Maybe it’s because of my age, but I arrived kind of late to the whole podcast thing. I’ve only started listening to them in the last few months. Mostly because I just couldn’t understand the appeal of listening to a bunch of hipster-ass white people drone on about whatever bullshit they think is interesting. That changed when I found “Behind the Bastards”, a pod about some of the most awful people in the world. It covers everything from 19th-century Russian spiritualists to Nazis to the CIA to psychiatrists who use bullshit “treatments” on people with limited agency. Sadly, the amount of overlap between all those shitweasels is not nearly as narrow as you might hope. But, as much as I love BTB’s calling out of humanity’s shittier representatives, I have a new podcast obsession: The Loudest Girl in the World. And it’s really about the accepting that you’re neurodivergent.
Finding Out You’re Autistic Is a Mixed Bag. And Sometimes That Bag Is Filled With Suck.
Host Lauren Ober shares her experiences of being diagnosed as autistic in her 40s. I am familiar with this situation, having also been diagnosed (sort of) as autistic pretty fucking late in life. You might not realize this, but age of diagnosis makes a huge difference when it comes to neurodivergence. Finding out you have autism is a mixed bag, at best. Finding out at 40–or, in my case 60–is too. But the bag is filled with suck. Mostly because it means you’ve gotten a goddamn truckload of less-than-positive messages throughout your life. And you have no fucking idea why. And, your self-worth will take a massive hit from that shit. One that takes years to recover from. Adult diagnosis is also harder than finding out as a kid, if you ask me. I mean, you’ve spent your whole life hiding this shit–aka “masking“–because society is not accepting of neurodivergence. It may be getting better, but it’s still pretty grim.
Autism Is a Superpower
In the podcast, the doctor who diagnosed Ober– Natalie Engelbrecht–says that autism “is a difference” in how our brains are wired and that “we are optimized for certain things.” Unfortunately, being optimized for some things can mean you’re hamstrung in others. For example, while NDs are excellent problem-solvers, we’re not great socializers. And, by “not great”, I mean “fucking awful”. But, she also believes that autism is a superpower. In the interest offull disclosure, I should probably tell you that Engelbrecht is herself autistic. And, I agree. It is a superpower. But, here’s the thing about superpowers: they are always beneficial.
I mean, think about it: Superman has super hearing, meaning he either hears every insipid, mundane comment or constantly filters. That would be tiring even for him And, the Flash’s super-speed? It may be great when he’s trying to get somewhere, but there are places where being the fastest man alive wouldn’t exactly be an asset if you get my drift. But, really that’s a question for Iris West.
Just like those superheroes, the specialization that neurodivergence equips you with has its limits. Sure, my ADHD helps me think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. And my autism means I can pick up on patterns much quicker than someone who’s neurotypical. But, having the social skills of a surly honey badger cancels out all that stuff. Add to that our general weirdness and things are even harder since no one wants to be around you.
So, What the Fuck Is This All About?
In the episode, “Hannah Gadsby Is My Bestie”, Ober is struggling with what it means to be autistic. You might be thinking, “What’s to get? You’re either autistic or you’re not. That’s it.” But, it’s not that simple. Especially if you didn’t find out until you’re well into adulthood. A diagnosis earlier in life has to be easier. You’re more open-minded about stuff, you’re more willing to believe authority figures when they tell you something, and you don’t have a metric fuck ton of bullshit to sort through. But Ober has to deal with something almost all NDs do when they’re first diagnosed: we think that we would be awesome if we weren’t so goddamn weird.
Accepting That You’re Neurodivergent Is So Damn Freeing.
While it’s normal to think that shit, it’s not true. It’s the message we’ve received since we were fucking infants, so we’ve internalized it. But at some point in our neurodivergent journey, we begin to realize that we are, indeed, awesome. And, our neurodivergence is the root of that awesomeness. Sure, it can be hard to see that, living in a world that wasn’t built for us, since that means much of the way it operates isn’t going to work for us. What it doesn’t mean we need to be “fixed” despite the shitload of harmful-ass bullshit that tries to do just that. Neurodivergence is genetic You can’t cure it because it’s not a goddamn disease. Truthfully, if a “cure” for autism or ADHD suddenly became available, I wouldn’t take it. My neurodivergence is a part of me, it’s who I am. And, I’m okay with that.