I wrote this a while ago and didn’t post it because I wanted to post less about the book, ’cause 1) it’s not interesting to talk about and 2) it’s not available yet even as a beta read. (Hoping to get most of the editing I need done pretty quickly now that I have a computer and a real keyboard.) But then I realized it wasn’t really about the book. So… here it is. Call it about a month old.
So, general status: Things have settled at new job, I’m much more comfortable, and even have enough spare brainspace for creative work. Yay! But I still don’t have a computer (and I don’t have a work-issued laptop, either, like at my old assignment–boo), so I’m hand-writing the sequel to my last one in fits and starts because damn that’s a hard way to write things (because I can’t really edit the first book until… well, I type the rest of the hand written parts into the computer.) (Note from the future: That part’s done, at least!)
But anyway, something’s been sticking in my head, and it’s probably something completely unimportant, but I’ll lay it out to you in the hopes that it makes both my issue and what the solution is (or if it’s needed at all) more clear.
In my hero’s backstory–which I have him relate to another character while drinking, and stressing about the concept of whether he can actually ever be capable of raising a family–involves what I suspect is a fairly obscure point of New York State’s Early Intervention program called Respite. Which basically means you can call the state and say that you just need a few days to get yourself back together, could you take the kid for that time?
(Side note: It’s a trap. Do not do not DO NOT use it if you actually want them to return the child(ren).)
So the keystone of my hero’s backstory is that, at about twelve, his parents invoked this program and just… never returned ,functionally vanishing off the face of the earth and abandoning him.
And all of this felt pretty true–that’s one of the really cool things about the book, that stuff just popped out of the ether at me and fit in like frickin’ puzzle pieces and it felt so real while I was inside of it. But… there’s a particular catch about this particular backstory that has been giving me pause about how to approach it basically since I first wrote it.
As a program, Respite is only available if your child is disabled.
Now, I have no problem at all believing Michael has a diagnosis or three. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the mental health system, my family has spent a lot of time in the mental health system–and when you’re Not Quite Right (and Michael is notably Not Quite Right), one of the inescapable parts (short of foregoing basically any external aid at all) is the endless string of contradictory, at times palpably arbitrary diagnoses. (And bipolar is going to be one of them, basically regardless of why you came in.) Diagnosis? I’ll bet he has five.
But… but. The part that’s messing with me a little is… should I actually assign him a real one, and try to match his behavior to his symptoms?
Pro: Perception of consistency, an angle to appeal to people (representation woo), and the fact is that usually diagnoses exist because people act more-or-less in that way.
Con: Given my own experiences, and the fact that the conga-line of incredibly stupid labels is totally a thing, the fact is that I don’t trust any of the DSMs that we have to accurately describe basically any human behavior.
But back to in favor… if I don’t give him a specific diagnosis, at least in my head, does that mean I’m being disrespectful of the disabled by having him diagnosed with things that I don’t actually intend for him to have?
Yeah, I think my final answer is screw it.
I mean, particularly since the whole book is about square pegs who’ve been doing really stupid things in order to try to carve themselves a square hole, and having their need of the same be continually ignored or used against them… it seems like the well-ordered holes of mental illness or disability is afine other place to have themselves and their needs just completely and totally insufficient or incorreclty address.
(Not that this would match my own experiences or anything like that. Heavens no.)