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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When You Die

NOTE: This is in response to a recent blog post written by a parent of an autistic child. 

“What will happen to my autistic kid when I’m gone?” “What will happen to my autistic kid when I die?” Well, if you hog all the autism care and concern and leave none of it for them, they will probably die alone, possibly killing themselves.

Have I got your attention now?

An isolated, dependent, and short lifespan is the current fate of most autistic people. Do you want to stop that? Don’t hog all the care and concern. Remember, the autistic person is suffering the most. NOT YOU!!!!!

Also, I have a few questions I want to ask:

Here’s my question: Can they learn to adapt and live?

Some autistic people need round-the-clock care, but I believe many do not. You must learn where on this care spectrum this person falls, and make the proper arrangements. You might be surprised where this person falls, and where he functions highly. Also, get him some autistic friends. I don’t have any close autistic friends right now, except on Facebook, and there are times I feel all alone.

Here’s my next question: Can they be autistic around you?

There is a LOT of pressure to fit in, to be acceptable, to conform. Autistic people, because they are bullied, left out and ostracized, feel this pressure more than most people. Holly Robinson-Peete’s son once declared “I don’t want autism” to his family at one time in the course of conversation. This just broke my heart. I could not put a finger on it at the time, but I realized it meant that he feels he cannot be loved and/or accepted until he can conform to neurotypicality. I could not watch another episode of their reality show.

Another question: Is there somebody they can be autistic, and therefore themselves, around?

If not you, the autistic person NEEDS to be autistic. It’s a fact of life as of May 29, 2018. If they are not themselves around you, they need to be themselves around somebody. They need somebody they can trust. Not you, them. You might be surprised who they trust, and it may not be the people you trust. Remember: many times, they have learned to not trust themselves or their instincts. I have gone through this behavior, and have re-learned to trust my instincts in my thirties. By then, it was almost too late.

I am currently forty years old. By some estimates, the average death age of an autistic person is thirty-six. (By some, it could be as late as fifty-four.) This means I may have already outlived my lifespan by four years. Not much time on this world where we face rejection, is it? Most autistic people still may be doomed to die alone, but you can help change it. There is a group of people who can help your child, because they know what your child is going through. They are going through it themselves. These are what we call autistic adults.

Stoicism: How Displaying Strength Goes Wrong

CONTENT WARNING: Murder, Suicide, Drug Use 

“Man Up.”  “Be strong!”  “Real men don’t cry.”  

These are common phrases said when a boy, man or even woman or girl perceived to be “strong” is told at a young age. This model of strength, and masculinity in the case of males, is heavily influenced by stoicism. Stoicism is an Ancient Greek school of philosophy that argues displays of emotion are due to lapses in judgment, and true strength and rationality is emotionless. It has made its way into the Model of Masculinity in America. I can’t say if it has made its way into other nations’ Model of Masculinity, though I suspect it has. Some people will admit to murder before admitting to therapy, as most men in America will.  

Modern stoicism is best defined in the basic emotional philosophy of professional wrestling. I have only seen two major emotions defined in the ring, and yes, I watched pro wrestling for years: Rage and Lust. It’s as if any emotion at all that is not rage or lust does not exist. That kind of aggressive stoicism takes a toll on a person, woman or man. Want to know something really weird? Pro wrestling is chock full of early deaths – including one which, if I remember correctly, involved family annihilation. But the man who did that has become a sort of He Who Must Not Be Named. (No, not Voldemort, my dear Harry Potter fans.) 

He Who Must Not Be Named, Chris Benoit, I briefly touched upon. He killed his wife and child. Now, it has been revealed that Benoit had brain injuries consistent with CTE, sustained during his career. I wonder if he knew he was going downhill physically? I wonder if that prompted such an extreme reaction? Unfortunately, I have previous experience in family annihilation. It happened to a friend of mine at church. The theory floating around is that his father did not think anyone could take better care of them than himself. I wonder if it a similar case? 

More examples of Stoicism abound. Many men have died of suicide due to not being able to get help for themselves. I have also heard that the success rate of suicide is four times higher among males than other genders. Also, what does modern stoicism contribute to the usage of alcohol and other drugs to evoke the “proper” state of being? How many people have fallen into addiction due to pressure to Man Up or Be Strong?  

You may think I have no business talking about Toxic Masculinity or Stoicism, but Stoicism has made its way into dealing with female emotions. How many times, when crying, have women and girls been told they are “Hysterical” or “Irrational” and unable to deal with hard issues due to emotion? By the way, “Hysterical” comes from the Ancient Roman word “Hystericus,” meaning “Of the womb.” The very idea that women are too emotional is ingrained in us from the ancient world. How are they prescribed to overcome their womanly emotions? “Woman Up!” “Be Strong!” Stoicism!  

I suspect that emotions may actually be helpful to one, if used correctly. If you’re feeling bad, there may be something wrong. If you’re depressed and putting on a face at a party, something might be wrong. If you’re feeling too good, something also might be wrong.  

I must admit, I was inspired by a segment on Sunday Morning about the toll that modern masculinity takes on young men in our culture…based on recent school shootings, mostly done by young men. We need to remove the stigma and hate of emotion from our national psyche. The Dam of Stoicism will burst eventually, and like any other dam holding back giant walls of water, the ending will not be pretty.

