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Kelly Horton
Kelly Horton
2 months ago

I am a parent of a 19 year old daughter who was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and ADHD at 14. Once she started middle school, I began to hear and notice more discussion about being “neuro-divergent” -I am certain the popular sci/fi film “Divergent” helped with this. Shailene Woodley was just as popular to teen girls as was Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games. Starting around 2014 my daughter would come home from school and tell me about how the girls she sits with at lunch are all depressed, suicidal, and/or LGBT in some way. Because of her “quirks” she was always a bit of a misfit. Struggled to make friends. This was the only table that would accept her. I refused to let her go down this path. I refused to let her use tumblr and have her mind messed with by misguided peers and who knows who else on that site.
I don’t know how many of Gen Z are truly neuro divergent vs. following a trend.
I do know that with my child starting at age 3,had behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy. By elementary school she minimal accommodations needed but had an IEP annually, Her father and I had to sit through hours long meetings with staff to make sure she had the supports in place. By middle school she wanted to be free from that and self advocated to drop the IEP. She wanted to be like everyone else.
She just successfully completed her 1st year at university and is doing great. We could not be prouder.
Yes she requests extra time on exams, and she struggles a bit with executive functioning, but like walking, talking, riding a bike -she will get there. She just has to work a little harder at some things than others.
But talk about appropriation? As a parent who had to deal with this for 16 years and see it become a trend and teens wear it like a badge of honor to seem “edgy” or as a excuse to not try their hardest? It’s been a bit infuriating.
It has taken A LOT of time patience, and involvement to help her reach her fullest potential. We love her and accept her no matter what. It’s not about trying to “cure” -can’t if I wanted to, or change her, or oppress her identity in some way.
It’s helping her and supporting her in how to navigate life as an independent, relatively healthy adult, who has to play the particular hand she was dealt -just like every human being.
The diagnosis and the struggles for someone like my daughter are very real! I worry that other kids who truly are in need to help will get minimized and stigmatized even further because it’s now a cultural trend.
I also can’t help but wonder how anyone can suddenly have autism or ADHD and there was never any indication of problems starting in toddlerhood? I was a very in tune and involved mom, and I knew something was just “off” We were not required to have her evaluated. But we chose to and glad we did. But I have to believe most parents would know something isn’t right long before middle school.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Horton

A fantastic comment. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Horton

My son had 3 years w a IEP due to classic dyslexia. He also was stoic and figured out how to make things work so that he didn’t need help managing school, and graduated w a B average. He had a high school math teacher who told me he couldn’t count on his fingers, but he ‘knows what math is for’, something he doesn’t expect from his college students. “Neurodiversity” is NOT the most interesting thing about him, I don’t think he ever even talks about it. The victim-as-status-symbol trope this new generation is using is sinking our culture…

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Kelly Horton

Well done Kelly. Congratulations to you all on getting though this.
In my experience, these battles are always fought privately in the family and each case is unique. It’s often very hard to find a precise diagnosis or label and that is not much help in the long, hard, practical slog of working through such things.
There is a lot of value in sharing expriences and ideas in support groups.
But as with anything, the first step in addressing a problem is to admit you have one and to ask for help. If you start out by creating labels which deny there is a problem, I think you risk getting further away from actually doing anything to address it.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  Kelly Horton

What you will find is that your daughter will be capable of doing things effortlessly that so called ‘normal people’ think is almost impossible.
The problem with normal people is that they aren’t ‘normal’, they’re just what they are….

Tricia Durdey
Tricia Durdey
1 month ago
Reply to  Kelly Horton

Brilliant. Thank you.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
2 months ago

They used to say that you wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg so why should you be of mental illness? Perhaps it now needs adding; you shouldn’t celebrate breaking it either.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Excellent. Unherd should hire you to write the tldr.

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Except that it’s a rather short piece, it seems, making a tldr unnecessary…

harry ansari
harry ansari
2 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

dewfcwe

Last edited 2 months ago by harry ansari
Chris Clark
Chris Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  harry ansari

Ok I’ll bite. What does that mean?

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
1 month ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Ok tldr?

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Dawson

“too long; didn’t read”

Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers
2 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Indeed so. Right up until that broken leg became a source of alternative income and identity.

Warren T
Warren T
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rogers

Yes! We now to need to fight for mental equality!
 “Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles.” -unattributed

Last edited 2 months ago by Warren T
Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
2 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Are you certain you needed to use the future tense?

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Well said! Neurodiverse appears to be the latest newspeak for “I’m pretty ordinary and I conform to all the puerile postmodern groupthink of my era.”

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

In most people’s minds, the vast majority of neurotypicals have severe mental illnesses when you look at the way they organise wars to sell arms, blithely letting millions die to get rich war racketeering.

Have you had the integrity to say that John Bolton, d**k Cheney, Victoria Nuland, Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair etc etc had mental illnesses so severe that they should be forever banned from holding positions of any societal responsibility?

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Both Matthew and Rhys could both have some grasp on the truth. The famous people that Rhys lists could well be neuro-atypical – in that they might well all be megalomaniac narcissistic psychopaths with messiah complexes and an abject lack of self-awareness and humility. Most people, after all, don’t seek power or trigger oil wars. There could, also, be millions of much more normal people who – partly as a consequence of the former group’s mania – feel comfort in claiming a particular status order to assuage anxiety in a hostile, artificial, and shape shifting, increasingly unreal world. And also that there are people who are just unfortunate to break a leg or have mental health difficulties, and many more in between. Reality is complex and words don’t describe it well, at all.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I was sectioned at the age of 20 as I was suicidal. I have always taken the attitude that it was the same as being hospitalised for a broken leg and have explained why I dropped out from my course – due to me to mental health issues. I only celebrate this at big birthdays as without this experience I would not be here. Young people need to get a grip. Influencers can fall off that tree and do. And just sometimes they have to function in the real world.
There is nothing new in this world, whether it is experience, fashion or even thinking, it all comes in cycles.
Maybe instead of being “special”, some time soon these young people will simply pull up their socks and get a life..

P B
P B
2 months ago

My son recently had to listen to a psychologist describe his autism as a “superpower”. He was non-plussed. He would happily lose this power if he could, as the anxiety and isolation seem very high prices to pay for being “neurodivergent”.

Apparently, I’m also neurodivergent. I have ADD, without the H bit, so it’s like going to Bognor instead of Ibiza. It could occasionally be a “superpower”, but it also made very basic tasks feel extremely challenging and at university, I found it impossible to concentrate on my studies.

