Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mea Culpa

In his first sermon after his son's suicide, Rick Warren said the following:  

"It's amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there's no shame and stigma to it, but if your brain breaks down, you're supposed to keep it a secret.  Huh?  There's no stigma.  You get diabetes, no problem.  You get heart disease, no problem.  Your lungs don't work, no problem.  Break a bone, break a back, your liver stops working, no stigma, but if your brain doesn't work right, why should you be ashamed of that?"

This statement has stayed with me since I first saw a clip of him saying it.  This has been my life.  It has been my son's life and probably will be for the foreseeable future.  There is a stigma for those of us with mental and/or neurological dysfunction   It all boils down to one simple assumption.  Somehow, this is my fault.  At some level, I am culpable for my condition, and therefore responsible for the behavior that it causes.  Somewhere along the way I chose this path.  I choose to behave and think as I do.  I should be able to "get it together", "do better", etc.  If I can't, I have failed and deserve the stigma I wear.  

Sound harsh?  It is.  Exaggerated?  Unfortunately, no.  

About six or seven years ago we were attending church.  I excused myself for a moment.  When I returned, Nathan was noticeably agitated.  At the time, Nathan had verbal tics and would also mumble to himself under his breath, as many Autistic kids do.  In my absence a man, who we do not know took it upon himself to intervene.  Bear in mind, both of my boys were sitting with their mother.  This "gentleman" found a moment when Amanda wasn't looking, turned around and scolded Nathan.  I returned to find and agitated and quite terrorized 9-year-old.  It was clear, Nathan was afraid.  I was LIVID.  I managed to contain my fury and passed a card I carry to the man.  The card bears the symbol for Autism and explains that my child is Autistic, and that the behavior the reader is witnessing is caused by his condition.  He read the card, passed it to his wife, and then returned it.  When church was over, they stood and left without saying a word.  I was still livid.  A lady behind us actually took it upon herself to defend the man's actions to me and tell me how "appropriately" the man had handled things.  Wonder if she noticed his silence while his wife and daughter carried on a conversation during the closing song and the pastor's closing statement.  

What's my point?  Even after being informed of what he had witnessed, he still felt fully justified in his actions.  Nathan "should have known better'.  We, his parents "should have taught him better".  No quarter given.  Nathan was culpable.  

This is one example from a list of experiences that is tragically long.  I too experience this.  There are those I encounter, some regularly, who would readily label me with a litany of unflattering descriptors.  It makes no difference that they know my diagnosis and its evolving state.  I am culpable and therefore worthy of their disdain, derision, and ultimately their rejection.  

Pastor Warren is right.   Why should I be ashamed of having a "broken brain"?  I have no answer for his query except to say "I don't know, but I am."  Worse yet, I am forced to bear witness to my son's shame for the differences his "broken brain" forces him to exhibit.  

Mea Culpa.


  1. This is why I don't like people very much, and when I do it's something special. You have more patience with people than I do lol. Good read! :D

  2. Were it not for God's grace, I'd have gutted him like a fish. He's brought me a long way.