Mental Illness Doesn’t Make You Special by Freddie Deboer

Mental Illness Doesn’t Make You Special by Freddie Deboer

Before I get to the link and excerpts to the essay by Deboer, which are below, I wanted to say this:

I had clinical depression for around 35 or more years (I was diagnosed by one psychiatrist, and it was verified by more psychiatrists as I got older and moved from state to state), I still have an anxiety disorder, and I used to have social anxiety disorder, so I know what it’s like to deal with mental health issues. I had to deal with these issues largely all by myself for years.

I also know that most people who’ve never had depression, anxiety, or any other type of emotional or mental health conditions are clueless about it, and they tend to be insensitive about it, or make insensitive comments and suggestions.

But in the last few years, I have seen people – usually people in their teens or 20s, and some of the adult, far left mental health professionals – almost act as though having depression (or whatever mental health condition) makes them unique little snowflakes and deserving of lots of attention and pity.

This attitude and behavior makes me want to barf.

I used to have a friend named Mary (not her real name) who I met online (who I now suspect is borderline – borderline personality disorder), and while I briefly mentioned to her early a time or two in in our friendship that I had depression for years, I never made a big fuss out of it, nor did I tell her for years that I also had suicidal ideation.

(I mentioned having depression to her a time or two after Mary began sharing with me that she had mental health issues.)

It was not something I was proud of.

I spent years researching depression and how to get rid of it. I also read up on tips on how to get rid of anxiety. I did not like having either condition. I did not use either as pity ploys or to get attention from others.

But this suspected BPD friend of mine, Mary – who was a drama queen – often would come on to our forum where we participated to complain about how life was so unfair, and she was going to kill herself.

I took her suicide threats seriously for many years – until around the 6th or 7th year of this. It was then that my intuition was telling me she was using such threats as attention-getters, as pity ploys.

It became a predictable pattern with her: about once every 8 to 9 months, she’d storm on to the forum complaining about how life was so terribly unfair, and how she was going to go kill herself.

So after several years of this, I stopped addressing Mary’s posts where she threatened suicide. Once I stopped doing that, she would come to the forum later, behave sheepishly, and admit she was being a drama queen and just wanted attention.

I do see more and more people in the past few years wearing their mental health problems like some kind of strange badge of honor.

They feel that having a mental health problem makes them “special,” “unique,” and they want attention and sympathy for it – this is never how I approached having anxiety and depression, so I find this very foreign, weird, and off-putting.

Unlike today’s mental health sufferers, I didn’t get a sense of identity or purpose from having depression or anxiety, either, nor did I want to, because that is not a healthy thing to do.

I also didn’t go around frequently, loudly, broadcasting all the time that I had depression and anxiety. When I did discuss it (online), it was under a pseudonym.

I have grown to dislike the word “neuro-divergent” that these people who act like fragile, attention-seeking snowflakes have developed. One can no longer just say that she “has depression” but one now is expected to say that she is “neuro divergent” or “not neuro typical.” It is to barf.

I’ve met people over my life, whether they have clinical depression, a personality disorder – whatever it may be – and some of them absolutely use their mental health problems (which may be accompanied by a personality disorder) to as a way to get attention and compassion from others.

It’s almost as though they don’t really want to be healed, be cured, and move on – no, they take a perverse sense of comfort in having whatever mental health problem, and they may even use it as an excuse about why they supposedly cannot get up and move on in life.

I’ve written posts on this topic before, so I won’t go into detail here, but during the years I had clinical depression and was very codependent (a people pleaser and a good listener),
I kept attracting other clinically depressed (or other types of troubled) people to me, and while I was there for these people, offering them months to years of emotional support, most of them offered me little to none in return. I’ve since learned to detach from such troubled people, which I’ve written of before in other posts.

(Link): Mental Illness Doesn’t Make You Special

Excerpts:

Why do neurodiversity activists claim suffering is beautiful?
BY FREDDIE DEBOER
April 29, 2022

Marianne Eloise wants the world to know that she does not “have a regular brain at all”. That’s her declaration, on the very first page of her new memoir, Obsessive, Intrusive, Magical Thinking.

The book catalogues her experience of a dizzying variety of psychiatric conditions: OCD, anxiety, autism, ADHD, alcohol abuse, seasonal affective disorder, an eating disorder, night terrors, depression.

By her own telling, Eloise has suffered a great deal from these ailments; I believe her, and wish better for her.

But she would prefer we not think of them as ailments at all. And that combination of self-pity and self-aggrandisement is emblematic of our contemporary understanding of mental health.

Eloise is a champion of neurodivergence, an omnibus term that’s recently ballooned in popularity, which can include autism, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, or indeed any other psychiatric condition that’s hot right now.

The term is designed for making sweeping pronouncements. Forget the fact that, say, autism and schizophrenia are so different that they have at times been described as opposite conditions.

Forget the fact that saying you’re neurodivergent has as much medical meaning as saying you have a disorder of the body. The idea is that there’s a group of people whose brain chemistry differs, in some beautiful way, from some Platonic norm.

And it’s an idea that’s taken on great symbolic power in contemporary liberal culture.

There is, for example, a thriving ADHD community on TikTok and Tumblr: people who view their attentional difficulties not as an annoyance to be managed with medical treatment but as an adorable character trait that makes them sharper and more interesting than others around them. (They still demand extra time to take tests, naturally.)

… Darker, there’s the world of “DID TikTok”. DID, dissociative identity disorder, is a profoundly controversial condition, once known as multiple personality disorder.

