Autism Acceptance Month

I’ve been schooled in how to refer to April: as Autism Acceptance Month not Awareness Month.

Self-advocates think having awareness of autism is only a halfway measure—almost there. Autism advocates prefer the term Acceptance. At first I didn’t understand this because not everyone with autism does well.

It comes down to seeing the glass as half full (not half empty) and wanting to drink up. Advocates attribute their strengths to their autism. These advocates don’t see their illness as a tragedy even though there are struggles. They choose to focus on the positive.

The term is neurodiversity with typical and atypical expressions of this.

Those of us with an MH diagnosis need to get over our self-stigma surrounding the medical terms used to describe our condition. You don’t see advocates lobbying to change the name autism to something else. They accept what happened to them and advocate for full inclusion in society—something I did decades ago in the 1990s for MH peers.

Hell yes though—I’d be the first in line if a cure for SZ was available. I’m not one of the “I love my disability” folk.

No—I wouldn’t wish SZ symptoms on anyone as a permanent lifelong mental state. Having been there, I understand what it’s like. Having lived through the worst I would rather be in remission than symptomatic.

Give me a cure—okay? Give me the term SZ any day. Are people still spooked to have a diagnosis? In the early 2000s I railed against this and lobbied for acceptance.

Readers—I urge you not to get twisted over having a diagnosis. Next month I will advocate for changing May’s theme to Mental Health Acceptance Month.

We need to do this because without acceptance full inclusion remains a hollow dream. It isn’t the end for outsiders to have awareness. Awareness is only the beginning. Acceptance is the goal.

We need to accept the role the MH condition plays in our lives. This doesn’t signal that we have to like having an illness. No–I don’t like having an illness.

Yet hey, I say take a tip from the autism self-advocates: lobby for acceptance and inclusion.

Focusing on how having an illness has given us strengths sure beats dwelling on the negative.

I might not like having a diagnosis. Yet I appreciate all the good things I’ve gotten and that I’ve done because of it.

 

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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