Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's in a Name?

A name is not merely a word to reference things. A name is an identity, and as much as some would like to believe it "is only a name", it is a definition, a blessing, or a curse. Something to live with or live in spite of. A name can alter one's life drastically.

Change Miss to Mrs, and see the hope in a woman's eyes.
Change Mrs to Miss, and see tears pool as loss and grief spill from the heart.
Change Stranger to Son, and you have the story of salvation. If that doesn't change a life, nothing will.
See a child named Stupid, Ugly, or Unwanted and witness the impact of such names. Change those names to Creative, Beautiful, and Beloved and watch a miracle grow before your very eyes.

A name can be everything.

About a month ago, our family had to deal with the imposing of a name.

My husband and I have been married 17+ years. He is a wonderful man. Most women I know would love to have a husband like him, and I understand why. He is a fabulous dad. He is generous, kind, has a servant's heart. He doesn't go to bars, doesn't drink, doesn't gamble, doesn't do drugs. He is faithful and trustworthy. He truly is wonderful.

He's also confusing.

Despite the wonderfulness of my husband, he has an odd inconsistency about him, and over the years I have sought counsel from multiple church leaders, women's mentors, all kinds of Christian sources. For the most part, I was told it was my fault. I was too demanding. I was too negatively focused. I just refused to see the good thing I have. I just didn't want to follow. I needed to repent of being too headstrong. You get the idea.

My general thought has always been that it is hard to follow someone who walks sort of a messed up drunkard's path. I always felt I was standing on sand that could change at a moment's notice. Not Rob's character, but his thinking, what had his interest, and what was important.

He would assure me he supported something I wanted to do and then seemingly sabotage it by putting in so many other things it became impossible for me to whatever it was. I could go and on, and as most of you read it, you would see each puzzle piece and give it an explanation and dismiss it. I know because it has happened to me for 17 years. However, my friend Debra listened as I explained all the puzzle pieces that had finally grown to the size of Mt. Everest, and she new the real name of the mountain. The real name is Asperger's.

Asperger's is a form of autism. It isn't like most of us think of when we think "autism". Most of us think of children locked in their minds unable to talk, respond, or function alone. Asperger's doesn't fit the classic picture at all, which often makes it hard to identify.

Asperger's is often found in geniuses. It has nothing at all to do with intellectual ability. It does affect emotional and social ability. Imagine someone with an IQ in the genius level who gets "stuck" with the social and emotional maturity of a teenager. Imagine the things that characterize teenagers: the impulsivity, being driven by gratification, the emotional maturity, the short-sighted thinking, only see the details without seeing the big picture--like the consequences (the trees but never seeing the forest), inability to see others' point of view, inability to empathize. Now, imagine adults capable of doing adult things, having adult lives, but still think and respond as teenagers. Now, think about being married to one of them.

While it is true that having a name for our insanity is helpful. It says that under the circumstances, we are normal. It also means we are doing really well. 80% of Aspie marriages end in divorce (thus, we are thankful for the 20%). It means nothing I could have done in the last 17+ years would have helped Rob respond differently. It took a lot of guilt and responsibility off me and hopefully him.

It also means Rob isn't simply being insensitive and will one day get a clue. It means all the things he has done for 17 years that has broken my heart he will most likely continue to do because he still won't know better. Try that realization on from the side of a man who wants to be a great husband and from the side of a woman who simply hoped for another adult to help carry the load and be her support. There are no words for the sense of grief that washes over you at that moment.

It's just a name. Nothing has changed. And yet, everything is different.

There is no cure, and if you read most articles about Asperger's, it'll leave you horribly depressed and hopeless because it points out that there is nothing you can do. Thankfully, we are not ones to care about what we can and cannot do. Instead, we care about what God can do and what He wants to do in and through us.

We believe He can accomplish His plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future, plans to do us good and not harm.
We believe He can be glorified in our hearts and our marriage.
We believe He can give us strategies to not just survive but to flourish.
We believe Asperger's was defeated on the cross, and we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.
We believe He can use us to show others that Asperger's is not a death sentence but just another mountain that offers a great view from the top.

Yes, a name changes things. Sometimes the changes seem bigger than us, but no matter what name gets thrown at us, we are sure that the name of Jesus never changes, and that is what changes everything.

6 comments:

Thankful Paul said...

Hello

Debra said...

Oh my there are tears in my eyes as I read this and AMEN and yay verily verily! The name is God and He erases all other names and you guys stand victorious and I will put on my dancing shoes and we will throw a victory party at Jesus feet where the demons (named asperger's and MS) lie dead at His feet. :)

Love you, Debra

Jan Parrish said...

Jerri - you are such an inspiration. Praise God you now have hope and name for what you are battling.

Thank you for sharing this so we know how to pray.

Are there any support groups in your area?

You are an amazing woman and I know God will use you and your family in the coming days.

Jerri Phillips said...

Debra, yeah, baby.

Jan, thank you so much. You ask a good question. So far, I have found support groups for parents of AS children. However, there are only two I can find in the Metroplex. There are none for Aspies or their spouses or families from what I can find out. A few psychiatrists/psychologists are "familiar" with it. A friend of mine in my writer's group directed me to www.aspergerssyndrome.org where there is a lot of information.

The other thing I have found is the Lord is arranging a support group that I never expected. My writers group has been amazing in their grace and support. I've talked openly with a few of my friends, and they are supportive, understanding, and encouraging. I think the part that has been most helpful is just being open about it and being able to say, "I know we had plans, but either schedules changed without my knowledge or it has been a day that has left me exhausted mentally or emotionally and I need to rearrange or cancel," has been incredibly freeing. There is a tremendous weight removed by not trying to hold everything together or keep a certain sense of decorum. Some days are just tiring, and that's okay.

Some moments are hard. Debra called earlier, and I didn't reply with my normal pep, and she was right on it. I just explained that Rob had a bad communication moment, and the children and I were having to alter plans based on the new information. And, in there is Rob's frustration and being sure he communicated everything. Blah Blah Blah. It is still aggravating, but one of the things the Lord is teaching me is a huge strategy with this is simply learning to cope with the frustration, both his and mine. The enemy wants to take the frustration and create chasms. God wants to take the frustration and create a team. I have to stay focused on the second part.

tonya said...

I will be praying for you and your family, Jerri. Your post touched a deep place in my heart. Hugs from me. :) Happy New Year!

Paula said...

You are in my heart and prayers. Believing with you that God has a hope and a future for you and your husband.

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