Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wondering, Ranting and Giving My Two Cents About the Connecticut School Shootings

Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Like many others, I spent the the last several days reading and watching news reports about the tragedy in Connecticut.  Wiping the tears off my face, I finally had to shut off the t.v., push away the computer and spend my time or rather distract myself with other things... like dragging out the Christmas decorations, trying to make joy happen in my home. I also silently watched for signs of distress...and signs of violence in my 26-year-old son. I said a quiet prayer of thanks that all seemed well in his world and yet, stupidly, I continued carrying on about the mother of the Connecticut murderer.  

Sometimes he seems so normal, so much like his old self that I'll forget schizophrenia is a minute-by-minute illness.  Yesterday morning, in the middle of another soap-box rant, I glanced over and saw the dismay on my son's face.  Stopping dead in my lecturing tracks, I asked him, "Too much?"  Forever the little boy that wants to please me, he just nodded his head.  "I am so sorry hon. I'll shut up about it around you."  The relief that flooded his face made my guilt meter shoot to new heights.  "Stupid, stupid, stupid," I told myself, "Go rant on your blog if you feel the need to be heard."  

And so I am giving my sick child some peace and using this forum to voice my thoughts on the tragedy in Connecticut.  Oh, I know I have been a terrible blogger.  Good intentions but lousy follow through.  I wish I could say I'll be more faithful to at least a weekly posting but I can't make that commitment. 

I went down the road before her.  Six years ago, I might have been Adam Lanza's mother.  Like her, I didn't want my child to be sick. Not the kind of sick that is forever.  I understand the denial and the wanting so much to believe it was a phase of adolescence and later a phase of early adulthood.  I hoped, I prayed, I bargained with God but deep down I knew that something was wrong with my baby.  So I made choices while I silently watched and waited.  Her choices cost a nation.  It didn't have to be that way.

The last thing you want to do when dealing with someone with a mental illness is to give them unsupervised access to guns.  I am just so flabbergasted at the stupidity.  My son is also a gun enthusiast who used to go to the shooting range with his friends at least a couple of times a month. Oh how he loved it and he was so good at it.  Unfortunately, he found this hobby around the time that I was seeing symptoms that gave me pause.  Incidents of delusion and increasing isolation had begun appearing, increasing in frequency over a period of about three years.  All the while, he kept insisting that he needed his own gun.  Before his psychotic break and diagnosis, I used my own bouts of depression, telling my son that those with any mental illness are not allowed to buy or possess firearms.  Not even knowing if it was true or not, I stood my ground and refused to allow a gun to brought into my home.  He looked so sad and it broke my heart to have to take that joy away from him.  My point is that even in denial or lack of diagnosis, my instincts as a mother were dead on when it came to guns in the home.

As a nation, we are failing our children. We believe the inaccurate portrayals of mental illness by the media and Hollywood. We take mediocre stances on horrific behaviors and tend to vilify the victim forgetting what the word victim means. The vulnerable have become more vulnerable and access to help has become a stance in political games. It's sickening. How many more tragedies before the politicians stop using us to rally people for their vote? Our children need help, not rhetoric. We need beds in psychiatric units, not speeches. We need immediate access to mental health services, not waiting lists because the government has pulled funding. America's policies toward the mentally ill are a national disgrace.

While we'll never know if the rampage in Connecticut was the psychotic break of a young man with undiagnosed schizophrenia, I will always wonder what was going on in the mind of Adam's mother as she witnessed behaviors that should have set off red flags.  I keep going back to those guns... in that house... with that sick young man... and a nation that allows killing-machine rifles to get in the hands of sick young men. What was she thinking?  What were we thinking?