A few months ago, I was walking across Dublin to meet a friend. At the top of Grafton St., a woman from some religious group or other was handing out glossy leaflets titled something like “Reasons to go on living”. How absurd. I wanted to take her aside and explain to her that, while she probably means well, anyone who is actually considering suicide has a complex and personal web of problems in their life that couldn’t possibly be addressed by a one-size-fits-all pamphlet of generic reasons why life is worth living.
Shortly after turning fifty, Leo Tolstoy succumbed to a profound spiritual crisis. With his greatest works behind him, he found his sense of purpose dwindling as his celebrity and public acclaim billowed, sinking into a state of deep depression and melancholia despite having a large estate, good health for his age, a wife who had born him fourteen children, and the promise of eternal literary fame. On the brink of suicide, he made one last grasp at light amidst the darkness of his existence, turning to the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions for answers to the age-old question regarding the meaning of life.
Once it was routine for many respected social critics such as Lewis Mumford and Erich Fromm to express concern about the impact of modern civilization on our mental health. But today the idea that the mental illness epidemic is also being caused by a peculiar rebellion against a dehumanizing society has been, for the most part, removed from the mainstream map. When a societal problem grows to become all encompassing, we often no longer even notice it.
The concept of neurodiversity is largely unknown within the anarchist community, or any community, for that matter. Neurodiversity is the idea that people with neurological differences should be recognized as equals to neurotypicals, or those who are considered neurologically "normal."
Many young people diagnosed with mental disorders are essentially anarchists who have the bad luck of being misidentified by mental health professionals, who 1) are ignorant of the social philosophy of anarchism; 2) embrace, often without political consciousness, its opposite ideology of hierarchism; and 3) confuse the signs of anarchism with symptoms of mental illness.
The winter of 2011 found me moderately depressed, barely leaving the house, a recent college graduate with no clue why my life felt so empty. Growing up Black and middle class, it was pounded into my psyche that that piece of paper was my meal-ticket to happiness, prosperity, and social acceptance. As a radical feminist, delving into the world of activism, I was left feeling less than satisfied, to say the least. So I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I left Ohio, looking for something more, some deeper answer to the lacking I felt.
Allan is a new patient at our outpatient clinic. In the space of a month he has lost his job, his health insurance, and after a fight with his wife, his home. He is 32 and is suffering from, he explains, “PTSD, bipolar disorder and ADHD”. He wants me to renew the medications he has been taking for the last few years: a mood stabilizer, an antidepressant, two antipsychotics and one tranquilizer.
In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by (1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians, and (2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.
In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by 1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians; and 2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.