So, I’ve been pretty critical lately and it’s just barely possible I need to chill the fuck out. I mean, I don’t want to come off as some kind of strident activist type. Those people get on my fucking nerves so bad. Plus, I really feel like I should be using this space to talk about something that a) doesn’t really get talked about all that much and b) is a thing that I’ve experienced. And that would be what it’s like to be an adult with ADHD and autism. Specifically, an adult who was diagnosed with those things fairly late in life (backstory available here). I refer to myself as a “socially awkward weirdo” and have multiple mentions of being weird in a fuck ton of posts. But, today I’m going to get specific about my life as a neurodivergent adult. That means you’re going to hear about some of the weird shit I do. Hopefully, this will be fun and not all angry, strident yelling. But, this is me so I make no guarantees.
How Is This Shit Going To Go?
Maybe it’s my need for some semblance of order, but I like laying out the structure of a piece of writing up front. Especially when that piece of writing departs from the usual way I do things. So, I thought I’d tell you how this one’s going to work. I’m thinking I’ll start with some fun shit to kick things off, then some not-so-fun shit in the middle, and end it with some interesting/science-y shit. Sort of weirdness sandwich, if you will. Granted, a sandwich filled with shit that irks me may not be worthy of the name but it’s better than a sandwich filled with sadness. Which would be turkey. No cheese, no mayo, no mustard. Just turkey. I’m not really a fan of turkey. Could you tell?
Life as a Neurodivergent Adult: The Specifics
The Fun Shit
Obsessed or Just Really Interested?
One thing that figures big in my life as a neurodivergent adult is special interests, i.e. focus on a specific topic. It can be anything from technology to toilet brushes, as long as the individual is super into it. In my case, it tends to be related to media. Or history. Or words. Outside of those things, I really couldn’t give a shit. Also, the weirder and more off-the-wall a thing is, the better the chances that I’m going to like it. And, I’m going to like it a lot and very often. For a little while. Then, I’m on to my next
Drinking From a Fire Hose
Like a lot of neurodivergent folks, my special interests can lead to something called info dumping. Basically, when I’m into something, I can’t not talk about it. If you get me talking about a special interest–like, say, books–I won’t shut the fuck up. For an extended period. And, when I say “extended”, I mean, extended. Which is fun for me, but maybe not so much for you. When I say might not be much fun for you, I mean I can go on so long that I’ve seen people’s eyes glaze over. So, yeah.
Impulsive Is Kind of My Middle Name
Then, there’s impulsivity. I’m not sure which category this belongs in, to be honest. I’m going to get around that by talking about it in two different sections. So, on the plus side, I have had a great fucking time doing shit on impulse. I mean, who doesn’t love a good spur-of-the-moment outing? They’re a fuck ton of fun. Until everything goes straight to hell, anyway. Also, decision paralysis isn’t a thing for me, something that came in handy in my former life as a firefighter. That is not a job where you can fuck around. Decisions have to be quick and they have to be good. And, I could handle that shit. Really goddamn well.
The Not-So-Fun Shit
So, the less-than-optimal shit. We can start off with the fact that I tend to procrastinate like crazy before completing a task at the last possible minute in a mad burst of creativity. And, by “mad burst of creativity”, I mean “fall back on fucked up habits and incredibly sketchy techniques”. The thing is, it works. In fact, it got me through an English degree with a creative writing minor. That is a very writing-intensive course of study, with a fuck ton of papers and stories to complete. And, I graduated with honors while working in the writing center, helping others with their writing. That said, it’s not something I’d recommend. But, I also can’t say I’m ashamed of it. Really, I’m kind of proud of this ability.
Full Impulse Power. Engage!
You know how I said I’d talk about impulsivity in another section? Yeah, this is that section. While impulsivity does have its plusses, it also has its downsides. One is tied to that “no decision paralysis” thing. I’m sure you can imagine how an impulsive decision could be fucked up. And, because of my ADHD, I make more than my share. Sometimes, they cost me money. Other times, it’s more personal (like committing way more than I should during the lust phase of a new relationship). Do these decisions always turn out well? No, not even a little bit. Does that stop me from making them? Again no, not even a little bit.
Very Contrarian. Much Wow
Lastly, I have a strong contrarian streak. Basically, if it’s popular, I probably won’t like it. For a few examples, I’ve never seen more than 30 seconds of the entirety of Game of Thrones, Tom Cruise bores the shit out of me, and most pop music–including Beyonce–leaves me cold. If you don’t think that’s irritating, try telling the BeyHive you don’t get their queen’s appeal.
The Interesting/Science-y Shit
I’m Sensing a Pattern, Here
Now we come to some of the more engaging aspects of being neurodivergent. One thing NDs–especially autists–are good at is pattern recognition. One thing that I seem to do pretty fucking well at is deconstructing a text and I think the enhanced pattern recognition skills my weird-ass autistic brain has gifted me with play a part in this. This is, unfortunately, mitigated by my ADHD, which has a less-than-good effect on recognizing patterns. In her article, “5 Cognitive Advantages of People With ADHD,” Saga Briggs quotes from the journal, Personality and Individual Differences: “When adults were given other tasks to test creativity, such as one in which they had to find something in common amongst three seemingly unrelated items. . .those with ADHD performed worse than those without it.” What autism giveth, ADHD taketh away.
In that same article, Briggs also talks about flexible thinking. Here, we’re talking about how people with ADHD are very adept at switching from one cognitive task to another. And, that’s true of me… to a degree. Because it’s also the inverse of the pattern recognition thing, in that any flexible thinking I might indulge in is short-fucking-circuited by my autistic brain’s craving for order and continuity. Doesn’t that sound like fun? The answer is no. No, it fucking doesn’t.
A Mind Like a Steel…Sieve?
Lastly, there’s my fucked up memory. Basically, if my memory was a sieve, all the holes would be different sizes, catching some things while others squiggle down the goddamn drain like errant strands of spaghetti. I can remember my childhood fucking phone numbers (919-292-3562 and 919-454-5545) But a doctor’s appointment where I get a card with the date and time, which that gets entered in my phone’s calendar, and goddamn reminder call? Nope. Not even a little. Apparently, my brain sees totally useless information–like phone numbers that I will never need to recall–and thinks, “Hey, I need to save this shit. It’s important.” But, something that has a distinct impact on my health? My brain says, “Nah, fuck that shit. We don’t have any more room.”
Life as a Neurodivergent Adult: The Conclusion
It’s What Makes Me, Well, Me
Yeah, living life as a neurodivergent adult can be fucking weird, but I love it all. Okay, maybe not “all”. But, most of it. And I wouldn’t give up any of it, even the suckier bits. It’s what makes me an interesting person. Without it, I’d be just another boring-ass neurotypical. Yes, neurotypicals are kind of boring. I mean, shit, it’s right there in your name: typical. It’s why if they were to come up with a cure for autism and ADHD, I wouldn’t do it. Sure it’s a little cloudy how much of this mess comes from my neurodivergence and how much is from the trauma of life in this fucked-up world, but I’m pretty sure it can’t be separated. So, I reject the “cure” bullshit. It would kill the things that me, well, me. And I am not giving them up.