By Pamela Weintraub
At 7 years old, Paul Michael Nelson was the kind of quiet, brilliant kid you were likely to find in Silicon Valley — captivated by Legos, self-taught in origami, loving and sweet. But on March 2, 2009, he woke up in the middle of the night, monstrously changed. He tore up the flooring in his bedroom. He got hold of a knife and stabbed holes through his door. He began speaking a strange language no one could understand. He tried pulling his teeth out. He barked like a dog.
His parents hustled their son to the psychiatrist, leading to an alphabet soup of diagnoses: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), bipolar disorder, autism and, ultimately, straight-up psychosis. Yet no matter what medications Paul Michael tried, treatment failed. He leaped from moving cars. He broke the windows in his room, causing the family to install Plexiglas. For the Nelsons, 2009 included 15 trips to the emergency room, two months in and out of psych wards and calls to the sheriff to remove a violent, raging Paul Michael from the home.