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MENTAL PROBLEM



I remember being told, many times in the orphanage, that there was something mentally wrong with me.

Every time that I would get into trouble for climbing up a tree, or digging a hole in the ground to make an army fort, the same words came from "Mother Winter", the head matron's mouth.

"Roger Dean, you have a severe mental problem. Why can't you mind and do what you are told?" she would say.

Personally I did not feel that I had a mental problem. It did not appear to me that I was doing anything different than were the other kids. It was just that I was the one getting caught all the time.

I remember sneaking over to the girls dormitory one night and talking taking one of their bicycles. I rode it several times around the rock circle, in the center of the orphanage, before getting caught. We boys did not have any bikes to ride. There was just something inside of me that wanted me to learn how to ride a bicycle. It was a very strong force that always seemed to over-ride my fear of getting caught or getting into trouble. Nevertheless, it was always the same thing; period "Roger Dean, you have a mental problem and you are a real mental case."

Every time I heard those words I would wonder what it was that she was talking about. Did she mean that my little brain was deformed? Did she mean that because I would not mind or follow her instructions, that there was something wrong inside my brain?

“How do I not be a "mental case any more?"” I would ask myself. No matter what I did I could not figure it out.

As I look back I can see where I might have had a "mental problem." As my life continued, I still got into some sort of trouble, one way or the other, no matter what age I was. That seemed to follow me up until I was sent away to prison for buying a six pack of beer at a teenage party. I walked out of prison on February 6th, 1969. That was the first time in my entire life that I had ever felt "free". Since my release, I have never gotten into trouble again. That has been almost thirty-eight years now.

Did I finally grow up? Did I finally come to the realization that I could really be free to think and do for myself? I wonder what changed to make my "mental problem" go away? Or did it?



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