I don’t normally blog about news events, but I feel compelled to state the grief I feel over Michael Jackson’s death. Namely because he was “different” from the cultural norms, and treated negatively as a result. This issue is a complicated one, and I don’t deny that he made serious mistakes at times. Still, the pain of being markedly different lasts throughout one’s life, particularly if one has the social awareness level to know about, but not be able to change these qualities. They make us ourselves, but not always in ways that are culturally approved. I think that’s one reason so many people identify with his music–the agony it exposes, in part because of how challenging it is to be “different.” To be treated differently. And the relationship this has to self-destruction, or at the very least, self-destructive feelings.
Before I was diagnosed, I was seriously depressed. Even now, with the support of an excellent therapist I’ve known for years and knowledge of NLD and my medical condition, depressed feelings crop up and sting me in stressful times. Lately when I get upset, I have the wish to say out loud: “I understand why some people with NLD cut themselves.” I’m not saying it’s productive to self-destruct, but it makes me wonder where those negative thoughts go, and how we can make them into positive experiences (i.e., by learning from mistakes) before self-destructive behavior happens. And to what extent rebuilding oneself following a trauma or crisis extracts energy from us.
Our society’s general intolerance for difference is mega-disturbing. Even as I take joy in listening to my favorite Michael Jackson songs, I can’t help realizing the pain he experienced, probably because some of it comes from a similar source as pain I’ve had. Not from the same situations–I have the luxury of an anonymous life–but I too struggle against persistent social intolerance. In my case it’s because my social mannerisms do not conform. I seem “different” wherever I go, and people notice. For this reason, I get put on the spot, and it’s not always in my best interest to explain. In some instances, I’ve only trusted animals, despite longing for human relationships. I hope, but do not expect that, society will learn from this horrible death. Difference has so much dignity, if we just think in objective, open-minded ways. Everyone deserves respectful treatment. It’s a human-rights value, but much too rarely enforced. I hope that advocating for NLD, and bridging it to other forms of social differences, helps change this, but I believe it will take time.