Mental Health Awareness
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, one month a year where people wear green and talk about mental health. As someone who struggles with their mental health, I wish we would spend more time talking about these issues because the truth is EVERYONE has mental health.
“Mental health is JUST as important as physical health, but many people will ignore this topic until they are forced to face it.“
People who have limited mental health knowledge and experience are likely to be ill-equipped to handle the trouble that can arise when a problem surfaces for the first time, compared to those who have been battling our mental health demons longer.
In the United States, nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. Out of those Americans who reported experiencing a mental illness, it is estimated that only 42.6% will access mental health services (According to National Institute of Mental Health).
Many autistic people I have met say they also struggle with mental health and do not have access to the help they need. I, personally, struggle with my mental health and do not receive professional treatment, despite being very open to it and knowing it could be beneficial to me.
For most of my life, I did not know that I could or should make my mental health a priority. As I was growing up, nobody spoke about anxiety and other mental health issues. I failed to develop healthy coping mechanisms and, when I was younger, often experienced explosive anger and violent meltdowns.
The anxiety inside me would boil up and suffocate me until I felt like a trapped animal, backed in a corner ready to fight – myself. In a battle with my mind. Overwhelming panic, diverted into anger and frustration because those emotions felt better than fear.
Before I learned to isolate myself when I meltdown OR have a panic attack (I treat both with similar remedies so that I can calm and soothe myself), there was always the chance of collateral damage. The damage would often be to my relationships and the feelings of the people I care about when I become anxious and snappy or say something unkind that I will regret later.
My meltdowns and mental health seem to go hand in hand with one another very nicely. If I stop taking care of my mental health and let my anxiety gets out of control, one of the first signs I notice is more meltdowns. When I’m managing myself better, I don’t have very many – although the occasional meltdown is always possible under the right conditions.
“My meltdowns are like a stop sign, a painful reminder that self-care is not optional and mental health is precious.“
I know many anxious autistics, but I don’t believe anxiety is inherently part of the autistic neurotype. Many of the autistic people I know, myself included, have also been through some very intense traumas by the time we reach adulthood.
Then there is the trauma of living in a world that is not designed with you in mind, and the trauma of being told that your way of doing things is wrong, so you need to adapt yourself to fit into the world. There is the trauma of repeated rejections, without understanding the reasons. Don’t forget the trauma of being told you are broken, weird, or defective over and over again through your life, starting in early childhood.
These are the traumas of the autistic population. Collective traumas that many autistic people share. We are pushed through a system of ignorance that breaks us, and gaslights us, to the point where many of us doubt our own realities.
Despite having a constant battle with anxiety, perfectionism, and other maladaptive tendencies, I do not believe that autistic people inherently have bad mental health. In fact, I’ve met a few autistic people who seem to have GREAT mental health.
What does the community think about this? Do they feel autistic people are born anxious or are there other hidden systemic issues eroding the mental health of the autistic population? Time for an important question.
Many of you have said that you also struggle with anxiety or other mental health issues. Why do you think that is?
Think a lot of it is the whole “being in a world that isn’t designed for us and people not listening to us about our own experience”. At the same time, I have a strong family history of mental health issues/depression coming from both sides, so not a surprise I have it too. | Âûght / Trudy Goold, @tagoold
There’s a reason autism was originally considered to be a subset of cptsd. We all have PTSD. Because it’s traumatic to deal with a world designed against your needs. | @AprilSpectrum
“A trauma response to years of being bullied, belittled, and misunderstood.”
Because we’ve internalized all our lives that something is wrong with on and walk on eggshells to prevent displeasing someone or being rejected | Caitlin Smith, @aspergersiscool
“Easy. Gaslighting about sensory issues.“
In my case I think I developed social anxiety in large measure because of frequent failures of social communication with neurotypicals. | Eric Hamell, @EricHamell
You mean, aside from the years of accidental emotional neglect, the years of less accidental physical and emotional abuse, and the looming spector of capitalism telling me I should starve to death for being a ‘drain on society’ despite all the value I give society for free. | AnDrew Cooper, @HydraHeadhunter