Women’s Mental Health: The Importance of Role Models, Especially Neurodivergent Role Models
March 28, 2019
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I realize I’ve been thinking a lot about role models, specifically those who have shared their struggles with mental health, and it got me thinking about how important these role models have been in navigating my own mental health. How brave they have been to share their journeys. To give us glimpses into their fascinating minds. To show show us the fight. How they make sense of the dark on a quest for the light. The very nature of feminine power.
How really nothing else matters when your mental health is at stake. How you must focus on getting better. How you need time to rest and to recover. And as I’ve learned, how you need healers to guide you and loved ones to comfort you. How only you can change things, but how you can’t get through it alone.
It’s a good reminder to continue to share our stories. No matter how hard sharing may be. No matter how vulnerable the sharing makes us. Because it’s only by sharing that we will help others see that they are not alone. That someone has been through it before. That we can get through it too.
As women, we have the opportunity to take care of one another. To lift one another up. And sometimes, we have to fight for that opportunity. Especially when what we’re shown is often one of us tearing the other down. Out of jealousy. Spite. Hurt feelings. Selfishness. Not taking the time to understand the other. Focusing on outside appearances instead of what really matters inside. It’s sad to see. And it’s time it stops. We need to help one another. We need to shift the narrative.
While our role models at large are chosen for us in the media, and while there are many who have done us proud, we need more women to be role models for the next generation. Especially for neurodivergent women.
For the women and girls who are struggling to understand how they fit into a neurotypical world. Because their world is different, and they need to see more of what that world looks like. We need to show them by example how to live in their world.
We need to teach them how to own their gifts. Even if those gifts are different, silent or unseen. How to help them understand and accept their differences. That they are not strange, weird or crazy, but that they are special. Unique. Gifted.
In order to see their gifts, they have to see through everything else. Which takes a lot of energy and time to reset. And, as we know all too well, they are frequently short of spoons. So we need to provide a safe space for them. To lift them up with our actions and with our words.
We have to teach the neurodivergent girls of the next generation how to embrace being themselves.
To embrace the ways they do or do not express socially acceptable emotions. The things they like. The way they talk or don’t say a word. The way they laugh louder or not at all. The way they spin or run in circles to regulate their bodies. The way they like to play rough and crash into things. The way they don’t like to play at all. The way they don’t like others touching them. The way they feel more comfortable rocking in the corner. The way they’ll only eat certain foods and won’t eat others because of the smell or the texture. The way they are stimulated by sound. The way they want to wear long sleeves in the summer or short sleeves in the winter or will only wear certain fabrics year-round. The way they understand animals’ behaviors. The way they can tell what another is thinking. The way nature speaks to them; through the plants and the trees and the breeze.
The watchers that they are. The observers they will be. The trackers and trend determiners. The artists. The tech wizards. The engineers. The writers, analysts and researchers. The visionaries.
Just like the women’s rights movements and the LGBTQIA rights movements before us, we need to show girls examples of strong feminine figures dealing with their struggles while still working toward their goals. Showing the world it’s okay to be different. That in fact, it makes the world a richer place to be. More layered and interesting. Deeper. Fuller. Real.
We need to help them see how special they are even if they are the only person around them who sees it. Even if they have no one in their lives to help them navigate their struggles. Let’s be their guide. Let’s not let them do this alone.
This feeling of support makes the lyrics run through my mind from the song, “Hey Girl,” by Lady Gaga and Florence Welch:
Hey girl, hey girl/We can make it easy if we lift each other/Hey girl, hey girl/We don’t need to keep one-in’ up another/Hey girl, hey girl/Hey girl, hey girl/If you lose your way/Just know that I got you.
And I can’t end this without giving a special thanks to a few of my current role models for sharing their mental health and/or neurodivergent experiences: Susannah Cahalan, Lena Dunham, Lady Gaga, Mary Karr, Susanna Kaysen, Jenara Nerenberg, Neurodivergent Rebel, Dani Shapiro and Terra Vance.
Please share with the women in your life to empower all and to encourage new role models to come forward. And please let me know who your mental health and/or neurodivergent role models are in the comments below. For the more role models we have to choose from, the better off we all will be.
Subscribe to my website | Like me on Facebook | Follow me on Twitter | Follow me on Instagram
This story originally ran on Psych Central on March 29, 2019. Since Psych Central has been sold, the link to the original is no longer available.
Image by lekoh from Pixabay