Sunday, December 16, 2012

My response to: 'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother'

painting: the mental health nightmare
Once again, the news of a nightmarish killing spree had descended over our nation! Yet again by a disturbed young person, (barely a man) who is no doubt been surviving some form of mental illness.

Since early Friday, I have received dozens of text messages and emails from relatives, friends and acquaintances around the US, who are aware of our personal challenges to help my son or from those who support our efforts to amend Kentucky's Outpatient Treatment laws. 

One such response to the tragic deaths in Sandy Hook, is an article written by a Mother and Blogger named Liza Long. Liza published an entry on her daily blog titled: 'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother'.  Within a few hours, her story was republished on the Huffington Post as:

'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother': A Mom's Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America

Within hours, it had been re-tweeted or republished over 810,000 times. On Liza's blog, the The Anarchist Soccer Mom, over 2000 people have left comments.

This is my response about this tragedy, to the victim's families and to Kentuckians:

(Except I would have never had guns in my home.)

Our son, who has suffered his entire life with an mental illness, has been bullied and tormented by people in his schools, our neighborhood and yes at Church. I am certain these horrific scars have impacted him. I am fearful of my son's threats and abuse toward me, but can only learn how to protect myself from him since the adult system gives me few options otherwise. 

Just recently when I attempted to communicate with my son regarding how concerned I was of his increasing mania, he replied, "I'll blow your f___ing brains out if you send me to the hospital again. The second I get out I'll murder you!" Yet a few hours later, my son never remembers he said such horrible things.

The process families must endure to obtain an emergency 72-hour hold is unthinkable. People with acute psychosis are literally arrested by law enforcement officers, transported to a state hospital, (or most times jail) in handcuffs and more times than not are released within a few hours. Why? Because by the time they are finally evaluated by a mental health professional -- they no longer present as a threat to self or others. The entire process is inhumane and goes without reason why those individuals living with a mental illness, who are in recovery -- strongly oppose involuntary treatment laws.

At one time or another, our son has received all of the labels the media has discussed regarding the CT tragedy. By the time our son was 10 years of age, he had been evaluated, diagnosed and treated by psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologists, nutritionist, allergist and behaviorist ... for sleep disorder, ADHD, sensory integration, Tourette syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder, frontal lobe and executive function deficit.

With much effort, special accommodations, supports and services where available for our son in the school system. In addition, my husband and I traveled as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio seeking help from experts. Before mental health parity, we paid 100% of our son's medical bills. Insurance companies discriminated against us also, blaming our son's symptoms on bad parenting and his free will to be different and to have challenges I suppose.

Time and time again, we were ridiculed by family members and our peers for giving medications to our explosive and often out of control child! Once, after our son's doctor admitted him to a local psychiatric hospital, we were later investigated by Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, CHFS for the possibility that perhaps we were abusing our son. Even our own parents suggested our son's behaviors were our fault. Amazing, parent's aren't blamed if their children develop cancer, yet with mental illness everyone blames others.

As difficult and challenging as it was for all, our son did succeed. Labeled as a gifted genius, he was doing well and even attended college and worked at a skilled job in the community, while still in high school. He was able to achieve this success due to medicine, therapy, case management and a counselor from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

At age 17, in an attempt to escape the stigma of his mental illness, our son refused treatment! It was not long before he quickly became aggressively psychotic.
My husband and I filed an out-of-control petition in the court system, just 6 months prior to our son’s 18th birthday -- hoping to save his life and us from his reckless and often dangerous behavior. But instead of going to a hospital or treatment facility, he was ordered to jail, punished for behaviors that were symptoms of his untreated brain disorder!

Months turned into years. He was homeless, desperate for food and still refused to accept treatment. When he was petitioned to a hospital, he was not held long enough to stabilize. Now, our son frequently threatens homicide or suicide which makes our life -- and his -- a living hell. He is trapped in a carousel of insanity and without long term treatment will never escape.

As our son aged into the adult system, a
well meaning 

therapist who I dearly respected told me, "I must learn to let go". She suggested I buy the the book titled: 'The Sociopath Next Door', attend Al Anon classes and learn how to disconnect my love. She said, "you will not be able to help your son". She did not want to see me self destruct. At the time, I was riddled with serious 
autoimmune diseases due to the chronic caregiver stress. It has taken years of effort and training to become healthy enough to advocate for my son's life and others.

The very resources and laws in place to support my son as a child  --  are not available for him as an adult! Why? Because of his civil rights, our federal and state mental health laws and the fact that state funds had been redirected from the department of behavioral health to the criminal justice system. It is absurd! 

If a young person lacks insight to their illness (anosognosia), regardless as to how complex their symptoms are -- parents and 'ultimately the community' can do nothing until they fail or 'explode' and become part of the criminal justice system, commit suicide or homicide as Adam Lanza did!

Regarding the comments from readers on Liza's story, who believe GOD is the answer and 'if' we just prayed more our troubled children would be rid of their demons -- for years, church members turned their backs and avoided us! On more than one occasion, church leaders condemned us for our son's impulsive and disruptive behaviors and made it clear they didn't want our son in the same Sunday school classes or private Christian Schools, with their own children!

Children or young adults are not born with evil in their hearts. But they are born with brains that malfunction! 
It is society's reactions to these troubled children's symptoms that create monsters.

 Mothers told their children that our son was bad and they could not play with him! Imagine the pain children with special needs like my son must endure? They may look normal, but their brain dysfunction -- regardless of the label, does not allow them to act normal.

Yet in spite of it all, our son did graduate due to the compassion, special accommodations and supports of a few key people. In the adult system, there are few special accommodations for those who act differently -- they quickly become outcast. And then we wonder, what could make a young man snap and kill children or worse  -- his own Mother?

Bless all the Mothers like Liza Long.

Bless all of those victims families suffering across the US.

And, yes God, Bless Adam and Nancy Lanza's soul -- because they were also victims of a cold, broken mental health system.

GGB -- Mother, Artist and Kentucky Brain Advocate

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