It’s undeniably fun to laugh at people who are so concrete in their idiocy they’re blind to everything else. In ways, it’s a coping mechanism: it’s easier to laugh at how extreme somebody is than to really consider the implications of their extremity.
I used to laugh at otherkin (and the others lumped in that group). Back in my LiveJournal days, even the most rabid Naruto fangirl thought that kids who claimed they were actually Sasuke were weird. They were relegated to the furthest corners of the site because people didn’t like to be associated with them.
So, it’s weird to increasingly see on Tumblr that not only is the whole otherkin etc. crowd going strong, but that they have vocal support from people who do not identify as other characters/objects/animals/real people/etc., people who pride themselves on being super-accepting and super-open and super-non-judgmental.
There’s nothing wrong with being accepting or non-judgmental. There is something wrong, however, with being so unrestricted in those qualities that you accept any single person who claims any sort of minority status, especially when accepting and encouraging their behavior can exacerbate things.
We seem to exist in a culture that prizes minority status and oppression, not just as something that should be acceptable, but as something that makes us special, something that can serve in place of genuine individuality. It doesn’t matter whether this status is legitimate or self-proclaimed: if you want to feel special, find a way to be an oppressed minority.
When it comes to the otherkin etc. crowd, I’m not entirely sure whether they are faking these identities in order to feel special, whether they are genuinely mentally ill, or some combination thereof.
And therein lies the problem with accepting otherkin etc. identities as valid, legitimate identities: no matter how you slice it, you’re encouraging something that is negative:
- If somebody with one of these identities is faking it for attention, one is encouraging a ploy to feel special. By being supportive of somebody’s alternative identity as a tea kettle/tiger/Bruce Banner/Tom Hanks, you’re telling them that it’s working: we do live in a world where the simplest way to get acceptance is to feign what would normally be called a mental illness. (That’s a whole other problem too—why are we making a mental illness into something desirable?)
- If a person is genuinely mentally ill, then the right approach is not to validate their delusions/psychosis. That will only worsen their symptoms and make it harder for them to escape their fantasy-world and become a productive person. Though it seems to escape certain people on Tumblr, this is not the world where everybody exists. There are millions more people who live around you, off Tumblr, who will expect things from you that do not involve hearing about how great it feels when you fly in the woods with your multiples. And no, that is not a societal criticism that says we should accept bird-identifiers; it’s a fact that if you are mentally ill, it’s going to get in the way of your productivity and eventually you are going to crash and burn.
You can accept somebody with a mental illness without encouraging their symptoms. That is what we should be focusing on. How do we help people who are mentally ill and get them the help they need? How do we help them cope? This isn’t about making people “normal” or taking away their individuality; getting a mentally ill person treatment, if done right, will not do that.
I know what I’m talking about. I’ve had psychosis since I was thirteen. I never had the specific issues that the otherkin etc. crowd claims, but I was delusional. I had hallucinations. I heard voices consistently. I thought that massive, global organizations were coming for me, leaving codes for me in all sorts of media. I was sure they had bugged my room and monitored my actions. I stopped leaving the house for spells, I wouldn’t eat for days because I was convinced everything I ate would poison me. I was not well, and I was not productive.
And I was lucky. I figured out after awhile that I was experiencing psychosis and was able to separate myself from the voices I was hearing, which was integral in me seeking treatment. But that’s not usually how psychosis presents. Typically, psychosis appears as somebody being absolutely convinced of an alternate reality. They will maintain that this is true, that this is what they experience, because that’s what their brain is doing to them. This isn’t a fun alternative way of life: this is a problem, and one that is usually degenerative if not treated.
I got treatment five years later. I’m not cured, but I’m better. I was able to go to and graduate college, I was able to move across the country twice. I’ll be able to hold the job I’ve always wanted. Sure, I’ll have a lot of trouble doing it, but I can make it now.
But I wouldn’t have gotten treatment if the people around me had said, “Hey! You know, I’m totally sure there is a massive global conspiracy that you’ve uncovered, and I’m sure that those other people you hear are actually other people that live in your head!” They would have been validating and promoting all of the things that my brain was producing that made me unproductive and put me in pain. Thank heavens I didn’t have a Tumblr then, or that might have actually happened.
Instead, my family and friends supported me as a person without validating what I believed. They watched out for me, they helped me figure out what were symptoms and what were really me. They helped me try medications and deal with side effects. They told me that I was strong enough to do this, that it would be hard but I’d be able to fight, that I was a special, wonderful person. They supported me, and validated me, not my psychosis.
If they hadn’t done that and I’d continued without getting treatment, I don’t even know where I’d be right now. I certainly wouldn’t have gone to college. I’d probably have been institutionalized, or maybe dead. Maybe I would’ve just stayed home, blogging into my late twenties while my parents wondered what the hell was wrong. I would’ve gotten worse. I would have given up.
This is not the desirable outcome. Your end goal in life should not be to sit on Tumblr talking to other people who have the same delusions as you, real or faked, reblogging pictures of the character you think you are, going to a job here and there, not being able to hold down a real relationship without it revolving around your delusions. And if that isn’t happening now to you, trust me: it will. Psychosis and dissociative illnesses don’t generally clear up over time and they certainly don’t allow somebody a lot of energy to be a productive person in whatever way they really want.
So this is a plea to please, please, stop encouraging the symptoms of ill people. You are not helping them. You are hurting them. You can accept them without validating their symptoms as real. You are not being a better, kinder person by saying their identity is valid. You are hurting them, and hurting other mentally ill people by acting as though these symptoms are legitimate identities.
That’s what truly being a good, accepting, kind person is.
YES YES YES YES YES YES ohh my god I never reblog things like this but this is just worded so PERFECTLY
it’s not being “rude” to deny someone’s psychosis! people are so concerned with being accepting and all that bullshit when in reality, you are hurting the person significantly!! it’s counter-productive and HARMFUL!!
if you need to make yourself think you’re a fairy because you are so unhappy with your life and want attention, you need to grow up. and if you seriously have delusions or hear voices, go see a doctor immediately. there is nothing wrong or “rude” about this. mental illnesses are real and it is not wrong to seek treatment!!