It’s ironic that as the more “inclusive” and “diverse” our society becomes, the less room there is for people who aren’t suited to modern working practices. In nomadic tribes like the Masai, people who carry the ADHD genetic markers are often the most successful members of their group, so I can’t help feeling that the problematic aspects of these conditions are largely a response to modern life.

What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I am certain that we need to stop forcing all children along an academic route and provide different forms of education that enable different children to play to their strengths. In the workplace, we need to accept that team-building and “hot desking” are counterproductive for some. In a genuinely inclusive society, there’d be no need to celebrate some perverted form of victimhood, as everyone would be able to be themselves without having to wear a metaphorical badge.

Warren T
Warren T
2 months ago
Reply to  P B

“Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles.” -unattributed

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren T

This is from 1961 and seems to be the way the world is going – one way or another:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Bergeron

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter Dawson
Richard Hart
Richard Hart
1 month ago
Reply to  P B

I know what you mean. I was terribly clumsy at school. My son was diagnosed with Dyspraxia, which in all likelihood was what I had. If it is a superpower, it is akin to having the ability to turn white paint into beige at will.

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Hart

I do feel for you but I have to confess I laughed out loud – in a gentle supportive sort of way – at your ingenuity.

Frances An
Frances An
2 months ago

I’m completing a psychology PhD and share the office with many clinical PhD students. The author so eloquently explains the unease I’ve had with the social justice register around neurodivergence. It’s like– why couldn’t society have just accepted people with mental and behavioural abnormalities as individuals while helping them find treatment? That is being tolerant of differences, not trying to shove it into Instagram-ready social justice language of ‘neurodivergence’. Thank you for your clear explanation, Mr deBoer. I hope you’ll write more on UnHerd! 🙂

Ian Gribbin
Ian Gribbin
1 month ago
Reply to  Frances An

Your answers can all be found within Theodore Dalyrimple’s vast body of work. He was head of Britain’s prison psychiatric service for a decade. Start with Admirable Evasions and see his online youTube stuff. His cultural commentary is damning.

Frances An
Frances An
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Gribbin

Thank you for the suggestion Ian. I shall peruse Theodore Dalrymple’s work. It looks interesting :). Have a nice day.

William Murphy
William Murphy
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Gribbin

Yes, 15 years as a prison doctor leaves you with few illusions about human nature. But it left Dalrymple with a lifetime’s worth of wonderful anecdotes. My favourite was the killer’s explanation of how the murder happened: “Then the knife went in, Doctor”. The evil weapon plainly acted on its own depraved volition.

Last edited 1 month ago by William Murphy
Joff Brown
Joff Brown
1 month ago
Reply to  Frances An

You think the people that caused those deaths are “neuro-typical”?

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 months ago

What’s also missing from the promotion of mental illness as a positive identity is the immense suffering experienced by the loved ones of those who are mentally ill.
I have seen parents and siblings break down on the street in tears, begging their homeless & psychotic son, daughter, brother, or sister to get help, take their meds, come with them to the hospital, etc.
Family and other loved ones are the forgotten victims of mental illness.
When I was a single mother with a young child, I could not afford to celebrate my mental illness; I had a child to care for, and he didn’t ask to have a mentally ill mom.
I did everything in my power to keep the focus on my son and his needs, which meant doing everything in my power to effectively manage my mental health (which, thanks to lack of affordable mental health care, is a challenge).
Disability is nothing to feel guilty about, but it’s nothing to feel proud of either. It’s a condition we have to live with and manage. My fear is that encouraging people to be proud of their mental illness might discourage them from actively treating it – and that can cause a great deal of suffering for their loved ones.
Those who love people with a mental illness are often the ones who suffer the most, and they don’t even get the benefit of feeling “special”.

Matt Soane
Matt Soane
2 months ago

A close family member has schizophrenia. He is high functioning autistic eg his challenges understanding the world only became apparent in his teens prior to which he seemed ‘normal’. As it happens he is also a talented musician – directly related to his neurodiversity/autism – although his schizophrenia is so challenging it is now unlikely he will ever be able to pursue a career in music (or anything else for that matter). With this experience I am torn on this article. Greater awareness of neurodiversity may have led to a diagnosis of autism in his youth – along with support – which in turn may have helped avoid the subsequent mental breakdown which occurred when he became overwhelmed trying to cope with life. If you understand how he understands the world it is amazing he managed to ‘hide’ his autism for so long. Equally, it seems to me that many stars who talk about their challenges are, almost by definition, a long way from the kind of neurodiversity that has the potential to be life crippling. And no doubt, the current focus will cause many to self diagnose when really there is nothing particularly different about them – which may even cause them unnecessary psychological problems. Finally, there is a drugs component to this – so many of the stories involve drug use which we know can affect mental development in teens (and by the way, the most vulnerable are possibly those who already have other neurodiverse characteristics eg autism). So I really don’t know.. I can become irritated by celebrities talking about their mental health when their burden is relatively light (a certain royal prince springs to mind though I hesitate to judge). But equally I think greater awareness also has positives. I am on the fence – as I see the negatives as much as I see the positives. But I don’t know which is greater….

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Soane

A great comment, Matt and I am right there sitting on the fence with you. I think it is absolutely right to have a wide-ranging conversation about the deeply complex topic of mental health so we can understand sufferers and help them in a more targeted and empathetic way. However, it does make me feel sick when another celebrity “opens up” about some low level complaint in the name of “breaking taboos” when really it’s about getting attention for themselves. It is tremendously difficult to draw a line between one and the other, but I do think it is very important not to let the discussion get hijacked and its importance diluted by those just looking to make a buck.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Soane

You do not want to experience or come close to real mental illness. There is nothing glamorous or life affirming about secure mental hospitals or anti-psychotic drugs; and watch you circle of friends shrink when you are left with the care for an affected family member.
To pass off self-indulgent and self-obsessive egoism as mental health issues and to the fetishize them, as now seems to be de rigueur for our celebrity class is narcissism pure an simple. in fact it is narcissistic porn.

Miriam Cotton
Miriam Cotton
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Soane

My son is autistic and developed schizophrenia in his early twenties. It’s a devastating diagnosis. It does not make him ‘special’ in the sense this article discusses. He himself loathes the term ‘special needs’. We have always spoken plainly to him about his conditions – neither catastrophising nor celebrating them. We have relied on humour as a way of empathising and debunking the stigma. We have taught him to understand that other people will find him challenging at times and that the onus is on him to adjust as best he can. We decided early not to waste a second regretting or resenting his problems. Pointless. Utterly. This is who A is. We also decided that the way through social difficulties and ultimately to much more happiness for him was never, ever to indulge or to expect other people to make way for behaviours that were difficult for other children e.g. We did need people to understand that his anti social behaviours were not deliberate but that is not the same as asking them to put up with them. The upshot is a young man who is very well liked and who is more accepting of himself and his reality. His courage in living with the immense challenges and unhappiness that comes with schizophrenia is heart-breaking. There are times when there is nothing we can do to help and he suffers so much, so stoically. There is a sort of quiet heroism in it, in its way. But the bottom line is, we did nothing remarkable, we just tried to make him as well adjusted as we could. Same as any parent with any child. Nothing special in that.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Soane

Thank you for this Matt.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago

A very well written, very well thought out and very important article.