Why I Can’t Be a Shiny Aspie

TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: Discussion/Use of functioning labels,  

 Well, if it isn’t another method of discrimination I’ve just learned about. The Shiny Aspie has come to minimize the perception of autistic suffering.  

Well, let’s see…what is a “Shiny Aspie” in the first place? Well, the Shiny Aspie is a supposedly high-functioning autistic person who throws shade at a person who strives to pass for neurotypical as much as possible, while passing judgement on “lower-functioning” autistic people. Basically, a Shiny Aspie feels they are fine, while wanting a cure for “lower-functioning” autistic people. A Shiny Aspie tries to separate themselves from their tribe to be better than their tribe.  

I used to be a Shiny Aspie, mostly because I was encouraged to appear neurotypical by every society I was ever in. Family, school, church youth group, theatre students…all either tried to Make Cambria Neurotypical Again, or ostracized and made fun of me for being different. The message was clear: “Be neurotypical or be kicked out!” “Be neurotypical or be mocked!” “Be neurotypical or die!” (Hey, the last one was the title of a previous post!) I had to, for survival, become a version of a Shiny Aspie, to strive for neurotypicality, and put down others like me. In other words, for lack of a better scenario, I was like a Jew being a Nazi, or a person of color in a Ku Klux Klan hood – a hypocrite.  

But here’s the problem – I was once a “lower-functioning” autistic person. The doctor told my mother to prepare for me to never get any “better” than I was at age three. I was obviously behind other kids at that point. (Tells you how much doctors know about bringing the hope!) I had to change one stim for another at several points in my life. I spoke stiffly until my thirties. The persecution I suffered throughout my school years was nearly nonstop. I only felt that I fit in during Grad Night, the last night I would ever see any of these people. I still don’t know why most of them are my Facebook friends. I’m still shocked they contacted me.  

Anyway, to think that I am “better” than any other autistic bothers me. We are being segmented and pitted against each other in petty squabbles in order to keep us down and out. The Shiny Aspie has drunk the poisonous Kool-Aid, not knowing they are being plotted against as well. I hope they wake up from their sleep soon.  

Hollywood: No Country for Real Women

Has anyone noticed that the “regular” size of women in Hollywood is double zero? Not even zero anymore. Even a size 2 is now fat in Hollywood. Unless, of course, you’re one of the very few women in the media who’s actually obese. I could call out most of these women by name and count them on one finger. Kathy Kinney, Chrissy Metz, and Melissa McCarthy are the only ones I know of. But I’m not here to judge them, or the super-small waifs who usually grace the screen that there’s almost nothing left of.  

It’s mostly the directors’ fault. Twiggy would look fat next to these women, and Twiggy is an admitted anorexic. I mean, what do they use to judge women’s bodies – a broomstick?  

Of course, maybe it’s the sexist environment that contributed the #MeToo movement that cause the love of women with eating disorders. Maybe they want the women to be abuseable. And a woman who is obsessed with how she looks to men is definitely abuseable.  

Looking Back? I’d Rather Look Forward.

It’s almost 2018. While people are looking back, I’m looking forward.I’d rather look forward. It’s a shame that I have very little good to look back on. Congress and the President care little about non-millionaire people. There’s crippling debt. There’s crippling racism. My family will not get back together in the near future. And Judith Newman and Donald Trump put their fingers in their ears and scream “LA LA LA LA LA….” when hearing autistic people, because they do not agree with them.

My main question is: When did willful ignorance become a virtue?

Twenty-Six People Dead; NOW Will You Take Spousal Abuse Seriously?

I said it once; let me say it again. Trump is wrong about the Texas church shooter. He said it was not a gun problem; it was a mental illness problem. Now, since it has been revealed that the shooter’s family attended the church he shot up, but not that Sunday, it has been revealed to be a domestic violence problem. Twenty-six people dead, all because he wanted to kill his ex-wife and her family. The Texas church shooting was about the ultimate display of power and control over his wife; the power over life. 

Power and control have been at the core of domestic violence for all time. It was at the core of my family’s fighting and struggle. It was at the core of many a spousal murder and attempted murder; it was at the core of my life for so long. As a matter of fact, I am terrified of getting married, due to the fact that domestic violence was in my family and life for so long; what kind of wife beater will I attract? What kind of pain and abuse will I have to endure just to be comfortable? This is the effect of domestic abuse and violence in my life. As a matter of fact, domestic abuse was in the history of the Texas church shooter. He was dishonorably discharged for cracking his stepson’s skull. And he was convicted on another count for beating his wife. And he was able to buy weapons because the Air Force failed to report these crimes, so he went and shot up forty-six people in a church-where his ex-wife’s family went. So, is the Air Force almost as guilty of neglect in preventing mass murder? You be the judge.  

A Time Magazine article once stated that a soldier was going to have to kill in a big way for the military to understand domestic violence. Well, Air Force who failed to report it – twenty-six people are dead; twenty more are injured, all because the shooter wanted to control his ex-wife and her family. Now will you take domestic violence seriously?