Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Mother Shouldn't Have to Choose

From my very first blog post almost 5 years ago, I’ve carried a fear that there’ll be repercussions for writing about my son who has a mental illness. The last thing I ever wanted to do is harm my son or my family. To avoid this, I take steps to protect his identity and act cautiously when communicating with so many of you through email. I would love to post pics to show how my son is thriving, use my real name when communicating to other hurting parents, or respond to national news reporters, but I can’t take the risk of exposing my son.

So you can imagine my interest when I read Liza Long’s original story, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, a post that went viral after the Newtown tragedy. I was impressed with her openness and so very thankful, yet I understood the risk she was taking. Which made her post all the more powerful.

Today she has written another post that exposes not her name, but her consequence for going public about her child’s mental illness.

In her recent article she wrote:
“And so my 750 words became an accidental but powerful manifesto for children’s mental health. In retrospect, I think that one of the things that resonated most strongly with parents in similar situations was the raw emotion in the piece. That’s because I, as the writer, was revealing truths to myself that I had been unwilling or unable to face. My first audience was myself.
So for me, and for many other parents, this is what “normal” looks like. People said that I was brave for telling my story. I did not feel brave; I felt helpless.”
I can relate to Long’s words. When I write to you, I write in a desperate place of feeling helpless. I’m a mom anxiously seeking answers for my child who’s suffering a terrible illness. Looking back, my blog has thankfully been a helpful tool for my son’s stability. I’ve been able to receive encouragement, direction, feedback and so much more from a community of parents who would otherwise be invisible to me.

So having experienced the benefits of sharing my child’s illness publicly, I was outraged to read that Long is now facing the consequences of her openness.

She’s being forced to choose between caring for her sick child or her healthy children.

This is a decision that no mother should EVER have to make.

Would a mother writing about her child’s cancer have to later choose between her children? Why is it any different for Long’s children because her child has a brain illness.

Some of you would argue that it’s for the safety of the siblings, but with the right support and medical care this doesn’t have to be an issue.

Long points out a very important reality:
“Families are afraid to speak up about or ask for help for their sick children, for the very real fear that they will lose their healthy ones, either to another parent (as in my case) or to the state.”
I admit, I was fearful of this in the beginning. I remember sharing with my husband that I was concerned about what I should reveal to the therapist at our son’s initial evaluation for fear that something I would say would bring harm to my other children. It felt a little like walking through a land mind. Would I say something that would make my entire family explode?

The stigma of mental illness is hurting not only those suffering, but the family that’s trying to help.

This has to stop.

If society is so scared of our kids, scared of what they can do to others, they need to pull us off the floor and onto our feet and surround us with support and resources. NOT force us back into a closet of isolation.

People need to know that kids get better when parents can ask questions, seek support and receive care publicly.

Research has proven that children surrounded by love and support have very positive outcomes. If we want to prevent the next tragedy, we need to embrace these families and support them, not tear them apart and ignite fear, forcing them to once again remain silent and helpless.

What is happening to Liza Long will only bring more harm to us all.

Out of fear of losing our other children, mothers will stop taking.

And sick children will not get the care they need.

God help us all.

* * *

I highly recommend you read, The Origins -- And the Price -- of My Accidental Manifesto for Children’s Mental Healtha Huff Post article written by Liza Long, the same writer who wrote, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” a blog post that went viral after the Newtown tragedy.

* * *

The Origins -- And the Price -- 
of My Accidental Manifesto for Children's Mental Health
Huff Post
By Liza Long
Posted: 09/04/2014 9:56 am EDT


  1. Liza Long's post of December 2012 detailed how her beloved son Michael was mentally ill, agitated and prone to seemingly-out-of-nowhere violence, how to meds/therapy seemed to help and his she feared her son might hurt her, himself or a classroom full of innocent 6 yos.

    I'm sympathetic. Very, very sympathetic to Long and Michael's plight -- as I've been on meds for a mental illness since high school.

    However, based on what Long wrote, she, Michael and all of her other children were in danger. Michael's violence and unpredictability put everyone in her home at risk. It's perfectly sensible that her ex-husband filed for full custody of his other kids to protect them from michael.

    Yes, long was brave to speak out and seek help for her son. But actions have consequences -- and it is totally unreasonable for her to get to keep ALL her kids when ALL were in danger of being hurt by michael!

  2. I have an only child, an only child by choice now since he suffers from a mood disorder and ADHD. I read Liza Long's post in 2012 before the mood disorder diagnosis was tacked on and hoped my son would never get to that point and at 6 years old, I had to commit him to a mental hospital for a week because he was a threat to us and himself. I felt isolated and alone as no one understood what we were going through and how a child that young could have bipolar episodes. After four months, he is now stabilized on a cocktail of four medications that he takes daily and is doing well in school, but the tantrums still happen. I am scared to what his future holds especially reading blogs like Liza's. I never feel there are enough resources available for mental illness in children. I live in the 5th largest city and there are only a few psychiatrists here certified to work with children and most have a wait list. When my son needed help, his pedi had to call in a favor to get us seen. Therapy was even few and far between, but we now have a great therapist that is a fantastic advocate for my son. Mental illness in America needs to be more readily accessible for children and adults and the discussion needs to happen now.