Soon Your Odd Behavior Will Become a Disability

There is a reason I have insisted that all my children go to college and pursue education to the highest level they are able to pursue. Actually, there is more than one reason.

Obviously, finances have something to do with it. Over a lifetime a person with a college education will make an average of a million dollars more than one who didn’t finish college. But money is not the only reason. There is also the realization that in our societies, for good or for worse, it is the people with the diplomas on their walls that often make decisions that affect our lives. And I want my children to at least be part of that conversation.

I often offer my children my life as an example. I just started a new job as a lead pastor at a church in Pennsylvania. This is something I have been looking for my entire life and it would have not been possible to get if I didn’t pursue higher education. I tell my kids that if I was able to get where I did, anybody can.

Consider this: I was born on a tiny island on the Amazon, destined to a life without. People who come from the part of the world I come from don’t normally get a chance to even walk through the halls of learning. My father never studied beyond 5th grade and my mother only finished High School.

On top of that, my dad was a fisherman and we were destitute. No one cared about us and the few families who lived along the stretch of river we lived on were dying from perfectly curable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea. I nearly escaped death on more than one occasion and the reason my family (or at least several family members) didn’t perish is because a missionary by the name of Bill Burk not only introduced my dad to Christ but also delivered to my mom, religiously, every month, the “magic pills” that kept us alive — vitamins and parasite medicine.

I was introduced to books when we moved into the city. There was an older man on our street, an Italian immigrant, who every adult warned us to stay away from his house. He was called a “communist” by so many people it made me want to look up the meaning of that word. Instead, I started peeking into this man’s house and soon discovered that the rooms were lined with books from wall to wall.

I never ventured inside, but I admired that man. No matter what the neighbors said about him, he always had his books. And I yearned to discovered the world he inhabited… only a book away from paradise. This man, without knowing, gave me an insatiable desire to read everything I could lay my hands on, which was not very much.

And this brings me back to this whole idea of intellectuals making decisions that affect our lives. This week I read that Psychiatrists, for the first time in 20 years, decided to change the guidebook they use to promote mental disorders. The book is not out yet, but some of the changes have leaked. Among them, dropping certain familiar terms, such as Asperger’s disorder and dyslexia, and the most interesting of all, calling frequent temper tantrums a mental illness or  ‘disruptive mood dysregulation disorder,’ the proposed name for the new disease. Now, when you read the next paragraph, please bear in mind that there are people who agree with this change. They say it will address concerns about too many kids being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with powerful psychiatric drugs. I am not so convinced myself. I mean, if kids are being drugged up by some medical professionals, how will it be any different if the nomenclature is changed? Couldn’t it also mean that they will be prescribed more medicine now?

Since insurance companies take their cues from this hollowed book, they will probably expand their coverage to include treatment for kids who suffer from this disorder. Parents will be frowned upon for disciplining their children when they decide to bang their heads against the floor and scream in the grocery store because mommy didn’t get their favorite candy. Schools might be required to hire specialist who will give one-on-one attention to tantrum prone kids and administrators will have to put up with all sorts of odd behavior during meetings and if they say something, they just might hear people say, “I couldn’t help but throw the stapler at her. I am DMDD. It’s a disability. I can replace the stapler but could I be excused from work for the next three days so I can see my therapist and try to get this under control?”

And that is why I want my kids to go and get their PhD’s. Perhaps one day they will be in a position to save us from so much insanity.

Ivanildo C. Trindade