A few months ago, I gave myself a treat and took a walk on the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department’s Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway. Running from just north of downtown almost all the way out to Summerfield, it’s a lovely, wide, paved trail where you’ll see all sorts of nature-y shit, history shit (you pass by Guilford Courthouse National Military Park), and general park-ey shit. I call it a “treat” because it provides some seclusion and serenity from all the day-to-day fuckery that comes with living in a city. I was really enjoying it this particular day because it was just so goddamn peaceful. And I needed some peace. And, then some fucking religious nuts showed up and changed everything. Because it was a surprise change and “peaceful” isn’t in the cards when we’re talking change and neurodivergence.
Let Me Set the Scene
So, as I say above, I was out for a walk on the greenway. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold, with plenty of sunshine. The greenway wasn’t overly crowded, which was unusual for a pretty Saturday afternoon. It was just nice, you know? Then, I rounded a turn and there they were: Jehovah’s Fucking Witnesses. They were situated right off the side of the trail in a spot where it was impossible to avoid them. I could feel my anxiety begin ramping up and my fight-or-flight response started its bullshit. And, by “bullshit”, I mean looking for ways to run while simultaneously prepping me for a brawl. Some of that is probably PTSD. And, some is a massive fucking aversion to change due to my neurodivergence
Change Isn’t Welcome With Neurodivergence
This change was particularly egregious. Not only was it an unexpected — and un-fucking-welcome — change, it was one that upset a routine that’s normally very soothing for me. And, after thinking about that for just a couple of seconds, I started to get pissed off. That’s when I switched from “flight” to “fight”. Normally in this kind of situation, my goal is to politely but firmly decline any and all overtures. Unfortunately, religious proselytizers aren’t the type to accept a polite but firm “No thanks”. So, I started preparing the script for any possible confrontation (that’s another thing NDs do. One that deserves its own post). Fortunately, I didn’t need to say anything. I kept my head down, didn’t make eye contact (for once, that shit came in handy), and walked on by. Thinking back, I can’t remember whether they tried to stop me because I was so intent on getting past them.
Nobody Likes That Shit
Now, I think we can all agree that an unexpected encounter with any kind of religious fucknuttery isn’t great. I mean, throwing a bunch of fucking superstitious bullshit people who are trying to enjoy nature is aggravating as fuck (and not the best way to promote your cause) for anyone. That said, it goes further for me. As I write this, I can’t think of any unexpected encounter that I would consider “great”, or even “not sucky”. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just I can’t come up with one. Maybe it’s because this incident is coloring things and making it impossible to find something — and with my fucked-up religious history that’s certainly possible. Of course, the problem could also be that unexpected encounters rarely go well for me. Which is kind of weird since my ADHD fucking loves novelty. But that’s the way this shit seems to go.
Change and Neurodivergence: Recipe For Anxiety
This discomfort with change is something I’ve written about before; more than once, as a matter of fact. But, the short version is that change isn’t welcome to me, and other NDs, because change introduces an unplanned-for element. If you’re neurotypical, that may not sound so bad to you. But, keep in mind that you live most of your day-to-day life in a world that makes sense to you on an intrinsic level. You don’t have to think about shit, you just do it. That is so not how it works for us. We exist in a world that doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, where shit just happens and we’re left to deal with as best we can. So, any little bit of consistency is precious to us and we guard that shit like a mama bear watching over her cubs.
Can We Fix This? Probably. Will We? Probably Not.
There are a shit ton of layers to the incident that inspired today’s essay: sensory issues, the fight-or-flight response, and the intersection of neurodivergence and trauma, just to name a few. But, I’m ending this post and the rules (of writing) say that you shouldn’t introduce new info in a conclusion. So, those subjects will get the posts of their own that they really deserve. And really, the overarching subject today is the way the neurotypical world can be an assault on a neurodivergent person’s mental and physical health. This attack is nonstop and it’s every-fucking-where we go, in every-fucking-thing we do and it is exhausting. Are there things that can be done? Absolutely. But, as I point so goddamn often here, they would require neurotypicals to do things differently. And, I just don’t see that shit happening. I do wish, however, that y’all would step the fuck up and prove me wrong one of these days.