Epilepsy and being politically correct
Can I ask you to imagine a scene...
I am standing at the front of a class room at University, explaining how my community work colleagues and I went about developing a lesson plan to encourage community members to try something new. I make the vital mistake of saying "my team brain stormed."
At the end of the presentation when I open up for questions, one student social worker says "I like your presentation, however I would be concerned that you have excluded and offended any epileptics in this room by your terminology. You should never use brainstorm anymore - the terminology is thought shower now."
My answer was simple...I have 2 questions for you
1)Are you epileptic?
2)Have I offended you?
His answer was No to both.
I then asked the class "Have I offended anyone?"..... Silence.
The student then said "You may not have offended anyone here, but there may not be any epileptics in this room."
I answered "There is....I am"
I went on to challenge the person on their assumption that I had caused offense. I personally would never associate my seizures with having a brainstorm. I may, however describe my seizures as a communication breakdown or short circuit.
What happens is the messages in my brain get confused and are briefly disturbed. In order to try to understand the message, my brain works harder to try and sort things out. This causes an increase in electrical activity and the brain overloads, eventually causing a seizure. Some people term this as a brain storm.
I personally don't like people using term brain storm to describe a seizure since I think that it sounds alarming. I would rather people explain it as a type of communication break down or short circuit. I would argue that terming a seizure in the first place as a brainstorm, is not helping people understand epilepsy. It only creates an alarming stigma for us to knock down.
Anyone could seizure, it's just my threshold is lower and people want to put a label to things.
This is my personal opinion on this, so I hope I don't offend anyone... If you are epileptic, I would be interested in your view.
I am photosensitive, so light triggers my seizures. According to Epilepsy Scotland, that is a rare form of epilepsy that only 6% of sufferers have.
This means that flashing lights, computers and TV can trigger me to seizure. (Although you can see I can still use computers) It is the pattern and the intensity of the light that triggers the seizure. Natural light can sometimes be problematic. For example the sun flashing through a line of trees whilst in a car or train can make me say "OOH" (Although I have never taken a seizure due to natural light.)
In my experience often the political correctness and epilepsy has stemmed out of someone's fear of offending sufferers. As a sufferer I have never thought of my epilepsy as something to get offended over. It is an aspect of me.
What happened in that class room was that someone pounced on my use of the term "brain storm". I was using it in the context of a brainstorming exercise, where you get lots of different ideas together. In my opinion, that well intentioned social worker student made a vital mistake....He took something I said out of its original context and slotted it into another setting to create an issue. He even suggested that I ought to be offended by the use of such terminology. The context of our language is often crucial. When we take things out of context 2 +2 often = 5.
In my opinion, if I am offended by something, it is a decision I take. Someone else can't make me be offended, in the sense that they can't tell me what to think or feel. I may feel offended by some one's choice of language. For instance, I don't like to hear lots of swearing. I could accept it as that person's character. Alternatively I may ask them politely to try and curb their language or say nothing but take offense. If I do that I am probably going to be judging them. I have a choice how I want to react, no-one can make me take offense.
As an epileptic if I am offended by the term brain storm that is down to me to decide....not someone else. At the end of the day, you have to describe it in some way. I like explaining epilepsy as a short circuit, I find people can relate to it and understand what is happening. It could be argued however that referring to a seizure as a short circuit devalues the person since you are referring them as an object. I would say that I am describing the seizure not the person. If someone dislikes metaphor, they can describe it in another way. It does not mean that we "blacklist" the terminology. Political correctness seems to do that. If that were the case we would probably have no adjectives left, as someone somewhere would object to something. It would be ludicrous to tell all electricians they can't use the term short circuit in their work, in-case it offends epileptics.
It annoys me when people assume that I will be offended over something. I would rather people were open and accepting of my condition, not tell me what to think or feel...to me that is more patronizing.