Posts Tagged ‘mental disorders’

Living With Adam Lanza

December 17, 2012


Whilst I am not a fan of profiling a gunman, the following article entitled ‘I am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America, gives us a great insight into the difficulties of raising children with mental disorders:

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 mental illness.

While every family’s story of mental illness is different, and we may never know the whole of the Lanza’s story, tales like this one need to be heard — and families who live them deserve our help.

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 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 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 kill myself.”

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 make sense.

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.

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 I do.

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 done.”

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 heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

It Used to be Called a Tantrum

July 4, 2012

Well done! You have taken another natural, everyday expression of emotion and turned it into a condition. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies are licking their lips at the prospect of manufacturing another type of cocaine-like  pill for our latest condition – “Intermittent Explosive Disorder“:

Around the age of 12 or earlier, many kids — just over 5% of all adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17, according to a new study — report that they have  suffered attacks of anger that are destructive, frightening and wildly out of proportion to any provocation.

The abbreviation for Intermittent Explosive Disorder — IED — is particularly apt for these kids:

IED is also seen in adults. But it appears to be more widespread in adolescents, and the current study suggests that early adolescence (age 12) is where it most commonly starts.

Although a precise definition of this disorder has not been established, the authors of the latest study queried a total of 6,483 teens and their parents about the number  of disproportionate “anger attacks” the child had had in the past month, the past year, or ever. They also gathered information on what kind of behavior resulted — say, verbal threats, physical menacing or a rampage of throwing and breaking — and whether it resulted in the need for medical attention or the destruction of property worth more than a few dollars.

This makes me so angry! I think I’ve come down with SOSCED (sick of seeing children exploited disorder)!

Parents’ Stress Damaging the Development of Their Children

December 22, 2011

Author David Code goes beyond warning parents about the effect their stress has on the lives of his children. He even blames their stress for “damaging their development and altering their DNA, because of crushing worry and anxiety.”

“Stress is highly contagious,” says David Code, an Episcopal minister and author of Kids Pick Up on Everything: How Parental Stress is Toxic to Kids. “Parental stress can weaken the development of a child’s brain or immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, obesity, or mental disorders.”

So calm down and socialize more. Resolve to start the new year with peace on hearth – it’s not only good for your health but your children’s physical and mental health too.

If you really want to make your kids happier, forgo the Xbox or iPad and invite friends over. The greatest gift you can give your children is your own, healthy relationships with other adults, Code says.

“That Xbox or iPad will placate the kids for a while, but soon they’ll demand even more. Far better to take the kids over to your friend’s house – you and your friend can relax with a drink while both sets of kids entertain each other. That means better social skills for your children, and lower stress levels for you as you ‘scratch that primal itch’ to bond, which reduces your stress,” he adds.

According to Code, research shows children can catch their parents’ stress just like they catch a virus. “Children are like little sponges, soaking up the free-floating stress in today’s anxious households until their developing nervous systems hit overload, at which point they act out, or develop symptoms of mental or physical illness.”

The mind-body connection strongly factors into almost every child’s behaviour –the parent’s mind affects their child’s body “through a kind of emotional pipeline,” Code says. The more stress a kid picks up from the parent, the more ill health – even if the parent is unaware of his or her own anxiety.

Personally I think Code goes over the top with the prognostications of DNA damage but I agree with his main contention. There is no doubt that stress from parents has effects on their offspring.

Code offers the following advice:

Steps to raise healthier kids, according to author David Code:

• Set up a no-screens-after-5 p.m. night: Turn off all screens, big and small and socialize.

• Socialize more with other parents while your kids play together. “If I could wave my magic wand and reduce the stress of today’s parents, I would give them a glass of wine, a friend, and an Italian village square to go socialize in every evening.”

• Bring on the potluck: Once a week dine with friends. “Since you have to make dinner anyway, a weekly potluck doesn’t suck that much time away from your current schedule.”

• Exercise with your spouse. Build muscle and your marriage too. “It’s easier to discuss tough topics and get emotional when you’re side by side on the treadmill or jogging down the street. It’s easier to be emotional in motion.” Even a short evening stroll together is great marital maintenance.

• Take a vacation every three months for a complete change of pace and a healthier family.

• Practice the daily vacation – lunch hour. “Instead of building stress over eight hours, you’ll start over again after lunch and not get so wound up by quitting time.”

• Establish the one-minute instant intimacy builder with your spouse. “When you both get home from work, while changing or preparing dinner, share your highlight and ‘lowlight’ of the day. Try to focus on one moment in time,” he says, adding that sharing one specific lowlight each day builds bonds because we won’t feel so alone in our suffering.

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