Thoughts On Neurodivergence


I learned a new word about a month ago: neurodivergent.

Some of you may have heard it before and know what it means.  For those who don’t the following  is from Wikipedia:  “This portmanteau of neurological and divergent originated in the late 1990’s as a challenge to prevailing views of neurological diversity as inherently pathological, instead asserting that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category on par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status.”

In other words, I’m no longer mentally ill.  I’m neurodivergent instead.

The article goes on to note that the term is controversial, with two opinions basically shaping the debate–one side that believes that bipolar disorder, autism, etc. are mental diseases that should be treated as such, and another that believes that people with these conditions are merely variations of normal human behavior and should be protected from those who would force them to behave differently or “conform to a clinical ideal”. There is even a part of their platform that actively advocates what is called an anti-cure perspective.

In other words, accept them, accommodate them, but don’t cure them.

I can’t think of a position more damaging to the mentally ill than this one.  Don’t work for a cure?  What kind of talk is this?

I’ll say this much for the record as far as I can tell.  I have been manic.  I have been depressed.  I have on occasion been normal without psychotropic medications. I will take normal any day of the week over manic, mixed, depressed or any other variation. I don’t need the PC police coming along and telling me I’m normal when I’m not and that I should simply learn to embrace my differentness.   I cannot do so.  I  will not do so. I will fight bipolar disorder with every tool in my arsenal, including medication in whatever form they give it to me.  I will be educated about my disorder and will fight for my rights as a patient to have my disorder treated on a par with heart disease and diabetes.  I feel this “neurodivergent  ” viewpoint I just as damaging as criminalizing mental illness.  It’s too much of a pendulum swing.

After decades of fighting to get a treatment model instead of a punishment model, along comes what is essentially a license to ignore the needs of the mentally ill once again, this time by normalizing their behavior.  I’m sorry.  This movement is wrongheaded and damaging, no matter how well-intentioned they are.

JulieJulie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog.   She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer.  She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.

You can follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter or her personal blog.

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