Quiet. Shocked. Sick. Too scared to even speak of tornado devastation. These are the feelings running through my head yesterday and this morning. All of the tornado damage is just too much to comprehend. It leveled an entire town, just look at it. Of course, I am speaking about what happened to Moore, Oklahoma yesterday as a high-rated tornado took out the town. Two schools, a hospital, and countless cars and homes. But I have seen this sort of devastation on TV before. In Joplin, Missouri; in New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina; and close to me once in Northridge, CA. An earthquake there took out a five-story building. Yet somehow, through love and care from the outside world, we continue to strive and move on. That's the American Spirit.
I am mostly an outsider looking in. I don't know if it's the autism talking, but I get extremely scared every time I turn on a news channel showing it. I mean, there have been tornadoes on the outskirts of my small Kentucky town where I live now. That insane amount of destruction could happen here - and most people do not have storm cellars! Most of them don't even have basements! I know my building has no basement, so we crouch down in the bathroom - one of only two places in our apartment with no windows. We crouch down until the sirens stop, basically. But what if a tornado came to our apartment building? Unfortunately, I can only watch the devastation in bits and pieces until I have had some time to process it all. Sorry, but I am a wimp in that respect. I can't get the CNN effect going again. I had enough of that in the days immediately following 9/11.
One of the stereotypes of autism is that people like me have no caring or compassion. We do - we just do not know how to show it properly. We look at the devastation and break down, because we know deep down what sadness and terror come after all of this. We need direction on how to properly show our compassion and emotion. I mean, ask us if we want to help with some activity or donation on how to help. If they pray, tell them to pray. If they like to do an art or craft, tell them to make a blanket. Teach them to help gather food in the store for the victims - they might resist, but they will eventually come around. If they still do not get compassion, ask them how they would feel if they were in the middle of all that. Then explain to them their response is how a lot of the kids feel. They will get that eventually - believe me, I did.
I have signed up for #NAMIWalks. My page is at http://namiwalks.nami.org/cambriaj1977 , or you could try my team, Purple Ponies, at http://namiwalks.nami.org/purpleponies so I can raise funds. Anyone who is willing to send money, please do so. Here are a few things you might be thinking:
1) Why have you signed up for NAMIWalks?
I signed up for NAMIWalks because it is a fundraiser promoted by NAMI, which fights the stigma of mental illness nationwide.
2) But isn't autism a developmental disability?
Yes, autism is a developmental disability as it is classified now, but I also have clinical depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My mother and aunts have Bipolar Disorder. Those are mental illnesses.
3) Why should we care about mental illness?
Mental illness torments about 1 in 4 people in the United States. The illnesses themselves
4) What is this stigma I keep hearing about mental illness?
Glad somebody asked that question. "Stigma" is the belief that there is inherently something wrong with a person's very existence because of one trait or another. For example, people with mental illnesses are, according to stigma, only good if they are nonexistent, because the average crazy one is amoral and going to kill you. Obviously, that is a stereotype, and not the average person with mental illness. But many people believe that sentence.
5) So stigma is based on stereotypes. What are other stereotypes about people with mental illness?
Here are a few:
People with mental illness have no morals.
People with mental illness should not be trusted.
People with mental illness do not have any real experiences of pain or discomfort.
People with mental illness are too loud for society.
People with mental illness do not have real religious experiences.
People with mental illness are liars.
People with mental illness cannot hold money right.
People with mental illness cannot live in polite society.
People with mental illness have no value.
People with mental illness will harm our children.
6) I thought that was all true! I mean, there's Michael Myers. He's crazy and he kills people. There's also Kane from the world of wrestling.
The media tends to portray people with mental illness in a negative light. Don't believe everything Hollywood tells you.
Well, I want to raise money for NAMIWalks because they have helped me with many things concerning mental illness, not only as a sufferer but as a family member as well. If you feel moved to give, feel free to do so,
My life has been a little busy lately...because I have a new puppy. He is a tiny gray Pomeranian with white little paws. He has completely changed my schedule up and down. Also, I have been trying to make over my house (apartment, whatever). I'll keep you posted on how it's going, and post pictures when I am done.
I have found another set of myths to debunk. Now these particular myths are ones I have encountered. I will simply put down the myth, and tell my experience with it.
People with autism don't want friends. I have autism and I want friends. I may want to spend a little more time alone, but life is richer with friends.
People with autism can't feel or express any emotion—happy or sad. I was called "Crybaby" as a child for being hurt so much. My mother certainly knows I can express emotions. There have even been times I was angry enough to cry - most women understand that one.
People with autism can't understand the emotions of others. As one with autism, I may have trouble picking up on subtle cues, but laughter, anger and tears I certainly understand.
People with autism are intellectually disabled. I have been told I was not autistic for this very myth. One counselor changed my diagnosis because "with autism comes mental retardation," even though Temple Grandin was certainly not intellectually disabled.
People with autism are just like Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man. I have been asked to do math equations, and have trouble calculating normally. I have been asked how many are left in a box a few times...I have no clue. But I can tell you about certain gemstones and their properties. Anyway, autism is a spectrum disorder - but I am sure you already knew that. I have seen close to the low end of functioning, and the high end of functioning.
People who display qualities that may be typical of a person with autism are just odd and will grow out of it. I have learned that autism is a disorder that can be lifelong.
People with autism will have autism forever. Recent studies show that some people can test out of the autism diagnosis after intensive intervention.
Autism is just a brain disorder. Well, let's begin: there are gastrointestinal disorders, allergies (I have two), and food sensitivities. That is the talk behind gluten-free and dairy-free diets for those with autism. Fortunately, I have dodged the food sensitivity and gastrointestinal bullets. I have only had an allergy to generic Ritalin and Douglas Fir trees.
Autism is caused by bad parenting. This particular myth comes from a now-disproved theory stemming from the 1950s. It read that mothers who "lacked warmth" gave autism to their children.
The prevalence of autism has been steadily increasing for the last 40 years. More like a sharp rise in the last ten years. I firmly believe that wider acceptance and diagnosis are the reasons for a larger prevalence.
Therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance. Not in Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee....at last check, only about half the states have mandatory coverage for those with autism.
Why do I debunk myths when they can find these same myths on other websites? It's quite simple, really. It is for getting the information out that these particular statements are wrong. It is to battle ignorance in the minds of anyone willing to hear my views. Myths cause ignorance, ignorance leads to stigma, stigma to prejudice, and prejudice to discrimination. I am here fighting what seems to be a losing battle against stigma every day.
There is no such thing as a perfect blog post. I have been silent for weeks because of this fact. In looking for the perfect topic to write, I have offended family, put off friends, and feared being taken off the autism website for not writing all the time about autism. There is so much that I felt I could never put to writing on this blog about what I like: current events, fashion, friendship, science fiction, God! But I have been afraid to do this for many reasons. How many people will be offended? Will they retaliate? Will I lose friends among family blood? And the final question: Is it autistic enough?
What is autistic enough? Is it deliberately antisocial behavior? Is it writing the same thing over and over again? Is it acting like the character in "Rain Man" to appease the public? I am sick and tired of trying to prove whether or not my blog is good enough for you. If you don't like it, don't read it. America is a free country. The Internet is a free Web. Go write your own opinion instead of attacking mine.