Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 15, 2013

Forum: In sadness, we turn to other emotions

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — By Christopher Morey

Sadness is, perhaps, the most difficult emotion. Most of us would rather be almost anything than sad.

Confronted with sadness, we often try to turn it into something else; blame, anger - something directed outwards. Something actionable.

As a parent of an autistic child who was violent from the age of 6 until he was almost 17 I feel compelled, reluctantly, to say some things in response to the recent media reports about the Stapletons, and the public reaction to it.

For many years my son was very, very unhappy. On a daily basis he would destroy things, engage in life-threatening behavior or physically attack us. No one was qualified to care for him - and he could never, ever be left alone. No vacations, no breaks; no quiet weekends.

We were encouraged to put him in a home; blamed by condescending psychiatrists for not giving him more drugs; offered the hope of services that in reality did not exist. My wife had to quit working because we so often had to pull him off a school bus, or out of a classroom, and because the stress was taking her down.

Each time he attacked us we felt abject terror. Not for ourselves, but for his future. We were overwhelmed by visions of him, drugged into submission - the light gone from his eyes; rocking; staring.

There are tens of thousands of us, and we are all damaged, and we all love our children and do, in fact, sacrifice our lives for them.

Every day.

Sometimes our minds or bodies cannot keep up.

Our son is no longer violent. As he matured he learned how to work on himself, how to make himself happy. Few of us can appreciate the depth and intensity of his struggle; or the unquestioning, innocent sincerity that drives it.

Autistic people are all different, but to one degree or another they struggle with things we can barely relate to - unfiltered perception, huge gaps between thought and language and understanding; intelligence excruciatingly blocked from full expression.

They are pushed beyond their limits every day by things we have long since learned to tune out or take for granted.

There is less adrenalin in our household now. But there is no less concern.

My son is a completely guileless human being. Where, in this world, will he live when we are no longer able to care for him? Where will the bright gift that he is to this place, be nourished and cared for and allowed expression?

Where will any of these children live when they are grown? And why is there nowhere they can go, even just one or two days a week, and be safe and cared for while their parents have a rest.

About the author: Christopher Morey is a husband and the father of two children. He lives with his wife and son in the Traverse City area.

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