It gets said a lot, but I think it’s important. When adversity arises, the best answer to it is pride. All inequality functions largely on shame. Sure, fear and ignorance is also a large part of it, but it are shame that gives prejudice fangs. In an ideal scenario where nobody was ashamed of who they were, there would be no discrimination Ð not because people aren’t still afraid or ignorant, but because you can only keep fighting fruitlessly for so long before you’re the one who looks bad.
This is as true for the mentally ill as it is for any underrepresented group. The entire prejudice surrounding mental illness is born out of the stereotype of a crazed gunman. Even though no generalizations are made in the mass media, there are also no apologies made to the mentally ill. Add to that the presence of this image in politics, and the result is a stereotype that hurts far more people than it protects. Due to this image, many people are reluctant to get help for their condition/s, and thus nothing improves in their lives.
That’s one of the reasons, though part of it is certainly dependent on other factors, that I refuse to be ashamed of having Asperger’s. As I said in a previous column, I prefer to think of it as an advantage more than a disadvantage. It may even be better than most talents or advantages. After all, anyone can train to run a marathon, or lift weights, or solve complex equations, but no amount of training is going to give you the creativity or enhanced focus that comes with Asperger’s. If you weren’t born with it, you don’t have it. Honestly, I have thought occasionally about what it would be like to not have any of the conditions I deal with, but I don’t do it very often. I can’t imagine life like that, at least none that seem interesting. No offense to those who are neurotypical, of course. This is more of a personal preference.
I definitely understand the feeling of wanting at least parts of my difficulties to go away. I would love to be a little braver, a little more charismatic, maybe get stressed out less easily; but all the subtler stuff, the rocking, the fidgeting, the occasional bouts of hyperactivity or walking on my toes. None of that bothered me. Plus, the creativity, and all the strange ways of thinking that come with it, are probably my favorite things about myself. I don’t think I’d ever give that up, even if it did make me braver.
As always, if you would like to share your own experiences, or have questions or comments for me, feel free to send them in. You are more than welcome to remain anonymous if you wish. Also, if you have any suggestions for a topic that you think I should write about, feel free to send that in, too. I would be glad to write about anything that is important to you guys.