Miriam Cotton
Miriam Cotton
2 months ago

Excellent. At the risk of derailing this conversation but you can see this writ large in the reification and transformation of sex dysphoria not merely from a delusional state of mind that causes extreme suffering in some instances – to an outright celebration of its inversion of biological fact and normality. ‘Trans’ is now the most ‘special’ of ‘special’ states of existence on the planet. Stick that special label on yourself and you are excused and feted for limitless self indulgence and extreme selfishness towards others in equal measure.

Last edited 2 months ago by Miriam Cotton
Ruth Conlock
Ruth Conlock
1 month ago
Reply to  Miriam Cotton

And are given a free pass to viciously abuse women who dare to state that sex matters. A men’s rights movement that the left have embraced as progressive. Also a movement causing untold, irreversible harm to vulnerable young people particularly those with autistic traits.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
2 months ago

Even mentally ill people have their quirks. My son has some of these psychiatric disorders, even an internal friend with a name. The tragedy is that he doesn’t recognize himself as ill or needing meds – just the victim of several broken relationships and ostracized by the community. He is financially successful – manic for several months then depressed and miserable for many more. It’s clearly biological, and inherited through 3 generations I’ve lived with.
Mental illness can be called “neurodiverse” but if you are friendless and either put yourself at risk or want to die every day, it really doesn’t matter what you call it or whether you mourn or celebrate. Misery is misery.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 months ago

Autism is not a mental illness. In the worst cases, and when combined with learning disabilities, it is a crippling disability. I have two sets of friends with autistic adult offspring; people in their sixties and seventies who can never go anywhere together without their child and worry constantly about what will happen when one or both of them dies. That sort of autism is very real for many families.
Attention-seeking ‘neurodiversity’ is, however, an insult to people like that. It is taking resources that should be spent on people who cannot look after themselves. Any adult of normal intelligence (and most of these people are well above average) possesses the ability to observe normal, acceptable behaviour in others and copy it. Adult ‘meltdowns’ are not acceptable and should not be indulged. Children should be trained to behave acceptably in public – after all, it works with dogs! There is far too much indulgence of silly middle class ‘identities’ and, of course, ‘special needs’ that attract benefits. The female partners of the couples mentioned above are still working in their sixties (their husbands are older) because our generation’s state pensions have been delayed to pay for all the benefit dependants with ‘anxiety’ and the rest of the nonsense.

Richard Riheed
Richard Riheed
2 months ago

Thank you for this article. Refreshing to read some sense on the industry of mental health.

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
2 months ago

There’s no doubt that some aspects of neurodivergence are genuinely beneficial. People with autism are massively over-represented in computing and technology disciplines, for example. There’s a very good reason why managing an IT department (trust me, I’ve done it) is often described as herding cats. GCHQ is practically built on it. The ability to focus, almost obssessively, on minute detail is precisely what’s needed in such a role. And that’s why managing people with those traits can be very difficult, and yet absolutely necessary.
But… if something confers a benefit on the person with it, can it truly be said to be a disability at all? It’s not like, say, being unable to walk, or unable to hear, which is disadvantageous in almost every way. Autism – or, at least, what’s often call “high functioning autism” is a complex cocktail of both positive and negative aspects. Some of them make people very good at certain roles, particularly in employment and some hobbies. Others make it hard for them to fit in with other, typically societally defined, roles. But lots of people have difficulties with various societal norms. That doesn’t make them disabled.
To be sure, there are various neurodivergencies which are genuine disabilities. Learning impairment, perception impairment, communication impairment, etc are almost always unambiguously negative. We can, and should, treat those as disabilities and do what we can to relieve and, if possible, cure them. And where we can’t, we need to make reasonable adjustments for those who suffer from them. But if you “cure”, say, an intelligence analyst’s autism, then, whatever good that may do, you will end up with someone who no longer has the skills to be an intelligence analyst. It’s not a disability, it’s just different. It’s just a part of the wide spectrum of human experience. Not everybody is good at everything, but some people are exceptionally good at some things while being bad at some things that the majority take for granted. Such is life.
What this also means, though, is that neurodivergence, at least of the high functioning, beneficial kind, is not an excuse for bad or antisocial behaviour. It’s perfectly fine to make allowances for people whose social skills are simply less well honed than others. And it’s not merely fine, but positively desirable, to educate and, in the workforce, manage people in a way that brings the best out of their skills rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all structure that takes no account of individual differences. But being autistic, for example, is not an excuse for being selfish, abusive or a bully. I’ve witnessed at first hand the toxic effects of workplace bullying where the perpetrator, when confronted, throws up their hands and cries “I’m autistic and I can’t change – you have adjust to me”. The use of neurodivergence as a justification for hurtful and abusive (and, in some cases, outright criminal) behaviour is never acceptable. And you are doing the neurodivergent themselves a disservice if you accept it unchallenged.
(And I said “you”, not “we” in that last sentence for a reason. Think about it).

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

I have Asperger’s. Sure, I’m ‘different’ in some ways. Less tuned to social cues, prone to creativity, highly analytical and poorly organised. Two of those things are bad whilst the others are good. But I live an ordinary life – writing books, teaching online, hobbies, going to movies with dad, being nice to neighbours, etc. It’s neither a ‘superpower’ or a ‘suffocating’ life.
Anyway, life is about the good and the bad, I guess.

Benson Beds
Benson Beds
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

Re. “People with autism are massively over-represented in computing and technology disciplines, for example”,
this is largely because they’re comforted by substituting these environments for social interaction, at which they tend to fail, and not because they function more highly in any intrinsic way due to their condition. The same is true of many “geeks” in general, who – far from possessing much raw intelligence – are actually rather obtuse but just seek sanctuary in the abstract (such as maths disciplines and physical sciences) and confound the uninitiated with esoteric gobbledygook.

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
1 month ago
Reply to  Benson Beds

That’s really not true, and I suggest you have a chat with some of the people who do recruitment for places such as GCHQ, which I mentioned. There is plenty of evidence that traits often described as autistic are beneficial in technical roles. And as for describing physical science as “abstract”, well – that’s about as completely and utterly wrong as it’s possible for wrong to be!

