Christmas Prep Part 3: Take Care of Yourself

Some people say I preach to the choir. I say even the choir needs some guidance every once in a while. But truthfully, I am often preaching to myself. The issue at hand? The hectic schedules of Christmas many of us come across. Think about it. In Christian tradition, December is one of the busiest months of the year, if not the very busiest.  

You have parties, caroling, lights, sounds from nowhere, smells, cooking, church services, church potlucks, card send outs, family get-togethers…think about it. It is quite easy to get swept up in the hubbub – and forget to take care of yourself. The meds are a small thing, yet they help keep you stable and able to somewhat enjoy the season. Anyway, self-care is even more essential than ever in this time. I hate to bring it up, but there’s a reason airplane people tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. How can you help someone if you can’t breathe? Take care of yourself. If you need a break, take a break.  

If you don’t celebrate Christmas in this hectic manner, feel free to apply this advice to the month(s) you are busiest. It’s all good advice, applicable to busy times.

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Why Self Diagnosis is Valid to Me


Now, a lot of people in the autistic community are self-diagnosed. In this, they check their symptoms, and realize there is a central theme behind their symptoms.  

What I have noticed among the self-diagnosed is another central theme: a theme of being women and persons of color. It seems that people in these categories are routinely denied their proper autism diagnosis simply because they are not white and/or male. In other words, if you do not look like this: 


Sheldon Cooper, of course. 

Or this: 

*This “Rain Man” Babbitt in meltdown.*

You are simply not autistic. And that is a crying shame.  

This is boiling down to one thing. Prejudice. And that is the reason self-diagnosis is valid to me.

What Kind of Christmas Movie is This?


WARNING: Spoilers for a movie from 1985 

Well, the big news is that Christmas movies are on, but I’m going to focus on one movie that came out in 1985. It’s a small movie, and not getting a lot of good press on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s called One Magic Christmas. The big thing is, this movie deals with a lot of sadness. The central family has fallen on hard times, and the mother does not see what there is to celebrate.  

The trouble with the movie starts on Christmas Eve. There is a bank robbery, and the dad is murdered. Then the robber gets into the car with the two children inside. There is a chase, and the car falls over a bridge into a river, with no survivors.  

At this point, my mother and I are both wondering, “What kind of Christmas movie is this?” Not realizing, of course, that It’s a Wonderful Life deals with the even more un-Christmassy subject of suicide. I think sad things have their place in the Christmas movie. Fortunately, Christmas magic is on hand to save the family, even the dad. (This is where the spoilers end, people. I’m not giving it away for you.)  

Maybe I’m missing the point. I’ve seen Christmas magic do crazy things, even bring people together. I guess shocking content is nothing new. It’s just not given a real chance on most Christmas movies. One Magic Christmas deals with more real-life situations than most of these movies, which deal with fairly rich people. This one deals with the lower middle class.  

And what does the mother in the movie have to celebrate? Lots of things! Maybe that’s the point of the craziness.  

An Open Letter to the Newly Minted Parent of the Autistic Child


Dear Parent of the Autistic Child, 

I know you are somewhat scared for your son. What will he be able to do in his life? Will he need constant care? Will he be able to take care of himself? Is there hope for him? Autism is a big pill to swallow. But there is hope, and there is hope for your child. 

I need to tell you a few things about myself. I am an autistic adult. Which means, I was one of those autistic kids. It’s not that hard a jump to make. I have held down a job for six years. I currently take care of my mother full time, and maintain a small home. I talk like a non-autistic. I even do the cooking at home, too. It’s a little hard for me to make friends, but I would not judge your son by my yardstick.  

I’m not exactly sure if you have a proper yardstick to measure your son’s abilities by. Nobody really knows the potential a person has, even an autistic one.  

I have a few things for you to consider. 

  1. I believe in vaccines. I believe vaccines did not cause your child’s autism. I don’t know where you stand on this issue. Many people do believe this, though, even many celebrities. This fear has caused many outbreaks of once-eradicated diseases. Be careful who you trust. 
  2. Autistic Adults are not morons. Actually, most autistic adults have a perspective that many parents of autistic children do not consider: the perspective of the autistic person themselves. Who better to help a person with a trait or condition that someone with the same trait or condition who has been down the road a bit? There is a reason certain conditions run in families! 
  3. Be Wary of Applied Behavior Analysis claims. Applied Behavior Analysis – ABA – was formulated to make the autistic child “indistinguishable from their peers,” or to make them seem non-autistic again. The truth is, your child is not a potential non-autistic. They were always autistic. They were born that way. I was born that way. Be careful how ABA is taught to your child. He might be taught how to behave in public, but make the boy non-autistic again? Not going to happen.  
  4. Listen to your child. Every bit of behavior is communication. They may experience the world in a completely different way from you, due to sensory processing issues. Almost all autistics have them. If he starts to stim, then consider the surroundings. Is he uncomfortable?  
  5. Do not be afraid of stimming. Stimming is a comfort behavior. As long as he is not hurting himself or anyone else, self-comfort is a good thing. If his stim is harmful, I would suggest getting a small toy or game to stim with. Any autistic adult can have a suggestion that helps.
  6. Delays in growth are not denials. I was older than five when I finally asked my first question. I was delayed in almost everything social and acceptable throughout my childhood and early adulthood. But keep going. Most of us autistic people are verbal by adulthood. Many of us work jobs.  
  7. When he gets a Special Interest, let him study it. It might be something like buses or trains, or airplanes…it might even drive you and yours crazy. But hang in there. He might be going toward his ultimate career choice in the end, and he’ll possibly outdo others in the field. Is his special interest the airplane? He might be a pilot or mechanic. Is it music? A great musician. You never know.
  8. Be Wary of Autism Speaks and Other Cure Crusaders. The  notion of cure in autistic circles is akin to eradication of autistic people themselves. They see autistic people as a big scourge that must be destroyed. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. My email is: cambriaj1977@hotmail.com.  

