom explains what it’s like to love a mentally ill son, who’s often charming and sometimes terrifying. “Michael” is 13.
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.
We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.
Michael’s IQ is “off the charts.” But he had to leave his gifted program because of his bizarre behavior.
Three days before the Newtown massacre, Michael lost computer privileges for refusing to wear the school uniform. He apologized, but then threatened to kill himself if he didn’t get his privileges back. His mother took him to the hospital. Police carried him in, screaming and kicking.
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
Her son’s social worker said her only option was to get Michael charged with a crime, creating a “paper trail.”
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 health care 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.”
There are many comments from parents with troubled, potentially violent sons who fear what might happen and don’t know what to do.
It is about mental illness. Can we do better?
Young people who feel isolated, misunderstood, angry and frustrated should reach out for help, writes Tamara Fisher, a gifted education specialist, in To a Bright Kid With Trouble (s). It can get better. “I’ve personally witnessed hundreds of quirky bright kids like you swim out of their soup and shine.”