That Explains A Lot

I want a t-shirt that says, “I’m neurodivergent, on the spectrum, with ADHD, give me a break.” Because the people who are astonished by our “brilliance” — Where did you come up with that idea? — are also frustrated by our “quirks” — You just started a conversation in the middle, go back to the beginning.

So, what’s it like to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD in late middle age? It’s pretty good, actually. Because it really does explain so much. And so now when I look back on things I was made to feel shame for, I can understand that I wasn’t lazy or a silly heart or unfocused, my brain was just working in the way it was programmed to work.

Yes, you sent me to the corner store for bread and I came back with milk, but in my defense, I dreamed up several exciting stories on the way there and several more on the way back. I also had a conversation with God and took some time to be embarrassed about something I had said to a girl in math class. I was busy. How was I supposed to remember what you asked me to do?

I wasn’t lazy. Your work was boring. I wasn’t unfocused. Your class was moving too slow for me. But I was and am, most definitely, a daydreamer. I can’t imagine living without daydreams. Are there people out there who don’t daydream when forced into a boring situation? If so, I feel sorry for them.

Here are some of the questions this diagnosis answered for me:

Why do I treasure movies that most other people haven’t liked on release, movies that became popular much later? Why am I always on the hunt for a nugget that will blow my mind? Why do I curate offbeat entertainment for others? Why do I find boredom physically painful? Why do I dive into something, get a feel for it, and then abandon it as done? Why, of all things, did storytelling stay interesting to me?

I just got this diagnosis yesterday so I’m still working through my understanding of it, but I will say that I wasn’t a classic nonverbal child. I was hyperverbal. Making eye contact is uncomfortable for me, but I think it’s that way for a lot of people who aren’t on the spectrum. I’m not saying I remain unconvinced, there’s too much other evidence to deny, but I am still understanding which parts of my weird childhood and weirder adulthood are due to ASD and which are due to ADHD.

I’ll keep reporting my progress here, but the most important point I want to make is this isn’t a bad thing. When they say I’m “neurodivergent” they’re really saying I wasn’t made for industrial society.

And I’m fine with that.

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