Benson Beds
Benson Beds
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

Re.
“And as for describing physical science as “abstract”, well – that’s about as completely and utterly wrong as it’s possible for wrong to be!”,
nope – this statement is! Given that maths is the language of and underpins the physical sciences, what you’ve erroneously asserted is tantamount to stating that maths is not abstract when – of course – it axiomatically is.
I really don’t need to chat with GCHQ recruitment (an old mucker of mine works there actually) to have greater confidence in what I stated. There may well be “plenty of evidence that traits often described as autistic are beneficial in technical roles”, but this is in no way equivalent to their being indicative of heightened intelligence or ‘specialness’. Merely having an interest in technical matters would be conducive to performing better in technical roles (would it not?) and perhaps being completely devoid of a life outside work would be too, but they are in no way indicative of it either.
And although I fully accept that some individuals considered to have autism (Dirac was, apparently, but this seems patently absurd on deeper analysis) do indeed possess high and perhaps even phenomenal intelligence, it is not a ‘by product’ of their condition. This is evidenced by the ratio of those with autism who do not to those with it who do being far too high for the hypothesis that there is some causal link between the two to be credible.

Last edited 1 month ago by Benson Beds
Dominic A
Dominic A
2 months ago

Clearly some people need to understand that the Myth of Narcissus is a morality tale, not an aspirational story.
An often overlooked aspect of the myth is that Narcissus did not realise that he was seeing his own image. Rather, he believed that the object of his infatuation was a mystical being from another world; all the while not realising it was a reflection of himself. Not self-love, but lost in his own mind.

Last edited 2 months ago by Dominic A
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago

Great article. I particularly liked the thoughts offered on the dangers of identifying with an illness. This is a tremendously dangerous path to go down. Now, the author says that the path of suffering was his preference: not “integrating the illness in your identity”, but accepting that it is there with you (maybe for the long term), gritting your teeth and getting on with it despite the pain.
Now, if the author feels this is an appropriate way for him to deal with his health issues then that is fine. And for long term/terminal/congenital conditions then it might be the only way. But for mental/physical conditions which are curable, then I consider this too close for comfort to “acceptance” and it could cause problems with recovery.
No one should feel guilty about being ill – it is part of the human condition. But as soon as possible from the onset, the focus should shift from shock/grief etc. to “it is possible to get out of this, and I will do everything in my power to do so”. From my own experience, the attitude of “THIS IS NOT WHO I AM, IT WILL NOT DEFINE ME” was essential in returning to a normal and healthy state. The minute you start to bed down in your condition, start to feel at home there, or even start to celebrate it (as I feel some of the characters mentioned in this article are doing) is the moment you give up on recovery, and on yourself.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 months ago

I went to a psychiatrist. He diagnosed me with: Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Syndrome, PTSD, ADHD & Low self esteem disorder (whatever that is). Wish they were Pokemons or something fun.
In all seriousness, I am 27. This list of conditions were the justifications to put me on medication (that apparently, I can never go off as these are chronic conditions). Getting therapy is also a money and time suck. So many hours are wasted waiting for a doctor, commuting to appointments, being on hold, getting prescriptions. And the money! Okay, trying not to cry. Whenever I bring up removing medication and therapy (not suddenly, of course) I am talked out of it. They don’t get it. Every ‘mental health professional’ seems to think I’m an abundance of time and money.
I don’t want to be a sad story. I’m still young. Yes, my childhood and teen years were bad, but does my life have to be?

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 month ago

Hang in there, Madeline. You are more than a bunch of acronyms and your instincts to rid yourself of being a permanent patient seem sound. I have no advice to offer but wish you the best.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 month ago

The fact that you can write this, showing you have a good understanding of your current situation, suggests to me that you have every chance of escaping this tangle. Good luck!

George Scipio
George Scipio
2 months ago

Mental illness is real, but in terms of prevalence the great majority is anxiety and depression which can often be cured or at least managed by talking therapy and/or antidepressants. ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders are not mental illnesses. The former is in the same group as dyslexia and dyspraxia, while ASD occupies its own conceptual space. The idea of neurodiversity has been around for perhaps 15-20 years as a helpful reconciling label for some people.

What’s new is the performative element. This brings in a new solipsistic, narcissistic dimension of dysfunction. It’s a closed loop within our world of hypermonetised surveillance capitalism, in which anxious people go shopping in front of the mirror for endless new versions of the self. This then becomes a prison, a repeating cycle of disillusion, as none of the new “diagnoses” help. It’s not a good way to live. The only way out is via some kind of unmedicated regime of activity – perhaps singing in a choir, rock climbing or tai chi – but you have to give up using the internet first and stop performing yourself. As the old joke has it: how many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the lightbulb has to really want to change. So – bon courage. Life can be good again.

Nicolas Jouan
Nicolas Jouan
2 months ago

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.

Powerful words.

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
2 months ago

It’s just part of the victim culture. Victimhood is a status above the normal rest of us.If you can claim victimhood in any way, you are entitled to respect, approbation and oodles of ‘BeKind’, and you must have all your needs and demands attended to (and, as in the case of that MP, all your misdeeds forgiven and forgotten).Whoopee! I’m next in line for victimhood.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
2 months ago

A brilliant, superbly written piece. Bravo.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 months ago

“and moves to Los Angeles to be an actor”
*actress

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
2 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Perhaps she transitioned?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 month ago

christ

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago

The thought of romanticizing something as dangerous and terrible as BPD is disgusting to me. Narcissistic individuals do not need another reason to feel they are right/in the right. This identitarian society is dystopian, and I want no part of it…

Graham Miller
Graham Miller
1 month ago

The author sweeps a whole load of attributes into his “mental illness” dust bin. In his rush to write off the identity politics of autism he characteristically loses the baby with the bath water.
There has been a growing recognition that we have spent too long stigmatising our friends with conditions like Asperger’s as freaks and retards. Alan Turing was driven to suicide but Bill Gates, Elon Musk etc have thrived in a society more accepting of geeks, nerds, etc
Similarly people have realised that ADHD can be a source of entrepreneurial drive for leaders like Branson, but DeBoer would have people go away and suffer the shame of their differences quietly. His “suck up the pain and stop pretending you’re special” argument is full of easy targets and straw men.
I’m guessing he must hate occasions like the Paralympics where people celebrate how they can overcome their differences and use what had been vulnerabilities to achieve remarkable feats. I’ve got shocking news for him. It’s the neurodivergent geeks who created the infrastructure for the internet, and the social media and the substack page where he derives an income.

