Issy Stapleton and the Public Narrative

Issy Stapleton is still alive.  Issy Stapleton is still alive.  Issy Stapleton is still alive.

I get the distinct feeling that this point is lost to some.  Issy Stapleton is out there, physically recovering from the trauma of almost dying.  For those who don’t know, Kelli Stapleton attempted to kill her daughter and herself.  Her daughter is autistic.  There are many, many theories going around about what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it.  I’m not writing to weigh in on that.

I’m upset, because at some point, Issy Stapleton will get out of the hospital.  She’ll have to pick up the pieces of her life.  So will her family.  What the special needs community does with her story will affect her for the rest of her life.

I don’t have an autistic child.  I don’t know the Stapleton family.  I don’t know Kelli Stapleton.  I don’t know what went into that terrible decision.  I’ll never know.  It isn’t my place to know.

No one can know what happened to that family, except for that family.  The public can create some sort of theory about autism, safety nets, services, caregiver stress, but none of that is fact.  It is all conjecture, and I refuse to delude myself into thinking that I know anything about what happened.

do know that everyone has demons.  There are things I struggle with that I hide from my closest friends, my family, even my husband.  Most importantly, there are things I struggle with that I hide from myself.  Usually, when I am struggling or in conflict, the source of my trouble is not the thing directly in question.  It is about these secret demons that I harbor.  The ones I won’t admit to, the ones that have nothing to do with anyone but me.  No one will ever know the totality of what really created Kelli Stapleton’s murder/suicide attempt.  It is possible that Kelli Stapleton may not even know why she did what she did.

This story is being told as a “special needs” story, and I am not even sure if that is fair.  How could we know that?  Even if Kelli Stapleton one day says it was because of her daughter’s autism or lack of services, it can’t be that cut and dry.  No one but that family can ever know what this story is really about, and I doubt the public will ever understand.

In the meantime, this girl’s narrative is temporarily being written by others.  This is a sampling of what perturbs me:

We need a safety net.  
Autism is hard.  
Her mother fell off the special needs parent pedestal.
Kelli Stapleton is a c*nt, a b*tch, a failed mother.
The system failed them both.

How will Issy Stapleton square all of this in her mind?

Are these the answers to why her mother tried to kill her?  If Issy Stapleton makes it out of that hospital, is she to believe that there is something about her, and her disability, that drove her mother to murder?  Or that her mother simply couldn’t bear for her to live without being granted services? Was her mother simply not “special” enough? I doubt any one of these is true in its reality.

Issy Stapleton is still alive.  She’s not a character in some play that the rest of us get to pick apart and analyze.  She is alive.

Issy Stapleton, you count.  There is nothing wrong with you.  Don’t let anyone write your story without you. You count.


9 Comments on “Issy Stapleton and the Public Narrative”

  1. modernmessy says:

    I have been thinking and reading about this story so much and yet cannot come up with anything coherent in either my head or on paper to say about it because it just gnaws at me from so many directions. You have managed to write about it with grace and clarity. Thank you.

    • jisun says:

      I’ve been chewing it over every since I heard about the case. Had a good cry, because it all seems so awful. I think sometimes the hardest, but best thing we can do is say, “I don’t know”. I imagine what it will be like if Issy Stapleton ever reads the commentary that is being written about her, even the ones trying to defend her over her mother, and all seem potentially damaging, because they’re other people’s narratives. I hope she is given a chance to create her own. She’ll have to live with it forever, after all.

  2. debeecole says:

    Thank you for writing this. This whole thing and the way others have been acting has upset me. We need to think about Issy instead of theorizing and looking for a scapegoat.

    • jisun says:

      Hi Madalyn, I think perhaps I didn’t communicate my feelings clearly enough because I’m not sure you have understood my meaning. You see, I don’t want to decide for myself. I think that is something that the Stapleton family can and should decide. Kelli has obviously done something terribly wrong, and I think she should be tried and prevented from hurting anyone again, but I am deeply concerned when I read so many voices jumping to the conclusions. Maybe Kelli Stapleton would have “cracked” whether she had a child with autism or not. No one can know, and for people on the outside to create the narratives that I see going around, I see only potential for damaging Issy Stapleton. She may recover and look forward to a long life, it hurts my heart that she may forever be “Issy Stapleton”.

      Thank you for the link. Please know that it isn’t that I don’t think the issues brought up by the community aren’t real. I’m just not sure how people on the outside can judge how much those issues came to play in Kelli Stapleton’s decision.

  3. Jenny says:

    The whole thing is just so incredibly heartbreaking. The thing I think about most is how that little girl feels. Does she know her Mom tried to take her life? Has she ever seen or read her Mom’s blog? That to me is sad…How does that girl feel about her worth now? And how does this family move forward?

    • jisun says:

      Me too, me too. I don’t know what kind of recovery she’s going to have but I hate that she will wake up to her story already being told. I wonder about the same questions but keep coming back to the conclusion that I can’t know the answers; I’m not them. It’s so incredibly sad. :(

  4. […] Issy Stapleton and the Public Narrative (kimchilatkes.com) […]


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