Autism Post 12: Autism Horns Effect 

I was watching Little Big Shots, and saw there was a six-year-old drummer from Brazil who taught herself drumming. She did everything around drums. She told her story, gave Steve Harvey (the host) a pair of drumsticks, and even said her dream was to be a Super Drummer, in her childlike glory. She must be neurotypical, I thought, because she is being celebrated. Let me tell you that any autistic child who takes a special interest in drums is usually put down to a “Fixation” or “Obsession.”

Have you ever noticed that once autism enters the picture, everything seems to have a negative tone to it? A kind of “Autism Horns Effect,” if you will. Imagine a pair of little devil horns, if you will, protruding out of any autistic person’s head, and you’ll get the picture. A special interest, for example, is often encouraged in a neurotypical child (unless they misbehave), while in autism, particularly Applied Behavior Analysis, is discouraged or held over the child’s head, especially if it’s unusual, like an interest in buses. If it’s buses, then that could be a marketable trade down the line! But it’s autistic, so it’s wrong.

Here’s another example: I have linked to another article about how autistic girls’ personalities are known  as “Subtypes.” If they were neurotypical, they would have simply been Personalities! Have you noticed a pattern? Interest or Fixation, Personality or Subtype, it’s all the same. Autistic people are made to think everything they are is wrong, even down to what they want to eat! No wonder so many of us are crawling out of our skin and have meltdowns when we get home. Trying to fit into this world which puts Autism Horns on our heads is trying. If you want to understand, go to a place without your social customs. You know that uncomfortable feeling you get there? We autistics have it all the time. It’s why we often become reclusive, especially when alone.

I wonder what people would think if I wore horns and a puzzle piece all the time because some people see them anyway? Okay, maybe that’s a bit too far, but do you see my point? We autistics are tired of being treated like invalids and morons. We are neither. Stop treating us like that.

What to Do About Mental Health Stigma 

STIG-MA (noun):

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person:
“the stigma of mental disorder”

synonyms shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad) reputation shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad) reputation

Source: Oxford University Press

*****

I just realized something: Mental Health Stigma is not killed through lecture. Sure, I can sit and talk about how mental health stigma hurts, but I can also offer some tips to combat it. Research is fairly sparse on the topic – how to combat mental health stigma – but I’ve been looking at it anyway. There are a few tips to consider:

1) Combat internal stigma: Internalized stigma is not really your fault. It’s instilled in you by your family, your friends, the media, and even strangers. You might want to think of your mind as a sponge – if it sits in the dirty water of stigma, it will eventually absorb the dirty water of stigma. Get yourself away from those who are living in the dirty water as much as possible; however, we are talking about cleaning out the dirty water you have already absorbed. Here are a few things to consider:

-Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder are real medical illnesses. Why are they published in medical journals if they’re not?

-See a therapist if you can. I know that often, people are

-Don’t self-medicate. Using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to make yourself feel better often leads to addiction, and a troubling condition called Dual Diagnosis. I don’t know much about this condition, but bringing on multiple conditions is not recommended for anyone. It takes you the rest of your life of taking care of yourself to live well with mental illness; it takes just as long to recover from addiction.

2) No Name Calling: From one “Crazy” or “Nutjob” to another, those words hurt. They are just as derogatory as racial slurs, and calling something “gay” when you mean stupid. As far as I’m concerned, this name calling is hate and discrimination.

3) Praise for Seeking Help: If you don’t get that it’s good to get professional help with your brain, I’m here to tell you this. It’s good to get professional help for your brain. Your brain is a complex medical instrument that often requires a professional’s expertise to get it working properly. If no one tells you this, know that you are a good person for seeking professional help. Remember, you are not Superman.

4) Take Care of Yourself: I cannot stress this enough – self care is essential. What people do not get about self care is that it is not always the glamorous bubble bath most people picture it to be. Self care is taking your medication even though you gag on the larger medicines. Self care can be the bubble bath or treating yourself, but it’s other things, too. Self care is seeking help if you need it. Self care is resting when you need it. Self care is getting to your therapy appointments. Self care is learning that you can still live a full and productive life with your state of mental health. Self care is not self-medicating.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If others want to contribute tips and tricks for combating mental health stigma, by all means, tell me.

