pathologize everything: a satire

does your child appear to love life? is your adorable child hyper & creative? a fountain of energy and smiles? does your child marvel at the wonders of nature, and laugh and shriek with bliss when running and playing, yet appear restless when forced into a math class? does he prefer running, swinging, and joking to sitting still for 8 hours at a time? does he display normal personality quirks like procrastination or difficulty getting organized?

he’s probably got a mental illness. give him medication. amphetamines. it sounds like attention deficit disorder, with which 1 in 5 school-aged boys in the USA supposedly suffer.

1 in 5.

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how about his best friend? does she love to read? what about introspective quiet time with a journal? is she passionate and creative, preferring to learn about her favorite dinosaur or her favorite part of history rather than waste a day with things she likes less? does she have “unusual facial expressions,” whatever the hell that means? how about intelligence? is she well-spoken (yes! this, too, is pathologized)? does she read? is she clever?

sounds like autism. it’s a spectrum, you see, and your perfectly wonderful and brilliant friend is quite sick. get her the help she needs.

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and the sensitive one? the empathetic one? the one who cries for a dead pigeon on the side of the road?

dangerous clinical depression. give the child anti-psychotics.

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what if someone is a bright streak in a gray world? what if they are blindingly creative? a painter, maybe, or a poet, or a sculptor? what if they speak in metaphor after studying zen koan, and begin to meditate or pray? what if they are deeply spiritual, and feel connected with life? what if they start to sew, and create their own magnificent and strange outer-worldly clothing?

sounds odd, eccentric, and peculiar – a dangerous symptom of schizotypal personality disorder.

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when an adult says, “i need help with my mental health,” it is completely real, and i am not discounting these experiences. this is about adults deciding that children (or other adults) are sick because they aren’t like the others.

by creating this impossible and unpleasant norm, we pathologize everything interesting, everything fascinating, every personality quirk and every uniqueness. we live in a society where “peculiar” is a SYMPTOM. we have to band together, to love and support each other, against this. we have to resist this machine that pathologizes creativity and life. we can resist. we will resist.

the next time someone mentions the dsm like it’s gospel truth, remind them that there are no tests for mental illness. remind them about autonomy. remind them that being gay was considered a sickness just 40 years ago, and that “gender identity disorder” was still a “sickness” in 2013. remind them that peculiar is beautiful.

remind them that the MAD PRIDE tides are rising.

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2 comments

  1. I love this!! I can’t find the words at the moment, but let’s just say it REALLY hit home. We’ve become programmed to view every single little ‘symptom’ as a problem. I do it myself, and I need to stop! It’s a struggle, though, and I’m realizing it’s going to take some time to unlearn this ‘black or white’ mentality I’ve had for so long. Peculiar IS beautiful. I’m so with you on that. Well done!

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