If you could see inside my brain — like in a cartoon — you’d find two weirdos arguing over how to get shit done. Or even just how to make it through the day. One we’ll call Andy (the autistic part) and the other (my ADHD side), Ollie. And yes, they’re named after exactly who you think. These two fuckheads are almost never on the same goddamn page. Which is completely unlike the duo for whom they are named. Mostly because Andy craves consistency while Ollie has an absolute fucking hardon for novelty. I know that probably sounds like a nightmare but it’s actually not that bad. Just kidding, it pretty much sucks. But let’s talk about life with Comorbid autism and ADHD, aka AuDHD.
Cormordibities, aka Fucked Up Little Side Orders
Now, I’ve written about this shit before. Basically, comorbidities are “fucked up little side orders to go along with your main course of bullshit.” That post, however, is basically an overview of the topic, covering a range of these shitty little sides. But today, I want to dig into comorbid autism and ADHD (hereafter referred to as AuDHD) by themselves, since they’re probably the most common comorbidities in the neurodivergent world. The rates of occurrence are anywhere from 20% to 70%, depending on who you ask. For some reason, AuDHD wasn’t officially acknowledged as a diagnosis for an indecently long goddamn time. It was 20-fucking-13 before the American Psychiatric Association got off its ass and changed to the DSM to reflect reality. And, this was during a period where the rate of diagnosis for both conditions was about 45%. In light of that, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t put a lot of faith in the “research” that ASD and ADHD are separate conditions that just happen to overlap a bit.
Finding Out and Fucking Around
Yeah, that’s in reverse order, but it’s a good description of the process of getting a diagnosis of AuDHD. Unfortunately, an AuDHD diagnosis, like one for any neurodivergent “disorder”, isn’t always easy to acquire. That’s because of the multiple fucked up reasons — age, sex, race, gender identity, etc. — that keep clinicians from seeing anyone but cis white boys (as in “young white male”, not “white boy“) as having autism or ADHD. In general, the diagnosis of one condition comes first, be it ASD or ADHD. The other tends to come later, if at all. Sometimes much later. How much time passes between the two diagnoses depends on those above-mentioned reasons. And, getting diagnosed can open the door to more bullshit. Especially if you have RSD because then you start questioning shit, asking yourself, “Is this real? Am I really autistic — or ADHD — or am I just faking it to get attention?” Is that fucked up? Absolutely. But it is the world we live in.
What AuDHD Looks Like
Okay, that should really be “What AuDHD Looks Like For Me“. Those last two words are important because, as I’ve said more than once, neurodivergent people are not a monolith. I realize that may be news to some of you since popular culture has you thinking that we’re all Rainman or Sheldon Cooper. But, we are not. To paraphrase a very common refrain, if you know one neurodivergent person, you know one neurodivergent person. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get going.
That Slack-ass Executive
I’ve told you about the slacker executive that lives in my head and this punch-drunk fucker is a part of all this shit. You see, a lot of the overlap between ASD and ADHD comes down to executive function issues. Both conditions have an effect on executive function and while it’s usually characterized as “bad”, it’s really not. It’s different but not necessarily bad. Of course, in our neurotypical-centric world, different is bad, so there’s that. But, executive dysfunction can cause some problems, leading to problems with impulse control, organization, time management, focus, and a fuck ton of other shit. It doesn’t help that autistic and ADHD brains are polar fucking opposites when dealing with these issues. Basically, my ASD says, “We need order and consistency, damn it!” while my ADHD screams, “Fuck no. I’m spontaneous, bitch!” And, that’s just as much fun as it sounds.
Consistency vs Rabbit Holes
As Jackie Schuld points out in her Medium post on the subject, “One thing about an autistic mind is that it wants clarity NOW.” But the thing about ADHD is that clarity, while it’s nice, isn’t always a priority. Oh, you may want it to be a priority and the ADHD part of your brain might even agree but there are so many rabbit holes on the way to clarity. And rabbit holes are ADHD kryptonite. So yeah, this is another place my ASD and ADHD clash. On my good days, I can harness the two and get some interesting, high-quality shit done. Unfortunately, those “good days” aren’t what you’d call consistent. And, by “consistent”, I mean “pretty fucking rare”.
Meltdown Dead Ahead
As you can imagine, all that feuding going on between the various parts of my brain can lead to some anxiety. That’s on top of the anxiety that just fucking living in this dystopian shitshow neurotypicals call “the world” brings on. The shit is cumulative, too. And, guess what happens when enough of it builds up? If you said “a fuck-you huge meltdown”, you are correct. Meltdowns, if you’re not familiar with the neurodivergent model, are a response to a situation that’s become just too goddamn much. Mine can be anywhere from a quick flare (usually punctuated by an emphatic “FUCK!”) to destroying an innocent baby gate. But here’s the thing: whatever may have triggered the meltdown is, at best, tangentially responsible for it. The true asshole is all the background shit, i.e. the anxiety caused by all the fucking feuding between my ASD and ADHD, that has built up all goddamn day. Baby gates just happen to be what catches all the hell.
I’m an Optimist. A Cockeyed One, But Still…
You may be wondering why I’ve written over 1000 words on a subject that you’ve never even heard of, much less thought about. And, that is a big part of the reason I’ve done this. Hell, it’s why I write all this shit in the first goddamn place. I fucking hate awareness campaigns — they are too often used by shady non-profit organizations to separate you from your money — but this time, it’s fucking necessary. But it’s fucking necessary because society at large doesn’t seem to have a goddamn clue about what neurodivergence even is, much less all the different fucking facets of it. I hope that kind of humorous, extremely profane blog posts like this one will open the door to understanding what life is like for neurodivergent people. And, that this understanding will lead to some changes that will make those lives not suck quite so goddamn much. Is that overly optimistic? Probably. But I’m stubborn that way.