I've heard a lot of explanations for why despite being disordered, there's still something beyond that worthy of moral condemnation. Let me unpack that a little more -- a lot of people will acknowledge that my brain has certain deficits (e.g. empathy, recognition of my own emotional states, etc.), deficits that I never asked to have (i.e. born or acquired/developing by the time I was an infant or toddler). But despite acknowledging that is true, there is something about me that is still morally abhorrent to them. So since they feel that way, they often try to come up with logical reasons to justify that feeling. I've heard a lot of variations on the theme, to list just a few: (1) I still have the power to choose, so I should (or at least could theoretically) just choose to go against all of my hardwiring, 100% of the time, just by sheer strength of willpower (just like gay people can can choose to go against their hardwiring and act straight), (2) everybody has brain problems and we can't allow people a "get out of jail free" card for their brain issues otherwise no one would ever try to surmount their brain problems and society would collapse (although this one doesn't explain why the moral animus, i.e. why I am morally culpable, just that people think I should be economically responsible for the harm/consequences of my actions), (3) I was created evil or am some sort of devil that is inherently morally wrong. But actually the one that bothered me most at the time that I first heard it, perhaps because it was in part used to justify some very bad behavior towards me, was "it's not the things you've done, it's the way you feel about them." To this person, I had not done anything truly objectionable, it was more my lack of guilt about having done them. They said, it's not your disorder that is a problem, it's your attitude about it. I never did reply, it wouldn't have mattered at that point, but internally I yelled -- the disorder is the attitude.
I thought about this again while watching the movie Still Alice, about someone with early onset Alzheimer's. She gives a speech about what her experience of that disorder is that I thought was remarkably like living with anything that is both part of you, and not really -- where the lines of what is you and what is the disorder blur, particularly in the minds of other people:
The poet Elizabeth Bishop once wrote:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master. So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their lost is no disaster.
I am not a poet. I am a person living with early onset Alzheimer’s, and as that person I find myself learning the art of losing every day. Losing my bearings, losing objects, losing sleep, but mostly losing memories.
All my life, I’ve accumulated memories; they’ve become in a way my most precious possessions. The night I met my husband, the first time I held my textbook in my hands, having children, making friends, traveling the world. Everything I accumulated in life, everything I worked so hard for, now all that is being ripped away. As you can imagine, or as you know, this is hell, but it gets worse.
Who can take us seriously when we are so far from who we once were? Our strange behavior and fumbled sentences change other’s perceptions of us and our perceptions of ourselves. We become ridiculous, incapable, comic, but this is not who we are, this is our disease. And like any disease, it has a cause, it has a progression, and it could have a cure.
My greatest wish is that my children, our children, the next generation do not have to face what I am facing. But for the time being, I’m still alive, I know I’m alive. I have people I love dearly, I have things I want to do with my life. I rail against myself for not being able to remember things. But I still have moments in the day of pure happiness and joy. And please do not think that I am suffering, I am not suffering. I am struggling, struggling to be a part of things, to stay connected to who I once was.
So living in the moment I tell myself.
It’s really all I can do. Live in the moment, and not beat myself up too much, and, and not beat myself up too much for mastering the art of losing.
It's an interesting thought -- if something has a "cure" or is "treatable" or at least alterable, does that mean it's never "you"?