I Live with Adam Lanza

I Live with Adam Lanza December 22, 2012

Editor’s note: The following guest post was written by someone who wanted their privacy protected because of the issues they address. Anonymous White Male is the name they gave themselves. 

By Anonymous White Male

My friend and roommate very easily could have been Adam Lanza. To be honest, I fully expected one day to wake up one day reading about my roommate killing a slew of people.  Fortunately, he recently got the help he needed, so I no longer live in fear both for myself or society.

My roommate was recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  This diagnosis was both a relief and fright; it was relief in that after ten years, we finally had a confirmed diagnosis.  It was and is scary because most of the serial killers are diagnosed with the same disorder.

My friend became my roommate when he was about to be homeless. He is a certifiable genius, but as his mental illness has progressed it has become almost impossible for him to hold a job, or, for that matter, to have any normal relationships.

There have been times since he has lived with me that I have literally been in fear for my life, this despite the fact that I am his closest friend. One of the symptoms of BPD is that the person is given to fits of uncontrollable rage.  It comes upon quite suddenly, almost out of the blue.  The slightest negative thing can set off the person.

There have been four or five such incidents since he has lived with me, a two year period.  After each time, my roommate is appalled at his behavior and does anything and everything he can to make it up to me.  When he is in his right mind, he can be quite a delight to be around.  Yet, terrifying incidents continued to occur and became closer together.

The last episode was four months ago. I do not even remember what set him off, it was so trivial.  But it was the last straw for me, and I realized that quite literally one of us was going to be dead if something was not done.

My friend has been “in the system” for years. Miraculously, he has never been in trouble with the law.  But given his condition, he was on disability for some time.  As part of the disability program with social services, he was being treated for “maniac depression.”  He was given psychotic drugs by the county or state.  These helped, but looking back on it now, it only masked the underlying true problem.  He stopped taking his medication because he was no longer depressed. But he was still given to fits of rage, was disassociating with society, and was continuing to progress in a downward spiral.

After the most recent death defying incident with my roommate, we both agreed that he needed to get help again.  I was thankful and relieved when he asked me to find a place for him to get help.  What I was not expecting was how difficult it would be to find him real help.

You see my friend is an adult white male who makes no money, and who has no health insurance.  There are programs for women or children, and if you are a pregnant woman, you are golden.  Yet, if you are an indigent white male without health insurance, finding help is almost impossible. The first place I called said that I should take him to the emergency room.  The second place I called treated only juveniles and gave me a list of five other places that “might” help an adult male.  Only one of those places treated adult males, and their waiting list was literally four months long.

After a myriad of calls and much frustration, I finally found a County facility that would treat him.  And I must say that they have treated him remarkably. They have finally diagnosed the underlying problem, he is finally on medication that is genuinely helping him, and the progress I have seen over the last three months has been nothing short of a miracle.

I no longer sleep with my door locked.

The news reports for Sandy Hook have said that Adam Lanza had autism or the more mild Asperger Syndrome.  Although I am no shrink, this is laughable to me.  People with autism do not shoot up schools.  It takes someone with a serious mental illness to commit such evil.  We can be sure that Adam Lanza was suffering from something much more severe than autism.

After each of these tragedies, the media and politicians pontificate about how to prevent this from ever happening again.  There are obvious discussions about gun control.  There are pontifications about the evils of video games.  And those discussions should continue because they are important.  But nothing is really going to matter unless we seriously talk of dealing with mental illnesses in this country.

Amidst the hot air that follows tragedies such as Sandy Hook there is often a passing mention of mental illnesses.  And while we have begun to make some progress in this country regarding mental illnesses, we have miles to go.

I am sure that another school shooting or similar evil will happen again. It is an unfortunate fact that mankind progressively figures out new evils and new ways to destroy itself.  Nevertheless, this process can be slowed when we wake up to the fact that white males need help with mental illnesses (notice that nearly every single shooter that you can think of is a white male).

My experience with dealing with a close friend with a severe mental illness has taught me the following:

1. It is almost impossible for a white male without health insurance to get real mental health help.  I live in Los Angeles County, which I believe has the largest budget of any county in the United States, and in California, which although it is struggling financially, has one of the largest budgets in the United States.  Yet, finding help for a white male is very, very difficult.  Unfortunately, however, us white males are the culprits of mass murder.  Funding must be directed toward helping white males get mental health if we want to stop horrific shootings.

