World Mental Health Awareness – I Don’t Want Awareness (I Want Acceptance)

I have written my entire blog around the theme of being “Anonymous” because many Autistic people are invisible, unseen and anonymous in the world. Autism is an “invisible disability” meaning you can’t tell someone is Autistic unless you ask them (or know Autism VERY well and are paying close attention).

People have awareness of Autism – they know exists, they know that Autism is a popular conversation, and it’s prevalence seems to be increasing. In 2014 it was estimated that 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

People know that Autistic children can have trouble in school and may be prone to meltdowns, but they don’t understand what causes a meltdown. Being aware that Autism exists and having acceptance of Autistic people are two very different things.

Today is World Mental Health Awareness day – but today I am NOT asking for more awareness. What I am asking for is understanding, true understanding, and acceptance.

Accept me.

When I am staring at you blank faced because I did not understand what you just said. Give me some time to process your words. Sometimes my brain works on a delay. It doesn’t mean I am not listening.

Don’t automatically repeat yourself. I may ask you for clarification. I might have heard you wrong. I’m doing my best. Don’t get frustrated if I ask you to repeat something.

I’m not Rain Man.

I shouldn’t even have to say it – but MOST Autistic people are NOTHING like Rain Man. Some of us have unique skills and abilities and some of us do not. No two Autistic people are the same and I can’t go into this without ranting because I get the “You’re nothing like Rain Man!” comment far too often.

Understand me.

Sometimes I have a hard time verbally expressing myself. It is hard for me to come up with on the spot conversations or talk about my feelings. Words do not come from my mouth easily – if I am talking to you my brain is working hard and I am doing my best.

If I am not talking don’t take it personally. Sometimes, if I am worn down and if I am tired the words get stuck in my mind as if traveling through glue. By the time the words are ready they are no longer relevant.

Don’t underestimate me. 

I do have some unique challenges, abilities, and disabilities. My brain works differently than most of the world but I am NOT stupid. Sometimes people talk down to me or talk to me like I am unintelligent. Technically, despite problems with my working memory, I am a genius so being talked to like a child is EXTREMELY offensive.

There will be things I can not do from time to time and tasks that I may find difficult, but I always try my best and do my hardest. On occasion I may ask for more time to complete or learn something new, but in general I tend to be unstoppable once I set my mind to something.

Stop asking me to blend in (and don’t compliment my ability to hide my Autism).

I can blend in if I have to, but passing is a LOT of work and takes up tons of mental energy. Let’s say I have 12 spoons to get me though my entire day. I only have so many spoons available to me and passing costs me about one spoon per hour. I need to save my spoons and  “passing” is too costly. (Please read The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino if you have NO idea what I am talking about.)

This world was not made for me. Our school systems teach us to blend in, sit still, and follow the crowd. This push to conform has haunted my all my life and eventually, when trying to blend in finally failed, I ended up with an Autism diagnosis.

Let me be me.

It’s been hard for me to learn to accept myself. Asking me to blend in, to fake it and be “less Autistic” makes me feel as if the “real me” is not good enough. I won’t do it any more – nobody should have to feel ashamed of they way they were born.

Today, on Mental Health Awareness Day, more than anything I am putting out a deep wish for true acceptance. Being aware of “mental illness” is not enough. It is important that we accept people as they are.

#WorldMentalHealthDay #invisibledisability #Glitch #mentalhealth #iamwhole#WMHD

 

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62 thoughts on “World Mental Health Awareness – I Don’t Want Awareness (I Want Acceptance)”

  1. Here’s something I read in a novel once (but written by a scientist) and apposite to what you say:

    “Society needed team players, which was all well and good as long as it didn’t lead to the ostracising and exclusion of gifted individuals who preferred to work alone. You didn’t often find genius working in a team”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Firstly, thank you for reading what I have written. I helps me think that maybe I’m not just writing to myself.

    I know almost nothing about Autism, so I cannot pretend to know. But I do have my depression that I’ve been dealing with. I think the commonality there is that it’s invisible and manifests in ways that people do not understand. I think that I’ll write about that next.

    As for “awareness,” I think that’s mostly money-making garbage. Breast cancer awareness comes to mind in October. I get people asking me if I would donate to breast cancer awareness, and I always say “no.” They ask why I don’t care about breast cancer, and I correct them, citing that I DO care, and that is why I donate to research and not lip-service.

    I like how you write, so I’ll be reading more of what you have to offer. Thank you again for reading mine.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I remember working in a petrol station a number of years ago, when people I want to school with came in they assumed I had to be the manager, they couldn’t understand why else I would be working there.
        It does hurt, it makes me feel like I’ve failed.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fantastic post. When I finished high school, I got to give a senior thesis on how autism was “misunderstood” by society. If you’d like, I can send you the paper. All in all, great piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on ARC Books and commented:

