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?

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Yanny or Laurel: Something Else at Work

Can you believe it? There is a debate raging through English-speaking society, ripping the fabric of society even as we sepak. It’s gotten on all major news outlets, divided the country and is basically causing World War III. It is the “Yanny” vs “Laurel” debate.

Now, let’s get this out of the way. I usually hear “Yanny.” However, when you isolate the higher tones and play the lower tones only, I distinctly hear “Laurel,” and in a much lower register. Now, why is that? I have a theory. It has to do with what dominant tones a person hears. “Yanny” has a high, somewhat nasal effect to it, while “Laurel” has a lower sound. The “Yanny” people might have trouble, as do I, hearing lower tones.

Here’s more evidence of my theory: I have trouble hearing Benedict Cumberbatch at times, especially when he speaks fast. Of course, he is definitely a man of lower tones. But I have no trouble hearing the higher-pitched voices seemingly everywhere in the voices of Japanese animation. Now, think about that for a minute. What if what you hear from that creepy robot voice indicates something else at work? Maybe you have trouble hearing specific tones.

Due to this theory, I would like to propose being kind to those who hear differently. It might actually repair society’s bonds. Oh, who am I kidding? World War III is around the corner.

A Little Primer on Cinco de Mayo

Maybe I should keep quiet about Cinco de Mayo, but I really want to help bring about the truth in the celebration. So that’s what motivates me.

Most people in the United States use May 5th to down Margaritas or Mexican beers and get sloppy drunk – and throw those drinks back up – but as I’ve recently learned, that’s not the real reason to celebrate. As a person who chooses sobriety on the daily, I decided to learn the real reason behind this holiday that is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. (You’re thinking of September 16 for that one.) What makes Cinco de Mayo so important is that it is a day in which Mexico contributes to the outcome of the USA’s Civil War.  

 In 1862, when this all happened, the Union Navy had the Confederates in a naval blockade. The cotton (and other things) of the South was not getting to places like France, who decided to try and set up a place to bypass the blockade and get their all-important cotton. They chose Puebla, which turned out to be a bad idea. The residents of Puebla were not to be pushed around, defeating the French there, and contributing to the eventual Union victory of the US Civil War. If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, you’ll have to travel to Puebla, because that’s probably the only place they celebrate Cinco de Mayo anyway.

 So, in brief, Cinco de Mayo is really a US holiday to celebrate the major contributions of Mexico to the USA. I have no problem celebrating that – sober. I don’t like being drunk anyway.

Get Me Out of This Stinking Cradle! I’m Not a Baby!

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

  1. Make Decisions
  2. Hold Bank Accounts
  3. Have Sex, Even in Marriage
  4. Get Married
  5. Anything Sexual
  6. Have a Relationship outside Parent/Child unless allowed
  7. Control their own finances
  8. Dress themselves
  9. Feed themselves
  10. Have their viewpoints considered
  11. Be listened to
  12. Answer their own questions
  13. Have their own interests, including Special Interests
  14. 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.

Autism Warrior Moms and My Mom

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.

Stigma on TV: The Carmichaels Edition

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?  

Seek Help Beforehand

Chester Bennington was found dead of suicide. He was 41. I recently came across a tweet that basically said, “If you only want to talk about mental illness when someone famous commits suicide, you’re part of the problem.” Trouble is, that seems to be the only time people are listening. Most of the time, people shut their ears at anything unpleasant. They want to be unrealistically happy. I consider myself a pretty happy person, but I have also been diagnosed with major depression right along with my autism. (Surprise, surprise – this world drives me crazy.) But mental health should be talked about all the time, not just when something terrible happens to shake you out of your “Happy Haze.”

For me, mental health is a daily management. It’s a sort of demand in order to keep performing at my peak. I include my medicines in my routine. There is no shame in the process. I just take my meds and move along with my day. If there is a problem, I talk it over with someone who can help me. Again, there is no shame in the process. Yeah, I live with the specter of stigma when it comes to mental illness, but I know that I am an adult, and I do not have to take on that stupid stigma myself.

I can tell what people are thinking – what if I go off my meds? Then I become irrationally depressed. That’s why I stay on my meds. I can tell people are thinking this, because every mentally ill person on TV has been through a “go off their meds and go crazy” storyline, usually with a dictation that they cannot cope with society and need to be locked up at least for a time. What a negative, hateful, bigoted LIE! Those with mental illness (I use “mentally ill” and “with mental illness” interchangeably) are perfectly capable of living in society, with their meds. Perhaps this dictation from the media is why Chester Bennington never sought help for himself and is now dead. Perhaps seeing illness as weakness is why Robin Williams never sought help for himself and is now dead as well. Perhaps the fear and stigma surrounding having a mental illness is why so many people never get help for their conditions and let their conditions morph into boatloads of unnecessary drama and, in many cases, unnecessary suicide.

Now, let’s get the myth out that a person who commits suicide is supposed to go through with it anyway. I once considered suicide a long time ago. My mother found out about it, and eventually I got help for my own conditions. That’s how I got diagnosed with major depression. Here’s the thing about it all: Once I verbalized my pain, I changed my mind. Here’s the kicker: eventually, a person will change their mind. Maybe it’s in the throes of death itself, but they eventually change their mind. A survivor of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge himself regretted the act once he went through with it. As he was falling, he prayed to survive. The point of that is, we will change our mind. Perhaps if society made it okay to admit you’re struggling with your own head, we would seek help BEFORE we are falling off the Golden Gate Bridge, so to speak. I want people okay with thinking about unpleasant things. Maybe we can prevent tragedy when we do.