Why, yes, Karen, they can. While it’s not necessary for an autistic person to prove themselves this way, it’s a good skill to know.
I did not know if I could change a tire without help. Sure, I would start, but somebody (usually a man) would always help. While I appreciate the chivalry, it does not help in the knowledge department. Anyway, as of 6:15 this evening, I learned I could. From fixing the jack (took 2 tries), unscrewing the lug nuts, taking off the flat tire, putting the spare tire on, and reapplying the lug nuts… it was not too hard.
You want to know what the hardest part was? Not the lug nuts. It was aligning the spare on the axle. But of course, it was getting dark, so maybe it is usually not as hard as it would have been in the daytime.
Sometimes you’ve got to toot your own horn.
WHY do people think antidepressants will make you into someone like, I don’t know, Dee Dee from “Dexter’s Laboratory”? It does not make sense to me at all. Do they really think a small chemical reaction can change a personality that much?
I’ve been taking an antidepressant for years. I can tell you that I am not a prancing unicorn type that smiles weirdly in all the photos, even when it’s inappropriate.
Here’s a short dossier about me before I had antidepressants: I liked theater, I have a lot of black in my closet, and I like rock and some metal, like Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi. (Just before I was prescribed them the first time, I started losing interest in theater, and I was not getting the cool pleasure out of the music I liked.) Here I am after taking an antidepressant for years: I still like theater, I still wear a lot of black, and I still like rock and metal. So, do you think my personality was changed that much? Come on. I may have a brighter outlook on life, but not all the time. I can still get depressed – though the medicine I take is another weapon to tame that depression.
I can even draw on other people’s experiences I come across on social media and say, definitively, that those who take their antidepressants properly do not have their personalities changed.
So, what do antidepressants actually do?
I’d like to describe depression this way: ever listen to a song played too slow? It sounds just terrible. I have accidentally had the displeasure of hearing this. You might be able to come across this if you have a vinyl record player. Anyway, a depressed brain kind of works like that. Even getting out of bed can be a major achievement under this strain. Basically, an antidepressant helps give the record player “juice” to play the record at normal speed and give you the song you deserve to hear.
Anyway, I hope this helps to dispel the “Happy Pills” myth. Because antidepressants are not happy pills. Happy pills do not exist.
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:
- A judgmental mother. She does not even acknowledge her daughter’s attempt. “She slipped,” she says.
- 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.
- They are trying to wrangle around her getting therapy with lies.
- Now, the doctor is talking to the mother. He brings up another point: that the mother might have blamed herself.
- Now the psychiatrist talks to the patient. She is describing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- 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?
So, I watched an episode of “God Friended Me.” It involved a woman and her autistic son. I believe the portrayal of the autistic son was realistic, albeit there were several stereotypes I have to point out.
Let me say, first of all, that I liked the casting of the family. The actors were black. Personally, I do not see enough diversity in the casting of autistic people, especially since people tend to think we all are white males who look and act like Sheldon Cooper. We’re not clones; Hollywood and Television City tends not to see that for the most part. Personally, I want more diversity in autism portrayals.
So, let’s talk about some stereotypes. The first stereotype I came across was that the child was nonverbal. I know nonverbal autistic types exist. The truth is, most of us are verbal – quite verbal in some cases, but I digress. It’s mostly a stereotype. A second stereotype is that the child has extraordinary talent – a savant trait, if you will. Now, it was not explicitly named, though it was heavily implied. I don’t know how many of us have a real savant trait, but I hear it’s not the majority. Finally, there seemed to be a sort of “magic key” stereotype that also creeps into many portrayals of mental illness as well. Why do they do the “magic key” thing anyway? Most of the time, it does not work.
Maybe I’m being too hard on stereotypes. The actor was not portraying an autistic meltdown, for example, and the child was finding his own way to communicate, which is often a foray into more traditional avenues of communication, such as the child’s smile. Maybe having one or two stereotypical behaviors helps identify the character, as long as there is truth to them; the lack of empathy stereotype is wrong and harmful, though. It may be some time before we get a real, authentic portrayal that offends few.
After saying all this, I still believe “God Friended Me” took steps in the right direction.
A common, albeit extremely ancient, myth is that autism is caused by mothers, known as “refrigerator mothers,” being cold and unaffectionate. Well, that’s not how my mother worked.
I remember as a child specifically being held and hugged by my mother many times. Often, she would tell me I needed a hug, and would often give me one. I enjoyed them, even though I may have been stiff about them in the past. (Did she know how to explain the proper hug response?) Well, this is one of the many examples of the warm and inviting personality my mother has.
Other examples include the parties my mother would throw for my siblings and I. They were awesome! For example, I would get a summer sleepover for my birthday. We would get candy and cake and movies…and all the gossip we could handle, though I was often the subject of the gossip. I tried, but could not quite get into the inner circle.
The thing is, I had no one explain to me the various tenets of social interaction. For example, no one told me that people do not sort the candy by color. So, how do you expect a girl who does not learn by osmosis, the way neurotypical people do, to interact well with people who learn by osmosis? Poorly, of course. It’s like a five-year-old trying to drive a car. They’re going to crash it.
So that’s the thing that autistic people need. Explanation and education. Maybe if there were social interaction classes, like the old “finishing school” stuff back in the 1950s, without the gender stereotypes and controlling women aspect, I would have had a chance. But even my best friend would bully me and stab me in the back, and I think my autism was to blame, because people hate different. I’m only an autistic human; be gentle.
Now, for some Godforsaken reason, when I come out as autistic to some people, they suddenly see this:
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.
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.