    I have to agree with this, I don’t want to have to explain myself to people, I want them to understand what my condition is, why I am the way I am, and to give some consideration to the difficulties I have dealing with social situations.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I agree with all of this. I’ve not only had people assume I’m stupid or slow, I’ve had people aware that I’m smarter than average and want to know why I haven’t made more of myself – they can’t understand that being smart doesn’t help if I can’t cope with the things that would make best use of my smarts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “’ve not only had people assume I’m stupid or slow, I’ve had people aware that I’m smarter than average and want to know why I haven’t made more of myself” – YES so much. People who know me are the ones who say the 2nd comment. It hurts more I think.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi This is great and as another person commented it can apply to any mental health condition (maybe any marginalised person that seems “different”). In my most recent blog I look at how I have experienced bullying and look at how there’s a blame the victim – to be different leaves you vulnerable to bullying. I also look how the Australian government could use a more supportive rather than draconian approach to those with seriously mental health issues. I believe it’s not just down to individuals to behave caringly but institutions should provide examples for treating those with vulnerabilities with respect, care & empowerment. My blog is https://2angelsandablackdog.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so beautifully written. What you wrote here can apply to so many conditions out there that I would like to share it on my blog about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). I felt like even though you were discussing your experiences with autism you were also describing the experiences I have had since my diagnosis with CRPS. This post has been in a way an eye opener for me because I have been so wrapped up in my condition or conditions related to it that I forgot about the bigger picture. I never considered the fact that no matter the issue (be it a chronic illness or mental health condition) we are all striving for the same thing – acceptance from our fellow human beings! I just want the people around me to understand my limitations and capabilities.

    Also I love love love that you used the spoon theory! There was a time where I kept being told that I just needed to toughen up. Showing the spoon theory to my family and using it to explain my limits was the first time I was able to truly get them to understand.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good post. While autism isn’t a mental illness, it sure does affect me mentally. Autism affects the whole brain. I once heard it put like the brain is 1 big office with different departments. The difference between NT and ND brains is that the departments work in harmony for the NT brain and not in ND brains.
    I think there will always be bigotry as humankind is a sinful and fallen race. That said, once we are made aware of that truth we can’t feign ignorance.
    We all need to accept each other where we are at in life and not try to fit someone into our mold.
    Listening more than we talk is also a good step in acceptance. I don’t need people to tell me who or what they think I should be. I need them to meet me where I am at.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. ive been struggling my whole life, and i like how you sum it up so neatly and beautifully in just 15 paragraphs. you got it perfectly.

    i also mentioned this post here as one made me think of the other in some way https://vjknutson.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/disabilitys-rage/comment-page-1/#comment-178 i appreciate (more than you could know) that you dont consider autism a disability per se. its a challenge, and thats parallel enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness! YOU ARE SO KIND TO ME! I am really glad you enjoy my writing. I don’t even know where it comes from. I think, maybe because of my Autism, there is a LOT going on in my head that I never say to anyone. It’s not that I don’t want to I just can’t. The words don’t come when I am in a busy place. Around other people only basic thoughts come out, but the ocean is much deeper and nobody knows. Inside I am writing in my mind, I am reading complex scientific materials and analyzing data from studies. People have no idea there is so much going on in my mind. It all comes out when I am alone and can type. I bottle it all up. All my thoughts flowing out at one time until I am empty and free.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. youre still doing it, youre still in my head. 🙂 my long lost twin.

        i realize no two are really alike. different ways of coping, different strengths and difficulties. the worst thing is that when you have a problem most people dont have– it requires solutions most people cant relate to. so while thats perfectly logical, its (usually) impossible to get good advice from the usual well-meaning people. so they just throw their hands up and ignore it from then on– so it is with my family, who cared until they found out the thing we always wondered about has a name, and really is a thing. but for what its worth, i know EXACTLY how large the world in your head is. and i think youre beautiful for it.

        Like

          1. feel free to contact me anytime, share some of the inside of your head if you like (youre doing fine with your blog– i really think its the best one ive found, i mentioned to a friend of mine offline about it today.)

            if youre ever interested (anytime, though i figure it will probably be later on– eventually, so no pressure at all) the best way is through my forum about programming and linux. but you can pm me there and/or get my email (the good email, the one youd actually want) through the forum– thats for future reference of course. i will continue following your blog. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Incredible entry and I want to thank you for having such an honest and well written blog. You are spot on – awareness and acceptance are not the same with any situation that makes us unique. I know it takes a lot to share personal experiences, even if done anonymously. So thank you for that.

    I read a study recently [1] that really contrasted “awareness” versus “acceptance” for me. In this particular study, researchers had college students wear goggles and headphones to simulate slight visual and auditory distortions; these were meant to mimic symptoms of schizophrenia. I found this problematic because their was no education before or after the “simulation”; students were subliminally taught “This is one-size-fits-all schizophrenia, enjoy”. The researchers didn’t bother to teach participants that many patients have completely different symptoms and most symptoms are managed with appropriate treatment. They glossed over diversity of individual experiences. Afterward, the college students did rate higher on “emapthy” than before the experiment, largely due to awareness on certain symptoms. However, they were also less accepting of schizophrenic people in their social circles. After the study they rated much higher on “aversion” to be near people diagnosed. Their awareness did not usher in acceptance, as assumed.

    Once again, great post and I appreciate the raw honesty.

    [1] Ando S, Clement S, Barley EA, Thornicroft G. The simulation of hallucinations to reduce the stigma of schizophrenia: A systematic review. Schizophr Res. 2011 Oct 16.

    Liked by 1 person

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