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.

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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.

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?

What’s Funny Now?

CONTENT WARNING: Talk of offensive humor 

I remember, some years ago, I was  at a Christmas party at a former therapist’s house.  She had dioramas of little taxidermized Titmice (small birds) decorating the house. Being the somewhat humorous person I thought I was, I looked at them, and as somebody passed by, remarked, “Nice tits.” She got the joke of course, but if you said that to any woman, or with any bird nowadays, especially in the age of #MeToo, it would not go over well. So, there’s a question I am asking now: 

Was it even funny back then?  

So now, I’m wondering what’s funny now?  

I mean, blonde jokes, those holdouts from the 1990s, are no longer funny. People joking about trans urges are no longer funny. Here’s how that played out: “Family Guy” had characters remark that Bruce Jenner was an “elegant and classy woman.” But now, what is Caitlyn Jenner but an elegant and classy, albeit majorly tone-deaf, woman? Also, there were so many jokes about Donald Trump being president, but guess who is president? Donald Trump. No matter where you are on that issue, we can all agree that offensive humor is broken. Besides, using “retard” or “autistic” ought to garner a swift throat punch from any person who falls under the hate, am I right? 

Maybe you have to earn being the butt of a joke now, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

Womanhood: Life in the Lions’ Den

Wracking my brain, I have become more and more convinced that there might be a metaphor for the life a woman faces, that a man can relate to. I think that metaphor is this: Womanhood is life in a lions’ den. Think about it: Lions are bigger than you, stronger than you, and can overpower you and kill and eat you, and there’s little to nothing you can do about it. Now imagine those lions are trying to constantly have sex with you, whether you like it or not. That, my friends, is womanhood in a nutshell. Think about it: trigger a lion and he could kill you. Trigger a man and he could kill you. Some lions view humans as meat. Some men view women, as, well, meat.  

I could go on and on. Now do you understand why women would be terrified in a room of men? It’s a lions’ den!

All the Ways I’m Not Sheldon Cooper

Now, for some Godforsaken reason, when I come out as autistic to some people, they suddenly see this:

4830_sheldon_cooper.jpg

And they will NOT STOP COMPARING.

Since I have to spell it out, point by point, I am going to. All questions will be rendered to Captain Obvious, standing over there.

 

  • “You’re in my spot” – Sure, I have a “spot.” But I’m not entirely going to yell at people for sitting in it.
  • Extreme Arrogance and Self-Superiority – “The Big Bang Theory” seems to equate autism with arrogance. I’m not arrogant. As a matter of fact, I have to be told on a regular basis that my voice and life matter.
  • Reacting in the Worst Way – One of the hallmarks of Sheldon Cooper, and sitcom characters in general, is that they react to criticism in the most dramatic way possible.
  • Empathy – Sheldon Cooper, in this aspect, is a false stereotype. Autistic people have empathy, and the fact that I have to tell you this well into the 21st Century vexes me to no end. In many online tests, and by people in the know, I have been told I am an empath. I may not express my empathy in “reading between the lines,” but I literally take on emotions of others. There is almost no boundary. I often hold back tears when someone else is crying. Anyway, I have also taught myself on such important things as facial expression and sarcasm – while Mr. Cooper sees no need to do the same, even when he really needs to.
  • Sex/Gender – Sheldon Cooper is male. I am female. I and my fellow female autistics have been told by many professionals that we don’t exist. News flash, autism researchers: autistic women and girls exist! Autistic people of color exist, too!
  • Savanthood – Apparently, Sheldon is a savant in physics. I have been told I am one in spelling and grammar. Not everyone is a savant, though. And not everyone is a physics savant.
  • Physics Snob – Now, Sheldon is a physics snob. He looks down on other forms of science. I do not.
  • Executive Function: Cooking – Can you imagine the high amount of money the group in general spend on takeout? I can cook, and pretty well, too. Sure, I have the occasional takeout, but I can fix quite a few meals, too. Even from scratch.
  • Changes – I can deal with changes in relationships, hairstyles and even food, among other things. Sheldon cannot.
  • Bathroom Schedule – I go when I need to. Sheldon needs a schedule.
  • Diagnosis – I am officially diagnosed autistic (on paper). Sheldon is not diagnosed. At all.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. So stop comparing me to him.

The Problem with Comparisons

An autistic person of color recently brought up a really valid point: many times, when persons of color bring up racism in the world, and even in autistic circles, many white people come up with “But you can’t condemn us! We’re LESS RACIST than neurotypicals!” or some other self-gratifying comparison. Here’s the problem with comparisons: they expose that you’re still affected by the same thing as the person you’re distancing yourself from! If you’re “less racist,” you’re still racist. If you’re “more open-minded,” that doesn’t mean your mind is completely open. You can’t excuse yourself from improvement. Just because you’re ahead of somebody in the race, it does not mean you are at the finish line. Self-improvement and tolerance are marathons, not the long jump. There is still work that needs to be done. Hitler was and is not the only Nazi, David Duke is not the only member of the Ku Klux Klan.