I Live With Adam Lanza


Editor’s note: The following essay was written by someone who wanted their privacy protected because of the issues they address. Anonymous White Male is the name they gave themselves. 

By Anonymous White Male

My friend and roommate very easily could have been Adam Lanza. To be honest, I fully expected one day to wake up one day reading about my roommate killing a slew of people.  Fortunately, he recently got the help he needed, so I no longer live in fear both for myself or society.

My roommate was recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  This diagnosis was both a relief and fright; it was relief in that after ten years, we finally had a confirmed diagnosis.  It was and is scary because most of the serial killers are diagnosed with the same disorder.

My friend became my roommate when he was about to be homeless. He is a certifiable genius, but as his mental illness has progressed it has become almost impossible for him to hold a job, or, for that matter, to have any normal relationships.

There have been times since he has lived with me that I have literally been in fear for my life, this despite the fact that I am his closest friend. One of the symptoms of BPD is that the person is given to fits of uncontrollable rage.  It comes upon quite suddenly, almost out of the blue.  The slightest negative thing can set off the person.

There have been four or five such incidents since he has lived with me, a two year period.  After each time, my roommate is appalled at his behavior and does anything and everything he can to make it up to me.  When he is in his right mind, he can be quite a delight to be around.  Yet, terrifying incidents continued to occur and became closer together.

The last episode was four months ago. I do not even remember what set him off, it was so trivial.  But it was the last straw for me, and I realized that quite literally one of us was going to be dead if something was not done.

My friend has been “in the system” for years. Miraculously, he has never been in trouble with the law.  But given his condition, he was on disability for some time.  As part of the disability program with social services, he was being treated for “maniac depression.”  He was given psychotic drugs by the county or state.  These helped, but looking back on it now, it only masked the underlying true problem.  He stopped taking his medication because he was no longer depressed. But he was still given to fits of rage, was disassociating with society, and was continuing to progress in a downward spiral.

After the most recent death defying incident with my roommate, we both agreed that he needed to get help again.  I was thankful and relieved when he asked me to find a place for him to get help.  What I was not expecting was how difficult it would be to find him real help.

You see my friend is an adult white male who makes no money, and who has no health insurance.  There are programs for women or children, and if you are a pregnant woman, you are golden.  Yet, if you are an indigent white male without health insurance, finding help is almost impossible. The first place I called said that I should take him to the emergency room.  The second place I called treated only juveniles and gave me a list of five other places that “might” help an adult male.  Only one of those places treated adult males, and their waiting list was literally four months long.

After a myriad of calls and much frustration, I finally found a County facility that would treat him.  And I must say that they have treated him remarkably. They have finally diagnosed the underlying problem, he is finally on medication that is genuinely helping him, and the progress I have seen over the last three months has been nothing short of a miracle.

I no longer sleep with my door locked.

The news reports for Sandy Hook have said that Adam Lanza had autism or the more mild Asperger Syndrome.  Although I am no shrink, this is laughable to me.  People with autism do not shoot up schools.  It takes someone with a serious mental illness to commit such evil.  We can be sure that Adam Lanza was suffering from something much more severe than autism.

After each of these tragedies, the media and politicians pontificate about how to prevent this from ever happening again.  There are obvious discussions about gun control.  There are pontifications about the evils of video games.  And those discussions should continue because they are important.  But nothing is really going to matter unless we seriously talk of dealing with mental illnesses in this country.

Amidst the hot air that follows tragedies such as Sandy Hook there is often a passing mention of mental illnesses.  And while we have begun to make some progress in this country regarding mental illnesses, we have miles to go.

I am sure that another school shooting or similar evil will happen again. It is an unfortunate fact that mankind progressively figures out new evils and new ways to destroy itself.  Nevertheless, this process can be slowed when we wake up to the fact that white males need help with mental illnesses (notice that nearly every single shooter that you can think of is a white male).

My experience with dealing with a close friend with a severe mental illness has taught me the following:

1. It is almost impossible for a white male without health insurance to get real mental health help.  I live in Los Angeles County, which I believe has the largest budget of any county in the United States, and in California, which although it is struggling financially, has one of the largest budgets in the United States.  Yet, finding help for a white male is very, very difficult.  Unfortunately, however, us white males are the culprits of mass murder.  Funding must be directed toward helping white males get mental health if we want to stop horrific shootings.

My situation is not unique. You, like me, have likely read about parents who have tried to get help for mentally ill sons.  It is easier for juveniles to get help, but by no means is it easy.  And for a adult white male, it is next to impossible.

I also do not mean to make this racial.  I imagine it is just as hard for an adult black male to get treated for mental health diseases.  I only have experience with white males.  And all the shooters who have committed these crimes that I can think of are white males.  I only know for certain that white males need help and they are not getting it. But it is likely true for males of any race.

2. Without the medication that my friend is taking, he would be danger to himself, me, and probably society in general. The cost of that medication, however, would be approximately $500 a day if he was not receiving it through social services.  The cost of psychotic drugs is so prohibitive to any person or any family unless they have amazing health insurance or unless it is heavily subsidized by the government.  We, as a society, have to figure out how to make these important drugs less cost prohibitive.

3. Gun control laws are not the solution.  Mind you, I think that gun control is important.  There is no reason for a normal citizen to own an assault rifle.  Gun control would, at a minimum, reduce the number of victims.  However, the simple fact of the matter is that once a person reaches the point where he is so out of his mind, he will figure out a way to kill a lot of people regardless of the laws.  Timothy McVeigh did not need a gun to kill so many.  Gun control laws are treating a symptom without attacking the disease. And while treating symptoms is important, we need to address the underlying sicknesses.

After Columbine, we promised to make changes so that it would never happen again.  It not only has happened again, more than once, but now it is worse and worse. And, frankly, it will continue to happen.  We can slow the pace by beginning to take seriously the main issue underlying all of these shootings, and that is mental disease amongst white males and likely men of all races.  It is time to stop giving only lip service to mental health.  It is time to begin to seriously address how to help men get the help they need.

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