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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Ten Things that Grind my Gears

  1. The whole treatment of Meg Griffin.
  2. Having to borrow a title from a show that treats their teen daughter like feces.
  3. The fact that I have to hide the fact that my very nice upstairs neighbor is black because some very powerful white people assume she is some kind of criminal.
  4. The fact that I am forty and only qualified to work in a fast food joint because I only have an Associate Degree.
  5. People who go swimming in pubic pools when they don’t feel well. Stay home and get well!
  6. The fact that I have to justify my autism diagnosis because I am not Sheldon Cooper, Raymond “Rain Man” Babbitt, or some other white male whose weird is life-throttling.
  7. The fact that I have yet to see an autistic girl who likes assumed girly things on T.V.
  8. That most of the autistic people in media are white, male and otherwise of a privileged class.
  9. That these stereotypes throttle non-white, non-male autistic people from being believed.
  10. That I am even having to mention these in the 21st Century.

Cartoon Women

Why do people need to act and believe their cartoons?  Cartoons are what happens when people believe their stereotypes. 

Here’s the problem with stereotypes: most people believe them, at least secretly.  

Here is an example: A later episode of What Not to Wear featured a woman who dressed so feminine, she acted like a cartoon. Now this is an extreme example, but it is very close to stereotypes regarding women. A giant beehive, tons of bubblegum makeup, strands of pearls, and super-high heels.  

Another example? Willie, a character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. A most annoying and ingratiating character, yes, but she seems little more than a bundle of stereotypes. I’m not laying the blame at Capshaw’s feet, though. She is among a class of people who can portray anyone. The character was written stereotypically, the damsel in distress. Well, the damsel in distress was largely out of fashion by the 1980s, thanks to the introduction of Princess Leia and other more participatory lead women. Most people dislike the character of Willie, and she is counted among the most annoying characters ever put to film. 

My point about bringing up the damsel in distress, and the character of What Not to Wear, are that these women are literally cartoons of femininity. The problem with cartoons is, most people believe them. They are detrimental to things like peace, love and understanding. I brought up feminine stereotypes because they are ones I am closest to, but here’s a good example of detriment: How many persons of color have been followed in a store because the people who work there think the person of color is an automatic thief? How about all the women who have been denied their autism diagnosis simply because they are women? There’s the “aggressive, savage” black person, the “hysterical” Hispanic, and the “math genius-ninja” Asian. Sure, there are a few people who fit the stereotype, but most of them do not. Let me break it down: Who is going to listen to someone “hysterical”? Who is going to stock up on guns to protect themselves from the “aggressive savage”? Most people are fighting the cartoon version of their kind daily.  

Why can’t people be real?

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.  

Oaks and Reeds; an Explanation of #MasculinitySoFragile

Why do we say “Masculinity So Fragile?” Well, for starters, it is extremely rigid, like the oak.  

You can only wear certain colors, or you’ll be feminine. 

You can only show anger or lust, or you’ll be feminine.  

You can only be emotional for certain things (like sports), if at all, or you’ll be feminine. 

You can only like certain activities, or you’ll be feminine.  

It seems to me that masculinity follows an extremely rigid set of rules. It is so rigid, that it is like a tiny island of dry land, surrounded by the oceanic waters of dreaded femininity. It is also reminiscent of an Aesop’s fable, The Oak and the Reeds. Masculinity is the rigid oak, while femininity is the seemingly weak reeds. Sure, you can be proud, rigid and inflexible, but a sad fact is, men die sooner. Life expectancies for men are shorter than those for women around the world. It is an inescapable fact. How do you argue your way out of that one? How does being the rigid, proud oak help you in a great hurricane, when the mighty winds finally topple you? The reeds of femininity bend to the winds of the hurricane, and they are not hurt. They live longer. As a matter of fact, I am currently caring for my mother, who has outlived my father for a good ten years. I am not ashamed of this. I am not here to put down masculinity; I am here to expand it. I am here to expand its flexibility and its ability to bend like a reed in order to survive the hurricanes of life. 

“Good Doctor” Reactions

I am going to put “The Good Doctor” to the test. How stereotypical is it? How real is it? Also, does Freddie Highmore try to create a nuanced autistic man, or does he simply put on the Autism Costume? 

That is what I intend to find out. 

10:00 – A simple routine. Good start.  

10:01 – Mess the hair up. OK. 

10:02 – What’s with the line on the ground? 

10:02 – Saved from the bullies…and we have PTSD. 

10:03 – San Jose Airport: Noisy as can be. 

