Saturday, April 30, 2016

On self-diagnosis

A handful of posts have popped up on my Tumblr dashboard criticizing the current trend (is it a trend?) of self-diagnosis. What's missing, I think, is a critique of a culture, and by which I'm talking about the culture of Tumblr, not society at large (Tumblr is bizarro world), that prizes suffering and places everything and everyone along axes of power. When I was blogging at a women's site that was never overtly political, but mostly left-leaning, I first encountered the concept of allyship, and I've noticed in few short years being an ally has lost its power. Now, it often seems, you're either an oppressor, or oppressed, and no good liberals wants to be an oppressor. How does this factor into self-diagnosis? In an environment where "identity" rules, something like mental illness, which often goes "unseen" in the way physical disability can't (and things like anxiety, depression, and ADHD are common), it's an easy way to absolve oneself of responsibility. I'm not saying every self-diagnosed person is using mental illness as a get out of privilege free card, but when the one in the most pain wins, it's comparatively easy to do. And, I should point out, people with actual, doctor-confirmed diagnosis can do the same.

Now this is a very specific thing I'm talking about, and in the world beyond online activism, this isn't happening. Actual reasons someone might resist getting a diagnosis? Fear. Fear of being labeled ill, fear of unemployment. Lack of resources. Lack of a general knowledge of mental health. Shame. Lots of shame.

Somewhat tangentially related, Nick Cohen wrote a lengthy piece about the presumed virtuousness of marginalized classes for Standpoint Magazine. It doesn't exactly touch on what I'm talking about, but it's all part of the same culture.