My teenage son had ADHD, it was obvious from an early age, and his international school in Beijing recognised it, but we never got a formal diagnosis because we thought it was a waste of time. We didn’t want our son to have a label and anyway, he was a genius. He always came top at Maths and Science and he passed his GCSE at Mandarin with an A* at the age of 13. We had no idea that young people with ADHD are 10x more likely to make a suicide attempt than those without ADHD – and didn’t know that his asthma prescription drug could have psychiatric side effects on kids with ADHD. Our doctor friends had always said that the whole ADHD/neurodivergent thing must be a fad and not worth following up on.
After Harry took his life at 14 we found that both of our other children were neurodiverse, and that it is a genetic trait that runs in our family. That’s the last time I listen to a GP friend about a neurodevelopment issue.

Badly researched articles like this one might persuade other parents like me not to get their teenage kids the help they really need.
People love the sight of an article ridiculing the latest fad. There are certainly some faddy elements going on around identity politics at the moment but ADHD, Autism, and Youth Mental Health are all real issues and the pandemic has made life particularly difficult for lots of young people. The suicide rate is going up, so if your son or god daughter needs help, don’t be put off by a crappy article like this. Have a look at the website at Young Minds where they actually know about this stuff and reach out and be the “boomer” willing to listen and help.

Brian H
Brian H
1 month ago

I’m in agreement with the author that constructing one’s identity out of a diagnosis is unhealthy, but I’m not sure how the finger-wagging tone is supposed to help these folks as opposed to identifying another group of people we can collectively tut-tut at. The author is astute enough to see that these people are suffering, but whose own suffering and self-loathing is such that they don’t currently have a ton of space for compassion. I’m right there with you on that, Freddie. I had a version of this comment that was doing its own form of finger-wagging before I realized what was happening and the hypocrisy: that I was writing from a wounded place.
It’s also easy to come across social media users who declare how proud they are to be autistic; I’m glad they’re proud, but their repetitive insistence makes me wonder who exactly they’re trying to convince, us or them.”
This line is a good example of what I mean. I don’t think Freddie is glad that they’re proud. On that, I’m calling bullshit. My sense is it probably makes him uncomfortable, because it takes one to know one. Of course, as I’ve already admitted to currently being awash in my own self-loathing (mine comes and goes), I can’t muster much compassion for Freddie’s.
I know the line is a result of Freddie’s own suffering, and I should feel nothing but tenderness as a result. But there’s this part of me that wants to point out, judgmentally, that of course they’re trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else, but that it’s an asshole move to point it out.
They have likely suffered humiliation, social exclusion, and bullying their entire lives as a result of their condition. That creates insecurity and self-loathing. The life-affirming part of themselves will naturally want to lighten that load, to transform their suffering. The loud declarations are part of that attempt.
Given the author’s (publicly acknowledged) chronic self-loathing, it’s not surprising that seeing other folks battling theirs would be triggering. Especially if, in some cases, they might seem to be a bit more successful at getting to a place of self-love. Which isn’t to say there aren’t valid points in this article. I also really don’t mean for this to come across as a takedown attempt. Even though I recognize some part of me wanted that, I’ve been fighting that impulse as best I can. Ultimately, there’s a lot of pain to go around right now. Freddie is a brilliant writer and an extremely sensitive human being. I wish him all the best, but I think this article misses the mark.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago

Well, written article about an important issue. Who is going to read the book?

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
2 months ago

Young people with mental health aspirations?

I’m certain much of this today is a combination of metal health hypochondria and fear of taking responsibility for life choices. They all need a good slap but I fear it’s not enough.

Gia
Gia
2 months ago

I was recently reminded yet again of how special neurodiverse people are by yet another person who claimed this tag, so I raised the difficulty in half the population carrying the empathy burden for the other half.
The neurotypical is the new ‘white privelege’.

Daisy K
Daisy K
2 months ago

A personal anecdote I’d like to share in the discussion. At our daughter’s uni there is a students with autism group. So far she has chosen not to participate. However she learned that the group or a member had a fit over learning that some kind of panel at Harvard suggested yoga as a possible treatment for autism. The offended felt as though it was suggested as a way to cure or change them.

Yoga is suggested for basically everything. Depression, anxiety, stress etc. I believe it was suggested as a treatment for some on the spectrum to help manage symptoms. Also like all people, you do not HAVE to do it. I say do what works. But it seems misguided to suggest that a person (mental health issues or not) who wants to try something to improve their quality of life is some sort of turncoat against the group.

With all the talk of inclusivity, you’d think there would be some appreciation for suggesting yoga for everyone, including people on the spectrum.

It seems you just can’t win.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 month ago
Reply to  Daisy K

This is due to the creation of minority “community” identities where members are encouraged to develop a defensive attitude to the outside world. So any suggestion to ameliorate suffering is viewed as an attempt to diminish the size of community and its bargaining power. It’s nuts but this is a predominant way of thinking in the west. There are deaf people who are against corrective surgery for hearing impaired children and many parents of kids with Down’s syndrome who advocate a ban on screening for the condition.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 month ago
Reply to  Daisy K

Diversity means thinking all the small way, inclusion means excluding anyone who defies the groupthink in order to maintain the delusion and group psychosis.

Brian Kullman
Brian Kullman
1 month ago

Children are the center of their universes. Self-absorption is the norm, as is the belief in one’s uniqueness and specialness. (This is normal for baby birds as well, which push competitors out of the nest without a second “thought”.)
The process of coming to see oneself as part of, but not the center of, the universe requires considerable human development. Love, marriage, and children are the biggest stimuli to this development, but it can also arrive early from an untimely increase in responsibility arising from the loss of a parent or other rupture in life’s normal evolution.
Not all of us make it. Some remain self-absorbed forever. They may or may not come to realize that most other people don’t really care deeply about them, one way or another.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 months ago

There seems to be more “mental” health issues these days – why ?

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
2 months ago

Could it be that creating victims is the main job of those who benefit from that victimhood?

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 months ago

No, that really is too cynical and reductive. Apparently, a while ago no-one died of cancer or heart disease….or rather it seemed that way because the conditions were not understood and could not be recognised. Depression, schizophrenia etc are real and hugely destructive in ‘real’ terms (death) and not ‘just’ emotional suffering; and yet just a few decades ago, and in many countries to this date, they were regarded as moral/spiritual failures.

