#OktoSay: Let’s Talk Mental Health

Last month was mental health awareness month. Because of this, when our friends over at Chronically Academic asked me to write a blog for their site, I decided to send them this piece on my recent realizations after battling with my own mental health issues, and in the way that having a strong support network both at home and work helped me manage and overcome them. As someone who has gone through it, I understand how hard it can be to reach out and ask for help, and how isolating things can feel. Believe me, it does get better, but only if you seek help and reach out. If you don’t have a strong support network or don’t know where to start looking for resources, check out our resource page on this site.

In healing solidarity,

Juan Pablo Ruiz

Coming Out Autistic: Breaking the Stigma on Neurodiversity

There’s labels. For as long as you can remember, others have been sticking words onto you to make sense of what is in front of them. Those you make uncomfortable in school call you weird, strange. You can’t play with them because of these. Others realize very quickly that you will do and believe anything they say, so the labels accumulate in the whispers, the giggles, and the pranks. Those who love you and want to comfort you call you unique, special, and precious. Teachers will one day come to use these words as well, but to them they’ll add genius, talented, one of a kind. These will pepper recommendation letters, open doors.

But they will also pepper your ego, an ego that you now hide behind so that the other labels don’t matter. The ego comes at a price though, and the weight of the world’s problems starts to lean into you:

“You’re going to cure cancer someday, or AIDS!” they yell, again with the best of intentions. Your school parades you in front of parents as an example of what their own children can become: National Merit Scholars, perfect score on the SAT, admissions to MIT and Duke, full scholarships…labels. Peers you rarely interact with give you one last one before you leave, and it comes with an expectation: Most Likely to Succeed. No pressure. Continue reading