A reader writes:
First, a note of thanks. As a mother of two boys on the autism spectrum I really appreciated your "Don't Blame Asperger's" discussion. The irony though is that it came on the heels of "I love my son but he terrifies me" post. I'm not going to critique Liza Long's story; there's lots of other places that have done that. What breaks my heart is the near constant refrain I am hearing – that what happened in Connecticut is evidence that we have to do something about mental healthcare.
We DO have to do something about mental healthcare but this correlation between mass murder and the mentally ill is hurting the very people you're trying to advocate for, people like your mother. We need a "Don't Blame Mental Illness" post telling people to stop making dangerous assumptions.
(1) We don't yet know whether Adam Lanza was mentally ill and this speculation is unhelpful and potentially damaging. (2) Mentally ill people are no more likely to commit violent acts than the mentally healthy, unless substance abuse is involved. Even then the greatest risk is self-directed violence (suicide). (3) Mentally ill people don't (and often aren't capable) of planning and executing mass murders. (4) Mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
Here is a blog post that has some data substantiating what I'm saying. Please, if you won't speak out against this harmful and erroneous correlation, can you at least stop perpetuating it?
In reading your emails I am struck with the same sinking feeling I have dealt with for the last 15 years. These people we love who are suffering from mental illness never really get better. I love my wife, but I am not sure that I can continue to be married to her.
We have two daughters, and as they get older and approach more independence it seems to be pushing my wife further down the rabbit hole. We have gone through a great deal of therapy, but she is medicated but not attending counseling right now. She swings between tolerating me and loathing me, and while I have my faults I am certainly not a terrible person. I have remained faithful through all of the paranoia, hallucinations, and chaos.
I am sadly reaching an end of my patience, but the sadder fact is that there is no cure for mental illness. It is like living with a constant storm with a few breaks here and there. I am worried as my daughters become teens that they will become increasingly aware of their mothers illness. I am also worried about the impact of getting divorced, and the fear that I might not win full custody. I can't afford to pay for two residence as we are a single-income family. In a way I am trapped because there is nobody else to care for her, and I can't afford to leave.
Mental illness is like a cancer that spreads across our society, and the fact that we still don't treat it as a threat is appalling. I will suggest a wonderful organization called The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They had support groups for people directly and indirectly suffering from mental illness. In addition to my wife, my brother also suffers from mental illness. It is a major problem throughout the world, and it destroys lives.
Another zooms out a little, in response to Rosin's reaction to Liza Long:
Oh, please, enough with the self-righteous writers who are condemning those who blog or talk about the difficulty of raising kids, especially those with mental illness. This culture has for too long skewed too far the other way; we have romanticized child-rearing for the past 20 years.
I am 27, my wife 25. Both of us have had to endure friends, relatives, the media give us the idealized view of having kids for so long. In our media every kid is an honors student, a star athlete, popular, and adorable. The only thing a parent is required to do is to stand aside and beam at their perfect little kids. I teach high school, and too many girls have no idea that their future kid could possibly force them to sacrifice their social lives, let alone have autism or another disorder. Louis CK is funny and illuminating about the difficulty, boredom, and fatigue of having kids. And his daughters, as far as I know, are without any serious mental problems. It's not exploitation to talk about them. It's an honest and necessary pushback against the "fun" aspects of having children. It's a serious decision, and serious decisions sometime require unpleasant facts.