That said, some people are often to be seen lying and manipulating their way into power (status, wealth) through whatever ploys they can muster, and psychological disorders are convenient in that they are essentially invisible to the layman. A kind of belt and braces Munchausen’s.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic A

We have now come full around. Some people _are_ moral and spiritual failures, or at least the problems they are having in their lives are predominantly moral and spiritual ones. And so now, while depression and schizophrenia can be recognised (and treated) (yay!) — selfishness, egotism, pride, envy, cowardice and just plain general wickedness cannot be recognised and treated except in the context of a medical framework which has a hard time treating things except by medicating them.
Celebrating wickedness as neuro-diversity means you never have to deal with these failures. It also means you get to wear your ‘I am not a judgemental person person’ hat full-time, instead of learning how to make good judgements. Being supportive of others is the sort of thing that is very good some of the time, and very bad other parts of the time, and wisdom consists of learning which time is which.
But, if all that counts is your commitment to the abstract principles of ‘being non-judgemental’, and ‘being supportive’ you will never have to make a choice, make some mistakes, learn or grow wisdom. We now have legions of therapists who have such commitments. It does not seem to be reducing the number of people who are signing up for therapy.

Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 months ago

Exactly. But we are not allowed to make that observation or draw any conclusions from it

Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 months ago

Really good article
I’m a reformed neurotic, by which I mean I used to suffer from anxiety and depression. Funny how giving myself a good kick up the pants, giving up alcohol, cigarettes, bad friends and bad men plus regular vigorous cardio exercise and returning to my Catholic faith got rid of all the anxiety and “depression”

I worry for young people a lot with the current fashion for neuroses having social cache

The whole “neurodivergent” diagnosis is a loadacoddsawallop from what I can see. People paying private practitioners to diagnose them with imaginary conditions so they can bore people with their neuroses.

I have very little trust in the whole therapy industry
The answers to all human suffering are to be found in Catholicism, and vigorous cardio exercise

It’s older people and generations who should feel and are responsible for destroying the place of religion in society.

Much as I agree with what’s written in the article, people can’t tear a society apart, and then wonder why the world seems like a monster meeting of Neurotics Anonymous

Last edited 2 months ago by Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 month ago

Yep – or as my wife tells me when I’m moping around: get outside into the fresh air and walk the dogs.

Paul McManus
Paul McManus
1 month ago

Catholicism and cardio, the answer to all human suffering, of course! Why did we ever stop bussing all those wheelchair-bound children off to Lourdes? Admittedly, those that returned still wheelchair-bound were a little problematic, but we can all take comfort in the knowledge that that wasn’t Catholicism’s fault, it was that they as individuals didn’t have quite enough faith.

The cardio aspect is a bit trickier, especially for those children with mobility problems, but, as has been amply documented, there was never a shortage of priests willing to offer their services for more ‘personal’ after-hours workouts.

Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul McManus

Actually very few priests abused children.
Rather than relying on Harvey Weinstein films and and anti Catholic propaganda, I’d suggest you think about why so few priests were prosecuted (absence of evidence), why so many “victims” refused to name abusers or give sworn testimony, and why no priests nor nuns were named in all the nonsense “reports” of institutional abuse – the answer being defamation proceedings

I’m also not taking responsibility for the actions of those who think miracles can be performed at Lourdes

Catholicism is as sane as people get

0 0
0 0
1 month ago

Hmmmm. I see the point but I think the author is missing an important part of the picture. I was quite recently diagnosed (in my late 50’s) as having Asperger’s. To me the diagnosis was probably the greatest relief I’ve ever had – not because I wanted to be “different” or “unique” in any way but because it explains why I have always felt ever so slightly out of synch with the world and why even I find my behaviour odd at times. I’m quite good at mimicing “normal” behaviour and continue to do so but I can now be less hard on myself for it. I have no need to change or for special treatment but the option of explaining my frequent strangeness is useful to myself and others.

Booster Blake
Booster Blake
1 month ago

An important insight is missing from this article. While I resonate with his concern regarding the current trend of self-diagnosis and aggrandizement of mental disorders at the expense of minimizing the real suffering experienced by mentally disabled persons, he dismisses the immense value it brings in other areas. Furthermore, he fails to see the broader perspective in which the trend emerges.

  1. Awareness. The celebration of mental illness has resulted in a tsunami of public awareness of disabilities that have historically been invisible and ignored. This has resulted in direct change in how such individuals are treated, to include policy and infrastructure changes that directly benefit those affected.
  2. We are all insane (in a matter of speaking) and prioritizing mental health is critical to our survival. As scientists begin to understand the generational effects of trauma, we are starting to see the dysfunction that has been hidden among the norms of society for too long. For most of us, violence of a survival level was common a mere century ago, or less. The impacts of such experiences resulted in trauma that has been passed down through the generations both behaviorally (parenting) and epigenetically (inherent). Only with an trauma-informed approach can we truly heal as a society and adjust our expectations accordingly. To those who remain trapped within an unhealed traumatized perspective, the expectations of healthy persons might appear as extreme and undeserving.

In short, we are in an age of great transition, moving from an age of extraordinary violence and economic predation into one of integration, where we clearly see that our individual welfare is deeply connected to one another. Personal responsibility is more important than ever, but resides in the context of the collective, not the individual. Only by helping one another can we hope to save ourselves.

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
2 months ago

This was a very good read, smart and compassionate.
I remember, pre-internet, attending meetings when people (actually, all women) claiming to have multiple personality disorder, exposed their inner selves to an oohing and aahing audience, describing in minute detail events of sexual molestation, the names of their “17 personalities”, their favorite colors, etc.
That’s how it all began.

Redheadchaos
Redheadchaos
1 month ago

I am a person who was diagnosed in adult hood with ADHD. I have no idea why I was not diagnosed earlier in my childhood. I struggled all my way through elementary and high school. When I was younger I was in special ed, but my mom didn’t want me to have the stigma of having a developmental or learning disability so I got brought up to speed to only be brought back to normal lessons where I once again floundered. I had teacher tell my mom that they thought I was stupid. My brothers both were diagnosed, one with Autism and the other with ADHD. I have lived my life with people telling me that I’m stupid and weird. Having ADHD is an every day struggle and now I’m finally getting help for it, I only wish that I got help sooner, maybe I would of done better and got help in school. I wanted to be so many things, Egyptologist, Astronomer, Biologist, Fine Artist. It would be an under statement to say that I’m angry about it. Having my diagnosis validates my experience and I can say confidently I am not stupid.

Sarah Jorgensen
Sarah Jorgensen
2 months ago

Stigma, that cartoon monster, has never been in the top 100 of my problems in 20 years of managing a psychotic disorder…” So well put! I’ve generally found one’s concern over the stigma of mental illness is inversely proportional to their experience with severe mental illness in themselves or a loved one…and yet stigma has been the focus of MSM

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 months ago

I understand, Leigh. Didn’t like this phrase “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.”
I have Asperger’s. I’ve spent all my life feeling different. Because I am. Instead of feeling awful and like a loser, I choose to embrace myself and strive high. If there was a cure, I wouldn’t take it.
Best of luck Leigh with the effects of ADHD and depression. There’s many challenges (I know from personal and family experience) but it’s certainly possible to have a good life with meaningful relationships.

