Good evening everyone and welcome to another edition of Pharaoh’s Principles!
Recently we lost a great actor and comedian due to suicide. Though we may have thought that Robin Williams should have been happy with all the success he had. But we’ve learned otherwise; despair still strikes regardless of how successful you are. Depression and pain is no joking matter, and it cannot be dealt with conventional means like blowing someone’s feelings off or telling the person to get over it. Depression is not like a cold that can be killed with quick remedies and over-the-counter drugs. The person really needs love, support, and understanding. Sometimes the support may mean giving that person space or not argue about why he or she is upset.
I can understand what Robin Williams or any one with depression go through, especially those who are depressed and have autism. I may not be clinically depressed, but I have experienced increased despair over the last couple of years. My depression is not frequent, but when something drastic does happen, it hits me like a sledgehammer. I tend to retreat to my own world and not communicate with a lot of people. I can ban myself from the social world, diving deeper into my obsessions, like watching Super Bowl highlights and watch my favorite movies & clips over and over again. I may even sob and question my place in the world.
Depression also affects adults on the autistic spectrum. According to a 1998 article, 65% of a sample of Asperger syndrome patients had symptoms of psychiatric disorders. The suicide rate among the aspies and autists are high. I understand why. Some neurotypicals don’t understand how difficult it is to live in their world day after day. We try to fit in with our family and peers, attempt to play normal by hiding our “autistic tendencies” like rocking and avoiding eye contact, find work, form friendships and relationships, deal with overstimulation, read social cues properly, etc. But it can become a pain in the ass after doing those things constantly and not getting the results you want. In my case, I’ve been struggling with unemployment/underemployment for a year, along with a failed relationship, legal issues, and the growing issues with being an adult with autism (e.g., reading people’s intentions without concrete and obvious clues, not being listened to, struggles with relationships). If all that come to a boil or bombard me at one moment, then I can meltdown and go into a depressive state.
However, I don’t think people are equipped to tend to the needs of the aspie when the person is depressed. In some places and cultures, depression is a sign of weakness. Or you may run into people who wants to try to talk you, in hopes of “curing the depression”. And of course, there are others who either run away from the depressed or over-medicate them. I’m not weak; I’m just going through a dark period in my life and I need a lot of support from I loved ones. If I was to go to a doctor, then I am afraid that taking medicine won’t cure the depression completely. And just because I’m sad doesn’t mean that I’m always a threat to society. Negative people can increase chances for potential harm. To make matters worse, I’m not good with expressing complex emotions verbally and sometimes I am misunderstood. Thus I, along with many autists and aspies, resort to staying quiet during sad times.
I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t give you medical tips on helping an autist who is depressed. But I do have some practical advice if you come across an aspie or autist going through a depressive state. The primary thing to do is to give the person some space if he or she requests it. Don’t ask the person a lot of questions on the cause of the depression or bring up things that can trigger further pain. Checking up on the person every once and while is good, but don’t question or upset him or her. Also, be sure to be in the person’s shoes and tend to HIS or HER needs. Dealing with depression won’t work if you looking at the autist from YOUR viewpoint. Try to understand what he or she is going through; listen to what the person is saying. Lastly, we may need understanding and space at times. But without love and kindness, the healing process may stunt. Hanging out, making inspirational cards, writing poetry, sending gifts and food, and prayer are some of things that a loved one can do to brighten one’s day. Jokes help too, but be careful because some humor may trigger certain painful emotions. And I like embraces too, though some on the spectrum may not like it.
Hopefully, more adults on the spectrum can educate people on how depression affect us and ways that loved ones can help us without causing meltdowns. I pray that neurotypicals read and share this to those who may not understand what autists go through on a daily basis.