We Need to Bust Some Mental Health Myths

Of course, you all know by now that accessories designer Kate Spade died by suicide. I’m not going to get into the details, but you can Google them any time you like. Somebody even leaked the VERY PRIVATE note she left for her daughter at the site. (Not cool.) Anyway, we need to talk about it. There has been a huge spike in suicides since, too.

I have decided to see what myths I could bust concerning suicide, and in extension, mental health.

Let me start with this one: One of the things most people get wrong about depression and suicide is that every case of depression has a rational origin. That is not always true. Sure, some of them have rational beginnings, but this is not always the case. No amount of money, success or fame is going to save you from something inside your head. It’s in your country already!

It is also a myth held by most people that mental health problems don’t affect them. I wonder – do you ever really know the people who know? Do you know what they face, how much energy they expend to just get ready for the day? Conservative estimates state that one in five people suffer from a mental illness. Those are Conservative estimates. Midline estimates state one in four, by the way.
Kate Spade just subverted the myth that people with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job. She designed some of the best handbags ever for a living. I myself held down a high-stress job at In-N-Out Burger for six years, with periodical raises. I could utilize my strengths to fit the job perfectly. Anyway, I don’t have to argue with you on how well I can hold down a job. Especially with the help of medication one can take in the morning and go on with the rest of your day, many people with mental illness hold down perfectly good jobs, in all industries.

Here’s another myth we can kick down: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough. In what universe? Look, if some gruff person in a fur or leather jacket could actually snap a person out of mental illness, I know of people who could make millions doing exactly that! But trying to make a person “Man Up, You Big Girl!!!!!” never works, and leads anyone down the road further to suicide. Aren’t we trying to prevent that?
I would like to also bust this myth. “There is no hope for people with mental health problems. Once a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he or she will never recover.” Sure, the problem may never go away, as it is not a cold, but we can live with it using the proper treatments and parameters. A little sidetrack: Did you know that in the 1848 novel Moby Dick, whales are scientifically classified as fish? The point is, both the medical and scientific communities can be wrong and need to correct themselves at times. It has happened before. Why not let it happen again?

Finally, and this is the big one: “Once a person wants to kill themselves, they are destined to do it.” Not true! I’ll tell you a story of a man who jumped over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge. He is one of the few to survive, by the way. Once he left the safety of the bridge, he regretted doing it. On the way down, he prayed to survive. He did – barely – but the regret stayed with him. He has never tried it again. Now, it doesn’t always take an extreme case of attempt to bring about the will to live. It may sometimes, but sometimes, just telling somebody is enough to deter it. In my case, that is what happened to me. I told somebody who told my mother, who got me help. It was in this instance I learned I had depression. It did not take a long time for me to learn how easy it is to manage, when you do what is necessary, even to the point of stigma.

Anyway, these are a few of the myths out there.

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The Extent of My Autism Accommodations: A Very Short Article.

REGULAR AID:

Disability Income: Roughly $1050 a month. That’s it. (Good thing my mother helps me with her income.)
Medicare with Extra Help: Keeps my medicine payments down to $25. (See below.)

SERVICES I MUST PAY FOR:

Medicines to keep me from dying: $25.
Psychological Therapy: $40. Per appointment. I don’t get this. If I want to eat, I must sacrifice this.

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Basically, all I get is Basic Disability Income and Extra Help from the Medicare people. That’s it. I pay for everything else to some extent. Any other services are out of my reach financially. Therefore, any other services are useless to me. Any service is useless if you can’t get it.

You Don’t Know Me

So, autistic parent who thinks that just because I don’t act EXACTLY like your child, I’m not autistic enough? You don’t know me! Person who thinks I am a dismiss-worthy weirdo? You don’t know me!

You don’t know how intense, loud and colorful I experience the world. You don’t even know how your own child experiences the world. It could be more intense, or maybe it could be less intense. Or, and this is more likely, it may be a combination of both – more intense in some areas, or less intense in other areas.

 You don’t know how much I struggle to come up with the right word. You don’t know how I witness almost every conversation (or interview, in some cases) can go down in flames because I say the wrong word. You don’t know. You don’t know the nights I spent awake agonizing and finally coming up with the right words to say, long after the opportunity to say them is gone.

 You don’t know how I have no emotional memory. You don’t know the hours I spend in private because I am crying over my own pain, or the pain of someone else. You don’t know that I am currently wishing people would just evacuate the Big Island of Hawaii because it seems to be exploding to me.

