I can’t tell you the depth of despair and depression I experienced since last Friday, and the Sandy Hook incident. Pretty much any time I relive events of my past, I also relive the emotional pain and turmoil from then too. Add to that the current sadness we all have been feeling over the Sand Hook incident, and I was feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to write about it when it happened, but it was too difficult. Several days have passed now and I’m feeling better about it. The depression has subsided, but so has some of the desire to write this. I will write, but I can’t guarantee how much effort I’ll put into it.
To understand Adam Lanza, you really must understand how Asperger’s Syndrome affects people (again, it must be said that Asperger’s doesn’t make people violent) And to understand the motivation for his shooting spree, you must understand the environment Adam was living in, you must understand the psychology and dynamics of his family, especially that of his mother.
I have no doubt that my own family shits a collective brick every time I write about them. But that’s perhaps the crux of the problem of our own family dysfunctionality. I no longer talk with my family, except for brief chats with my nephew. Some time a ago my parents moved and did not give me their new address or phone number. I only know that they moved to Arizona to be near my brother. But all of this is of little importance. What is important for the telling of this story is the environment I was living in as I grew up at home, and how my family reacted when I displayed symptoms of Asperger’s.
It is also important to understand how relatively new the diagnosis of Aperger’s Syndrome is. It was first discovered in 1944, but didn’t become a part of mainstream psychiatry until the 80s and 90s – long after I had left home and eventually became homeless. As a child I was suffering from an unknown condition, so, as is often the case, my parents were led to believe that I didn’t have a condition. It was then easy for my parents to believe that the problems I was having were of my own selfish creation.
Every human being has an innate desire to belong, to be a part of and participate with other human beings in all the activities that make up life. To do this successfully, humans must be able to communicate with each other. One of the biggest problems for people with Aspergers involves communication. Not only do Aspies have difficulty communicating their own thoughts, ideas and interests with others verbally, they have a difficult time understanding what other people are trying to say back to them – especially in a social context. I believe that is why for some Aspies they are drawn to, and excel at, other types of non verbal communication – it’s about the desire to connect and belong, and compensating for a lack of verbal skills.
Although I did well enough in other areas of study in school, I did rather poorly in English, especially with spelling. Instead of getting me some specialized help to overcome this problem, my parents accused me of a variety of negative things, of being lazy, of “not paying attention in class”, of “not trying hard enough”, of “day dreaming”, etc. And for these infractions, my parents thought that the proper corrective action was to punish me. It was this punishment that created feelings of guilt, which in turn started my lifetime of depression. The punishment, and the disapproval of my parents for things I had no control over was painful, and damaging. Now, there was period when I was about 6 or 7 years old, when my parents were considering sending me to a psychiatrist. But first they thought they should talk to my school teacher. I have no idea how that conversation went, but afterwards, my parents gave up on the idea.
Funny, but I just remembered something similar which happened about the same time. The whole class was sent to the school nurse for eye exams. I struggled to read the chart. I told the nurse I could not see the letters. She said to me, “you’re making yourself not see them.” She was under the impression that I just wanted to have a pair of glasses. She said that my vision was fine. During that summer I joined little league baseball. The coach noticed I had a hard time catching the ball. After playing catch with me for a couple throws, he suggested to my mother that I get a real eye exam. Not only did the optometrist discover my need for glasses, he was astonished that I could function with such poor eye sight.
Yes, we need to appreciate the job that school staff does for students, but we need to also remember that they are not experts in everything. If only my parents had gone ahead and sent me to a psychiatrist way back then, I probably wouldn’t have had the problems I’ve been living with all these years. But I digress. I searched for it, but could find nothing to indicate that Adam was seeing a psychiatrist at the time. If anything, psychiatrists can teach a person the coping skills necessary for dealing with the difficulties they face in life.
Stay tuned for part 3