Liza Long’s 13-year-old son was first diagnosed with mental illness when he was 8 years old. He struggles with rage and violent outbursts.
In late December 2012, in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Liza wrote a blogpost, “I am Adam Lanza's Mother,” in which she urged the country to focus on treatment for mentally ill youth.
She wrote, “I love my son, but he terrifies me.”
At StoryCorps, Liza sat down with her son. (His real name and image have been withheld to protect his privacy.)
Music Info: "Milo" by Fredrik from the album Trilogi.
Click here for the transcript.
Michael (M): Yes.
LL: Was the story I wrote true, do you think?
M: It was fairly accurate.
LL: Do you remember what it's like when you get that mad?
M: Uh…it's kind of blurry, but I do remember most of it. I didn't want to do it, but I didn't have control.
LL: That must be really scary for you.
M: I don't exactly know what I feel. My heart definitely is beating faster. Like, I'll be having a really great day and all of a suddenly my body will decide, Hey guess what? I'm going to ruin your perfect day for you.
It almost feels like there's some extraterrestrial being taking control of me and making me do all these crazy things. I feel powerful, like I have control, and yet i don't.
M: The thing is, people can't actually understand what mental illness is if they don't either have a mental illness, or have lived and been with someone who does.
I mean, the only times I really get mad is if I feel like someone is trying to hurt me or disrupt my personal life.
LL: Right, but you don't mean to blow up like that?
M: No, I actually don't like it. And yet there's not really anything I can do about it. It kind of makes me unlikable.
LL: What do you mean? I like you. (laughs)
M: Yeah, but my life still has some major problems. They've diagnosed me with Bipolar, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. So on and so forth.
LL: So what right now today would make your life better?
M: Maybe new treatment that ends up completely curing the mental illness instead of just getting rid of the symptoms.
LL: Would you want to be cured though or would you feel like you were a different person?
M: If I'm different and have to deal with these rages, then I'd rather be cured because I'm done.
LL: Yeah. But you are doing better on the new meds, and you've got a lot of therapies in place. What are some things that make your life happy?
M: Reading. And I'm writing a book. It's a mix between sci-fi and mythology.
LL: How many words do you have?
M: I think I'm at 47,000.
LL: Wow. Well thank you, I really appreciate you taking time to talk to me. I had a lot of questions.
M: Well, there's certainly other things I would rather be doing but… (laughs)
LL: (Laughs) I'm sure that's true.
M: Uh…you're welcome.
M: Hopefully it will actually help.
LL: I hope it will.