by Jon Locke
MOUNT MORRIS, MI – Growing up I always knew I was different, on the inside that is. I knew that my mind did not work or process like everyone else’s. Being born in the seventies there weren’t a lot of diagnoses floating around, but there was plenty of name calling. “Dumb, hyper, bad, worthless, class clown” and countless others that were attached to me growing up in Houston, Texas.
Sadly, most of the names came from adults, teachers, and even “well meaning” church folk. It was difficult knowing that you were different, but not being able to verbalize what that difference was even harder. I was also taller and bigger than most kids too so that was a blessing and a curse. I had to learn to fight from an early age.
I honestly fell through the cracks in the education system. I do not know how big those cracks were, but I fell through them, all of them. To be fair, I did get snagged a few times, but my well-meaning parents somehow would talk my teachers into passing me. This happened on multiple occasions. It wasn’t till high school that I thought my luck had run out. I was being forced to redo some credits, and I had to do them by correspondence. Well, I refused. So, my mom and my older sister who wanted me to have a high school diploma did all the work for me.
There you have it, I did not earn my diploma on my own merit. In fact, it wasn’t till I went off to college at the age of 28 that I learned how to put a sentence together properly. This was only because a professor saw something in me and took the time to help me. Maybe it was pity, because all my other professors thought they were on that tv show “punk’d.” My papers were marked with so much red ink, they were questioning their own admission policies.
Remember I started off with God has a plan. I honestly shouldn’t be alive. In fact, I tried most of my early life not to be alive. In my desire to be “normal”, to be like everyone else, or to even to just have friends, my plan was destruction and death. Looking from the outside in, most would never have known that I was suicidal even from a young age. Who would think that the jovial, class clown, wanted desperately to leave this earth?
To be honest, I still struggle with thoughts. It was after a failed suicide attempt when a borrowed handgun did not fire that I finally surrendered my life to Christ. Not some of my life, but all of it.
So how does a husband, father, grandfather, pastor of a local church struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD and a host of other acronyms? I’m human, I’m a real person, just like everyone else.
It wasn’t until much later in life that I was diagnosed with being on the Autism Spectrum. It is hard for adults to be diagnosed because we learn to cope, we learn to hide our “little secrets.” Sadly, ASD can be genetic and in a roundabout way that’s how I was diagnosed. We have five children and two grandchildren.
Well, our fourteen-year-old son when he was ten had to be hospitalized because of suicidal ideations. He had already been diagnosed with ASD several years earlier, but some of his behaviors he was no longer able to control even with medicines. During the intake at the hospital, we learned that our son was very much like me, or I was like him. The intake nurse asked him if he had ever attempted suicide before and our hearts sunk. His little crying voice said that at eight he tried to hang himself in his closet. Why? He just wanted to be “normal.” Where have I heard this before?
God has a plan, and He has a plan for you. It’s ok to be different, there is no “normal.” So many people are hurting and suffering in silence, but they don’t have to be. We have to take the stigma away from mental illnesses. We have to be able to open up without fear of rejection and shame before it’s too late.
There are people and kids just like me and my son in your families and in your churches, reach out to them, open the lines of communication!
If you, your child or loved one has a diagnosis or diagnoses they aren’t bound by those acronyms. Look at me! Who would have thought that a punk kid who everyone else threw away, who couldn’t even put a sentence together has multiple degrees. I'm a pastor, an author and have a beautiful family who loves me. All because God has a plan!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Locke serves on the staff of North End Baptist Church in Mount Morris. He is the Senior Pastor.