I’d like to encourage readers to check out a new blog, Radically Mad, where cheshirekit will also be writing about experiences with mental health issues. Although she has several psychiatric diagnoses, she prefers to consider herself “mad and neurodivergent.” Near the end of her Introduction, she explains the meanings of these terms:
Neurodiversity and disability rights refer more to physical and cognitive disabilities, while mad pride and radical mental health refer to psychiatric diagnoses. The basic idea is that humans are meant to be diverse and have diverse ways of perceiving, experiencing, and acting on the world, and this actually improves society as a whole rather than hurting it. Having a brain that is wired differently, though it can be challenging at times since our society at large is set up to be convenient people with “typical” brains, does not have to be a bad thing, and can in fact be a source of pride.
I like this way of thinking, but I have yet to examine my own relationship with it.
Whatever labels people might stick on me, my basic experience is that I have very strong emotions. I’m learning what to do about / with them – how to express them safely; how to channel them into a healthy activity; how to respond to the situation in which they are arising so as to meet my own needs while still respecting others; etc. Right now I’m taking medication intended to make them a little bit easier to handle, but most of my work is on coping with them.
I don’t want my intense emotions to go away – they are an important part of who I am! They give me energy, creativity, the passion and drive to do amazing things. I often find it difficult to function in a society that devalues emotions, demands conformity, sensationalizes tragedy, and over-stimulates the senses. Worst, I’ve internalized messages from society that take the form of very harsh, critical thoughts with the power to decimate my self-esteem. But as painful as the lows may be, on some level I value them just as much as I value the joy that can rise in response to the simplest things. The depth of the emotions I can experience is meaningful to me; it is the genesis of my art. Having experienced the lows helps me to appreciate the highs so much more. They’re also an important part of how I connect with other people – empathy.
So I guess for me Mad Pride is recognizing these aspects of who I am as a way of being that, while undervalued by society, is valuable in its own right. My emotions aren’t “pathological,” society just isn’t really built to handle them. My journey isn’t about “recovering” from an “illness,” it’s about learning the skills I need to live and function in society, while still valuing, expressing, and utilizing all of my Self. It is in this way that I can make the most meaningful contributions to society.
… Though any change that can occur in society, to make it more accepting of and accessible to people who are mad and/or neurodivergent, is certainly a big help. That’s where activism comes in: changing the structures of society to be more inclusive; to make diversity more visible; to
value respect the myriad of ways humans can be in the world – rather than considering one way “normal” and marginalizing everyone who doesn’t fit into this narrow mold.