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.

Christmas Holiday Prep Part 1: The Decorations


Strangely, there is a lot of stress at the beginning of our family Christmas holidays, and at the end. My first stress is simply this: putting up decorations. The decorations, I’m sorry, are very disruptive in my house.  

Here is what I do:

  1. I put a tree in every room. I move our television to another table to make room for the main nativity.
  2. I decorate the table and chandelier above it, as well as the walls.
  3. I take down the fall towels in the bathroom and put up the Christmas towels.
  4. I clear off my dresser and put a bunch of stuff in different places for its little nativity set.
  5. And for the cherry on top, I put a giant Christmas tree right in front of the patio door, blocking my only view of the outside I consider safe to see out of. (There is a giant bush blocking the view outside my bedroom window, by the way.) Besides, the tree has nowhere else to go.  

Anyway, Christmas usually has the most decorations in my house. I am still decorating the main tree at this point, tweaking and filling bare spots and such.  

Strangely enough, the decorating gives me a sense of stability – that it’s time to prepare for Christmas. I can understand, though, how the décor is majorly disruptive for so many of us autistic people out there. They get in your way if you let them (and many don’t have a choice in the matter!). It’s like those majorly strong cinnamon brooms that used to get in the way of my nose about this time every year. This year, though, the cinnamon brooms were encased in plastic, and I barely smelled them. That’s progress.  

If it needs to be, do small Christmas decorations. Not everybody needs to have a Christmas tree which blocks the patio door. A little tree in the apartment on top of the table can be good enough. Don’t worry, dear autistic adult: do your holidays your way.  

I’ve also got a few tips for the parent or caretaker of the autistic person who needs more support than I do, along with personal experience. 

  1. Involve the autistic person in the decorating decisions. Again, since I’m coming from Christmas, it behooves them to involve how all the distracting stuff falls into place and helps get them ready for the holidays you celebrate. Believe me – getting the decorations out early helps them ease into the holiday.
  2. Rehearse/teach them how to receive various presents. Toys they can handle. What you might want to rehearse is how to receive socks, clothes and the stuff you’re not sure they know what it is. Teach them to simply say, “Thank you for the gift. It is lovely.” On a personal note, I received a wooden oven rack pull, and somebody had to explain and actually show to me what it was. Awkward! But I use that rack pull all the time.
  3. We NEED escape options. I end up going to the restroom frequently for this – but I think I need to explain to my hosts how this works. I don’t want to hog the bathroom all the time. It’s usually boring in there! I’m going to see if this year I can make a quiet space for myself and a fellow autistic relative of mine, if we go this year.
  4. Favorite foods and meals are good – remember, stability is key. In a potluck situation, this is easy to do. Sure, some autistic people can try a lot of foods, but bring the person’s favorites to maintain stability. Go ahead and bring the chicken nuggets, or whatever they need.
  5. LET THEM STIM. Stimming is a comforting motion which expends excess energy from emotion or stress. Leave them to it. 

I’ll give a few more tips as I think of them for a lower-stress holiday. They sometimes come slowly for me.

Report: A Successful Autistic Thanksgiving


Well, the Thanksgiving was a success. I almost had a meltdown over the anxiety while walking the dog, but that was over once I got the turkey in the oven. 

Of course, there was a period of relaxation while the turkey was roasting. The rest of the dishes were easy to prepare. Anyway, the dinner was a success. We ate, relaxed, ate again, and I broke down the turkey with ease. I hope to be more confident next year.

The schedule was easy. It was just my mother and me, but I would have liked the challenge of adhering to a set time. We just ate when we were done. It was cool. We got calls from people who truly cared about us. It was a lovely day. 

Well, I’m off to eat a third helping of turkey. See you later. 

New Amsterdam and Stigma

I’m watching an episode of New Amsterdam – and one patient attempts suicide. Fortunately, she survives. Trouble is, there is so much stigma surrounding the family that the patient is worried she will lose her mother’s love if she undergoes therapy.  

Here is how the stigma is dealt with: 

  1. A judgmental mother. She does not even acknowledge her daughter’s attempt. “She slipped,” she says. 
  1. A culture which describes illness as “weak.” I’m not sure if it’s the Asian culture (which is not specified), or 21st-Century American culture. Both are equally hateful of the ill.  
  1. They are trying to wrangle around her getting therapy with lies.  
  1. Now, the doctor is talking to the mother. He brings up another point: that the mother might have blamed herself.  
  1. Now the psychiatrist talks to the patient. She is describing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 
  1. Now the mother is admitting she needs help too, after her daughter apologizes.  

Anyway, there are a lot of sadness and shame associated with the daughter’s depression. Fortunately, there is a lot of love, and burgeoning understanding, between the mother and daughter. Love wins out in the end.  

