The Similarities Between Broken Legs and Broken Brains

| November 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

Over my many (many) years on the internet, I’ve gotten to watch many social media trends as they unfold. And by far my least favorite trend thus far (and I’m saying this as someone who had to deal with literal thousands of people impersonating Misha Collins for twenty four hours simultaneously) has got to be the “we can’t all be neurotypical, Karen” meme.

The circumstances surrounding the meme’s use are simple. Essentially, all you need is for one poor fool to make a post giving advice of some sort (whether it be about dealing with depression or just… being a decent human being) and then you just have to wait a few hours. Inevitably, someone will emerge from the ether, snapping their jaws like a shark who’s caught the scent of blood in the water. And you end up with an exchange like:

“Make sure to stay hydrated!” “We can’t all be neurotypical, Karen.”

or

“Try these mindfulness techniques!” “We can’t all be neurotypical, Karen.”

or even

“Be nice to others!” “We can’t all be neurotypical, Karen.”

The joke used to be funny, because it used to be used in situations when someone was being a jerk about mental illness. You’d find it at the end of dismissive posts about how yoga cures depression or how weird people who don’t make eye contact with you are. But, slowly, the joke has curled in on itself defensively. Instead of being a satirical poke at prevailing societal views of mental illness, it’s become a phrase used to dismiss good advice.

In the push to validate the experiences of people with mental illnesses, a weird faction has risen up that translates any attempt to treat or recover from mental illness as an attack on people with mental illnesses. In accepting that there’s something up with your brain, these people seem to think that you just have to deal with and live with that forever, that you can never try to change yourself for the better or you hate people with depression or something. Well-meaning posts are brushed off with a disdainful meme.

Like, okay, we get it, drinking water isn’t going to cure your depression. But, it’s something your body needs and will make you feel a bit better. Being mindful and paying attention is sometimes hard when you have a mental illness or disorder. But, as someone with ADHD? Hell yeah I’m working at it. Because I think it’s rude that I forget people’s names right after meeting them, and that’s something I’d like to change about myself, that I’d like to get better at. And, alright, a lot of mental illnesses have aggression or irritability as one of their symptoms. But is that an excuse to be a shitty person? No! Get over yourself.

Using your mental illness as an excuse to not make any effort towards improving yourself as a person is bullshit. You have to try. When you break your leg, your broken leg isn’t an excuse to be horrible to everyone around you– just because you’re in pain doesn’t give you a free pass to be mean to others. And you sure as hell don’t just sit at home thinking, “Oh, I guess this is just the way my leg is now.” You go to the doctor, if you can. You get a cast. You get crutches or a wheelchair. You go to physical therapy. You take steps towards healing.

And it might not heal all the way or completely right. You could have trouble with it for the rest of your life. Or you could be like me and have been born with the trouble. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your life a little easier. I can set aside time to study when my meds are working, can repeat people’s names in my head to memorize them, and, yeah, can drink some god damn water so that even when my brain isn’t doing okay, the rest of me is. Maybe “we can’t all be neurotypical,” but we can all put some effort into being better people.

featured photo credit: Playerest El cerebro de Da Vinci via photopin (license)

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Isabella Amorim

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Isabella "Izzy" Amorim's hobbies include writing for Culture Shock, spending inordinate amounts of time in BU dining halls, and purchasing children's tickets at movie theaters with her baby face. Play the system, kids.

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