10:04 – Loud crash. Boy is hurt. 

10:04 – Correcting a doctor. OOOH. 

10:05 – “Not Rain Man. High-functioning. Capable of handling his affairs.” Enough with the labels, doc! 

10:06 – Tamlyn Tomita? She looks great! 

10:07 – Savant Syndrome? OK. I can see that. 

10:08 – Another doctor or two. Good. 

10:10 – Sherlock called – he wants his Mind Palace back. *Visualizations* 

10:11 – Trying to communicate his medical emergency….grabs the knife. The boy’s mother finally communicates his intention. 

10:12 – The doctors are arguing. Trying to give consent. 

10:13 – Another doctor. 

10:14 – Alcohol, tubing, gloves. More visualizing. Incision, tubing in, boy is saved! 

10:15 – Boy saved! 

*Commercial Break* 

I promise I am watching. My rapid-fire reactions are part of my style. 

*Back to Show* 

10:18 – Phone call from hiring manager (?). Trustee and hiring manager debate. 

10:19 – Another flashback. Father is not understanding. Abuse. Pet rabbit dead.  

10:20 – A glitch seen. Listen, OK? 

10:21 – Surgery on man. Pustule exploded.  

10:22 – Echocardiogram pushing, no one listens, tries to rush the ER. 

*Commercial Break* 

10:27 – Going through the hospital. Relax, it’s a revolving door. 

10:28 – Rain. More about the dead rabbit. Looks like a meltdown.  

10:29 – Talking about a surgeon’s needs. “No qualified others without autism.” Comparisons of discrimination. “How will the patients react?”  

10:31 – Sean (the doctor) is described as “the weird guy.” Sean found. Medical jargon. Recommended test found nothing.  

*Commercial Break* 

10:37 – “Sean.” Watching an echocardiogram. Subtle defect. Piece of glass described as hypothesis toward problem.  

10:39 – Youtube video saves the boy’s job, maybe? 

10:40 – Trustee finally sees Sean at work.  

10:40 – Flashback: Sean and his brother on an abandoned bus. A present? A toy knife seen in the episode beginning.  

10:42 – The toy scalpel is revealed. So is the mentioned piece of glass. 

*Commercial Break*  

I find the “symptoms” there. I am also finding a more nuanced character, though I might be wrong. I need to consult with other autistic colleagues. 

10:46 – Finally, meeting with the hirer. Now he can show up for the interview.  

10:47 – The boy is being discussed. Still trying to convince the board he’s capable. “Letting things get personal…?”  

10:48 – Doctor is trying to make conversation with Sean, Sean’s not doing that well. Call-out on the doctor. OUCH. 

10:49 – Well, “I would love to make you happy, but…” Boy, does this doctor hate him.  

10:50 – FINALLY, Sean can speak.  

10:51 – Flashback. Oh, boy. Children on top of a train. Brother falls! No movement.  

10:53 – Struggling to speak and communicate well. Finally hitting his stride near the end. Ms. Tomita’s character welcomes him in. 

10:55 – The doctor is dressed and scrubbed. Gloved. Safety spectacled.  

10:56 – Flashback. “You can do anything.” Begin the operation.  

10:57 – Giving mad props. Now an arrogance callout. He wonders if it works, in so many words.  

10:58 – The Season Preview.  

*Show Over* 

All in all, I liked the show. The portrayal of autism is getting there. Obviously, it’s not there yet, but it’s getting there. I understand that this is somewhat of a checklist of sorts, being the introduction of the character, but it seems to be nuanced. I’m getting a second opinion, in case this is inaccurate.  

Dentist Haze Videos and Meltdown Videos: Yes, They are Related

There is a trend of videos, that, to put it bluntly, just angers me. I heard of gymnast Simone Biles being filmed while still being affected by the anesthesia after the dentist. Sure, it was funny, but it was funny in a way that laughing at an autistic person in meltdown mode is funny. It’s humor for bullies and haters. Why do people do that?  

Trust me; I come from a place of familiarity and some guilt on this one. I used to laugh at drunk people’s foibles on videos. Fortunately, I realized that most people who are drunk are not in their right mind. Yeah, acting not normal is funny, but if laughing at people in distress is your thing, that is sad in itself. And that is the trouble: laughing at people who are drunk, laughing at people who are affected by dentist haze, and laughing at autistic people in meltdown is as cruel as throwing water on a drowning man. 

Speaking of a drowning man, you remember the teens who laughed while filming a drowning man? He died. Due to their laughter and not helping him, his blood is on their hands. You who laugh at people in distress, you are no better.