I want to be clear that, even though there are many differences between the four models I’ve presented, every model is compatible with the fact that many of us who are mentally different experience significant suffering, including the Mad Pride/Neurodiversity Model. Contrary to initial appearances, this model can still be true (and/or you can still adopt it for yourself) and it still be the case that people with mental differences suffer greatly. This suffering may be due to a sanist (un-accepting and stigmatizing) society, and/or it may stream from the suffering that comes with being alive, and/or it may be due to features of the mental difference itself. In other words, assuming that a mental difference is a form of diversity worthy of acceptance need not imply that this difference doesn’t produce suffering. Many things are worthy of acceptance and still produce suffering (being in a romantic relationship is one example – it is (often) worthy of acceptance, but yet can produce significant suffering from heartache, tensions, fights, etc.).
And it makes sense that many people subscribing to the Mad Pride/Neurodiversity model (along with many others!) would want to lessen their suffering. This is true of both those with mental differences and those without (those who aren’t mentally different are sometimes called “neurotypical”).
In other words, I firmly believe that taking steps to lessen your suffering is consistent with adopting the Mad Pride/Neurodiversity model. And I do not think there is anything necessarily hypocritical in being prideful of your mental difference while also using psychiatric drugs, psychotherapy, self-care, etc. to help improve your life. Psychiatric drugs, psychotherapy, self-care, etc. can be seen as tools for helping you achieve various goals and goods in life. For example, you can use them to abate features of your mental difference that are particularly troubling without having to commit to a belief that your mental difference overall must be completely cured and eradicated. Alternately, you may use them to abate “normal” features of your mind outside of your mental difference that are themselves particularly troubling, without having to commit to a belief that all of the “normal” features of your mind must be completely cured and eradicated! Many in the Mad Pride/Neurodiversity movement would agree with the above statements. Furthermore, there are several psychiatrists and psychotherapists who also embrace the Mad Pride/Neurodiversity model, and also view drugs and therapies as compatible tools for flourishing. Arguably, it similarly makes sense for those who are neurotypical to also take steps to lessen their types of suffering in many ways.
On the other hand, I firmly believe it can also make sense for people who subscribe to any of the above models to refuse certain types of (or all types of) alleviation of suffering (or, “treatments”). First, even though many who are mentally different experience suffering, not all do. Second, even if they do, there are good reasons to think that they themselves should be in control of whether and how they alleviate that suffering. This is not dissimilar to the ideas that: (1) there are good reasons that you should be able to embrace whichever model resonates most with you, personally, when thinking about your own mental difference, and (2) there are good reasons that you should have a chance to decide for yourself which differences you are and aren’t proud of. Even though the idea that you should have the right to choose whether or not you receive treatment is technically compatible with the adoption of any of the above models, many who embrace the Mad Pride/Neurodiversity model are especially outspoken against forced treatment by the state or by other people. This makes sense; if the feature of your mind being treated is not necessarily bad, but is instead an acceptable form of diversity, then there is good reason to think it need not be “treated” or changed. Forced treatment happens more than many people realize, including in situations where the person being forced does not pose a harm to others, or even to themselves. And obviously, forced treatment can be extremely demoralizing, damaging, and traumatic.
So, if you are suffering, and you do wish to alleviate that suffering, how can you do so? The answers are too vast to try to thoroughly encapsulate here. However, I will list just a few possibilities:
1. Seek out a psychologist and/or psychiatrist who is open to your favored model.
2. Find communities of like-minded individuals and support groups (meetup.com is one possibility – the Icarus Project (http://theicarusproject.net) also has many local chapters, as does DBSA (http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home)). Social inclusion and acceptance can be a very powerful tool for good.
3. Perhaps explore spiritual or religious approaches to your suffering, if and only if that makes sense to you.
4. Google “self-care” and “self-compassion” and see what suggestions come up (one nice site is http://self-compassion.org).
5. Know that there are myriad types of psychotherapies that have helped countless people, and consider engaging in one. One list is here: https://www.div12.org/psychological-treatments/treatments/
Again, please don’t think that this list is exhaustive. These are just a few of many, many options you have.