 Are you psychic? Can you read my mind? Of course not. Maybe if you could, you would be more understanding and accepting of my differences.

Your Family is Dysfunctional? Mine Too!

So, the tabloid TV people are ragging on Meghan Markle’s family for being somewhat dysfunctional. It only seems fair to point out that the various lines of the British Royal Family have been dysfunctional since 1066, and earlier if I could ever get the records. Even Prince Harry’s own immediate family has been dysfunctional. I won’t get into it. You can Google that yourself.

I would also like to point out that family dysfunction is actually quite common in this day and age. What is the right marriage? What is the right family? Just about everybody enters adulthood somewhat messed up. I won’t get into that either, but just remember that.

Oh, and one more thing: I opened your closet, you judgmental being, you, and a few skeletons fell out. You might want to clean that up.

It’s Time to Rename Asperger’s Syndrome: How about Autism?

Hans Asperger. A supposed “hero” for the autistic white boys who lived in Nazi Germany….not so much. It has recently been revealed that he sent undesirable children to the execution programs, particularly if they were female, or of “mixed Jewish Blood,” which meant damnation in Nazi Germany. Now some people who identify with Asperger’s Syndrome are in shock and despair, wondering what to do or how to identify next?

I’ll be honest: I never really identified as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” because it did not fit the more-accurate childhood diagnosis I received, and my mother fought for endlessly. Sure, knowing you were different hurt at first, but I slowly realized that knowing your condition/impairment was a real advantage in getting along with the world. Now, back to the question at hand: what to do with Hans Asperger’s legacy? Now, this might seem radical to some, but why not avail yourself to current research and hitch your wagon to Leo Kanner’s horse? What is currently known as Asperger’s Syndrome and a form of autism are basically the same thing, are they not?

Quit trying to separate yourself or your child from the advantages given in being a member of the autistic tribe. Being autistic means that those supposedly strange requests are now reasonable accommodations. Being autistic means that you have a name, tribe and culture to identify with – that involves Ghostbusters. Being autistic means that said culture will love you endlessly and unconditionally, knowing you or your child are one of its own. Sure, your life seems harder because you have an identifiable difference, but isn’t it easier than hitching your wagon to a Nazi?

You Feel Pretty? You’re Crazy!

 

NOTE: While I try to keep ableist language out of my mouth, sometimes the world decides to put it in, without my permission. 

Now that I can’t avoid the “I Feel Pretty” movie ads, I have to talk about them. What I have gleaned from them is that a woman suffers a traumatic brain injury in spin class and suddenly sees herself as beautiful. Sure, she might actually see that confidence is a beauty booster all along, but there is a disturbing point I must address. The point is, the movie says people who feel pretty must be crazy.

How is that a positive message? You must be brain damaged to be confident? How is that positive? Sure, you may not be a stick thin Kate Moss or Keira Knightley, but maybe you’re prettier than you thought. Take a look at the positives: you might have beautiful eyes or skin, or even good hair.

I had to learn I was pretty the hard way – by looking back at pictures of my past, when my beauty had faded, and seeing how pretty I really was. Maybe if the regular girl was taught that natural beauty was not a delusion, maybe she would not learn she was pretty the hard way either.

Stigmatizing Help: WHY?????

Mariah Carey spoke of first being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2001. Since she only recently came out of the mental illness closet, I figured she suffered greatly due to the stigma and the secret she held. And it was also true; she admitted to this suffering. Sadly, this is not the only case of suffering due to stigma I can personally account for.
I know a person who came out of the mental illness closet almost immediately after being diagnosed. Unfortunately, she lost a lot of friends along the way. Also, she was blamed for extreme measures being taken to control her by one of those former friends. She suffered through adjustments through medications for a year, and she did it alone.
So, who did she turn to when she needed help for tough financial decisions when undergoing these changes? NOBODY. She and I have large amounts of financial debt and cannot even declare bankruptcy to clear those debts. We are hounded by mail. We are hounded by phone. We are hounded by bad credit scores. And we have no one to turn to in our hour of need. Where is everybody? Everybody we know turned away when we came out of the mental illness closet.
Why do we hate getting help? Why do we discriminate against those with mental illness? Stigmatizing mental illness is only society shooting itself in the foot. Less people seek help, which leads to more hiding, which leads to dramatic confrontations of the jackass-on-a-fast-food-roof kind. Don’t you see? Making help a thing of weakness and vulnerability only makes us weak and vulnerable against the coming drama. We need to stop stigmatizing getting help for your problems. It would have saved years of pain and suffering in Carey’s case.