DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It's Friday. Time now for StoryCorps, where people come to have conversations with the people they're closest to. Today we'll hear from Liza Long and her 13-year-old son. She calls her son Michael. That's not his real name. That's what Liza called him in a blog post she wrote last December, the day after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people were killed.
The blog post was titled "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother." It's time to talk about mental illness. Here's an excerpt.
LIZA LONG: I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books.
GREENE: Recently, Liza came to a StoryCorps booth in Boise, Idaho, to talk to her son about the blog post.
LONG: Have you seen the blog post?
LONG: Was the story I wrote true, do you think?
MICHAEL: It was fairly accurate.
LONG: Do you remember what it's like when you get that mad?
MICHAEL: It's kind of blurry, but I do remember most of it. I didn't want to do it, but I didn't have control.
LONG: That must be really scary for you.
MICHAEL: I don't exactly know what I feel. My heart definitely is beating faster. Like I'll be having a really great day and all of a sudden my body will decide, hey, guess what, I'm going to ruin your perfect day for you. It almost feels like there's some extraterrestrial being taking control of me and making me do all these crazy things. I feel powerful, like I have control, and yet I don't.
The thing is, people can't actually understand what mental illness is if they don't either have a mental illness or have lived and been with someone who does. I mean the only times I really get mad is if I feel like someone is trying to hurt me or disrupt my personal life.
LONG: Right. But you don't mean to blow up like that?
MICHAEL: No, I actually don't like it. And yet there's not really anything I can do about it. It kind of makes me unlikable.
LONG: I like you.
MICHAEL: Yeah, but my life still has some major problems. They've diagnosed me with bipolar, intermittent explosive disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder. So on and so forth.
LONG: So what right now, today, would make your life better?
MICHAEL: Maybe new treatment that ends up completely curing the mental illness instead of just getting rid of the symptoms.
LONG: Would you want to be cured, though, or would you feel like you were a different person?
MICHAEL: If I'm different and have to deal with these stupid rages, then I'd rather be cured, because I'm done.
LONG: Yeah. But you are doing better on the new meds and you've got a lot of therapies in place. What are some things that make your life happy?
MICHAEL: Reading, and I'm writing a book. It's a mix between sci-fi and mythology.
LONG: How many words do you have?
MICHAEL: I think I'm at 47,000.
LONG: Wow. Well, thank you. I really appreciate you taking time to talk to me. I had a lot of questions.
MICHAEL: Well, there's certainly other things I would rather be doing, but...
LONG: I'm sure that's true.
MICHAEL: You're welcome. Hopefully it will actually help.
LONG: I hope it will.
GREENE: Liza Long speaking with her 13-year-old son at StoryCorps. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, Liza wrote a blog post asking the country to focus on the treatment of this nation's mentally ill youth. Their interview, like all StoryCorps recordings, will be archived at the Library of Congress. And to get the StoryCorps podcast, you can go to NPR.org.
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