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February 22, 2017

Healthy or ill, where is the border

I found out that I’m most likely autistic, when I was 15. I assumed I had an Aspergers’s syndrome, which is often referred as a “slighter” form of autism. And, in the time I discovered that I probably have an Aspergers's syndrome, I autism fascinated me and I was scared of being 'just a bit autistic'. I wanted to be fully autistic, not just a bit. I hated the concept of standing on the border between the neurotypical and autistic world. I wished I had belonged somewhere 100%.

But why am I actually talking about it? About 1 year later after finding out, I was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s so I was absolutely sure that I belong to the autistic community. Even though, I was still terrified that maybe I'm too close to the neurotypical part of the population.

However, what's important, I diagnosed my autism myself. I didn’t have a professional diagnosis, of course, but I had my own self-diagnosis since the summer holidays of 2015. From that moment, I started studying this topic intensively. The next important thing, I would like to address, is the fact that I’ve decided to think about my autism positively. I don’t percieve it as any kind of disease or suffering. For me, it's the way I see the world to go around. It’s like a gift which allows me to have many unique ideas and opinions. It’s something that makes me be passionate about things others don’t even notice. I take autism as a part of my identity. Where is, then that disorder, that illness?

We’re living in a world which is mostly lead by the so called medical model. To put it simple, this model classifies all variances from the norm as diseases, syndromes and disorders. On the other hand we almost don’t hear about the neurodiversity paradigm, at least here, in Czech Republic. Almost nobody here spreads the message of this theory, the message that our feelings and opinions are all equally valid and that it doesn’t make much sense to classify and strictly divide the illness and the healthy state.

Unfortunatelly there’s currently no genetic or blood test to discover mental disorders. We just operate on fixed criterias, which we have to fit in, in order to be diagnosed with this or that illness or disorder. Since there’s no other way to diagnose on the biological basis mental health issues than the system metioned above, this diagnostic approach is obviously necessary. However, let’s look at a few examples how this diagnostic system can be misleading.

A fictive person, let’s say Alex, has strong manic symptoms for about 6 days. She is very euphoric, she feels like a superman who can make anything happen. She is sure that she is the chosen one. She sleeps less than 2 hours during the night, she has too much energy, her thoughts race and she speaks so fast that it’s difficult for anyone to understand her. She talks to strangers on the street , she is spending huge amount of money, etc. These symptoms fade after being present for 6 days. However, according to our diagnostics criteria used in the EU, a manic episode has to last at least 7 days, to be diagnosed as a manic episode. So our Alex returns from hospital empty-handed. 

Let’s give another example. Peter is diagnosed which ADHD. Everybody around him take this condition as a "disorder". He has troubles at school and at home as well. He has huge problems with concentration. However, he doesn't feel like there's anything wrong with him. Perhaps, he's even proud of his ADHD.

Where is the border between an illness and health?

Personally I believe that nobody can tell us whether we are healthy or not, as far as mental health issues are concerned. It’s much more important how we perceive ourselves. If we consider ourselves ill, than yes, it’s our completely valid opinion. If we’re proud of our neuorodiversity, then it’s also completely valid opinion. Always stand up for how we personally perceive our differences and variations! Never let doctors nor anybody else to affect your opinion of you. This is our heads we're  talking about, right?

I know from my own experience that it’s much better to look at our neurodiversity in a positive light. It’s way better to see it as a gift and our uniqueness, than as an illness, Of course, it's not possible in all cases, however it could make our life much easier. Also, never let doctors to diagnose you an illness which you know is simply wrong. The doctors aren’t omniscient; they aren’t able to recognize every disease and disorder. Self-diagnosis seems to be much more important, in some cases than the professional one.

Stay strong and always stand up for your opinions! Don’t let anybody to convince you about something you don’t feel like.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your experience or opinions? Write it to the comment section below. As always, we are here for you! 

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