Monday, March 26, 2012

No Shame on You

As the dad of a 13 year old autistic boy, this is advice I would give to a younger me.
You feel some shame for your sons condition. Don't. There is no shame in being disabled. This should be obvious but it is not.
I had an interesting discussion about shame with a friend. They talked of feeling shame. They suffered through an illness and now there are things they can no longer do physically. They are now disabled and were ashamed to admit it.
Society has conditioned us to feel shame if we deviate at all from the status quo we see in the media. If you don't look like Megan Fox or George Clooney, you should be a little embarrassed. But if you, God forbid, become disabled through an accident or illness, you should feel shame. Not sadness over loss, but out and out shame.
You're disabled? You should hide.
You should tell no one.
Don't open up to others about what you are going through.
Life is always grand, we never go through any difficult times.
Fake it till you make it.
That is my least favorite one. I understand where it comes from. But if you fake it and then never make it, you're just a faker. Nice advice. Just lie to everyone and most importantly to yourself, forever. Great.
When I look around and see people with giant Cheshire cat grins on their faces, I always wonder: Real or replica, blissful or bitter?
People feel shame in disability when they should not. You should not feel shame for being something you did not chose. It is what it is.
Why do we suffer in pain, silently? Alone. Quieted by the shame. Why do we feel shame at all for suffering from a disability we did not chose?
We don't (and shouldn't) feel shame about your height, bone structure, skin color, or race, things we didn't decide. No one chooses disability.
In that way my son is lucky. He does not have societies baggage to deal with, shame is not something he struggles with. We have no shame in being who we are.
He could run through a Walmart, butt naked screaming and feel no shame. (Being Walmart, no one would even give him a second look, come on people, its Walmart).
Oh to be like my son and be yourself 100% of the time and feel no shame.

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