Many serious experts question whether it exists at all; at the very least it’s incredibly rare. And yet thousands of adolescents have diagnosed themselves with the condition, and happily perform their various personalities for their social media followers, typically in ways that defy all established psychological understandings of the disorder.

…Again and again, she [Eloise] holds perfectly mundane attitudes and behaviours up to the reader and says “Isn’t this special?”

The label of neurodivergence is so vague and capacious, pretty much anything can be pulled into its orbit and made “diverse”. There’s a meme that crops upon Tumblr, TikTok and Twitter that starts with “the neurodivergent urge to…” and is immediately followed by, well, just about anything a person does. Common examples include the neurodivergent urge not to reply to an email or to order food in rather than cooking what’s in the fridge.

…Diagnosis is the Holy Grail of the neurodivergence narrative. Eloise fixates on hers and its quasi-mystical powers. No reader could doubt that her problems are real, but she seems to have treated getting diagnoses like a consumer on Amazon. She states flat out, on several occasions, that she went shopping for an autism diagnosis, went to doctors with the express intent of wringing one out of them. There was a time when self-diagnosis was understood to be unhealthy, and perhaps embarrassing, but this is a brave new world we’re living in now.

Once enough people insist on mental illnesses as upbeat and fashionable lifestyle brands, then any of us who oppose it are guilty of the most grave sin of all, the sin of perpetuating stigma. …

What I find tragic about those who buy into the neurodivergence narrative is that they become their illnesses. And yes, there are alternatives.

Eloise and people like her seem never to consider one of the possible ways that they could have dealt with their myriad disorders: to suffer. Only to suffer. To suffer, and to feel no pressure to make suffering an identity, to not feel compelled to wrap suffering up in an Instagram-friendly manner.

To accept that there is no sense in which her pain makes her deeper or more real or more beautiful than others, that in fact the pain of mental illness reliably makes us more selfish, more self-pitying, more destructive, and more pathetic. To understand that and to accept it and to quietly go about life trying to maintain peace and dignity is, I think, the best possible path for those with mental illness to walk.

But in this culture, all must be monetised, all must be aspirational, anything can be marketed. Eloise lacks the self-awareness to ask whether there’s something exploitative and ugly about turning psychological illness into fodder for soap opera and motivational posters. …

This is what it’s actually like to have a mental illness: no desire to justify or celebrate or honor the disease, only the desire to be rid of it. But the modern conception of neurodivergence (and disability activism generally) wants to have it both ways. Sometimes, people would prefer for you to think of their conditions as debilitating hindrances for which they may demand special dispensation. And sometimes they would like them to be seen as positive personality quirks that make them unique. …

It is hard to witness the damage that has been done to this young woman, by a culture that insists she views her suffering as part of a beautiful journey. Today’s activists never seem to consider that there is something between terrible stigma and witless celebration, that we are not in fact bound to either ignore mental illness or treat it as an identity.
— end excerpts —

The whole essay was very good and should be read in full.

I cannot comprehend people who have some kind of mental or emotional distress who want to revel in it and romanticize it, or use it as a crutch to get pity and attention from other people.

I was trapped in depression (I was diagnosed with clinical depression) for over three decades, and I hated every moment of it. I wanted to get out but had no idea how to. Depression (and anxiety) is not something I want to cling to.

Along the way, I’ve met other people – some also with depression – who seem to almost enjoy it on one level, some use it to “play the victim” in life, to use as an excuse as to why they cannot take personal responsibility for their lives.

They’d prefer to sit around with the bogus excuse that depression robs them of the ability of making choices or changes (no, it does not – I’ve written about that before here).

It’s distasteful to see how many younger people today (though this can occasionally skew older as well) want to romanticize having a mental health problem, to wrap their whole identity up in to it, or use it to garner sympathy, to use as an excuse about why they cannot move forward in life.


Related Posts:

(Link): Hedonism is Overrated – to Make the Best of Life There Must Be Pain, Says This Yale Professor

(Link): Chronic Pain and the Self Pity, Depression Trap

(Link): Clinical Depression Doesn’t Make People Incapable of Making Choices or Changes

(Link): Help! I Think I Made a Terrible Mistake When Helping My Elderly Neighbor (The Codependency, People Pleasing Trap)

(Link): An Assessment of the Article “Why the Religion of Self-Care is Really Sanctified Selfishness” – Christian Author is Indirectly Promoting Codependency, Which is Harmful

(Link): Victim Syndrome (‘Are You A Victim of the Victim Syndrome’) – by Insead

(Link): An Experimental Depression Treatment Uses Electric Currents to Bring Relief by L. McClurg

(Link): Not all Narcissists are Grandiose – the ‘Vulnerable’ Type can be Just as Dangerous 

(Link): Are You Stuck in the “I’ll Feel Better When” Cycle? by Diana Hill, phD

(Link): Acceptance (vs. Denial, Anger, or Should-ing) – Helps in Healing and Getting Through Painful Events and Dealing With Things You Cannot Change

(Link):  When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship

(Link): How To Deal With Chronic Complainers, by Guy Winch, Ph.D.

(Link): The ‘Paralyzed in a Wheelchair’ Analogy – Regarding: Clinical Depression – Also: The Cynical or Victimhood Filter

(Link): Choosing Sadness: The Irony of Depression – article from APS – by Wray Herbert

(Link): Being Bitter and Blaming Others Can Ruin Your Health by Elizabeth Cohen

(Link): An Alarming Trend in Psychotherapy by Christine Sefein – (Woke Therapists Want You To Stay In a Victim Mindset and Miserable)

(Link): Addendum – Mental Health and Treatment and the Goals of Mental Health Professionals

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