I Was Adam Lanza
from part I of III
Recently, the Huffington Post published an article titled “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” by a woman named Liza Long. The article presents a picture of a 13-year-old boy who threatened his mother, sometimes going so far as to pull a knife on her, scream obscenities at her, and leap out of cars as they’re driving down the highway.
The rest of the world has reacted to the idea of such a child with horror and incomprehension. I sympathize with the horror. I can only wish that I shared the incomprehension. I understand, intimately, how Liza Long’s son feels. I was like him.
Like the author of that piece, Liza Long, my mother had no idea what to do about my sudden transformation (in my case, around 16) into a borderline homicidal maniac. Like her son, I used knives to try and make my threats of violence seem more real. Like her son, I would leap out of our car in the middle of the road just to get away from my mother, over the most trivial of offenses. Like her son, I screamed obscenities at my mother shortly after moments of relative peace. And worse than this poor woman’s son, whose mindset toward his peers we can only guess, I will admit that I fantasized multiple times about taking ordnance to my classmates.
By the logic which leads Liza Long to say, “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” I have to say: “I was Adam Lanza.”
from part II of III
When your brain works more efficiently than everyone else’s, that means it performs most mental tasks more efficiently than other people, including go crazy. Worse, because a smart person’s brain is so good at running through hypotheses and rejecting them, it tends to come up with insanity that’s more resistant to basic therapy, because the rationalizations are built to withstand the assault of a genius level intellect. When people say genius and insanity are close cousins, this is what they’re talking about.
And when you’re isolated from other people, your own mind – and its crazy ideas – becomes the only company you have.
Moreover, this kind of solitary confinement inside your won head breeds paranoia and lack of empathy, even where none existed before, because when you only live inside your own head, after a while, you fail to notice that anyone else is really human. They become means to an end, an end like getting media attention for your suffering by shooting them.
Can the tendency by society to isolate and shun people like me until they go mad be countered? I don’t know, but I hope that by putting its existence to print, someone might take a step to mitigate it. Sappy as it sounds, the day I stopped being dangerous was the day I learned what it was to really have friends, and by extension, to care about others, even if only (so far) a limited number of others. Society doesn’t create these disorders, but it can amplify them, and by extension, it can diminish them.
I don’t think you can avoid this copy cat effect entirely, but someone needs to call out the hypocrisy of a media that performs public autopsies on shooters’ psyches for the sake of hand wringing, and yet still covers these kinds of people like they’re dangerous animals instead of deeply damaged human beings. Everyone always wonders what the shooters were thinking before they pulled the trigger. I humbly submit that if those kids sent an essay on their feelings to any media outlet before they pulled the trigger, that outlet would refuse to print them for fear of accidentally frightening their readers.
If this series has conveyed anything, I hope it’s that there is an Option C, for troubled young people, for the parents who love them, and for the society that otherwise thinks about the odd and the unlikeable only when it gathers to grieve for the damage they have done. I did my first part by fighting the devils in my own head. I would think that fight was even more worthwhile if I could now find a way to communicate to others how to win victories of their own.