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Confessions of a Neurodivergent (1 Viewer)

Darkkin

WF Veterans
Anyone with a neurodivergent diagnosis, (ASD, ADHD, ADD, Bipolar, Depression, Dyslexia, Schizoaffective, OCD, TS...etc.), has reached a point when they meltdown because of an overload of sensory input, anxiety, emotions or a combination of the aforementioned. I find that it is easier to process the fallout if I sit down and articulate the morass that nearly chokes you in that moment.

One of my biggest was the day we moved to the old house. It was a busy day. I did all right until about 7:00pm when all I wanted was a bowl of cereal and the stupid spoons were nowhere to be found. It was a ridiculous thing, but it was one thing to many. Full blown meltdown. I went in my room, shut the door and turned REM's The Great Beyond up as loud as it would go and proceeded to rage sort my library until 4:00am when I reached complete physical shutdown.

Second time we moved, to the current house, I got thought the first day, but the next morning I wanted a bowl of cereal...Again, fate mocked me. I found the spoons this time, but no bowls. The tote with all of the dishes was still in the garage. Trigger meltdown. Rage sorted the kitchen and purged all of our old tupperware, which at that point I didn't even know why we bothered to move. (My best friend, bless her, heard me slamming around and came to check on me. I looked up, told her I was not mad at her, just mad about something really stupid, which was the truth. A truth that made me even angrier because it was idiotic to be mad about a bowl of cereal. And she just left me to my task.)

When I get tipped over the edge, I need space and motion, whether it is a sorting chore, my yoga ball, or a swing at the park...I keep moving until I force a physical shutdown. Reach that level of tired and your brain literally cannot keep yammering. Sleep is its only recourse.

There are other episodes before I had an ASD diagnosis that now make a lot of sense. Times after family gatherings when I would end up with a severe migraine that reduced me to tears. These were a result of my senses trying to regulate after an overload. My migraines, (which I've suffered from since I was really little) are one thing that has improved significantly since I got an accurate diagnosis. I now have tools that help me identify overload before it happens and take steps to prevent a meltdown.

Why am I talking about this here? Well, my ASD is a hardwired shortcut to my creative matrices. The emotions that I cannot effectively articulate verbally often trigger a glass rabbit idea that I can express constructively through my writing. And with ND brain, having a constructive outlet...is a very good thing.
 
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bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Great writeup. I have to be honest: I'm not sure whether I was meant to chuckle at the repeatedly-thwarted cereal goal or expressions like "rage sort my library" (a contender for 'finest phrase I've seen this month') but that is what I did. Either way I am glad your brain works as it does because we wouldn't have those wonderful creations otherwise. :)
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
Great writeup. I have to be honest: I'm not sure whether I was meant to chuckle at the repeatedly-thwarted cereal goal or expressions like "rage sort my library" (a contender for 'finest phrase I've seen this month') but that is what I did. Either way I am glad your brain works as it does because we wouldn't have those wonderful creations otherwise. :)


The deal breaker cereal didn't seem funny in the moment, it is just the one more thing wrong. However, once you work through the overload, it is something that you can laugh about. It is something you almost need to laugh about in order to process it. Because how many people move twice and cannot find the cereal tools both times? Kindergarteners can do cereal, but here I am, a grown up, who can't. It is a situation that is by turns ridiculous and relatable and it helps others to understand what overload can look like. Me, nearly hysterical about a cereal bowl...

Many people are actually surprised when they find out I have a spectrum diagnosis. One, I'm female and two, I communicate extremely well when I chose to do so. I am highly proficient masker. I have also had an ND label since age 3 when I was diagnosised with ADHD. People knew about that and figured my slips were all part and parcel with that. No one ever really noticed I liked my own company (and that of my dogs), repeatedly rode my bike over the same route for hours on end, my fascination with swings, or swimming an insane number of laps because I loved the rhythm. These were all things I did on my own time, away from other people.

I was in undergrad when one of my professors noticed a couple of little things I did. My chronic use of headphones, the fact that I preferred curling up in a quiet corner on the floor, and an incessant wiggling of my feet when I used a chair. My professor approached me and asked if I had been screened for NDs. I told her about my ADHD, but that was the only issue they found. Given the time that had passed since then she suggested getting another assessment. Now, very curious, I did.