Do not dismiss this case. Stigma is real. Thanks to stigma, people are not getting the help they need. Thanks to stigma, there have been people in psychosis causing chaos on the roofs of buildings. Thanks to stigma, people are suffering in silence. Thanks to stigma, people have died by their own hand. Why is it not enough that people are suffering and dying to fight stigma? How many people have to die?

150 Followers! Yay!

Groot, Drax and the Blue Power Ranger are here to say hi!

 

These are characters that portray living with autism in a positive light. This group is as diverse a cast of characters as you can get, as far as I am concerned.

Groot and his kind are basically sentient tree beings. He is basically nonverbal. (Much respect to Vin Diesel, who provides his vocal and emotional talents. I’d like to see his scripts.)

Drax, who I am not sure if he is the last of his kind, got his cred from an autistic child who struggles with metaphors in a similar manner.

Billy Cranston from the 2017 Power Rangers movie has an actual diagnosis, and his particular set of struggles is explored in the film. (Be honest; you think Groot and Drax would have diagnoses?) I suggest renting it.

I’m on the hunt for more of our kind in the comic books. Anyone have autistic comic book characters we can talk about?

(NOTE: I’m aware of Legion, but I’m pretty sure more of his personality is closer to Dissociative Identity Disorder than autism itself.)

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep

Please forgive me…I’ve been trying to process all the happenings in California, which is now Fire Country. I’ve been numb from all the climate change denial, the fake compassion, and inability to learn. (We all know who this is about.) Please, support legitimate causes surrounding California.  

Now that the California Public Servant Announcement is done, let’s get to…. 

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep 

If you have not been reading lately, just know that this year, as in years before, I am in charge of Thanksgiving cooking – with help in the timing department from Mom, of course. Fortunately, most of the dishes are baked in the last hour, so that makes things a little easier. I only have to cook mashed potatoes, bowtie noodles and gravy on the stove. Everything else is baked/roasted.  

I already have the turkey in the refrigerator, and have had it there for a few days, because we got a large one. Strangely enough, I have encountered a small mass of ice in the cavity every time I have cooked turkey before, no matter how long I have set it out – not up to a week before, though. Anyway, the turkey has always been a success, so there’s really little to worry about there. Just so you know, we do NOT stuff the turkey with stuffing prior to baking; we need room for our aromatics. Besides, we have a bunch of turkey stock and broth formulas on hand for our stuffing and other dishes. Of course, we roll out enough food to feed an army, or feed us for a weekend.  

Much of this stage of prep involves deciding how and in what to serve our dinner. A quick hack for this: Use sticky notes to label the dishes, so you’ll be ready when the food is ready to be served up. And don’t move the notes around! You could lose them.  

Why am I prattling on and on about Thanksgiving food prep? It helps me deal with the holiday, of course. It helps center my mind and body for the upcoming task. Besides, most people think that because of my autism, I would not be able to do Thanksgiving cooking. Well, boo on them. I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for years. I’m thankful for the ability to do it.  

Anyway, involving the autistic person in the process, and explaining it clearly to them every step of the way, is key to helping them deal with the holiday. Remember, think of things from their point of view: many of these Thanksgiving dinners involve strange foods, strange practices, and even people who are not normally there for a lot of the year. To an autistic person, this amount of upset can be overwhelming. Have empathy. (Funny I need to say “Have empathy” to people who think I can’t have empathy. Ironic? Maybe.) Explain this clearly and physically age-appropriately. They can understand more than you think.  

Also, a pro tip: Pull the turkey into the fridge TODAY, if you haven’t already. Even those small turkeys that weigh maybe four to six pounds some people are fond of need at least two days to thaw.

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps Part 1: Early Shopping

I’m no Thanksgiving expert, but I’d like to give an insight into how dealing with Thanksgiving works with our family.  

In our house, Thanksgiving prep begins early, at the beginning of November, or the end of October.  We clear out a space in the freezer for our turkey. We decide what we want on our menu, and get the non-perishable and freezable ingredients, like the turkey, corn and cranberry sauce. Much of our Thanksgiving is bought in this early time, and I myself set it aside. (I’m basically in charge of cooking now, which I can do well. No, the ability to cook a major meal does NOT negate my autism, thank you. Neural conditions do not work like that.)  

We then, over the coming weeks, buy fresh ingredients as the holiday gets closer. We have just today bought our rich half and half for the potatoes, and cream cheese for the celery. Hey, it’s my Thanksgiving. We’ll have it ready by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.  

Having a major hand in preparing the dinner helps me to anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. It consists of traditional dishes (like the celery for us), traditional eating all weekend, and traditional putting up of the Christmas décor.  

I think giving the autistic person responsibilities concerning the Thanksgiving holiday gets them into a mindset that everything will be okay. You may have to serve chicken nuggets just for them, along with having to wait until they’re older for them to eat like you, but usually the eating Thanksgiving meal comes. It may take a while. 

Of course, I learned to eat Thanksgiving food watching others eating. This might help some of us.