My situation is not unique. You, like me, have likely read about parents who have tried to get help for mentally ill sons.  It is easier for juveniles to get help, but by no means is it easy.  And for a adult white male, it is next to impossible.

I also do not mean to make this racial.  I imagine it is just as hard for an adult black male to get treated for mental health diseases.  I only have experience with white males.  And all the shooters who have committed these crimes that I can think of are white males.  I only know for certain that white males need help and they are not getting it. But it is likely true for males of any race.

2. Without the medication that my friend is taking, he would be danger to himself, me, and probably society in general. The cost of that medication, however, would be approximately $500 a day if he was not receiving it through social services.  The cost of psychotic drugs is so prohibitive to any person or any family unless they have amazing health insurance or unless it is heavily subsidized by the government.  We, as a society, have to figure out how to make these important drugs less cost prohibitive.

3. Gun control laws are not the solution.  Mind you, I think that gun control is important.  There is no reason for a normal citizen to own an assault rifle.  Gun control would, at a minimum, reduce the number of victims.  However, the simple fact of the matter is that once a person reaches the point where he is so out of his mind, he will figure out a way to kill a lot of people regardless of the laws.  Timothy McVeigh did not need a gun to kill so many.  Gun control laws are treating a symptom without attacking the disease. And while treating symptoms is important, we need to address the underlying sicknesses.

After Columbine, we promised to make changes so that it would never happen again.  It not only has happened again, more than once, but now it is worse and worse. And, frankly, it will continue to happen.  We can slow the pace by beginning to take seriously the main issue underlying all of these shootings, and that is mental disease amongst white males and likely men of all races.  It is time to stop giving only lip service to mental health.  It is time to begin to seriously address how to help men get the help they need.

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  • amy sorrells

    Truth. Important, important truth. Thank you.

  • Sherwwood MacRae

    I appreciate your thoughts and your concerns for your friend, but I believe you jump to a number of conclusions that complicate your analysis.

    I kept looking for some comment about your friend’s parents and his academic pursuit, neither of which were mentioned. And I see a lot of that in the media, it is as if the parents were unknown quantities. We have heard about Lanza’s mother, to my knowledge we have heard nothing about his father. Dealing with a disruptive child takes two to face up to the fact that the youngster needs help. Unfortunately, it seems, the parents divide over the issues involved and sadly, far too often, divorce takes place. Now the situation tends to escalate.

    Part of the social problem is that as a society, we have failed to address the problems that are created by divorce and when a child is involved, we hurry off to locate a professional who typically assumes that the divorce was merely a routine and could have no bearing on the child’s eventual behavior. I believe they are wrong in such assumptions.

    Then – as in this case, the individual goes along with the crowd. When they graduate from high school and have made provisions for college, the only question becomes, which one will admit the candidate. And that is another place for an examination of what is actually going on in the mind of the potential student.

    Far too often, we assume educational progression is only natural and fit the student into the norm for all. It is as if the professionals are too concerned with their record of their own achievements and far too little emphasis is placed on the fact, each student is an individual. High achievers tend to be lauded; low achievers are more often, ignored.

    So my thought – after reading of the friend’s analysis, it seems to be more of an overall opinion of how society responds to the masses and individuals are left to fend for themselves.

    Actually, that is the way it ought to be, but when we have a constant clamor for more help for the so-called disadvantaged, we are failing to address the fact it is not a “classification” that we need to address, but the people who comprise it.

    The Bible poses an interesting question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the typical answer is, “No, nor should you be.”. But human nature dictates otherwise. We may not be our “brother’s keeper” but more often that not, we are our brothers “brother”. He or she is part of the family and in a family, we care for one another.

    For certain, we ought not to allow members of our family to be alone in their struggles, but more importantly, we ought not address the situation as an outsider,who is simply content to point the finger of blame at others..

    • Sherwood: I am posting the reply the author of the post sent me after reading your comments:

      Thank you Sherwood for you long and thoughtful comment. The point is, as I think you were trying to say, we need to become more attune to what causes mental illnesses including the death of the nuclear family and our educational system. My point, however, is that also we need to be much more open to diagnose mental illnesses and make it easier to treat mental illnesses. In the last twenty years our society has done much to begin to address mental diseases, however, there is still a great deal of stigma and we have a long way to go. Ironically, my friend grew up in nuclear family and did extremely well in school, so those things which you highlighted were not the cause of his issues.