At the time, I was diagnosised with what was known as Aspergers, a 'high' functioning form of autism. (More on the labels later.) Many of my symptoms mimic my ADHD, but others like my small obsessions with music and motion, did not. The hyperfocus, the niche interests, the encyclopedic info dumping, and social awkwardness did...it was a near perfect chameleon comorbidity. ASD/ADHD. Great more letters. Where do we go from here? Like Hermione, I went to the library.
 

-xXx-

Financial Supporter
Great writeup. I have to be honest: I'm not sure whether I was meant to chuckle at the repeatedly-thwarted cereal goal or expressions like "rage sort my library" (a contender for 'finest phrase I've seen this month') but that is what I did. Either way I am glad your brain works as it does because we wouldn't have those wonderful creations otherwise. :)
-ditto-
-be gentle with yourself-

:)
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
Unmasked Beneath the Mask...

Over the course of the past year masks have become a bone of contention for many. I've been fine wearing one for a variety of reasons, (mostly due to a surfeit of risk factors I have.) Anywho...burying the bone, and getting back on track, one major reason I really appreciate my mask is because I don't have to wear my 'normal' mask for hours on end. Given the fact that my 'normal' mask has been honed on the frontlines of retail it has acquired elements of Vulcan stoicism or blank kitty stare...e.g. (I will not laugh at the 'funny' replies to a question such as, 'Anything we can help you find?' Customer: 'My sanity?' Not funny, dude. Not in the least, so blank look...and awkward silence stretches. That silence doesn't bother me one bit, but hopefully it serves as a reminder that a simple no thanks suffices. Being 'clever' is never clever.)

Ask just about any ND and they will tell you that maintaining a 'normal' affect can be extremely hard. The fact that our differences and unconscious stims are wrong is hammered into our heads at a young age. To avoid reprimands and continuous badgering, we mask, suppressing what for us is a way to regulate our nervous systems. Girls tend to get really good at masking at a very early age, which is one of the leading reasons for missed/late diagonsises among the female ASD population. Current statistics are 1 female to every 4 males diagnosises. That number itself has double since 1985 when it was a 1:8 ratio.

My face can 'talk' without offending anyone because no one can see if I'm making a weird expression behind the fabric. Having smaller features and slightly larger glasses, people really don't see much beyond the patterns on my mask. I am very good at maintaining Vulcan eyebrows, so people are totally unaware if I crinkle my nose, grimace, or quietly smile at something I overhear. It is a small thing, a bit like having the house to yourself because everyone else is gone for the weekend. A moment of ND 'normal'.
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
Things I find, don't need, and now own...Sadly. the first book is out of print.


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Darkkin

WF Veterans
I really like that cover. Have never read the book.

Part of the beauty of this book, there are no words, just the black and white illustrations. Partner it with different pieces of music and you can tell dozens of different stories.

Like Journey and Quest the story is up to the reader. This one is really cool because it has the 3D glasses that really immerse you in the book's world. Like Wanderer and Bad Island this is one of those books that is not just for kids.

I'm thinking I read too much...
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
High Functioning is Not What You Think


High Functioning ASD with a comorbidity of ADHD is the current label ascribed to me under the current guidelines established by the DSM V, under the DSM IV it was High Functioning Aspergers and ADHD. What the majority of folks don't know is that a label of High Functioning ASD is nothing more than an autistic individual with an IQ of 70 or above with no intellectual impairment. It is a blanket term that fails to accurately address a spectrum of issues. e.g. Sensory processing issues, hypersensitivities, executive function issues, social and environmental interaction issues etc...

To boil it down our brains are wired very differently than NT brains, we process information in regions of the brain deemed atypical for things like language, sound, visual, and sensory input. We don't filter out extraneous stimuli as well as NTs can. This is why we get overwhelmed and are able to make lightspeed connections to seemingly random subjects. Put two NDs together and watch them, listen to how they communicate with each other. It is very different that how NTs communicate. The NDs seem to bounce around like water drops on a hot griddle, but they understand each other perfectly. With NTs we seem like aliens from another planet because of how we interpret our input.