With Warmest Regards,

Cambria Jenkins

The “Happy Pills” Myth


WHY do people think antidepressants will make you into someone like, I don’t know, Dee Dee from “Dexter’s Laboratory”? It does not make sense to me at all. Do they really think a small chemical reaction can change a personality that much?  

I’ve been taking an antidepressant for years. I can tell you that I am not a prancing unicorn type that smiles weirdly in all the photos, even when it’s inappropriate.  

Here’s a short dossier about me before I had antidepressants: I liked theater, I have a lot of black in my closet, and I like rock and some metal, like Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi. (Just before I was prescribed them the first time, I started losing interest in theater, and I was not getting the cool pleasure out of the music I liked.) Here I am after taking an antidepressant for years: I still like theater, I still wear a lot of black, and I still like rock and metal. So, do you think my personality was changed that much? Come on. I may have a brighter outlook on life, but not all the time. I can still get depressed – though the medicine I take is another weapon to tame that depression.  

I can even draw on other people’s experiences I come across on social media and say, definitively, that those who take their antidepressants properly do not have their personalities changed.  

So, what do antidepressants actually do?  

I’d like to describe depression this way: ever listen to a song played too slow? It sounds just terrible. I have accidentally had the displeasure of hearing this. You might be able to come across this if you have a vinyl record player. Anyway, a depressed brain kind of works like that. Even getting out of bed can be a major achievement under this strain. Basically, an antidepressant helps give the record player “juice” to play the record at normal speed and give you the song you deserve to hear.  

Anyway, I hope this helps to dispel the “Happy Pills” myth. Because antidepressants are not happy pills. Happy pills do not exist.

Christmas Prep, Part 2: Regular Shopping, Plus Christmas Shopping


With the Annual Thanksgiving Throw Out done, my mother declared that we would get smaller stuff next year. Honestly, those “tiny turkeys” the Millennials are so fond of looked very good. I’m going to try getting one of those next year. I think I might look at those “crazy Millennials” again, not that I’m that critical of them in the first place, and see what I can learn.  

But anyway, live and learn…. 

I’m writing this the day before we pay bills and go December shopping. It’s not like we have any more special funds than any other month of the year, so we kind of skimp and see if we can get gifts early. (It’s also hard to hide gifts from a person who usually shops with you, so we just get them early. No wrapping.) Honestly, I don’t like to waste a lot of wrapping paper. If I could wrap my gifts in reusable, giftable bags we could use over and over, I would be happy. I’ve recycled and kept gift bags from Christmas before.  

We just shop for the month, and maybe some Christmas Dinner if we can. Our Christmas Dinner is a little different from the norm. We tend to like having Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding, plus other dishes we like. (It’s still up in the air at this point what we’re having with it. Steamed vegetables? Salad? Potatoes? Rice Pilaf? We iron out the kinks as the month goes by.) Even Bear gets in on the Holidays.  

I know it seems I’m being flippant about autistic people’s challenges, but I’m not. I’m in charge of most holiday cheer at my house, so I can ease into the season, since we’ve got almost an entire month left. There are challenges through the month. For example, did I mention there is a giant Christmas tree blocking the patio door and only window in our living room? We had no other place to put it. Also, I deal with some sensory issues as I come up. Fortunately, there is some progress on the cinnamon broom front. (Those burn my nose, by the way.) It seems the brooms now come wrapped in plastic. Some people might see this as excessive, but I do not.  

Christmas disruption is at a minimum this year, and I think that helps when dealing with it.

(A little note: I don’t want to be in a echo chamber. I would like to hear from other holiday traditions. I know that Hanukkah starts tonight at sunset, for example. Anybody out there Jewish and autistic? I’d like to hear from you, too.) 

Did you hear about the mental health clinic in the Walmart?


Don’t expect a punchline. I think it’s wonderful. 

While I know most people are expecting a punchline to a joke, I think the area in Texas (a rural one) needed a clinic, no matter where it popped up. People in rural areas do not get a lot of mental health care, much less the quality health care many get in the cities. For me personally, therapy is out of reach financially due to copays – and I live in a suburb of Lexington, Kentucky.  

But back to why therapy at Walmart is wonderful. Sure, stigma might make it necessary for a secret entrance, but to have the clinic there where there would be none is a step up. Hopefully, it normalizes mental health care and reduces stigma. That there is stigma to mental health care is the biggest aid that the Walmart location can hopefully provide. Besides, why not learn if there is a reason you’re acting that way (and you know what it is), and get some help for it?  

I tend to question harmful social norms, like mental health stigma. Maybe it’s due to me being me, but I find if something is harmful, it needs to end. I hope Walmart can normalize therapy and getting help. It needs to happen.