Warning: this piece quotes abusive language
The mother of a young man who tragically died from neuroleptic malignant syndrome, in her distress at his inquest, unwisely but perhaps understandably called the prescribing doctor an ‘animal’. The doctor is female, and appears to be of South Asian ethnicity.
Experienced journalist and Blogger Bob Fiddaman responded as follows:
Today, Mr Fiddaman published a Blog piece on the inquest into the young man’s death, which I criticised in a comment, and I included a criticism about his tweet as ‘misogynist’:
In a tweet, soon after, I suggested it was also ‘arguably racist’. I believe this is reasonable, given the immediately preceeding unwise ‘animal’ tweet. [Added 14.15 UK time: I misunderstood Bob Fiddaman as having a close connection to MIA: he doesn’t. Apologies to them, I am catching up after a 3 yr ‘sabbatical’ from mental health issues]
At the time of publishing this piece, Mr Fiddaman appeared to have conceded ‘misogynist’, but not ‘arguably racist’: [Added 14.15 UK time: I misunderstood Bob Fiddaman as having a close connection to MIA: he doesn’t. Apologies to them, I am catching up after a 3 yr ‘sabbatical’ from mental health issues]
(27th April, Mr Fiddaman still refused to delete & apologise. Title changed from ‘arguably racist’ to ‘racist’)
21st September: Mr Fiddaman has again made it clear that he will not delete and apologise for the offending Tweet.
Born 200 years ago today, in Portsmouth, what difference did Dickens make, in the nearly-180 years since he started writing fiction and journalism?
Scrooge, Oliver Twist and Fagin are so familiar to us, that it’s perhaps easier to imagine some other writer(s) coming along and filling Dickens’s place on the broad-brush social reform issues, if he had been prematurely taken away by cholera or some other early nineteenth century affliction.
But there are so many other eccentric, strange, mentally unwell and physically disabled characters, who were also very well-known to millions of Dickens’s readers, perhaps even more so after his death, and well into the twentieth century. No other writer of fiction came close to creating awareness of these kinds of human diversity.
Just one example: probably the most severely, clinically, depressed character in Dickens is Bleak House’s Mr Jellyby. He sits with his head “against the wall” and almost never speaks. He’s a failure, and becomes bankrupt.
Illness and death occurs in most Victorian novels, and it is tempting to draw conclusions about the conscious and unconscious motives of the author from who suffers what. I’m uneasy about Dickens’s portrayal of the alcoholic Sydney Carton’s suicidal behaviour in A Tale of Two Cities (1). Dickens himself, in A Christmas Carol, draws attention to the fact that the crippled Tiny Tim “did NOT die”.
And the overwhelming majority of his eccentric and unwell characters do live on, sometimes bizarrely, but never in my view wholly implausibly. Mr Jellyby finds a friend, who talks about himself all the time. Most people would find this friend unbearable, but for some reason Mr Jellyby doesn’t: he listens, and he cheers up. Probably not a complete recovery, but enough to enjoy life again.
Last weekend I was asked a difficult question: “do you diagnose dyspraxia?”. My answer can hardly have inspired confidence: “well, I never have, but I’m thinking of doing so in the future.”
The question came in a workshop (1) I was giving at the annual conference of DANDA (Developmental Adult Neuro-Diversity Association), an organization which supports the concept of dyspraxia in adults, alongside the much better-known conditions of autism, ADD / ADHD and dyslexia.
I think I have only seen one or two people with a main diagnosis of dyspraxia, as compared with at least a dozen with dyslexia. DANDA recognises that many people have different combinations of these developmental conditions, and the conference was, for me, a useful opportunity to catch up with some of the literature (2) on DCD (developmental coordination disorder, as some prefer to call it).
The problem, from DANDA’s point of view, is that very few specialists are prepared to diagnose dyspraxia in adults. Talking with the workshop participants, I began to see how, although many people with dyspraxia have interpersonal and organisational issues which I would usually see as either falling into the autistic spectrum on the one hand, or ADD / ADHD on the other, the “dyspraxia” concept is most meaningful for them. Perhaps this is because problems are experienced as much more within the body, and not just the mind.
Anyway, in the closing discussion I did give something of a promise that within six months I would be able to give a more definite “yes or no” answer to whether I diagnose DCD. For the moment my “official” position is “maybe…but do you think you might have anxiety, depression, ASD, ADD / ADHD…etc…as well?”
(1) “Managing anxiety and depression in neuro-developmental disorders” Workshop at DANDA annual conference, London, Saturday June 19th 2010
(2) Such as Living with Dyspraxia: A Guide for Adults with Developmental Dyspraxia (2006) by Mary Colley