Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How Not to Write About Neurological or Psychological Differences

Definitely, don't include the above statement in your piece. However, the points I'm discussing are a bit more subtle.
I recently read a review of a book about a woman with bipolar disorder. I have not read the book myself at this juncture but am taking it on myself to do so for the reasons stated below. 

The reviewer made this statement:
"Individuals affected with this disorder, eventually take up the nature of a 'zombie' because of the effects of the drugs given to control it. They are also known to be suicidal."

I left this reply to the reviewer.

As a person with bipolar disorder, I would suggest doing further research on bipolar disorder before making blanket statements regarding how people who live with the disorder behave. There are several types of bipolar disorder: type one, type two, and cyclothymia. There are also a variety of medications used to treat it, and some of us who live with the condition do not take medication.
There is an increased likelihood of suicide ideation with bipolar disorder, however, this does not always manifest in the same way. Speaking for myself personally, I have frequent suicide ideation but it tends to be situational. I have learned coping techniques to deal with it. I never "become a zombie" because of medication because I refuse to take medications which allow me to become a zombie.
As I have Kindle Unlimited, I feel the need to take it upon myself to read this book because if this is the sort of picture it is painting of people with bipolar disorder, that is troubling indeed. We already face enough stigma. We do not need the world viewing a varied population in an extremely negatively stereotyped fashion. 
As this book appears to depict a single case and one person's manifestations of bipolar disorder, please do not stereotype all persons with bipolar disorder as behaving in the same way. We are as varied as any other population of individuals. Your review was concise, but the sentences stereotype an entire population of people. Instead of saying "people with bipolar disorder are known to...", personalize the review by saying "Geraldine experienced feelings of lethargy due to the side effects of her medication" or "Geraldine was suicidal."
I would also avoid using terms such as "suffering from" when referring to neurological differences such as autism or psychological aberrations such as bipolar disorder. Such a description can be offensive. Persons with these conditions often are not suffering due to the condition itself, we suffer because of the negative ways in which we are treated. I have told people that if I could have a cure for my diabetes, I would take it in a heartbeat, but I would not take a cure for my bipolar disorder. Having bipolar disorder disappear would change the way my mind perceives the world, and I would not know how to function in the world. I am not going to say that bipolar disorder is a "gift," but it is an oversimplification to say that bipolar disorder causes suffering, implying that eradication of bipolar disorder would eradicate suffering. Many things cause suffering. Bipolar disorder simply causes a shift in the way a person perceives the world, which may or may not cause suffering.


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