The oddball

He heard colors.

He saw voices.

People told him he’d gotten it wrong when he said it like this, but he knew better. It took so much effort to tell anybody the truth of what he experienced that it didn’t matter if he told the whole truth, so help him, God.

God was the only one who could help him now, anyway.

The people recoiled when he told them about the voices. What little they knew about mental health warily shuffled to the fore at the word. Everyone knew that test, said quickly, almost as an aside, an afterthought.

“Do you hear voices”, as if that made sense.

“Of course I hear voices”, he wanted to scream. “How do you think I can hear you now? How does anybody hear voices? Don’t we all?”

But they never said the rest. It was assumed, unspoken, perhaps out of fear of raising the spirits. What they meant was “Do you hear voices of people who aren’t here?”

Ghosts perhaps.

Or demons.

They didn’t care. All they knew was it was bad.

But they conveniently forgot about the prophets, the real ones. They heard voices too. Well, to be precise they heard a Voice, the Voice. The prophets were respected. Sometimes ostracized, but respected.

He didn’t want to admit it wasn’t one, though. There were hundreds. He listened to audiobooks to drown them out. Sometimes the voices joined in. Sometimes he couldn’t tell which characters were real, but he didn’t let on about this. It was best not to alarm people more than they already were.

He was an oddball. Everybody knew. There was no denying he stuck out, and yet he was invisible too. He was so unusual in his manner and looks that everybody walked around him, not engaging him, in case he was wild, or dangerous, or both.

They didn’t know why he felt so odd to them. It was the kind of oddness that you didn’t even notice, like bad feng shui, or the house that is always abandoned, or the business that always fails on that one particular corner.

He was like that, ill-fated, no blame to it, but there you go. It doesn’t matter whether there is blame or not to a car accident, either. The damage is the same.

They didn’t realize that their abandonment only worsened the symptoms, only made him sicker and stranger. It was a snake eating its own tail. It was a feedback loop producing only more and more noise.

Perhaps this was why psychiatrists used to be called “alienists” not very long ago. That sense of otherness, of being alone and lonely, of not fitting in, reinforced over the years by unthinking others, made him feel like he was an alien from another country, or planet. Never welcomed, never included, never brought in from the cold to warm by the fire, he drifted, cold, heartless and loveless.

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An unclean spirit’s return

“When an unclean spirit is cast out of a person, it wanders through waterless places looking for a place to rest. When it doesn’t find anywhere to rest, it says to itself ‘I will return to the house that I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and gathers up seven other spirits who are more evil than it is, and they enter and make themselves at home in the man. The result is that the man is now worse off than he was before. This is how it will be for this evil generation.”

MT 12:43-45, LK 11:24-26

Poem- What is Your name?

What is Your name?
Not the name of Your disease
not the name others have called You.

Your name that is
Special and star-like
Blessed and beautiful,
Your name
for You alone?

It might have been a long time
since You have heard it.
It might have been never.

The names others have given You
might not be true
might not fit
in the same way that
hand me down clothes
Don’t.

In the same way that
sometimes You have to
make Your own clothes
stitch
by
stitch
to have something
that fits
sometimes You have to
Discover
Uncover
Recover
Your name.

You might not be the name
You were given at birth.

You might not be
mother, brother,
day labor, CEO,
friend, failure
gambler, penny pincher
mentally ill, stable
ex con, confidante.

The names that stick to You
(or are stuck on You)
out of relationship
or habit
or job
or history
or health
might be a part of Your name
or Your name might be
Entirely apart
from them.

What is Your name
Your true name
deep inside Your heart
small and bright and solid
And beautiful?
Immovable
Unchanging
Eternal
like the stars
like the sea.

The vastness of forever is inside you.

Find Your name
And You find Yourself
again
or for
the first time.

Disorder or description?

How much of Asperger’s is a disease and how much is a description of behavior? How about we turn it around, and say that all people who are rigid about rules and have a hard time changing have Asperger’s, rather than all people who have Asperger’s are rigid about rules and have a hard time changing.

It is like a personality disorder. All people who act in this certain way have X disorder, but really it isn’t a disorder. It isn’t a disease that has a medical cause. It is a maladaption or a lack of training.

What if we said all people who spend their free time watching game shows have a disorder? Or all people who have to buy the latest fashions even though they can’t afford them have a disorder? Or those who cheat on their wives or taxes have a disorder, or those who steal office supplies or drive 20 miles over the speed limit have a disorder?

Saying it is a disorder takes people off the hook. It means they are not responsible. It is something that happened to them. They are passive agents. Like the flu or chickenpox, it is a disease that they suffer with rather than a personality trait they can (and should) change. It might require a lot of therapy and several years, but it can be done.

What if the cause of Asperger’s is the cure? They had too little changes in their lives. They were allowed to insist on a rigid and predictable life. All sandwiches were peanut butter and strawberry jelly with no crust, cut diagonally. All toys had to be blue. All clothes had to be cotton. These things had to be done or else the child would have a tantrum to end all tantrums. And rather than insist the child grow and adapt, the parent gave in and the child grew up stunted like a bad bonsai tree. Then he entered the real world where nobody else was willing to accommodate him.

Torn. Thoughts on #Yesallwomen

I’m really torn about the #Yesallwomen tag. It is starting to sound like an airing of grievances. I have my own list, trust me. I thought about posting it. But how will this heal us? Men and women are both feeling alienated and misunderstood and threatened. What can we do to teach boundaries and compassion and respect? How do we build a bridge? What can we as a community, as a culture, do to stop the psychic pain that causes these outbursts of random violence?

This isn’t about gun control.

It would be stupid to think that banning guns will do any good. The cat is already out of the bag. If we ban guns, then only the “bad guys” will have guns. That isn’t safer. That is actually more dangerous. I’m not saying everybody needs to have a gun either. I’m saying that it is too late to even talk about gun control. In the last two examples of mass murder a knife was used. It isn’t about guns. It is about violence. What pushes someone to the point that they kill?

We need people control. We need self respect, and respect for others. We need for everybody to learn how to establish and enforce and respect boundaries in themselves and in others.

This isn’t about mental illness either.

Involuntarily committing people just because they are odd or different is a very dangerous idea. There are reasons why people have to present a clear example of being a danger to themselves or others before they are involuntarily committed. It is to prevent someone being essentially imprisoned without cause.

If we committed every person who was different, fully half the population would be in a mental institution. Who would get to decide what is “normal”? Who would be in charge? If you vote differently, don’t make enough money, go to the “wrong” church or no church at all – you are different. In you go. Sure, the idea of committing all the “crazy” people seems like a good idea, until you are the “crazy” one, according to someone else’s standards. You haven’t done anything wrong, but they think you might.

See how this sounds?

Speaking from the perspective as someone who has voluntarily committed herself twice, mental hospitals aren’t a great idea. A mental institution is not a place to learn how to be healthy. It is not a place where you are taught good coping skills and how to deal with the “real world.”

It is more like a holding cell. It is a place where you get medicated to the point of being a zombie. Of course people stop taking their medications when they get out. They don’t see the point of them. They make them feel terrible. The medications often make it harder to be a human being, not easier.

It would be better if mental hospitals taught people how to prepare healthy food for themselves, how to choose an exercise routine they can stick with, and how to interact with other people in a healthy way. If you can’t handle life before, you certainly can’t handle it when you are on drugs that make your thinking processes fuzzy. It is better to teach people how to be people first.

We need to rethink everything.

We have failed our boys. We have failed our girls. We have failed as a culture. These no longer random acts of violence have taught us this.

How do we change? What can we do to heal this rift?