Leigh Benson
Leigh Benson
2 months ago

Thanks so much for your kind reply. I love what you said about having a good life and meaningful relationships. All the best!

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 month ago

My daughter, now 49, could probably claim most of those labels but back in the day was just diagnosed educationally subnormal. Not sure if it would have made any difference to invent loads of words to define her. She is who she is pure and simple and loved by everyone.

Last edited 1 month ago by Victoria Cooper
John Lockett
John Lockett
1 month ago

After reading this, all I can say is that I feel profoundly sorry for the writer of this article. This is written from such a place of pain. The author seems so obsessed with his quiet suffering that he feels the need to critique someone for sharing their journey to self acceptance. I’m sorry you didn’t have enough support in your life and I sincerely hope you do receive the support you clearly need. But it is frankly bizarre to write so bitterly about those who are receiving help or talking openly about their struggles.

Another point I must raise; adhd and autism aren’t mental health disorders but neurodevelopmental disorders. It seems strange to me that the author would write such an inflammatory article based on such an entirely flawed premise? As a result, this comes across as emotionally-charged and nonsensical. Though masquerading as an intellectual think piece, the main thrust of this article clearly stems from the author’s own anger and sadness at not receiving the same support.

I have read this book and found it to be an honest and hopeful read. Eloise felt Euphoria on receiving her diagnosis and I felt it with her! Understanding ourselves and our brains can surely only be a good thing after suffering for so long? Your statement that people should suffer quietly feels frankly, alarming. A human’s life is made up of shades of light and dark and we share those experiences with others to learn and to strive for better. Mental health issues are bleak (Eloise never denies that), but learning to suffer in silence isn’t the bold life advice you think it is. I hope you find the support you need.

Ouriel Nessah
Ouriel Nessah
1 month ago

Stigma around mental illness in previous generations was so great people would never seek help. You have first understand you are ill, before you get treatment. You also have to build a support system for it, which you can’t do if there is a societal stigma associated with it. You can’t be embarassed or hide it if you want to to get better. Choosing to be see yourself as empowered rather than broken is definitely better for the psyche.

Oliver Williamson
Oliver Williamson
2 months ago

Such a manufactured, First World drama!

Last edited 2 months ago by Oliver Williamson
john zac
john zac
2 months ago

Whichever way this “ailment’ develops will ultimately shed light on what it organically is. If these perpetual disorders produce amazing work, revealing yet to be understand secrets of the brain—then great. But if it leads to depression, suicide, life long state welfare, then some good doctors are needed to better clarify this situation. Intuitively I agree with Mr Lewis that victimhood opens the door to being entitled to the wrong behavior–but ultimately time will stand as both judge and jury. Thank you great article

James Kirk
James Kirk
2 months ago

I think this applies to all of our modern double think, everybody gets a prize, there are no losers, culture. Dyslexics crowing over their condition (especially those too lazy to learn spelling). We can’t be happy 24/7 or perspective disappears. The world’s a bag of nails of disappointments and failed expectations.Some float to the surface, most do not.

Colin Baxter
Colin Baxter
2 months ago

I think the tone of this article is appalling. Smug, dismissive and insulting.
I don’t agree with the neurodivergence approach, but the comment about ‘just suffer’ makes it clear that the writer is a glib idiot who doesn’t want to understand mental illness.
I have dealt with mental illness, on and off, for about 50 years and for a lot of that time I have ‘just suffered’. And while that definitely does not make me special, it certainly makes me angry that a trite idiot thinks he can lecture me on it.

Leigh Benson
Leigh Benson
2 months ago
Reply to  Colin Baxter

Man, could not have said it better!

Miriam Cotton
Miriam Cotton
2 months ago
Reply to  Colin Baxter

I don’t think she means that people should quietly suffer by themselves and not bother the rest of us. At least I hope not. I understood her to mean that there is a certain amount of unavoidable suffering involved that requires some old-fashioned vim to get through. Nowadays a lot of people expect there to be none whatsoever and every occasion of it is greeted with uncomprehending self pity, no matter what it is. In the context of mental health challenges it’s been converted into a social accessory. The media is running with this. It hasn’t improved the lot of people who are suffering and surviving as usual without leveraging it as a pathway to social stardom and the near eulogising of self indulgence. Nothing in this suggests that ordinary understanding and support should be withheld, that people should suffer alone or in silence.

Stephen Sichel
Stephen Sichel
1 month ago
Reply to  Miriam Cotton

Albert Goldman: ‘To live is to suffer, anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something’.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 month ago
Reply to  Colin Baxter

The writer is well known for his mental health issues and is not a trite idiot.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 months ago

Be assured Leigh; what the author is really decrying is a narcissist position on life (not neurological conditions ADHD etc) – i.e. those who exploit anything, including ailments, in service of grandiose strivings. This is not you.

Leigh Benson
Leigh Benson
2 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Thanks Dominic. I get what you are saying. Thanks for your thoughtful and validating response.

Katharine Pons
Katharine Pons
1 month ago

Never have I read an article about ADHD that is so utterly misguided. The author quite clearly has ABSOLUTELY no idea what it or neurodiversity is. I make no comment on the book he is reviewing as I have never read it but I know as an adult with ADHD and 2 kids with ADHD that it is articles like these that spread ignorance and scepticism about a very real condition that is already not properly recognised, supported or funded. Very angry indeed….

Jane Potter
Jane Potter
1 month ago

As someone who grew up during the destigmatization zeitgeist of the 2010s, this hit home. On one hand: yes, my less-than-ideal childhood combined with ADHD made things harder for me. On the other hand: I’m ambitious, and driven, and I want(ed) so badly to be better, and I pushed myself, and continue to do so, every day to overcome my mental health struggles… and I found myself in the uncomfortable (obviously immature) position of almost wishing that it didn’t help. Because the natural consequence of treating mental illness like this innate quirk that makes you stronger, better, more interesting and deserving of sympathy… is that when people try to heal, they lose support. Especially when you’re young, you want to be recognized for your efforts to get better, but nobody who believes that mental illness is this static, inherently Morally Good label can acknowledge you without implicitly acknowledging also a difference between you and someone with a similar diagnosis who is doing Worse— and that, of course, is verboten. So what do you get? A culture that inevitably does as little as possible to encourage young people to seek agency and dignity when faced with complex mental illnesses.

sm dunn-dufault
sm dunn-dufault
1 month ago

in case your metrics didn’t quantify it, I paid for a year’s subscription after reading Freddie’s piece.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
2 months ago

You say you couldn’t finish the article, but the word “superpower” only appears in the last paragraph.
We might, then, have the courage to say that mental illness sucks, that there’s nothing good about it, that the efforts to bend it into some superpower of greater creativity or deeper living is sour grapes from those who can’t escape.
I’ve tried, but there’s no way I can twist that into the suggestion that ‘all advocates of the term “neurodivergence” think they have superpowers.’
I subscribe to his substack, and have read his other recent pieces on this subject, and I can’t say I’ve seen any aggression or cruelty in his tone.
He actually writes:

This sounds like an awful condition, and she deserves sympathy.

