After a day of rest, I have enough energy to talk about how I dealt with Christmas.
I don’t really have any more tips, other than know your autistic relative.
Christmas Eve was basically spending an evening at my cousin’s place for food, family and fun. The funny thing is, it was almost entirely about vegetable casseroles, almost all of which I like very much. Off topic, it’s funny how I have come to like vegetables as an adult, even after thinking I would never like them as a child. Somehow, trying new things and culinary adventure came to include veggies in adulthood. Sometimes, one just needs to bite the bullet and try it. There’s no shortcuts to that one. We also got games, good family talking and even some quiet times, too. It was great. I was disappointed in one factor, though; I wanted to talk to the parents of an autistic relative of mine. He’s a young boy, but I would like to have a talk with his parents, you know, to provide some perspective. But they were not there. I was not exactly going to grill them or provide lectures, but it helps when you’re not alone in a family, as I have so often felt.
Christmas Day was a little different. We invited a couple who had just gotten together, but the man in the two was a friend, so it was alright. Much of the food was on my shoulders, but it was very easy. We had Prime Rib, steamed vegetables, rice pilaf, rolls and a salad, plus cheesecake for dessert. It’s not easy to screw up Prime Rib. Twenty minutes at a high temperature and then 25 minutes per pound. It was done within three hours, resting included. That was the hardest part of the meal. I mean, rice pilaf is very easy from the boxes, and I’ve done rolls many times for Thanksgiving. So, easy meal, good food, good friends, and an overall nice time. It started to get very cold when the day was done, so we had to get them home early. We had a nice time, with blocks of quiet book ending the day. Could not have asked for more.
As I’ve been roaming around online, I’ve come across a disturbing thing: A person faced what has been called infantilization of autistic people. The commenter got a flat-out accusation of lying because she was not “innocent” and “sweet” like an autistic should be. I wanted to go to this person and ask whether or not she understands that autistic children grow up, but sadly, I can’t. This is a problem among people who think of autistic and other disabled people as children. This usually denies us rights that neurotypical adults enjoy all the time.
Now, what are these rights supposed to be? Well….
THINGS CHILDREN CAN’T DO THAT ADULTS CAN, UNLESS ALLOWED
- Make Decisions
- Hold Bank Accounts
- Have Sex, Even in Marriage
- Get Married
- Anything Sexual
- Have a Relationship outside Parent/Child unless allowed
- Control their own finances
- Dress themselves
- Feed themselves
- Have their viewpoints considered
- Be listened to
- Answer their own questions
- Have their own interests, including Special Interests
- Vote their own way
…And the list goes on and on.
Now, I don’t say we ought to let those who clearly can’t take care of themselves be loosed upon the world with that responsibility. What I am saying is, teach the children age-appropriate responsibility. And do NOT assume that the person is not “getting” the concept now means they will not get the concept later, or even sooner. What I am also saying is, ask yourself if it is appropriate to the person’s age to handle the responsibility you are trying to teach them. Most of the time, it usually is. Adulting should be taught to autistic people. Adulting, that is, handling adult tasks and responsibilities, is usually appropriate to the autistic adult.
Back to the “innocent” and “sweet” way that autistic adults “should” be, according to the person who thinks they should. What makes you an expert on autism? Why do they have to be children? Don’t you know every child eventually grows up? You don’t think an autistic person can be forty years old? Boy, you are in for a shock. I was born in 1977. Do the math.
I don’t need to tell you how I carry myself as an adult. Besides, you would probably think I am lying when I say I am autistic because I am not some sweet little baby you can put in a cradle and control. Why do I even have to justify my autism to you? You won’t listen, anyway.
I do not consider my mother an autism warrior mom. Warrior moms and my mother are very different. Take autism warrior moms. They prescribe restrictive diets. They have “therapists” beat the children, starve the children and hold their children’s favorite things above their heads until they exhibit neurotypical behavior. Of course, I am referring to Applied Behavior Analysis. They don’t give any rewards until the child passes for neurotypical in the therapists’ eyes. They even pump caustic bleach up the child’s rectum in hopes for a “cure” for autism. And when their children finally grow up and rebel, they often murder the child, and society takes their side.
My mother was not the usual autism warrior mom. Sure, she’s a warrior and a mom, but she knows that things are there to protect me, not her ego. She never did things like restrictive diets, ABA and CD/MMS to Make Cambria Neurotypical Again. Of course, I was never neurotypical in the first place. She also told me that. I exhibited signs of difference as a baby. Sure, she fought for me to have speech therapy and social training, but not really passing for neurotypical. She explained to me that I was learning how to act in public. In private, I could be myself. She taught me basic life skills, like cooking, cleaning and paying bills. (Of course, with pre-cut frozen vegetables and basic sauces, cooking is really quite easy for me.) Eventually, I will learn to drive. I want to drive badly, so my mother can focus on getting better. What I am trying to say is, I can generally take care of myself, which is more than I can say for most “warrior mom” children out there.
The difference between my mother and “warrior” mothers is, there was a modicum of acceptance concerning my mother. Once she learned about autism for the first time, she prayed and asked God for guidance. (As you all know, we are Christians.) I think she never really knew about ABA, but I don’t think she would have approved of the techniques. When I had to stim, I did – even if it meant running up and down the hall six times. I am not traumatized by her upbringing.
