S.E. Smith has a really, really fantastic post up at FWD about Coming Out In A Dangerous World
, talking about mental health, ablism, and the publishing industry.
Ou mentions me by my LJ name (fiction_theory
), and I think I should explain a bit that a few days ago I posted on Twitter about being quite fed up with the ablism in the publishing industry, particularly when I see things like this: 10 Lies Agents and Editors Tell You
, if you look at the URL (though not the blog title) there is the addition: To Protect Themselves From Crazies.
Which is why you’re going to be able to take it when I tell you that agents and publishing editors lie to you routinely. And it is beholden upon all you non-crazies out there to take it graciously, because if the crazies were allowed to run riot there’d be no agents or publishing editors out there to work with the rest of us, at all.
This kind of language, this use of that word, this way of using "crazy, "insane", "nutso", conflating mental illness with acting unprofessionally or rudely, or just in a way that certain people don't like is very common - and it's taken to be somehow clever or delightfully snarky. I can't begin to count the number of blogs from professionals in this industry that have done this, or have said someone is "off their meds".
The irony being that this kind of language is often used by someone lecturing others to act professionally.
Then there are posts like this one from Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm: "This is Your Brain on Drugs"
, saying things like this:
And maybe the difference is that I’ve never let her use the brain drugs that so many of her fellow students use. From second or third grade on, many of her friends have been on drugs for ADD, ADHD, and whatever other initials apply. The most common one seems to be Ritalin.
Here is my reasoning. You have to be who you genetically are. Part of my scattered focus is related to my artistic temperment. (Artistic temperment is sometimes spelled ‘t e n d e n c y t o m a n i c d e p r e s s i o n.’) It means that I can end up with two cups of warm coffee on my desk (and who drank one of them already?) or with twenty pages of good text after a wild and exuberant evening of just talking to myself and playing the stereo too loud. I think it is just how I am wired and a part of who I am. I gave up fighting it years ago, and instead I’ve enjoyed it. There are devastating lows and breath-taking highs to my moods and through it all, I keep writing. Life’s a roller coaster for me. I’ve come to accept that. In retrospect, I’m glad it was never medicated away, even though my recollections of my twenties are tinged with a lot of darkness.
Do you see how judgmental, dismissive, and hurtful that is?
ADD and ADHD are, apparently, not actual disorders. They're just initials. And these children didn't have ADD or ADHD, they were just "on drugs for ADD or ADHD".
If you're a person who has these conditions, you don't really have anything according to this article. You're just quirky and scatter brained. Medication is just looking for an easy way out, looking to take "brain drugs", altering yourself, cheating at life.
When you (or a child you make decisions for) have a mental illness and make it known that you're being treated for it, others sit in judgment. Because in our society, we still think it's okay. It's all right to speculate, to demean, to make it our business. It's all right to judge the decisions made, in this case, these families and their children about their own well being. It is not okay. It is never okay.
It is not okay to talk about your own experiences and expect that everyone else's are just the same, and to shame them and brag about your own LUCK in not needing them to function. It is not okay to tell people that if they seek medications to help them live the life they want, that they are cheating by altering themselves, because to alter yourself in a way that gives you more function is unacceptable
Also? Such a statement is absurd and offensive to not only the disabled, but to transpeople, to recovering addicts with family histories of addiction.
Psychiatric medications (not "brain drugs", thank you very much) are often just as life saving as insulin for diabetics. To shame someone about taking medication to save their life and improve the quality of it is inexcusable.
If you're a person who doesn't need them to function, that makes you lucky. Not better, not more honest, not more real, not more "natural", not harder working - just lucky.
I know there are plenty who would accuse me of looking to be offended, except I don't have to search for these things. Every time I click on a link to "advice from an agent" or "tips for dealing with editors" or "my opinions about life by Big Name Author" - there's a good chance it'll be right there waiting for me.
It'll be there when someone encounters a person who is socially awkward or rude and labels them as having Asperger's or Autism, stereotyping that social difficulties are the only symptoms of these disorders and that to have them is automatically to be unpleasant to be around.
It'll be there when someone conflates being fastidious or nitpicky with having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, trivializing it, when this disorder can make daily life miserable for those going untreated.
I've posted before about why the use of the word "crazy" can be hurtful and offensive
, and why it reinforces the attitudes and stereotypes that oppress people with mental disorders or disabilities. There's also a great series on Feminists With Disabilities called the Ableist Word Profile
and I highly recommend going and reading every single post and really, really thinking about it.
It makes me tired and angry very often when I see these things from people in the business I want to be in, people that I may one day find myself working with. It worries me that if they find out about my own history with mental illness, if I should need medication in the future, that this will mean they won't work with me because I'm "one of those crazies", no matter how professionally and respectfully I act.
I'm tired because there are better words for what actually is being said. If someone is rude, call them rude or inconsiderate, insulting, impertinent, disrespectful. If someone is being unprofessional, say that
There's no reason to bring the language of mental health into these discussions this way. There's no reason to call someone "crazy" if they send you a nasty response to a query rejection or don't follow guidelines or post something you don't like. Calling them "crazy" or "off their meds" is wrong, and it is just as unprofessional and rude as anything that person might do.ETA:
Changed pronouns referring to S.E. Smith, as I wrongly gendered ou. My deepest apologies. I obviously made a wrong assumption (cisprivilege fail!) and am deeply sorry and will not be making it again. I obviously have cisprivilege issues that need working on.