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?  

Autism Reality Show: A Reality Show No One Wants, But One We Need 

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?

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.

A Closer Look at Glorifying Autism

I just heard the most ridiculous thing: we autistics are “glorifying” autism. I would like to know: How do you do that? How do you glorify something when you can’t help but be that something? This contends to be a twofold problem: One, people are upset that there are autistic people out there in the first place. Two, they are upset that these autistic people are not going away. These accusations of “glorifying” autism are simply one thing in particular: they are undeniable proof that people have a hate of autistic people because they choose not to understand them. They are willfully ignoring us because of anti-autistic prejudice.

Anti-autistic prejudice has existed since the discovery of autism itself. There is no denying that. What exists around it is that people are willing to stick their fingers in their ears and yell “LA LA LA LA LA” at autistic people, as if they think autistic people have no idea what is going on with them. Why do you not take autistic people at their word? Is it because you are going to find out you might be wrong about us? This inexperienced “expertise” is one of the things most Actually Autistic People hate about Autism Speaks. Yeah, there may be so-called “experts” on the field of autism now, but it is only after an autistic campaign of shame and exposure, and for us, it’s too little, too late. Those neurotypical experts, I believe, come from the same position of autism as most White Americans on the position of Africa. The position is as such: they know what it is, they maybe have seen it somewhere, but have they experienced it? No. Only people who have been to Africa can actually tell you about Africa. Likewise, only people who are autistic can fully tell you about the experience of autism.

So, about “glorifying” autism: this seems to me, as I have said before, a simple sign of trouble with autistic people existing. Why don’t you just say: “We hate autistic people?” I mean, be honest. Isn’t that what you always really wanted to say? Usually, somebody talking about “glorifying” something that simply exists is actually wanting to say how much they hate it. They are saying they do not want to be reminded that it exists. They want it to go away. They hate it. They hate us.

Why do I speak of hate in the “glorifying” accusations? Simple: it is there. Usually, when a “glorifying” accusation is thrown out, it is thrown out at something unpleasant that people want to go away. Here are a few: glorifying drugs, glorifying LGBT existence, glorifying single motherhood; I could go on. What all these things people are supposedly glorifying have in common is this: they are unpleasant to some. What these accusations of glorifying do not do is help. They simply drive these unpleasant things underground, where they can thrive in the fertile ground of secrecy. We need to talk of unpleasant things. No, we are not glorifying that.

April Post 11: Autism Portrayals in Media 

Much of the Autism Awareness talk has died down by now. Even the store displays are showing the leftovers from puzzle piece junk, like keychains and stuff.  

I’ve decided to talk about an issue that seems to plague the portrayals of autistic people in the media. The fact is, nobody is listening to anybody else about how people really are. I know for a fact that it plagues all portrayals, but I am focusing on autism here. I have struggled to find a similar portrayal that falls far short – and needs somebody to explain to these people how – and I found it in Japanese Engrish.  

I’m only giving you this link to the site because it is very offensive, not only to English speakers, but it makes the Japanese look like morons, just because they don’t know the ins and outs that native English speakers do. Now, it’s kind of like this Japanese Engrish unlearnedness that plagues portrayals of autism in the media. Many of us autistic people find most portrayals offensive. So far, the best portrayal I can find is Billy Cranston in the new Power Rangers movie. Otherwise, even little Julia from Sesame Street has some traits that offend autistic people. This comes from people not listening to those of us with autism. 

Now, tell me: would you rather have a portrayal of autism that is accurate and tasteful, or an autism portrayal that is like Japanese Engrish?