I don’t know where you get the idea that he’s without compassion. And, as only paying subscribers can comment on Unherd, and you’ve commented, I can tell you exactly how it got into your inbox, but I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.

Leigh Benson
Leigh Benson
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Actually not a paying subscriber – hence my confusion.

julia bliss
julia bliss
1 month ago

Thank you. I wonder how much of our cultures need for everyone to be SPECIAL feeds into this narrative.
I suffer from several chronic conditions, have since childhood. Most of us would love nothing more than to just be boring and “normal”, whatever that means.
There is a difference between acceptance, and appreciating nuance that comes with these things, and just lying to yourself.

Paul Holloway
Paul Holloway
1 month ago

Yes, it sounds like Eloise, and those like her, needs therapy so that they can come to enjoy the fullness of what life has to offer, but through intense struggle, we obtain immense rewards. It should be noted that going from surviving to thriving the struggle of being mentally ill might be what is considered self-actualization to those people. Finally, the diagnosis of being mentally ill should be publicly considered as existing along various points on various severity continuums impacting one’s fullness of life that sometimes come with a few advantages (like the blind using other senses more profoundly), not a monolithic demon to be totally vanquished

John Eliason
John Eliason
1 month ago

I, myself have numerous mental health issues, to many to name and I promise you there is not one time where I have ever, ever portrayed my mental health issues as a positive.

To take medication in order to stop continually obsessing on suicide, or medication to try and keep me from being depressed yet also keep me from being to high up. Medication to calm me down, and so on.

I will never promote these things are great, or I’ll never go on Instagram and show how special I am. Mental health issues suck. For those of us with multiple issues, you know the different effects of each one and do not wish I ever had any of them, let alone brag about them as a trendy thing.

Your article was well written, and more things like this would be helpful.

mo k
mo k
1 month ago

Thank you so much for this article!

I identify as neurodivergent, and that’s partially due to how so many earlier online spaces for autistic people seemed to be full of tone policing and toxic positivity. (The other reason is that I was diagnosed with narcolepsy 2 years ago, and living life as an adult with a clearer head is way more of an adjustment than a few diagnoses that are my baseline.)

For context, I’m a cis woman in my late twenties who was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD just before my fourth birthday, and it took me until the last few years to not hate my diagnosis. Many of my high school classmates would treat me like crap and sometimes claim that me “probably having Asperger’s or something” was enough of a reason to only begrudgingly put up with me unless they wanted me to do group work for them. Now, way too many folks like them (primarily white and upper-middle class) are calling autism a superpower just as much as the most frustrating parts of Wrong Planet back in the day.

But going from openly using autism as a snarl word to going gaga over a relatively young, privileged TikTok creator in the span of a decade doesn’t undo the social anxiety that pops up if I see someone who might look like my old classmates from a distance around Thanksgiving. It doesn’t magically erase the depression that I had from my teens up until the last few years that made me want to die at its two lowest points when I was 14 and 22.

It also doesn’t account for many other holes in the positivity. It leaves out folks who can’t mask their symptoms and/or are further along on the spectrum, like my brother, who at age 30, is surprised when he’s not treated like a child. It also glosses over a bunch of other issues regarding socioeconomics, race, or the fact that autism is still an insult in many online spaces.

In the small scale, the best course of action I can think of is to listen to people, *especially* if they don’t feel at ease with being told that their condition is universally good. I currently consider my autism and ADHD to be neutral attributes – the former can help me tune out other people’s petty squabbles and the latter makes me adore being a postal worker. But combined with my narcolepsy, they all contributed to me failing out of college, which I’m still somewhat ashamed of.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 month ago

According to various definitions I am racist, transphobic and now …. the hat-trick ….I am also guilty of stigma! There must be a book in it somewhere.

Ian Gribbin
Ian Gribbin
1 month ago

Great piece. The author should read Dalyrimple’s Admirable Evasions – How Modern Psychology Undermines Morality

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Gribbin
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Gribbin

Sorry to be objectionable, but whilst that book is an entertaining polemic with plenty of good points (albeit ones that have already been noted and carefully considered many times already), it is cynical (rather than skeptical), glib, outdated, replete with strawman arguments, and weak on science. Most damningly, he seems remarkably un self-aware/reflective, un self-critical – as a psychiatrist, he has dedicated his career (when he’s not penning) to medicating mental illness…..and then snarkily decries those who try to understand and manage it within the mind (using meaning, discipline, understanding, acceptance, personal responsibility) rather than just taking a pill. What’s that about? Maybe he might actually try a bit of therapy himself, but that would require him to get over himself.

Matt C.
Matt C.
1 month ago

Interesting but I’m not sure what the article has to do with treatment or helping with stigma, it mostly is trying to shed a light on how cool it is to have mental health problems now. This can shed light on the CBT research several years ago on Schemas and levels of functioning and severity/chronicity of mental disorders. Researchers and diagnosticians alike are finding more and more how disorders relate to levels of severity and likenesses rather than fitting into neatly organized parts of the DSM-V.
Nevertheless, the article is pretty silly, that may be due to the author not being in the biz, or because most authors are trying to relate to kids on social media. I was not aware that there was an ADHD tiktok, or worse yet a DID tiktok. DID being a severe and scary disorder I wouldn’t recommend anyone portraying, making videos pretending to explain, or downright even talk about a psychiatric illness such as DID. People on the internet or social media should know, just because someone says it on the internet it doesn’t make it true, even if they are wearing doctor’s scrubs.

Scott Mendelson
Scott Mendelson
1 month ago

If you go to a cardiologist insisting that something is “divergent” in you, that doctor may very well say that you are wrong. “There is nothing wrong with you.” If you go to a psychiatrist insisting there is something “divergent” in you, that doctor will be obligated to tell you that you are correct. However, it may not be the problem you believe to be is the case,

Last edited 1 month ago by Scott Mendelson