Nov 25, 2013

Sunlight Under Stones: Not All Families Are "Neurotypical"

I'm going to break a rule here. Several rules, really. If you come from a similar sort of background, you'll perhaps be all too familiar with these rules. You see, I believe in sunlight under stones. I think that some secrets drain us too deeply if kept indefinitely. Sometimes we must give ourselves permission to be bold, to speak our own truths. Rotten things--mold, mildew, and decay--thrive where there is no sun. Light kills the rot.

My truth is that I come from a non-neurotypical family. One parent has had severe paranoid schizophrenia all of my life. This got progressively worse as I got older, but the schizophrenia was always there. The other parent does not always interact in "normal" ways either, but is intelligent, loyal, and gentle. I suspect Asperger's, but nothing has ever been diagnosed; indeed, I myself can empathize with some "Aspie" traits, but the controversy over the DSM-5 aside, I likewise have not been diagnosed with it. 

During this time of year, when our thoughts turn to family, I say let us be honest. Let us at least be honest with ourselves, for honesty really is the only way through. I'm happy with my life, but I did not get to to this place by pretending that I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting. One way or another, sunlight must be allowed under the stones. Your story must be permitted its voice. While silence is utterly moving and transcendent in some contexts, it is the vilest poison in others. We all need a chance to be heard. We all need a chance to be able to speak our truth.

I know first-hand that stigmas against the mentally ill can be projected onto the children of the mentally ill. A stigma might be hidden under a veil of politeness: good people don't talk about that, and so forth. Telling the truth can be a risk. I have also seen the other side of taking that risk. Even in the simplest interactions, I've seen people lift their heads with relief because they are talking to another person who gets it. A tension drains from their shoulders. Voices lose a defensive edge.
Many of us have one secret or another. You are not alone. Perhaps it is time to tip over the stone. Perhaps it is time to let the sunlight in.

[If you come from a non-neurotypical family, awareness of the multi-generational phenomena of Childhood Emotional Neglect may prove helpful, especially if you've already addressed some of the more obvious "surface" effects and find yourself struggling.]


  1. I'm glad you are talking about this. So many people hide it away, my family included. I can't help but think if we talked about mental illness the same way we talk about, say, diabetes, then maybe as a culture we might be able to deal with it better. I'm not sure what better would be - it is such a complicated problem - but anything is better than silence. Sunlight under the stones indeed.


    1. Yes, indeed, there is unfortunately still a "culture of shame" surrounding this and related subjects, one which places an horrendous burden on individuals and families. Thank you very much for your kind comment and thoughts.