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I have more than one family member whose life has been ruined by untreated mental illness. Their lives would be no better if they'd romanticized their conditions, because not getting treatment is what's ruinous, not "stigma" or whatever.

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Your are so right, and I am grateful for your honesty. I flew in from the Middle East to put my closest friend in the hospital when her bipolar mental disorder rendered her incoherent and unable to live by herself. I sat her her room as she wept for hours in her misery. It took years for her to recover and she was never the same. Fortunately, as a tenured professor, she had great medical insurance and job security but she still suffered enormous pain and there was nothing to celebrate. Thank you again for speaking the truth.

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I liked your piece and a lot of it resonated with me, someone who got caught up in that stuff for a bit. The reason people are saying it make sense to seperate scitzofrenia etc from autism ADHD etc is that the the later can be thought of as a difference that has many parts some of which genuinely are NOT bad. For example, if an autistic kid is obsessed with trains I don't think it makes sense to claim that he can't get any joy out of the way he's unique. Obviously that shouldn't be extended to his social difficulties etc but it is possible that some developmental disorders (as opposed to other mental illness) have PARTS that are not bad (and maybe good) in addition to the parts that are bad. Depression, etc are a disease that impacts a specific part of cognition in a negative way but things like ADHD or autism are better thought of as a "brain that processes things differently but not always incorrectly" and theres a fundamental distinction there. I think it's possible to acknowledge that without leaning into the cult of validation.

Look at it this way. If you're depressed you're always going to be struggling for as long as you are depressed. When you're struggling less you're less depressed. With autism or ADHD you will always have the same "amount" of autism/ ADHD and sometimes you'll be happy sometimes sad sometimes struggling etc. But one is more structural in a sense.

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Any good reactions to your piece that you would recommend?

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People are so desperate to have an identity so that they can be special enough to banish the fear of their own mortality. If you collect enough identity tokens you'll be special enough to be a main character and then you'll never die.

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I think one of the problems you have run into is how unherd frames things.

Your review came with the heading:

"Mental illness doesn’t make you special. Why do neurodiversity activists claim suffering is beautiful?"

I am not sure if a real human being decided to write this, or if this is robot headlining, but it in no way captures the thought of your writing. You weren't even attempting to answer that question with your column. No wonder people got defensive.

Next time you write for unherd, see if you can have creative control over the headline, as well. (And please report back here if the answer was -- no. This will mean something, though I am

of many minds as to what, as of now.) I'd like to write a column for them, but not if they get to control the framing of the article with their title.

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I get that solidarity is important, but combining all mental health related concepts into a single bloc has become

basically incoherent. After mass shootings, I see friends on social media talking about how mental illness doesn’t cause mass shootings and how they know this because they had a single depressive episode four years ago. “Neurotypical” is a bizarre concept that somehow includes, say, a piano prodigy, a guy with an average IQ but a photographic memory, and an intellectually slow woman with amazing people skills, but doesn’t include a guy who gets nervous in some social situations.

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It sounds like (once again) you’re being attacked by people with poor reading comprehension, and subpar critical thinking skills. The American culture of “quick fix” and “it’s never my fault” thinking conditions people to attack rather than to experiment with self-awareness. Capitalism conditions us to think and behave in this self-defeating and unproductive way.

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We live in disturbed world. We do not know the causes of these issues. Maybe these issues always existed and people were just called possessed or witches.

Today, people want special recognition for their condition. It makes since. If they are just an upper middle class white teenager, they are the target of systemic hatred from the CRT regime. In one quick move, they can jump up in the privilege line.

Conditions may be real, but instead of developing skills to deal with them, they identify with their conditions. They excuse their own bad behavior. And develop personality disorders.

Life is hard enough without this. Mental health issues are not to be desired.

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I think there are autistic people whose disease doesn’t cause them any problems in itself, and who would have no issues living life if it weren’t for non-autistic people treating them poorly. It seems like describing this type of person is the origin of “neurodiversity” and the concept fits quite well.

Why every useful concept has to be expanded beyond its limits into a big blob, I don’t know.

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founding

As something inspirational, I offer this youtube from a fundraising event five or so years ago for Autism research and services.

I was in the audience, and I still get chills watching it. And it made me a Katy Perry fan for life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3yhHKZ9RHQ

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First, I thought your review was excellent, but please realize that my narcissism is special :)

Second, I could never do what you do. It must be withering to deal with unfair characterization and criticism on media platforms these days. Sometimes, things need to be said, and I’m glad you say the things . . .

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