Now, I’ve been watching the TV show OutDaughtered. For those not in the know, the father has been dealing with a form of depression. He has been getting encouragement to get professional help, and it takes a final exposure of the mother’s pain to do it. That’s all I’m going to say on this one.
I’m not saying there is a perfect show about dealing with mental illness stigma. What I am saying is, this show kept the stigma to a minimum. It was mentioned a few times, but it was kept in a more visceral sense, and it was definitely fought with. That’s what I want when dealing with mental illness stigma – fighting it like the plague.
It’s a funny thing, how different TV shows deal with mental conditions. I know I criticized The Carmichaels in the past about their handling of mental illness stigma, and they are about a black family. To ME, PERSONALLY, these things are completely unrelated. If OutDaughtered were about a black family, or The Carmichaels were white, I would have dealt the same reviews. I still think they ought to fight stigma as much as they can. Somehow, I still believe The Carmichaels would have revisited the issue with mental illness stigma had they not been canceled. As I have said before, I liked The Carmichaels. I just wish they would have fought the stigma of mental illness more.
When I heard an actress, who had recently given birth, was getting health with her postpartum depression, I felt that concern time was over because I somehow knew she was in good hands. I often wonder if that concern was prematurely ended. I mean, since she was in good hands, she was getting good help, right?
I was wondering: when should you be concerned with a person’s mental health, and when should you be NOT concerned? Also, could you be too concerned? Could that concern actually be thinly-veiled fear?
When you’re dealing with your own mental health, I think concern should be best had by the person themselves. Mental health persons, when dealing with it, can be their own best advocates. Besides, they know what is best for them a majority of the time, especially in dealing with the tedious trial-and-error method of mental health medication. I am a fan of telling the doctor everything that is going on with your body, mind and mood. I know it’s long and drawn out. I myself had to tell my own prescriber that I was not feeling and functioning when they switched my prescription on me once. I am even glad there is somebody who looks out for me and my mental state as well. Unfortunately, few of those with mental illness have that person who really looks out for them. I know I am blessed in that aspect.
About excess concern: that is usually a veiled fear of mental illness itself, and the various aspects of the behavior. I must speak again and again of the stigma, fear and hate that surrounds us who have mental illness, and our families. Pushing it under the rug will do nobody any favor. As a matter of fact, stigma gives mental illness a cover of darkness, and darkness is the perfect environment for the illness to spread and fester like bacteria, claiming lives and families as it grown. It is only in exposure to the light of day that we can fight it.
So, what is the limit of concern? Where do we stop being scared for the person and begin to help the person in their fight for their health?
I’m getting real mad at The Carmichael Show. This is what facing mental illness stigma is like.
Well, the episode started with the matriarch crying by herself in the kitchen, while nobody else knew. The elder son’s girlfriend, who is a therapist, caught her, and the matriarch would not let her help her. They went out to the living room, where the girlfriend told the men (and got called a snitch), who began a discussion about depression. The discussion following reeked with stigma. There was talk of weakness, of not talking about it, of saying it only happened to rich and (implied) white people, and even self-medication with weed. It literally took holding the day’s plans hostage to actually get her to go to therapy. She eventually went to therapy, but admitted she lied about everything. It took a fight out front in the living room and admitting the pressure she put herself under to get her to go to therapy again.
Anyway, I summarized the episode because I’m still processing the information. It makes me mad because if this is what we with mental illness face going into various communities, it’s no wonder so many of them are going to jail! Now, I’m not blaming the African American community at large for the crimes of a few. That is not the problem. The problem is stigma. The problem is hate and discrimination against the “crazy” (and yes, that word was used at one point), which will get them locked up in jail or prison before they get help. The largest mental health institution in the United States is the Cook County Jail in Chicago. Perhaps if people were encouraged to seek help for their problems, maybe they would not wind up in jail! It often takes TV shows like The Carmichael Show encouraging getting help to get people to get help. Unfortunately, I feel they dropped the ball on this one. Why not fight the stigma?
I Just read an article about a TV show concerning an autistic character. According to the review, it is simply the same “Experts because they know someone autistic” who gets a LOT of autism wrong. The show has not even come out on Netflix yet, and I’m disappointed. Maybe it could apply to one autistic character or person, but not a great majority. See, there is autism in all races, cultures, genders and sexualities.
I somehow think that the best interpretation of autism on TV is one which groups several autistic people together, of different ages, races and genders, and simply follows them around. You know, an autism reality show. No inspiration porn, no neurotypical censorship, no getting autistics wrong. Just autistic people, navigating a world that is not for them. But I think nobody will take it. Neurotypicals like to get autistic people and put them in a little box. Trouble is, if you don’t fit in this little box, you’re not autistic. Even professionals withhold help because women and people of color, and successful people too, do not fit into this little box. They withhold help in the form of refusing to diagnose autistic people with their autism. This is why we need an autism reality show in the form I described.
Besides, if you were a bird who could fly, would you rather not learn how to fly from a bird?