Living with Neurodivergence
I am a person. But not like the others. I don’t fit the mold. I’m a circle in a square puzzle.
Yes this sounds dramatic. I’m too old to care. It feels like I am not the same shape as other people. I myself am coming to terms with that. A part of me LOVES being neurodivergent. I see SO much so many other people can’t see. But I also FEEL so much other people don’t feel as deeply. Which can be both amazing and awful, even at the same time.
Because everything is too much all at once and the world doesn’t fit my circular mold. I have to mold myself into a square to fit. And I cannot. I can tell the odd fib, though I’m admittedly bad at it.
But it is impossible for me to hide my true self, however much I may want to be the mysterious person at the back people are intrigued about. I just leak out. As soon as I feel I find my people, I stop putting on that mask.
And sometimes it is okay and I find understanding and it’s like magic. Other times, it places me so much outside of things, I forget where I’m supposed to be. And it takes me a while to notice that ‘my people’ are just ‘tolerating my presence’, not so much as actually accepting me. And when my brain does finally come to that realisation, it fucking hurts. Physically as well as mentally.
People see neurodivergents mostly as ‘unfeeling’. Autistic people don’t have emotion or empathy. They’re an AI like ChatGPT that just reasearches and mimics human behaviour. Fuck ALL of that. All the ASS people I have encountered, interacted with and read about were the exact opposite. They FEEL SO MUCH they don’t have the words to articulate just how much goes on inside.
Not necessarily because autistic people are inherently stupid as is often a stereotype. Far from it, more like. We see and feel the world differently. It is why ASS is often misdiagnosed as hypersensitivity. (Hello, my name is Julie and I am one of those misdiagnoses.) Yes, we are hypersensitive to our surroundings (combine that with ADHD and you might just feel like you just dropped acid and the world is all COLOURS and DISTRACTIONS, but anyway.) which means our brains take a LOT of time and effort to take in a random sequence of events.
A neurotypical brain will ignore all the bits are usually deemed unnecessary/not relevant. An ASS/ADHD brain (talking from experience, possibly other types of neurodivergence et al as well.) processes everything all at once. It is LOUD. It is messy. It is confusing. We get scared and overwhelmed.
Temple Grandin referred to it best in ‘Animals in Translation: The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow.’ (Review incoming!) She states that she feels people with autism (or maybe even neurodiversity in general), in her experience, seem to relate well to animals. In the sense that they both get overstimulated by a world that feels unfamiliar and in response react erratically to it, when seen from the vantage point of the people whose world they ‘inhabit’. I understand the woman who thinks like a cow and both adores and understands cows. (See: my Google Photos archives for reference. So. Many. Cows. And you don’t even know how many cow accounts I follow on all the socials. Cows are THE SHIT. They deserve their own post. Anyway.)
So, I feel that I am cattle. Not in the conspiracy theorist ‘You’re all sheep man!’, but in the sense that I am in a world that isn’t familiar to me. And that it doesn’t react the way I anticipate it to react (to me). I sometimes feel like a scared cow, driven from (what I at least assume was) my herd, anxious because someone also left a glaring yellow glove on the fence and I don’t recognise it. You’d have to really read the book to get the full comparison.
In short, cows in one of her facilities reacted frenziedly to some stimulus that in the end turned out to be a yellow glove on a fence, because the yellow makes it look different and scary to their dichromatic eyes. Another story was about the contrast between the bright sunlight versus the perceived darkness in an entryway when trying to get them in for shots for instance. Combined with her recommendation for people with autism (I believe it was in ‘Thinking in Pictures: my life with autism) to try rose tinted glasses for better reading/viewing, it made me draw the comparison. (By the way, I also now wear rose tinted sunglasses and it has seriously been a gamechanger. I kept having the issue that my sunglasses were too dark to see properly in most cases, but if I didn’t wear them I would be blinded, even by limited sunlight. Now I can wear them all the time without being visually impeded. I also no longer have any issue going from the sunny garden into the darker house, huzzah!)
To any other person, it is a stupid yellow glove they ignore because it is not important in the grand scheme of things. But to me it is an eyesore that starts infiltrating my every being. It is out of place, it is wrong. MOO MOO! And the herd manager, or whoever is in charge of the cows, will say, ‘oh that cow is unruly, don’t mind her, she’s the worst of the herd’. Whereas the poor creature is just scared of the unknown. The glove. That bright yellow thing on the fence is moving in the wind and taunting her.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year since my ‘half’diagnosis. For fucks sake, I read a book by Peter Vermeulen on autism that felt like my own instruction manual I had somehow always lost. How are you, with you dumb ASS test still designed for (probably cis, white male) kids, going to tell me that I am not on the fucking spectrum. Mostly because I mask so well my own partner saw me as a different person I truly was inside because I didn’t know just HOW much I was masking. I thought I took it all the way off for the people I felt safe with. Apparently I could not even manage that.
What I learned most is that I can THRIVE. If allowed. If encouraged. If understood. I had a few mentors that subconsciously tapped into that. I could be the best person, employee, friend, whateverthefuck, if they just understood. Or not necessarily understood, but at least understood that that force inside is so great, it only needs nurturing and safety.
I leave you with a quote from Peter Vermeulen. ‘You are not difficult. You are just having a difficult time.’
Small note concerning the image. That line popped into my head while working on my series ‘Rounding off the Edges”. This series and at least on of its subseries will be highlighted on here soon. You can find bits and pieces of it on the clumsy crane studio Instagram account if you’re curious.