"We installed a Schlage deadbolt on our bedroom," one mother wrote, describing how far she went to keep a 17-year-old stepson out.
"We are terrified of him," confessed another, of her 11-year-old boy. "He has threatened to kill me and my other children several times."
The comments section of HuffPost Parents has been overflowing with stories like these since we published Liza Long's essay "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother." In it she wrote of life with the 13-year-old son she called Michael. (That is not his real name.)
When stable, he is "my calm, sweet boy," she explained, but when he snaps -- which happens with no warning -- he frightens her. "I'm still stronger than he is, but I won't be for much longer," she wrote.
The piece brought criticism, much of which you can read about here. It also brought a glimpse into the lives of families nationwide who care for children with mental illness that makes them violent.
The tales were chilling in their detail.
There were memories of a daughter who is now 20: "She would be fighting me, biting me, scratching me. One time I had to lock her in the bathroom so she would not hurt herself -- once she fell asleep, she woke up as if it was a new start to the day ... and it was like nothing ever happened and I also pretended it was a new day and a new start."
A brother who has grown: "He chased my sister and I around the house with a butcher knife, he would push my sister on her tricycle down the drive way into the house."
A daughter in the throes of adolesence: "We walk on egg shells because the years of counseling and medications still have not brought her to a place where she can be happy and the mere asking her to take out the trash can set her off."
And there was unanimity in the call for better treatment options:
We brought our son to the hospital when he was 17 and psychotic and the hospital here just asks him to sign a form that says that he agrees not to harm himself or others. Do you really believe a person who is otherwise psychotic cares what the form says? Two days later he was in jail for a burglary.
My brother is autistic and has beaten my mom several times. The doctors all give us 2 options 1. press charges 2. send him to psych ward and medicate him heavily. There has to be something else that can be done!!!
There were some hopeful endings, like the mother who is relieved that her older son, who has had violent episodes since he was 5, is now at a residential facility "where he gets the help he finally needed." But, she added, "we are now trying to get my 14-year-old proper help. It is not easy and very draining."
Mostly, though, the endings, when they came, were filled with pain.
"Until my son stabbed his loving father 52 times in a schizophrenic delusion, no one listened," one mother wrote. "I couldn't get help. My son is in jail now, not a hospital where he belongs."
Said another of her young adult son: "I honestly was so glad when he finally left the state I am in (and left for) another. Of course I paid to get him away. It has been two years, I am able to sleep thru the night. He still frightens me even though he is far away."
Those who criticized Long's piece suggested that she exaggerated for effect, or even made things up to get attention. But those who try to counsel families raising violent children say the tale rings completely true to them. "Hers is the story I hear too often," clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere told the Huffington Post. He added that the power of Long's essay goes beyond the specifics and lies in the permission it gives other parents to speak out.
Many who posted comments said they felt the same way, thanking Long for chiseling away at the stigma of being a parent of such a troubled child. The alternative, they said -- staying silent -- carries the risk that parents will ignore or deny a child's problems, and the possible result of that made itself chillingly clear Friday morning.
"Thankfully no other human life was lost," one mother wrote of the deaths of both her mentally ill sons, one from suicide and one from hard living. "We must do something about the mental illness taking its toll on America."
WATCH: Parents of children with mental illness discuss Liza Long's piece.
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