What I Wish Neurotypicals Would Quit Saying About Mental Illness

This will not be a long entry because it doesn’t need to be. This is however something I have to clarify because people in my community and related mental illness communities keep having the same problem. So let me say this as clearly as I can:

STOP TALKING ABOUT OUR CONDITIONS AS IF THEY ARE “JUST A PART” OF US THAT WE CAN “OVERCOME!”

This is something we hear over and over again from countless well meaning people. That our mental disability, whatever it may be, is just one of myriad elements about us. That we don’t need to live defined by it. The worst thing we hear is that we can “overcome it.” I’ve heard that one over and over again, especially as I’m able to act like a “normal” person.

Look, we know you all mean well when you say this. You’re trying to encourage us to succeed in a society that is profoundly, clinically judgmental. We also know that you’re trying to be sensitive to the unfortunate truth that our conditions are often a limitation in that world. Trying to encourage us to deal with them is a wonderful thing compared to judging us for them.

So in that light let me explain why this is a bad thing. It’s a poor choice of words because it’s impossible. Oh, many of these conditions are treatable, to be clear. I feel far stronger for my experiences in therapy. But no matter what, I will always be autistic. I will always be at war with depression. There’s never going to be a day where I’m completely clear of them. I’m not going to overcome this. I’m going to live with it.

But there’s a problem in what I just said there: It is not separate from me. I don’t really have autism. That implies my brain is somehow separate from the thing that is me. That’s ridiculous on the face of it. It’s more accurate to say I’m autistic and experience depression. It’s an accurate description of the condition of my brain’s functioning and to us they’re completely nonjudgmental.

The thing outsiders don’t get is those of us with mental illness aren’t ashamed of it, at least not how they expect. Sure, life would be easier without it in a world not prepared to deal with it. But most of us are pretty matter of fact about it and we absolutely do not see it as separate from us because we know how the mind works. We’ve had to study it after all.

Does that mean I want them to be the first things people bring up. No, because they don’t really tell you anything about me. Autism is marked by extreme individuality after all. But if you’re describing my condition, saying I have autism is clumsy and really not accurate. I’m autistic, no big deal. Same for the rest.

I stress, I know most of you mean well. If you didn’t, you would’ve clicked away long ago. What we really want in all things is to be heard. This is a place to start.

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