From a personal standpoint, I make odd connections to the plethora of weird facts I know. It is how I give context to my surroundings whether it is through obscure movie quotes, history facts, literary references, character archetypes, working psychology terms, a collection of prime number patterns, the fact that I know when the time is Pi or 3:14, and measure books in linear feet, and a mental map of books built on what I have seen, read, own, and shelved. Sort of like a living card catalogue, outside of a bookstore construct it is a really weird ability, but it is an asset at work because I tend to be faster and more accurate than the computers. An average of 3:1. If I don't know something, I can usually track it down if I have at least two specific pieces of information about the book in question. If I ever give you the term vaguely specific, your query does not have enough information to winnow through the flood created by linguistic coincidence.

Reading through all this burble, the fact that I'm spectrum is not readily apparent because I have very, very good language skills and have always been oddly articulate. I live up to my high functioning label right? Not exactly. The areas where I struggle are not easily seen. When the measure of a successful day is the fact that I swept the floors, got the dishes done, and brought the garbage can up is a reality. Yes, I work full time and I am lucky to be in a place where my ND brain is an advantage, not a burden, but I do get tired. Even as comfortable as I am at work, and as much as I love the medium I work with, I still mask to some extent. Many time people are genuinely surprised when I tell someone I'm spectrum, (usually after an indepth conversation on neurodivergency with folks looking for information on the subject because the term autistic/ ADHD/ADD or dyslexia has been introduced to the family dynamic.) This is one of my niche subject interests, so when I get started, I go. People unfamiliar with ND brains can treat such a diagnosis as a death knoll or a permanent disability. It isn't.

Yes, there are challenges. Everyday things like going to the DMV, remembering to renew my car tabs, going to the grocery store, and socialising are difficult. I don't like it when people come visit (don't get me wrong, I love my family and friends, I just don't want them in my space...) because it disturbs my routines and creates chaos. There are unknown factors in my very careful cultivated spaces. Some things I know I could never do and really have no desire to deal with are things like home ownership and its entailed complications, I don't have to worry about. I have a finite number of bills, which I make sure I get paid ahead of time. I know how much I make, how much I have to pay, and when I get paid. I work very carefully within my means. And while I'm independent, I have never actually lived completely alone. Due to certain cardiac complications, I'm not allowed to live alone, but even if I could, it would be a major struggle for me. I can say for a fact that I know it would be too much to do.

I keep my world small to keep things simple. Yes, I have pets, but they are part of the routine , good company, and a total joy. Rue Dog actual knows when I have an issue with my cardiac function and is certified as a service animal, and Potato, is well, Potato. I tend to be a bit of a neat freak, something my best friend (who knew about my ASD diagnosis before my mom did) puts up with because I don't have issues with doing things like basic house cleaning and dishes. And for some weird reason, I like to shovel snow. Something about the extreme stillness and lack of people out and about when I do it. Stray paper clutter that accumulates in so many homes, drives me bats. Mail gets sorted as soon as it comes in. Shoes, bags, and outerwear get put away as soon as you come in the door. Crap does not get left out on the table or counter. You cook, you run water in the sink and do the dishes as you go. You do not leave a mess in the common areas. As a result of my rather inflexible environmental standards our group of friends tends to think our house is weirdly neat. No blankets left on the couch, no unmade beds, drifts of dog fur on the floor, and fresh vacuum tracks in the basement.

Routine keeps me grounded, it keeps me on time, and it keeps the chaos to a minimum. There are times when it can be a struggle to get chores done because physically my systems say: Enough. My brain says: Enough. And yet I know I need to get these things done or the anxiety and guilt will build. I've had to work to train my brain to understand that once the chores are done, I get to enjoy the shimmer of a clean house and the peace of mind of knowing that the chores are done for another day. And sometimes it can be a real battle to do the simple thing, the right thing because you just want to sit down and read. To be able to stop thinking for a little while and get lost in a niche dive. But the chores don't go away, it looms like a great black spectre growing larger and more terrible than ever before. You feel like you live in one of the homes featured on Hoarders because there is a little drift of dog hair on the floor or a cereal bowl in the sink. It is not a rational process, and you know you are being ridiculous, but still this is what your brain is telling you. If you stop, you will fail. And if I end up with chaos in my home space, I know I will melt down because my routines had been up ended.

If I need to do a project like painting, which we did a couple of years ago, I plan. I set time aside and I face the project head on, get it done, and remove the source of the chaos. You consciously work to avoid situations that can and will lead to a meltdown.

