One of the things I am the most passionate about is bringing awareness and education to my audience. In situations where I do not personally have experience, I rely on the voices of those who do. This interview was conducted with Bruce Black, the husband of a fellow blogger and mental health advocate I highly respect. These views and experiences are just one example of what life with Autism could be like. Please enjoy my interview:
What is Autism?
Autism is I guess a set of patterns or behaviors that make the people who have it act differently or think differently. It’s a cognitive processing disorder. Different people with Autism have what could be considered high functioning or low functioning but that’s not necessarily an accurate way of describing it – some people display some traits of Autism more strongly than others but that doesn’t necessarily correlate to their functioning.
When and How Were You First Diagnosed?
I think I was about 14 or 15 when I was diagnosed when my new psychiatrist from the University Hospital wanted me to take a test for Autism. I didn’t think much of it but she told me I had Aspergers after I took the test. I don’t remember any symptoms really before the psychiatrist suggested it, I never thought much about it. But looking back my avoidance of eye contact could have been a symptom. I reacted to the diagnosis by telling a few friends but I didn’t think much of it at all for many years. I just thought I had a little bit of autism for flavor lol.
How Has Autism Impacted Your Life?
Pro – I have a different perspective on problems than other people, I come up with different solutions to things and people generally value my advice and feedback. Con – I think I had a hard time maintaining friendships as a kid – knowing how to interact around others (like how much gratitude to show when I received a gift) made interaction difficult. Pro – Autism is one thing that makes me different so I guess it’s alright, I look at it as a strength.
I just thought I had a little bit of autism for flavor, LOLBruce Black
Stigma and Mental Health
I mask it pretty well so stigma doesn’t affect me very much in most situations. But when things get tense or uncomfortable I don’t always react the way I’d like to or how people would expect. A few times people have seen how I react to extreme stress and think there’s something wrong with me because I dissociate pretty badly. I cognitively lock down and just walk away from things and people. I walked away from my wife one of the first times we hung out together because I was overwhelmed (in a good way).
What do You Wish People Understood About Autism?
Everyday people have it and they’re not always the “good at math but socially awkward” stereotype that you think of. Some people with Autism could be popular and friendly and not what you imagine someone with Autism to be like. Have I ever experienced stigma?: Not really but some people get taken aback when I mention I have Autism. They are surprised because they don’t expect me to be on the spectrum and they wonder if I think it’s a bad thing.
What Advice Would You Give?
An Autism diagnosis doesn’t change who you are and doesn’t mean that you need help. There’s nothing wrong with you. I guess for some people it would mean a lifestyle change, but your worth and the love others have for you and the love you have yourself doesn’t need to be any different.
Bio for Bruce Black:
Check out Maria’s work here: mysoulbalm
Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Bruce has always stood out. Being White in a predominantly Black country was an othering factor that made it hard to find a place in the world he grew up in. Autism and Depression added to that and Bruce struggled through most of his youth. As he’s gotten older he’s learned that Autism is a part of your character and not a weakness and to accept himself as is. This has helped his Depression tremendously. He’s now married and lives in the United States with his wife Maria.
Check out Maria’s work at My Soul Balm
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