My history of neurodivergence is one that only surfaced in the last year. This is because the vocabulary for the way my brain works has only been around for the last several years. In addition to the words, their meanings have changed and sometimes words and meanings are thrown out.
Wanting to know about what Neurodivergency is and what it is not? Also, why any one of us can be Neurodivergent AND Disabled. Common misconceptions about Neurodiversity – Scientific American
I have always been “bookish” always with my nose in a book soaking up every bit of information I could get. I was vaguely aware that not everyone read every book they could get their hands on. I was pretty sure most kids did not finish 2 grade levels of math because it was fun or interesting. I knew with certainty that my teachers had never been challenged by my child self who determined she was not at the correct reading level and it would be a waste of everyone’s time to complete each level just for the sake of saying it was completed. She knew she didn’t stand a chance in contests of popularity or even able to avoid bullies. But she knew without a doubt that school was her place to be above and beyond all of the mysterious social existence that many of her classmates enjoyed. Feeling empowered in her standing in the educational arena, she went on strike in the 5th or 6th grade.
The teachers had no idea what to do with her but she didn’t really cause trouble, grades always good, more than attentive to every subject they presented they did the only thing they could. They caved and moved her up to the reading level she requested. This of course was the path of least resistance. There were plenty of trouble makers in her metropolitan public school for worn down, burned out teachers to concern themselves with.
Despite being a kid that was generally only noticed by bullies and teachers that shared her enthusiasm for learning she did cause trouble. Not what you would expect though and it’s possible the trouble was really more her parents than hers. She could not eat breakfast, so she was hungry well before her scheduled lunch time. When lunch did arrive she picked at what she brought or was given in the lunch line. She was always scratching skin and complaining of being itchy, she was often accused of being lost in daydreams and she once skipped class to hide under a table in the library and ready. I’m guessing she was overstimulated and needed to escape. Maybe. She just knew she had to get out.
She got on much better with her teachers than her classmates and when she had a friend it was normally just the one. She was fidgety and flighty and to quote her parents, “she’d lose her head if it wasn’t screwed on”. It was because, before the depression, anxiety and the events that lead to PTSD, she was autistic. Specifically ASD, Autism Spectrum Difference (it’s disorder in the DSM…that’s a whole other story). She battled with loud noises, bright lights, strange smells and textures of food and also clothing. She never slept well and was usually in trouble for staying up and listening to old radio shows. She rarely had friends, she was constantly bullied and she knew she was different. So she studied. Everyone. She learned to mimic things that people responded positively to and to hide or mask any behaviors that brought criticism or that people responded negatively to.
Unfortunately, these things only changed her life in minor ways. If anyone spent any real time with her they would see what she knew…she was different. Even if a vocabulary or diagnosis did not exist to explain it, everyone could see, she wasn’t like them. It wasn’t all terrible, she didn’t mind one bit being left alone. She did wish the bullies would follow along and leave her be too. The worst for her was never understanding why bothered her or what it was she was doing that they hated so much.
Now, I know. All the years of confusion from childhood, adolescence, young adult and full on grown up, her big question was finally answered. It’s because my brain works differently. It is divergent from the way a Neurotypical would work through things. Not worse, not better, different. There are far more Neurotypicals than there are Neurodivergents or if you like….the word most hated in all of psychology…normals. This means, everything about our daily lives is for different brains. I am not disordered. The world simply was designed for the majority with nothing in place to help our different brains.
Knowing this is more than half of my battle. I can learn better ways to speak to people, I can learn to show interest in what they say and feel. I can buy my own clothes and make sure they are all soft with no tags. I can cook my own food and with help from a nutritionist have a chance to sometimes put healthy things in my body. I have noise cancelling headphones and my groceries can be delivered.
There is no therapy for ASD, no treatments and no cure but if you ask around, you will find that most of us have no interest in being cured of who we are. Tools and support are great though.
I’m currently in DBT therapy and it has helped so much with controlling my own emotions, understanding my reactions and determining where they come from. I also know that if I am not hurting myself or anyone else than any “ASD behaviors” are my business. I don’t need to apologize, mask or make others feel more comfortable. That is their own responsibility and my comfort is mine.
So many words! If you read all of this let me know and I will happily email you a gold star 😉 I will be ecstatic if you leave a comment. I don’t need you to agree or disagree I just like to know you are out there.
Cheers and love to you all.