By Liza Long | HuffingtonPost.com
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.
ďI can wear these pants,Ē he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
ďThey are navy blue,Ē I told him. ďYour schoolís dress code says black or khaki pants only.Ē
ďThey told me I could wear these,Ē he insisted. ďYouíre a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!Ē
ďYou canít wear whatever pants you want to,Ē I said, my tone affable, reasonable. ďAnd you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. Youíre grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.Ē
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 didnít 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 donít know whatís 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. Heís 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 heís 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. Heís in a good mood most of the time. But when heís not, watch out. And itís impossible to predict what will set him off.
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 districtís most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who canít 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, ďLook, Mom, Iím really sorry. Can I have video games back today?Ē
ďNo way,Ē I told him. ďYou cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.Ē
His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. ďThen Iím going to kill myself,Ē he said. ďIím going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.Ē
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.
ďWhere are you taking me?Ē he said, suddenly worried. ďWhere are we going?Ē
ďYou know where we are going,Ē I replied.
ďNo! You canít do that to me! Youíre sending me to hell! Youíre sending me straight to hell!Ē
I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. ďCall the police,Ē I said. ďHurry.Ē
Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldnít escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. Iím still stronger than he is, but I wonít 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 -- ďWere there any difficulties withÖ at what age did your childÖ were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child haveÖĒ
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. Youíll 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, ďI hate you. And Iím going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.Ē
By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. Iíve heard those promises for years. I donít believe them anymore.
On the intake form, under the question, ďWhat are your expectations for treatment?Ē I wrote, ďI need help.Ē
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 make sense.
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanzaís mother. I am Dylan Kleboldís and Eric Harrisís mother. I am James Holmesís mother. I am Jared Loughnerís mother. I am Seung-Hui Choís mother. And these boysóand their mothersóneed help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, itís easy to talk about guns. But itís time to talk about mental illness.
Read the full article at: huffingtonpost.com
"Michael," the authorís son