Pretty much all of us know, work with or have friends who have daily mental challenges.  They may just be the quirky and somewhat different individuals whose manner is constantly amusing to the rest of us, but it’s not necessarily a reflection of what is happening inside.  Being that quirky amusing individual can be extremely frustrating and debilitating and can present a raft of daily challenges.  Quite often, very cunningly and effectively disguised.

Personally speaking I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of forty.  It was one of the best days of my life.  Until my diagnosis, daily life was like watching a movie in a language I didn’t understand, with subtitles in another foreign language.  Once I knew what the actual issue was, I could at least make some kind of attempt to learn at least one of the languages.  Some years later, I came to start understanding why people act the way that they do.

With the diagnosis, the challenges didn’t go away.  However, they turn in to one of those irritating and confusing friends who eventually begins to strangely make sense.  Learning the reasons why certain emotions and feelings take over can be a real help in keeping them in order.  They get to know their place and become characteristics that eventually have their position in life.  Almost in the sense of ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you are with!’  If you can’t love the one you are with, at least try not to hate them!  Easier said than done perhaps, but so are so many worthwhile things.

Once described in jest (I think) as a ‘Social Hand Grenade’ I was never the great socialite, but count myself very lucky and privileged to have some fantastic friends and family.  Even though I don’t see them very often, I feel part of the circle and that means a lot. 

I have come to accept who/what I am and come to be able to deal with things as they come along.   That makes me quite fortunate as for many others, either without a diagnosis or with more intense conditions, life can be anything from tough to impossibly unbearable.  Often affecting those who you would least expect.

We read and hear far too often about public figures, actors, TV presenters etc who reach the point of no return and take the unthinkable step of ending their story.  Some amazingly consider that to be selfish!  We know less about the every-day folk who see this as their only option.   According to the World Health Organisation, around 800,000 people worldwide take their lives each year.  That’s one every 40 seconds.  https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/

A very special friend of mine took that road a couple of years ago.  She was always the life of the party and one of the most caring and fun people you could ever meet.  Always laughing, always with an opinion and always fun to be with.  I had no idea of her condition and even her loving family weren’t fully aware.  She took her life after being diagnosed as having Bi-Polar disorder.  It left a huge void in many lives.

Social media constantly shares the message about acceptance and understanding, which is great to see.  With that, there is still a great deal of non-acceptance and non-understanding through to outright discrimination and harassment.  Having encountered that up close and personally, it is surprising in my experience that some of those who share the warmest messages about acceptance can be the bigger antagonists.  It’s a tough one to understand for all of us so must be even harder for those ‘normal’ people!

When asked what it feels like to have Asperger’s Syndrome, I can accurately describe it as having a mind like a library.  Not that I have a huge experience of libraries!  For the ‘normal’ among us, information is stored in books and filed away in alphabetical order on shelves.  When the information is needed, normal Norman and Norma can access it, use it and file it away (theoretically speaking).

As an Aspie, consider that library to be spun around, turned upside down, mixed with a huge spoon and left in a big random pile.  All the information is still there, but just caught up with millions of other geeky and useless facts.  Attempting to find the right piece of information means dragging what seems like an infinite number of other random facts with it.  It can sometimes be fun, but very frustrating!

Many are quick to be judgmental.  I was fortunate enough some years ago to have a job in education that enabled me to work with the Prison Service.  Going in with a very jaded ‘lock-em up and throw away the key’ attitude I was brought dangerously close to tears when I learned about the pre custodial lives of many of the inmates.  Many of them suffering with mental health issues that led them to drugs, crime and self harm. I asked one of the Education Managers who had been in the job for over 30 years how many ‘bad’ people he had encountered.  His answer was THREE!  That shook me,  largely as I had been so judgmental through lack of understanding.   I hated myself for that.

As a child, I hung out with someone who was later to become very famous with a much documented drug problem.  With help, this person was able to liberate them self from the mental carnage that it brought and took the step to help others.  Many councillors have been through the hell that is addiction and mental illness.

The Open Minds Project is created with the hope to raise money and help those in need.  It may save someone from a life of custody or a life of unbearable mental meltdown.

Profits from the sale of all items in the OPEN MIND collection will be donated to MIND.

More than that, we would love to receive your OPEN MIND designs.  Whether you are an accomplished artist, a doodler or a scribbler, please send us your designs to studio@redhotart.net 

We will then apply your design to a Tshirt and put it up for fund raising.  All designs are very welcome, whoever you are and whatever age.  If you have a website or something you would like us to link to on ours, then by all means include it. (And no swearing or being nasty please!)

Thank you for reading and taking an interest.  There is a lot more to the story, which if you are interested will be added later.

Meanwhile, choose a T Shirt OR Canvas! VISIT OPEN MINDS

Trevor

To  Nic.

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