Mental Health Stigma Hurts Us All  

“Take your meds, move along.” That’s what I tell myself every once in a while now when I am tempted to not take the medicines I use to stay somewhat healthy. Don’t get me wrong; there are times I gag when I put the larger ones in my mouth. I still take the medicine anyway because it’s the easiest way to take it. Some people need it as a shot every two weeks; some people can just take the medicine as a daily pill. (There are probably other ways, but I’m not knowledgeable in all of them.) Here’s the trouble: I know of at least one person who avoids taking medicine and would prefer multiple stays in a mental hospital. Why? Why do a large number of people avoid taking the medicine at all? Why do people not accept that the medicine helps? Better yet, why does it take extreme drama and possibly even a revocation of possible rights to get some people to take medicine at all? Could it be due to mental health stigma?

First, let us define stigma.

Stigma:

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  (Oxford University Press)

Well, isn’t that special? Having a mental illness is a mark of disgrace in this society. That makes perfect sense. People don’t want to be disgraced. The disgraced are hated and discriminated against. What does that lead to? America’s largest mental health facility is inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The disgraced are also criminalized, too, by the way. So it takes a crime to get a person the help they need without submitting to the stigma? Who has to suffer because of it? No, it’s no longer who has to suffer. The question is now this: Who has to die? How many people have to die before they recognize stigma does not work?

This is how stigma works: Stigma gets a person thinking they cannot be loved and accepted with the particular quality (aka Mental Illness), so they hide it. And hide it with drinking, drugs, eating, and maybe something else. Until it backfires and is revealed. Usually, there has to be a crime before somebody intervenes because then the person can be removed from society with approval, if they have not already done so themselves (ex. suicide).  Nobody wants to do anything, or even believe there is a problem at all, until the problem hurts permanently. Even then, some families of suicide remove the person from their memory, and try to make the problem go away again. Repeat the cycle until somebody finally speaks up, or until death affects the family visually. Or, maybe, until suicide becomes homicide.

So, what’s the solution? The solution is painfully obvious: end the stigma. Make it okay to take care of your mental health. Don’t make a person think they have to be Mental Superman. Mental Superman does not exist. I think you need to make it okay to take your medicine. Take your meds, move along.

Mental Health Stigma Hurts Us All

“Take your meds, move along.” That’s what I tell myself every once in a while now when I am tempted to not take the medicines I use to stay somewhat healthy. Don’t get me wrong; there are times I gag when I put the larger ones in my mouth. I still take the medicine anyway because it’s the easiest way to take it. Some people need it as a shot every two weeks; some people can just take the medicine as a daily pill. (There are probably other ways, but I’m not knowledgeable in all of them.) Here’s the trouble: I know of at least one person who avoids taking medicine and would prefer multiple stays in a mental hospital. Why? Why do a large number of people avoid taking the medicine at all? Why do people not accept that the medicine helps? Better yet, why does it take extreme drama and possibly even a revocation of possible rights to get some people to take medicine at all? Could it be due to mental health stigma?

First, let us define stigma.

Stigma:

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  (Oxford University Press)

Well, isn’t that special? Having a mental illness is a mark of disgrace in this society. That makes perfect sense. People don’t want to be disgraced. The disgraced are hated and discriminated against. What does that lead to? America’s largest mental health facility is inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The disgraced are also criminalized, too, by the way. So it takes a crime to get a person the help they need without submitting to the stigma? Who has to suffer because of it? No, it’s no longer who has to suffer. The question is now this: Who has to die? How many people have to die before they recognize stigma does not work?

This is how stigma works: Stigma gets a person thinking they cannot be loved and accepted with the particular quality (aka Mental Illness), so they hide it. And hide it with drinking, drugs, eating, and maybe something else. Until it backfires and is revealed. Usually, there has to be a crime before somebody intervenes because then the person can be removed from society with approval, if they have not already done so themselves (ex. suicide).  Nobody wants to do anything, or even believe there is a problem at all, until the problem hurts permanently. Even then, some families of suicide remove the person from their memory, and try to make the problem go away again. Repeat the cycle until somebody finally speaks up, or until death affects the family visually. Or, maybe, until suicide becomes homicide.

So, what’s the solution? The solution is painfully obvious: end the stigma. Make it okay to take care of your mental health. Don’t make a person think they have to be Mental Superman. Mental Superman does not exist. I think you need to make it okay to take your medicine. Take your meds, move along.