There are people in various places in my life with mental illnesses. There are a also couple of people I love with autistic children, some with ADHD, some others with various developmental delays. So it was with keen interest that I read the following article. Then, only a day later, I read this. A quick google search led me here. Both articles assert the same basic premise – I have a mental illness/autistic tendency, but I choose to embrace it as a cultural construct rather than cure it.
The argument runs similar to one in the deaf community, which states that deafness is part of a cultural identity rather than a condition to be treated.
I really don’t know how I feel about this.
I watch a close friend of mine with her autistic son who is now an adult, but will forever be in their care. I think of an old High School friend who ultimately killed himself because of the schizophrenia that plagued his mind. Serious mental illness is often a catalyst for violence, homelessness, isolation, and tremendous suffering. I have watched marriages collapse under the weight. I ache with sadness to see friends and loved ones suffer through some of these issues.
But I understand the desire to not medicate one’s life. I listen to a member of my extended family tell me how anti-depressants cloud her away from life. I watch the way some powerful medicines change the people I love, and not always in good ways.
I cannot deny that part of me doesn’t understand this issue. But I do understand some aspects of it. The Lord didn’t intend for us all to be identical to each other – did that mean that the range of normative would include manic behavior? autistic behavior? And perhaps normal isn’t even the right word here. There really isn’t any normal. Every one of us is so varied, there really can’t be a standard of physicality applied universally.
I’ve got a life-altering, incurable disease. I’ve been trying to several days to understand this issue through my own personal lens. I cannot imagine, under any circumstances I try on, that I would embrace this disease as a cultural identifier and choose not to treat it.
I certainly don’t wish to begrudge anyone the choice to live their life as they best choose. But so many of the issues being discussed here do not merely affect the individual – they affect families and relationships across wide swaths. This is a difficult one for me. I’ve been vacillating for days.