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At the beginning of the book, the author says she asked all the people she’d interviewed if they could eliminated their “brain difference” would they? Apparently not. No matter how much they had suffered, they couldn’t imagine “separating their strengths from their weaknesses.” (I’m having a hard time believing that statement.) I knew then that the doctor who wrote this book was going to take the Pollyanna approach to some pretty debilitating things. Hey, people! Here’s the absolutely fabulous upside to depression, schizophrenia, dyslexia, ADD, OCD, anxiety, PTSD and more. And that’s just what she did.
In no way does she deny how wretched things are, but she plays up the benefits to a ridiculous degree. You have OCD? At least you have a tidy house. You have dyslexia and it takes you five times longer to read than your classmates? Oh, but you are more prone to be artistic! You have dysthymia (chronic low-level depression that stops short of incapacitating you—you always get out of bed and go to work, unlike major depression where you may be nonfunctional for months.) Well, I’m so glad that my dysthymia makes me a more realistic person, a more empathetic person, a more creative person. All true, what she says, but seriously. If someone said I could live my life over without depression, I would. Even if I would be overly optimistic and less empathetic and creative. I know or have known various people who fit into all these categories except schizophrenia and none of them would choose these “brain differences.”
Because yeah, the benefits OCD: My friend who walked over an ice cream stain on the sidewalk in tennis shoes and spent hours obsessing that she was going to get HIV from it, asking me, “Are you sure it was ice cream? Are you sure there’s no hole in my shoe? Are you sure you can’t get HIV from the sidewalk? Are you SURE SURE SURE SURE SURE? 25 years of things like that. Let’s see, the up side is that there was never any expired milk in the fridge.
My friend with anxiety: Apparently the up side to this is that you are better able to read faces and situations. I’m sure that helps her in her work as a therapist. I am equally sure she’d rather not spend her days feeling like she was going to explode out of her skin.
I could go on with the examples, but I’ll stop. The “positive” aspects of most of these things generally do not outweigh the negative. And I felt like the author was like a parent telling her kid how special the kid was, how the kid can do anything he wants when he grows up. But then it turns out the kid is average and actually CAN’T do anything he wants because he’s just not smart enough to be a doctor, a world class chess player, a mathematician—whatever. Again, Dr. Pollyanna does say that not everyone is a genius so their brain “difference” (Oh, good God. Let’s call it what she won’t: a disability.) might not be as super cool as she paints it, but she parades some pretty successful people before us as examples of how their disabilities actually helped them. I think they did in some cases, but in others…not convinced.
And you really should listen to me on this because remember: people with dysthymia see things more realistically. Ha!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Finally, a book that highlights the positive side of brain differences rather than simply seeking after more disorder.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful