The Most Dangerous Myth About Depression

This entry happened due to a nice combination of reviews I stumbled upon today. This first was for a film about a botched suicide attempt where the main character is suddenly awakened due to an insane doctor who convinces her she’s dying. This act of malpractice of course cures her depression and makes her want to live.  The second was for a film about a mother dealing with severe anxiety who is told that she doesn’t need therapy but to embrace her role as a mother. Not a bad message but the film sounded staggeringly offensive to me.

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Odds and Ends 01/23/15

OK, I have been a bit absent from here and with good reason!

First off I have been on vacation. That’s kept me away. Had a great time in Delight and Memphis. Just nice visits both. Went to an opera in Memphis. Had fun.

Second I’ve actually been very hard at work on future entries. My plan is to release the first of three one week from today if not sooner. This is indeed my long promised Gap Year entry covering the time between college/adulthood. I’ll have a special bonus entry as well as a podcast in the offing to supplement it.

Until then I’ve got a link to a podcast I did on this blog. Shaun with No Totally interviewed me. You can hear it here.

Hope to have more soon

Driving Through My Past

One ting I suppose  is obvious about my life by now is I haven’t really left my childhood home. Sure I live 30 minutes away from Conway but it’s not exactly an epic distance. My parents commute between the towns. Amanda lived in Conway during the first year and a half of our relationship. Besides which, I grew up just as much in Little Rock as I did in Conway. I am very much still home.

I’m deeply content with this. Sure in time I do expect to leave, in fact I vow to, but for now I truly am home. I’m safe here after all. I know Little Rock by heart. This is everything to the aspie. After all, most of us are content to never leave home. Literally. I’ve at least done that. Besides. I’m here in no small part because it’s the only place to hire me. (1)

This has an interesting effect though. It’s impossible if you’re nostalgic not to layer the past over everything you see. Live in a town for 20 years and it becomes extremely easy. The layers of my past are dense and varied.

Tonight I had to run to Wal-Mart after work. The route started in the downtown area where I attended a play in 2002 and a few blocks from the site of the state student journalism cons. My beloved library is within sight too. 6.5 years in, the ADG has its own memories too. I keep going til I hit the interstate.

Driving down the road, I pass the university area. Park Plaza was where I mentally made peace with the move. It was where I spent time with my dad’s gf’s son. It was where I shopped constantly, especially in the pits of my depression. My magic number started there. Then it was where I got my groomsmans’ gifts. The other end has the planetarium where I was so teased in 1997, but also the campus where I attended my first HS journalism event in 1999. I visited that area with Pearcy a time or two too.

I get off on Markham and head to the Kroger. I remember when it was a Harvest Foods and had a video store. I go in but don’t find what I need. Back onto Markham were I pass the Kroger my dad frequented when he lived here. It alone in this region hasn’t changed. The layout is identical. I’ve bought booze for a party with my friend Daisy there. I was there so much with my dad. It’s an artifact.

The Wal-Mart might be new but I pass Financial Centre as I go. I was diagnosed in an office building there. Barnes and Noble, where I spent many an hour as a kid and, well, still do as an adult lies ahead. The Best Buy my dad took us to instead of the arcade is a few blocks away. The former Wynnsong 10 where I maintained my sanity in 1997 is a few blocls more. It’s an ITT now.

I get what I need in Wal-Mart and move on. I drive up past the Kroger on Shackleford into the neighborhood of Breckenridge Village. I use to go to the old BV theater, Saw Baby-Sitter’s Club, Return of the Jedi, and Lost World there. Current version I last visited last week. The hotel behind it was where I spent my last unmarried night.

I stop off at Taco Bell. I grab food and keep going. I pass the bowling alley. I was big into bowling in 97. Still am. I’ve been there recently, love it. There’s a nearby comic shop but I’m only now getting memories. The Drug Emporium I pass on this route was one of my first stops on my first solo drive into Little Rock. I graduated HS before that drive.

I get on Reservoir. I’ve driven this steep hilly road so many times. I come out on Cantrell at the start. I pass the Purple Cow which was one of the first things I remember about LR in 1994. It stood out to me. I eat there all the time now. Amazing food.

I drive past the Edwards Food Giant. Back in 1995, I remember riding through a part of the town that felt alien to me. Only as an adult have I realized this was it. We went to an obscure small bookstore that day. Said bookstore is on my route wen I walk through town now. Park Plaza isn’t much further away.

Finally, I am home. But I have always been home tonight.

The myth of autism superpowers and the dangers of positive stereotypes

I love the movie Rain Man. What’s not to love about it? Incredible script. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman doing first rate work. It’s moving. It’s touching. It’s pretty accurate as a portrait of lower functioning autism. There are things in the film I’ve seen captured nowhere else such as severe overstimulation and a strict adherence to routine. It’s a fine film and I’m not bothered by its classic status.

So what a shame it’s responsible for making everything harder for us by propagating the myth of autism superpowers. Rain Man marked the moment where society watched a guy count toothpicks and decided that applied to all of us. Things haven’t gotten better in the modern day with the never actually diagnosed but thought of as autistic Sherlock Holmes on the BBC series Sherlock being depicted as a genius at all he does but a jerk. Such autistic geniuses are spread throughout the media. This has led to a very common assumption that autistics might have issues but hey, there’s something cool they can do that a normal person can’t!

I’ll be blunt: it doesn’t work that way. There’s no hard data but I’ve heard a number of roughly 1 in 10 autistics have savantism, which was depicted in Rain Man. That’s not that many people. Characters like Sherlock are incredibly rare which makes sense. The character is Sherlock Holmes, the detective version of a superhero! Most heirs to industrial fortunes aren’t expected to be Iron Man. But since Sherlock’s a popular character in a seemingly realistic realm, he’s getting treated like he represents us. (Again, he’s undiagnosed, I stress.)

This stereotype likely stems from something that I do believe to be true, the image of the “little professors” Hans Asperger observed. This I don’t have a qualm with since it’s true in my own life. I’m an expert on film and comics. I can rattle off as many inane facts about Marvel as I have breath to do so. But that’s not a superpower. That’s a compulsive interest fostered over 30 years. It’s also fundamentally worthless. I can hang out on Twitter but I sure can’t make money off of it.

Many of the people I’ve met in the community are the same way. Diehard hobbyists and some are extremely good at their interest of choice but it’s because they studied it. We’re a bit more focused, sure, but that’s really the only edge I’ve seen. Furthermore, our interests can be rather alienating. So it’s a mixed blessing.

The thing is, I really think the media thinks it’s fine to perpetuate this myth. After all, it makes us look good. Who doesn’t want to be seen as having a brain that can see things in a cool, weird way? That’s awesome! It’s a flattering image that beats the image of the helpless autistic.

My issue with it is simple: it’s still false and kinda dehumanizing. Ok, it’s the other end of the spectrum from a weakling but it still otherizes us. It’s still putting us in that weird category of someone different from the NTs. Instead we’re supergenuises who can crack any problem but might not be nice. (I’ve hit that one enough.)

And imagine what it does to those of us who aren’t? I mean, there’s already a giant social stigma. Now we’re not even successful autistics? We also then get grilled by well meaning stupid people about the cool things we can do. Who wants that?

I’m not as angry about this cliche as the alternative, mind you. I mean, the two works I cited are a movie and a TV show I love. I just feel like there needs to be more realism. Positive stereotypes might be positive, but they’re still stereotypes.