      You referenced the Bible. I believe that the Bible does teach that, as Christians, we ARE to be our brother’s keepers, i.e. extend love to those on the edges of our society, and to love those around us the best that we can. That is the real reason that I have stuck it out with my friend, despite at times literally being in fear for my life. I believe we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world. And, I believe that when we help people who, like my friend, really need it, we are doing as to Christ. “What you do for the least, you do it unto me.”

      Thanks again for your comment.

  • Wow. This is powerful. Thanks, whoever you are, for sharing this.

    • I agree, it’s excellent that he wrote about it.

      I also agree that the question that most needs to be asked is the one that is least asked: What factors most contributed for Adam to develop his mental illness? If we examine this question, what we will find that the answer is various factors, including a concert of very harmful adults (and maybe minors).

      We have no idea who did what to Adam for 20 years to make him go on this shooting spree. The answer will not be pretty. However, it’s quite sad that it’s only with a brutal killing that anyone stops to ask it for kids like Lanza. And
      that may be part of the reason why he picked up those assault weapons and headed for that school on that fateful day.

  • “Without the medication that my friend is taking, he would be danger to
    himself, me, and probably society in general. The cost of that
    medication, however, would be approximately $500 a day if he was not
    receiving it through social services. ”


    This sounds particularly bizarre. I’m not questioning so much your estimate, although that would be a question – what kind of medication is this? – but exactly who is prescribing such medication and why this hugely expensive type of medication, when there are so many types of medication available? We all know the pharma sector is as greedy as can be, and it wants to make a huge profit no matter what. Pushing for the prescription of very expensive meds while there are plenty of alternatives is part of their “game.” It’s the worse of capitalism allied with the worse of the mental health machine. This is why I would suggest that the following is also part of the problem of the lack of proper mental health services: over-medication, excessively expensive medication, not enough human care.

    • wkdkween

      It takes usually several tries to get the correct medication and dosage. The older, cheaper meds have more and dangerous side effects then do the newer ones. Most people can’t tolerate the side effects of the older drugs and will usually go off them. If you want them to be compliant with the medication, you are going to need to use the more expensive drugs with less side effects. As to the prices of the drugs, Talk to the drug companies, they spend millions/billions developing a drug and need to recover the costs.

      • Instead of treating kids and adults with human care, pharmas and the psychiatric establishment drug them out of their senses. Pharmas aren’t merely “recovering the costs of drugs,” they are profit leeches. Along with the system, they are exploiting and abusing vulnerable children and adults in the most shameful way, by drugging their minds, in order to make huge profits.

        In a substantial way, drugs mask true problems and feelings that a child or adult experiences, most of which could all be resolved by true human care. But that’s what missing in our society. Huxley’s “soma” has been established 500 years earlier than he predicted.


  • ymoore

    Yes, the majority of the mass murderers are white males, but hinderances to family members getting help for mentally ill relatives goes across the board for a number of reasons. One, the stigma. Families usually deny the fact that there is a problem of mental illness until they can’t because they don’t want to permanently scar their loved one with such an official record. Families with the financial means try to get help for loved ones under the radar. For poorer families, often the only way to get the mental health care needed for a loved one is AFTER something has gone awry and law enforcement is called in. You can’t MAKE a loved on get treatment, even if it is available. If they do something illegal, however, the court can mandate treatment.

    All of that said, the fact remains there are many many people in our society with nonviolent mental illnesses, many with illnesses that make them a threat to themselves and many who make them a threat to others — and NO ONE can be forced to go into treatment. What we CAN do is make sure weapons of mass destruction meant for war are not available for public consumption, period.

    Another things we as a society need to face is why are we as a people so paranoid? Who’s chasing us? Why are we so fearful? Since Sandy Hook, these weapons of mass destruction are flying off the shelves. Sellers say they’ve sold more in the last three weeks than the last three years. They say the buyers fear gun regulations that will ban these weapons of war. Who are they preparing to go to war with? Be clear, people building personal arsenals are indeed preparing for war, not a hunting trip and not a burglar. You don’t need the artillery they’re assembling for hunting trips or burglars. If they are preparing for civil war, isn’t that treason? Isn’t that against the law? Didn’t we do that already?

  • wkdkween

    I had to deal with my son after he was discharged from a mental hospital. He was young, middle school. We were referred for treatment upon discharge. Calling the referral immediately when we came home, I was told that they don’t treat that kind of illness. I requested info on someone who did. I was not given any useful information. We finally did find a treating source eventually. It was verry difficult to obtain mental helath services for my son. The kicker is this: I woked in the mental helath field at the time and I had amazing difficulty getting treatment for him. I can’t imagine how “regular” people find any help at all.