#TimeToTalk Day 2019

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb  

Well, they are using this hashtag on Twitter right now to talk about mental illness.  

So, what do tree planting and talking about mental health have to do with each other? Well, for starters, there is a lot in common, as stated by the old proverb. Can you go back in time? Not that I know of. But can you start talking about mental health, plant that proverbial tree, now? Of course. 

Let’s talk about some myths: 

  1. “Mental illness has some rational beginning, and is reactive.”  Sometimes it does, but most of the time it does not. As I have stated before, even people on top of the world have mental illness to deal with. Robin Williams, for instance.  
  2. “Mental Illness only affects the people who act or look a certain way.” Would you be shocked if, and I am only saying if, Guy Fieri had depression? I would not. The losses of the once-strong Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain should have shaken that out of your mind.  
  3. “Mental Illness is character weakness.” This comes from the belief that you earn health and wealth through finding favor with your chosen deity – known in some circles as The Prosperity Gospel. But what happens if, say, you get a mental illness? Does that mean you are not good enough?  This false notion about mental illness believes you are not good enough… 
  4. “Mental Illness can be cured with willpower, vitamins and exercise.” Sorry, Tom Cruise, but this is simply not true in many cases. Denying the sufferer the medicine, the very thing that provides relief, is cruelty.  
  5. “Mental illness prevents you from holding down a job.” I HELD DOWN A JOB AT IN-N-OUT FOR SIX YEARS! Sorry for the shouting. This is simply not true. It is a corollary of the “character weakness” myth.  
  6. “Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why not just take a pill?” Because much of the time, “taking a pill” is only a start. Many of us need a support system.  
  7. “I can’t help.” Many, many people need your support. Just being there for them makes a big difference. It did with me.  
  8. “Prevention is impossible.” Ever heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? The core of it is TRAUMA. That is one of my own mental illnesses, thanks to people in my family.  

Mental health is coming out of the woodwork with or without you. It is connected to physical health as well. People are tired of losing their loved ones to suicide.   

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Don’t Blame Me For That Measles Outbreak!

My mother gave me all the available vaccines. And no, that’s not why I am autistic. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk reason. Now there are outbreaks all over Europe and the United States thanks to people not vaccinating their children. And I wonder if they are blaming the autistic people like me for it. I mean, after all, most of the people not vaccinating their children blame their children’s autism on it. So, even if I am not blamed outright, I wonder if I am blamed in secret.  

I guess I wonder if I am paranoid, because so many people want to see me “Cured,” aka essentially destroyed.  

Weighted Blankets at Target: Is it Cultural Appropriation???

I recently came across an argument – people getting weighted blankets to help them with sleep was a form of cultural appropriation. I was wondering: is this true?

I’ve never really considered this argument. But you can make a case for both sides.

First, that weighted blankets at Target is disability cultural appropriation. I can see the argument simply because disability aids and fidget toys, such as fidget spinners, became a fad. (Remember those? I still have mine.) They only became popular when abled people took them up. You could make the case for weighted blankets undergoing the same abled person pickup. It literally took the abled people taking up weighted blanket for them to even show up at Target – and they still do not come in queen size for my bed! What a shame that it takes the abled people to pick something up to become available for people who cannot make the something. That’s the textbook definition of ableism.

The argument against abled people taking up weighted blankets as cultural appropriation is another side. Basically, that something once used for autism, anxiety, and other disabling conditions is now used by abled people might just be natural because abled people see the aid can help them, too.

I see nothing beyond the above for these arguments, but I am disturbed by that fact that disabled people are not allowed to take control of their narrative the way other marginalized cultures do. We still need to pitch our disability aids to abled people to be able to even get them. Fidget spinners, fidget toys and weighted blankets are prime examples of this. Most abled people cannot see past the ends of their noses when it comes to us.

The sad thing is, my mother does not even know about the weighted blanket, so I do not have one.

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.

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.