In all actuality, I have a much steadier and safer environment and support system than many on the spectrum. In this respect I am very, very lucky. I have people who understand when I do meltdown and don't take offense when I simply cannot people another moment. They also take time to listen when I explain why I am upset. And that is another odd thing, I don't get mad at a person, I get upset about the action or situation, not the individual.

It is very rare that I take a person into active dislike, in which case I take care to avoid the individual at all cost and cease to communicate or interact with them because the effort is simply intolerable.

If I chatter at you with a surfeit of seemingly random facts, bits of history, or Star Trek jokes it just means I'm okay being around you. If I mention Potato Cat or Rue Dog you know I'm comfortable with you.

This is high functioning autism...
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
I did the dishes because I wanted butterscotch pudding. I categorically refused to make anything in a disorganized kitchen, so I cleaned up the smattering of dishes, destroyed the kitchen and returned it to order because I wanted one weirdly specific food.

This is something I try to do about once a week and it usually involves things like meatballs, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, or tacos. Leftovers get used up and I don't have to worry about what to have for dinner.

Food sameness is one of the most common markers of ASD.
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
Neurotypical. Basically it means the brain processes sensory input like it should. Neurotypicals have the ability to correctly read and interpret social cues and respond in a regulated manner to their environment. Neurotypicals are able to function at a frequency that is in tune with societal norms.

Neurodivergents or NDs struggle to interpret the contradictory sensory information we take in. With NDs our central nervous systems are usually in overdrive, akin to flooring the gas in the car, while you are stuck in second gear. (Apparently I've heard the Friends theme song one too many times.)

Have you ever seen Singin' in the Rain? These scene where the sound is out of sync with the picture? NDs are out of sync, always...either ahead or behind, never in step.


 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I relate to many of the things you speak of, but as far as I know, I am NT. But I'm wondering though, rather than people being purely one or the other, is there a spectrum with NT on one end of the scale and ND on the other end?

I apologize if this sounds rude or naive. I have a very analytical mind which means I question everything. It gets me into trouble all the time.

But I'm very interested to learn more about this.
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
That's where it smacks into a wall. It is not a linear, straight line scale. It is a spectrum, like a colour wheel, with each individual shaded with their own unique combinations.

Me. I'm hyperarticulate, but I struggle to communicate with my peers because the context in which I couch my explanations is greektastically rarefied. e.g. Vulcan humour and muppet speak. I also have a tendency to be rigid to the point of shattering on certain processes.

Because it is a spectrum there will be occasional overlap for NTs, but it is not the chronic system overload that an ND brain experiences every moment of every day.

No one is a little bit autistic or ADHD, you either are an ND or an NT. Spectrum diagnoses are about 1: 58, but studies as recent as 2020 are suggesting that the rate is as high as 1:41, with a ratio of 1 female: 4 males. Even now, those numbers are being challenged because of the model developed to diagnose ASD is designed to pick up autistic traits in children, more specifically boys. ASD in the female population presents very differently and because girls learn at a very young age to mask and mimic socially acceptable norms, we can hide very well in plain sight.

Anybody looking at or interacting with me for less than an hour would never know that I'm on the spectrum. I tend to stay quiet around those I don't know, unless directly addressed. People just assume I'm either stuck up or extremely shy. Neither is correct. I just generally prefer to avoid people because they require a huge investment of energy.

It is a physicological difference in how the brain is wired and processes information. There is a reason these are listed as neurological disorders as opposed to personality disorders. Executive function and social interactions are among the areas most impacted. It isn't just poor study habits, impulsive decisions, and an inability to sit still. It is listening to the same five songs on repeat for months on end, it is hyperfocus on weirdly specific interests, and a chronic need for sensory input, (e.g. the tactile feel of a favourite book, the obsessive use of a swing, a yoga ball that serves as a desk chair, bouncing toes on the floor to crack them, an odd tolerance for very hot water, etc...)

Some decent sources for background reading, The Disordered Mind by Kandel, Neurotribes by Silberman, Divergent Mind by Nerenberg, and The Power of Different by Saltz.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Abnormal psychology, which includes neurodivergence is one of my hyperfocuses...I tend to info dump on the subject, not an endearimg character trait. Made for a handy second minor in undergrad work. :)
Like I say, I relate to so much of what you say, for example, "It is listening to the same five songs on repeat for months on end." I will follow up on the reading. :)
 
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