(1) I am Adam Lanza's Mother - Mental Health Matters
(2) I Was Forcibly Sterilized by the State of North
Carolina and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
I am Adam Lanza's Mother - Mental Health Matters
Thinking the Unthinkable
by Liza Long
December 15, 2012
Anarchist Soccer Mom blog
republished in The Blue Review
[Friday's horrific national tragedy -- the murder of 20
children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School
in Newtown, Connecticut -- has ignited a new discussion
on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops
across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces
of violence in America: gun culture, media violence,
lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars
abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our
children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it's
easy to talk about guns. But it's time to talk about
Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his
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.
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.
At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to
an accelerated program for highly gifted math and
science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he's in
a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects
ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between
Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He's in
a good mood most of the time. But when he's not, watch
out. And it's impossible to predict what will set him
Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael
began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening
behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the
district's most restrictive behavioral program, a
contained school environment where children who can't
function in normal classrooms can access their right to
free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through
Friday until they turn 18.
The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to
argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally
apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned
into his school parking lot, he said, "Look, Mom, I'm
really sorry. Can I have video games back today?"
"No way," I told him. "You cannot act the way you acted
this morning and think you can get your electronic
privileges back that quickly."
His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of
calculated rage. "Then I'm going to kill myself," he
said. "I'm going to jump out of this car right now and
That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that
if he ever said those words again, I would take him
straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts.
I did not respond, except to pull the car into the
opposite lane, turning left instead of right.
"Where are you taking me?" he said, suddenly worried.
"Where are we going?"
"You know where we are going," I replied.
"No! You can't do that to me! you're sending me to hell!
you're sending me straight to hell!"
I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically
waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be
standing outside. "Call the police," I said. "Hurry."
Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and
hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn't escape from
the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed
his elbows into my rib cage. I'm still stronger than he
is, but I won't be for much longer.
The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and
kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to
shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the
paperwork - "Were there any difficulties with....at what
age did your child....were there any problems with...has
your child ever experienced...does your child have...."
At least we have health insurance now. I recently
accepted a position with a local college, giving up my
freelance career because when you have a kid like this,
you need benefits. You'll do anything for benefits. No
individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.
For days, my son insisted that I was lying - that I made
the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The
first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, "I
hate you. And I'm going to get my revenge as soon as I
get out of here."
By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all
apologies and promises to get better. I've heard those
promises for years. I don't believe them anymore.
On the intake form, under the question, "What are your
expectations for treatment?" I wrote, "I need help."
And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my
own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just
pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza's
mother. I am Dylan Klebold's and Eric Harris's mother. I
am Jason 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.
According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders
involving firearms have occurred throughout the country.
Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only
one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the
killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this
highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to
consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like
When I asked my son's social worker about my options, he
said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael
charged with a crime. "If he's back in the system,
they'll create a paper trail," he said. "That's the only
way you're ever going to get anything done. No one will
pay attention to you unless you've got charges."
I don't believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic
environment exacerbates Michael's sensitivity to sensory
stimuli and doesn't deal with the underlying pathology.
But it seems like the United States is using prison as
the solution of choice for mentally ill people.
According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally
ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to
2006, and it continues to rise - in fact, the rate of
inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent)
than in the non-incarcerated population.
With state-run treatment centers and hospitals
shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the
mentally ill - Rikers Island, the LA County Jail, and
Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation's largest
treatment centers in 2011
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
I agree that something must be done. It's time for a
meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental
health. That's the only way our nation can ever truly
God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.
[Liza Long is an author, musician, and erstwhile
classicist. She is also a single mother of four bright,
loved children, one of whom has special needs.]
Posted by Anarchist Soccer Mom at 10:07 PM 554 comments:
I Was Forcibly Sterilized by the State of North
Carolina and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
by Mike Ervin
Smart Ass Cripple
December 16, 2012
If a cripple who was sterilized by the state without
their informed consent collects financial restitution
from the state, it will put everyone else in an awkward
social position. We won't know how to react to them.
My first instinct would be to congratulate that cripple,
maybe throw them a party. Maybe even a surprise party.
They come home after picking up their restitution check
and we all jump out from behind the furniture.
But maybe that's inappropriate. I don't know. How would
one decorate for such a party? Balloons and streamers?
It just doesn't seem right. Should there be cake? What
would one write on that cake? The party store consultant
would be stumped.
This isn't clear cut. It's not like winning the World
Series. I don't think when you finally receive your
sterilization restitution check the first thing you do
is pour champagne all over your head. It's not like
winning the lottery. The lottery is free money. There's
no ambiguity to spoil it all.
Maybe the party should be a somber affair, something
with black armbands. It's like those stories we hear
where a guy goes in to get his wisdom teeth pulled and
somehow ends up castrated. Even if a jury awards the guy
$10 million, it's hard to feel envious.
Well, the state of North Carolina went berserk
sterilizing cripples from 1929 all the way up to 1974.
About 7,600 people were sterilized by "choice," force or
coercion under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board.
The program was originally intended to keep cripples
like those with epilepsy and "feeblemindedness" from
reproducing more of their degenerate kind. A lot of the
victims lived in state institutions. But eventually the
program was expanded to include other undesirables, a
lot of whom were poor women of color. This tells us
that the N.C. Eugenics Board surely was composed of
white, uncrippled males with money.
There was a time when these cripple sterilization
campaigns we going on in a lot of states. About 10 years
ago, surviving victims started speaking up in North
Carolina. In 2002, the governor apologized on behalf of
the state. Earlier this year, a task force created by
the current governor decided each living victim should
receive $50,000. So the governor included $20 million to
pay for restitution in her budget and the republican-
controlled House concurred. Ah but then the dear
republican-controlled Senate shot it all down. The
victims get squat.
Republican Senator Don East said, "It doesn't change
anything - if they're sterile, they're still sterile."
He said, "I'm so sorry it happened, but throwing money
don't change it."
Money doesn't make any difference? Let's take a quick
poll: Which would you prefer?
a) Be forcibly sterilized and have $50,000
b) Be forcibly sterilized and not have $50,000
Who chooses option a? Need I count hands? Can we just
call it unanimous?
So anyway, the rest of us dodged a bullet there. We
won't have to figure out the proper way to react to
restituted victims. We don't have to add a new chapter
to our social etiquette books just yet.
I don't know what's next. Maybe the state Senate will at
least appropriate enough to buy each survivor a t-shirt.
We all know what the shirt will say.
Expressing pain through sarcasm since 2010. Smart Ass
Cripple has been voted World's Biggest Smart Ass by
J.D. Power and Associates.
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