“I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.”

When the news crews were in town last year. I went to the candlelight vigil at UMC, dizzy with flu, and ended up on CNN for a split second. “Were you walking around in a red hoodie down by the hospital tonight?” asked an out-of-state friend, and feverishly, I couldn’t understand how she knew. Two days later, my father tried to go down to the shopping center for a haircut. I think he wanted to feel normal; hard to do when Brian Williams was in the living room and also a quarter-mile away, his giant head framed by glass doors opening onto our neighborhood’s bread and milk. It was real and unreal; a show but not a show. One of the victims wasn’t a stranger.

I have nothing to say about Sandy Hook that hasn’t been said here and here and here, but wanted to share “Thinking The Unthinkable,” an essay by the mother of a boy who suffers from mental illness. She knows she’s powerless to stop what might be coming, regardless of the shitty comments on her blog (“You’re a terrible parent,” “Have you had your son tested for allergies?” “What about energy healing?”

Mental illness in a male child, coupled with easy American access to guns — this mother, who loves her son, already knows.


We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

…No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

 I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health.

12 thoughts on ““I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.”

  1. Because my nephew struggles with at least one (currently mild) mental illness, this scares the shit out of me. He’s 11 and only* talks of harming himself…terrifying.

    *As opposed to harming others, as well.

  2. But it is seen differently for a woman to own guns vs a man. If he had gotten at his father’s guns and killed the dad, it would not be seen as such a scandalous thing. Just the norm, though tragic.

    Like the Batman shooter, that he bought all that weaponry. It was somewhat shocking, but I can think of plenty of other cases (like the militias) where men stockpile guns to the same degree.

    I’m not pro gun, especially assault weapons, but question why it’s such a big deal for a woman to do something men all seem to do. Guns are a fact of life. Like male violence is a given in most of US culture. Apparently the NRA has been targeting women, especially single well-to-do women.

  3. I thought this Slate piece had an interesting take on Nancy Lanza:

    “This woman, long divorced, alone, in a house of men, in a world of men, somehow felt empowered by this thing. It probably made her feel protected, invincible even, big and strong. Like a man. (Or like the most antiquated, cheap notion of manhood you can spin, still sadly very much alive in our culture.) But Nancy Lanza is not a freak case—recent Gallup poll results show that the percentage of women who report home gun ownership is at a new high: 43 percent of women, just nine percentage points less than the level for men.* And, according to CBS News, in the past decade, shooting ranges have seen double the number of female participants.”

  4. Also, what wordwoman said. The amount of blame and demonization of Ms. Lanza–and the fact that she owned guns at all–is sexist at its core.

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