The other day I posted a video on my social media account “autistic jiu jitsu” discussing a challenge that some people on the autism spectrum have. That challenge is known as “rejection sensitive dysphoria” and I discussed it in order to highlight it being common among people, not just people on the spectrum. After My post I received a number of messages thanking me for the information and some of those persons stressed that they didn’t like being labelled as having something. They felt that labels were restrictive and sort of trapped a person in a box.
That is something I can certainly understand but for me it also highlights an age old problem when it comes to therapy and medical aid.
A lot of people out there still don’t understand how therapy should work.
There are really two camps of thought when it comes to labels used to diagnose a person. The first camp takes the view that once a person has a diagnosis, or is labelled, that person is then exempt from certain expectations or potential improvements or even cures. I had P.T.S.D. and many psychotherapists told me there was no cure or known cause. There is very much a cure for P.T.S.D. and I had to do a lot of my own learning and research to find it.
Then there is the other camp, the camp I belong to. That camp believes that the purpose of a diagnosis or label is to provide understanding and a path to improvement or cure. I have a lot of challenges as a man on the autism spectrum and while I wouldn’t want to “cure” my autism I certainly learned how to improve many of my challenges and utilise the strengths autism blessed me with using the information I was given after my diagnosis.
A doctor or therapist should be viewed as a coach in these situations. If you have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and the treating professional is of the opinion that nothing can be done and you are simply “autistic” I’m here to tell you that such a professional sucks. Go find a new one. Keep searching until you find a professional that says, “this is what you have and now that we know that, this is how we make you a better version of yourself.”
Most people go to therapists because they think the act of attending therapy in itself provides a cure. That was never the case. Therapy is akin to life coaching. Your therapist is doing their job when they are able to use your diagnosis to show you the path to a better life. However that better life, or even a cure of a mental health challenge, is on you the individual.
If a person takes on the identity of the first camp and says, “I have this condition, so I can’t do X and I expect you to help me or change your behaviour” that person is in a box that’s been built by a label. If a person takes on the identity of the second camp they might say,
“I have this condition, so now I know why I have done X in the past and now I know I can influence or even change it and I will.” That person isn’t being labelled, they are being true to themselves.
I feel that the difference comes down to hope. It’s hard to have hope in a neural typical world but I am rooting for all of us.
For me choosing the second camp was the key to seeing the advantages that autism gifted me with. I recognize the challenges, and sympathize with others that have them, but I remain focused on the blessing autism presents and strive to be better than I was the day before. My therapist has helped me by providing me with information and materials but really there wasn’t available for the therapist to give, so I got into advocacy and now I try to give back to the community and make my own path.
Really that is what being on the autism spectrum is all about, making your own path. Everyone on the spectrum is unique in a wholly individual way and all of us bring strengths and challenges to the community that contribute to a bigger picture and a better understanding for future generations of amazing people.
Join me over here in camp two. It’s way more fun and we get up to some amazing and crazy stuff. We learn, play games, redefine preconceived notions on a whole bunch of different subjects and make a mark that people remember. Camp one is bleak and depressing. I am not autistic and therefore in need of a cure. I am a man with autism and only in need of a direction that I can negotiate on my own and possibly with a few other awesome people.
Viva la resistance!