For the record, I am the “socially awkward weirdo” of the title. This is something I’ve written about before (here, here, and here). Not in those exact words, of course, but I do have some new information about my being neurodivergent.
A Whole Different Operating System
If you’re not familiar with the term “neurodivergent”, the dictionary says that it means “differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal.” Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying my brain is wired differently than most folks. Think of it in terms of computer operating systems. Most people’s brains run on Windows while most neurodivergent brains run on Mac OS. Mine, apparently, runs on Linux.
It wasn’t until my 30’s, after what we’ll graciously call an interesting childhood, that I figured out what was going on: I have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, aka ADHD. A lot of things that were confusing finally began to make some sense. But not completely. It took another diagnosis to bring things into focus.
Gaining Some Clarity
I say that because finding out I have ADHD was extremely helpful, but it still didn’t completely explain certain things like my uncanny ability to say exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, the fact that social situations can feel like playing a game without knowing the rules–and finding that the rule book is written in hieroglyphics–,or the way a seemingly trivial incident can trigger an angry outburst which can include cursing and throwing things. Those things are part of the disorder, sure, but it always felt like something else was going on.
Things became much more clear a couple of months ago, I underwent some more tests and found out that, in addition to ADHD, I was gifted with a lovely little side helping of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Not quite enough to rise to the level of a diagnosis according to the DSM-V, but still. And, if you don’t know what the DSM-V is, google it and then count yourself lucky as that means your life is most likely hasn’t sucked on a cosmic level.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Because of my ADHD/ASD, social situations can be a lot. I get overwhelmed in crowds which means public spaces are always a difficult for me and I’m never completely at ease in them. After an outing, even something as mundane as a trip to the grocery store, I will retreat to my bedroom when I get home to decompress. Also, my thinking can be very literal. And, of course, there’s the hyperfocus. Right now–and probably not for the first time–every neurodivergent person (ND) is saying, “Oh yeah”.
Let me take a moment to say that being neurodivergent isn’t a bad thing. I mean, I learn some really cool stuff going down the rabbit holes that hyperfocus inevitably brings. Things like the fact that Ernest Hemingway named his junk (Mr. Scrooby, in case you’re wondering) or that there’s a mythic figure from the Ardennes region of Europe that has an elephant’s trunk and the eyes of a basilisk? Would I have found these amazing facts without being neurodivergent? Maybe, but I doubt it. It’s just not the sort of thing you actively search for.
A Never-ending Compromise
Really, my ADHD/ASD has never caused me problems. The way society has chosen to deal with my neurological difference is another story. For neurodivergent people, life is one long series of compromises as very little in this society takes our admittedly special needs into consideration which means we’re constantly trying to figure out how to navigate systems that do not accommodate us. To say it’s taxing is an understatement.
Deviation From the Norm Will Be Punished
You may think that heading is hyperbolic. If you do, you’re most likely a neurotypical individual. That means you live in a world that is constructed to work with the way your brain operates. Not neurodivergent folks. Saying the world isn’t set up for how our brains operate is a lot like saying that Adolf Hitler didn’t like Jews. It’s true but doesn’t come close to capturing the reality of that situation. Every day is give-and-take for us, with us giving and the world taking almost exclusively. And, the only breaks we get are in spaces we’ve created specifically for that purpose.
I know, It’s a Lot
Okay, I realize this may sound like a long, whiny rant but the things I talk about here are all issues ND folks live with on a day-to-day basis. I know this because whenever more than two acknowledged ND people are together, this will become the main topic of conversation at some point. And yeah, it’s a lot. But, think about this: if it’s a lot for you to read about, imagine what it’s like to live with. And, remember that feeling the next time you want to make one of those “I’m a little autistic/ADHD, too” jokes. We hate that shit.