This post might be a little different than my usual output. Probably not too different, you might think – after all, it is the same guy behind the keys and the screen that has been writing almost all the other material here – but I am a poor judge sometimes of how what I write may affect another person’s thoughts or feelings. I’ll always do my best to try and avoid any land mines in the lives of others, but that is the problem with buried things; one false move and the damage is done.
I’ve noted in this space before that I live with mental illness. Please note a few key things about that statement. I did not say that I suffer from it, as that might imply a great deal more pain or discomfort than what I usually experience. I simply said that I live with it; I get up with it, go about my day with it always present, and go to sleep with it. I do my best not to inflict pain on others because of my short circuits. I did not choose to be mentally ill any more than I consciously chose to become an addict. How I came to have it is really not a question I need to spend a great deal of time on these days. Whether due to a faulty genetic make-up, damage caused by taking excessive amounts of psychoactive drugs, growing up in a combat zone of parental alcoholism and parental mental illness, or some combination of all of these and something yet unnamed – the mechanics of how I got here might be of interest to a small subset of professionals, but so long as I bump along in this world without drawing attention to myself, you would never know there was anything seriously wrong with me.
I’m quite thankful for that most of the time, frankly. I don’t want to draw attention to myself unless it is as a writer or as a musician, and in both cases I’d be happier if the giver of the gift was acknowledged first. Were you to meet me at church, or on the street, unless someone who already knew me and of my condition were to tell you, you would have to be a keen student of human behavior to see me as anything other than another face in the crowd. I don’t advertise or walk about with a placard saying “Damaged Goods – Beware.” It shows up in small ways no matter what; the odd speech patterns now and again, the difficulty in some settings of making or maintaining eye contact, or the odd look at things or people, as if I’ve lost my place and am doing my best to quickly regain it. The unexplainable sadness that appears at odd – to someone else’s way of thinking – times that people would like to ascribe to oversensitivity.
Some of the quirks of how my mind works are beneficial. An example would be the high intake of reading that shows up as the links of the Saturday Shortcuts. Chris Peek of TrailReflections and I carried on a conversation in the comments about it after the last edition came out, and I do wish I could give a better answer than to say I’m afraid the effect is localized. I read fast, scanning for meaning as well as tone – and the behavior itself appears to me as a learned skill, a coping mechanism developed in the years when what we now diagnose as Attention Deficit Disorder was treated as daydreaming. I needed a way of processing a lot of information just to be able to get through school. It earned me the nickname “Library of Congress” so it can’t all be bad – but it puts me at the high functioning end of what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorders. I don’t think I can teach that, Chris – I live it.
I don’t enjoy standing mute witness to how people with mental disease or defect are treated by those who are supposedly the normal, healthy ones in our society. I especially don’t care to hear it – or see it – from those whom I would otherwise know as brothers or sisters in Christ. I want to put this out here:
The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to be repented of, but to be cured. And by the way, that is very important. Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats forces himself to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is quite possible that in God’s eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown in winning the V.C. When a man who has been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God’s eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend.
It is as well to put this the other way round. Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity Book 3 – Morality and Psychoanalysis
Things are not always what they seem. Try to bear in mind that people are not always who or what they seem, either. Sometimes what appears as rude is a short-circuit. What makes the difference for me is Christ, and the knowledge that normal is a setting on a dryer, or a city in Illinois that United doesn’t fly to.
ADDENDUM: I published this originally at 1:14 AM CDT on September 17th, little knowing that LifeWay had published this article. They have not published my comment – which was not controversial, but did disagree – and have chosen instead to publish a single comment and all the pingbacks.
Image credit: The Guardian
-  I have multiple diagnoses, and find it simpler to use the generic term for most general audience discussions. Chief among those is depression, though there are several other disorders present as well. ↩
-  For the newcomers here, I read a lot of blog posts and news articles during the week, quite a bit more than what actually makes it into the list of links I publish. Only those from writers that consistently move me or make me think differently about God make the list. ↩