Au-Some Afterthoughts 2020
When people think of neurodivergent people (ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, & others), typically they think they lack verbal and language skills or lack intelligence or have a low IQ. However, neurodivergent people think and feel very differently than the average person.
After discovering what autism & ADHD truly are, I have began to see how my own struggles as a child and as an adult are representative of these two very different neurological thought-processes.. One of more dominate features I possess is hyperfocus.
Hyperfocusing is the state of mind when a person gets so engrossed in an activity or task that they doing only that thing and can not notice or interact with anything else. And when I say anything, i mean ANYTHING–people calling your name, your phone, your favorite food or item even. Autistic people and ADHD people both can have hyperfocus and it can manifest in different ways for differents reasons. Dare I say it can even be a trigger for the “journey towards the never-ending rabbit hole” of information that results in you barely remembering where the day went until its 3am and you’re still researching every detail of the topic you started at 8am the previous morning.
So I wanted to provide positive and negative pictures of what hyperfocusing can look for a Autistic/ADHD person.
My most recent example is adding to my blog. From my general reading of other autistic and ADHD, i decided I wanted to talk about common topics for Autistics and ADHDers. I got so focused on it so heavily that I wrote 5 blogs in one evening, all longer than the little “blurbs” I sometimes write. I also started several drafts of posts that were on very deep topics–something I have always wanted to do but lacked the energy. Or motivation. Or I was too…whatever (honestly, you should watch this you tube video about motivation in ADHD people–its EXTREMELY helpful!)I was able to produce a lot of information for the benefit of myself and others. This is why hyperfocusing can be a positive.
I have also started a bullet journal. This has been a positive because I have used my creative techniques and imagination to almost my own DIY planner that I can change/add while continuing to write. It helps me stay focused and see my schedule for how busy it really is. And while I would like to call this a positive item… a negative side effect of this bullet journal is I have become so hyperfocused on decorating it. I skip getting ready on time, interactive with my family because I became obsessed about finding designs and templates online. It’s taken over my Pinterest. And while this is milld (focus on a planner), some hyper focusing can happen on negative things, and therefore should be addressed immediately.
Is there anything you hyper focus on? Has it helped you finish tasks? Books? A degree perhaps. Comment below your positive and negative thoughts.
March 6th, a Friday.
Today was the first day i started taking meds for my newly diagnosed ADHD. No worries–i find it a fun “afterthought” to realize less than 5 years ago, I had no knowledge of ADHD, autism, how to interact and treatment options. Life is life I guess 🙂
Anyways, probably because I was super hyper focused amongst trying to get my kiddo ready for the new sitter or because I was attentive to every little change in body and mood, I felt different after taking the first med. The major change was that I was able to actually clear my mind. Until today, my mind was always thinking something. Never turned off. And I see this medicine as a way of helping my brain turn off the countless stimuli that constantly turns off during the way. It was shocking at first but them actually calming. Today, I actually was able to calm myself down a lot and I’m not sure if I can attribute that to the meds or just having more confidence. I also noticed that I worked straight thru work with no “drawing” time. I was super productive. I was focused. And when I would switch from one item to another, I actually remembered what I was doing most of the time. Not as bad as before (like forgetting what file I was in for a good couple seconds. As I get closer to bedtime, I can feel it slightly drifting off. the pill is extended release and I took it at 7am this morning
Here’s hoping it works the way it was intended. My brain needs this.
I want to start off this post by saying my therapist is great. Its great when you find one you like, someone that pushes your boundaries just enough but not too far and most important of all listens. But when you go to therapy, you learn things about yourself that you never thought you would. While last year was more about learning the autistic side of things, this year is turning out to be an ADHD kind of year.
First—this is not uncommon (one google search found this article) A lot of people usually learn about one neurological difference or the other (ADHD vs Autism) and in learning about that end up discovering they are masking for the other side. They are almost sister neurotribes, to use the coined term. Let me tell you my story:
It started when I was talking with my therapist about my anxiety and autism. We were going thru my traits and I would tell her how I didn’t feel like my brain shut off, that I had never had a “clear head” in my life (usually i try thinking of water environments as that was as close as I could get… or a dark warm cave) in addition to telling her problems I had in school as a young child learning, reading, etc. Personally I thought these were all underlying anxiety issues that finally rose to the surface. That I just couldn’t calm down enough to really “calm down.” (by the way– my brain, especially now after having a kid, does not comprehend calm.) I also began to notice I talked at my therapist very rapidly a lot. I mean a lot. For the full 50 minutes. I talked so fast I could get lost in what I was saying and end up at the end “now where was I?” constantly–usually jumping from one topic to another where surprisingly my therapist managed to keep record. Now I don’t know if it was that or my discussions about transitions that eventually lead to maybe this isn’t anxiety but a mild form of ADHD.
Thoughts burst into my head when it first came up: “Wait, What? Me? ADHD? Nah– I’m not hyperactive. Am I? I have other friends who are ADHD? But I don’t act like them. (spoiler: boys present differently then girls). And I can focus. And I’m organized, Right? wait..maybe i’m not.But my planner looks pretty”
Yep, folks. Sara fell for it. Didn’t even research or attempt to understand what ADHD looks like. So I continued to follow this train of thought until I realized I had started in the wrong place. I worked off my assumptions about a very well researched neurological difference where I should have asked around to those who know. So I went to my autistic groups and one recommendation in a chat was to watch a female YouTube channel (here, watch her, she’s awesome!)who has ADHD and explains things in a simple understanding way. Also, I decided to get officially tested (yep, ADHD has tests to check your traits) which had some hiccups along but the way but finally I was able to see my results from sitting in front of a computer screen for an hour.
So anyways, it was discovered that I have ADHD. ADHD can present itself in three main ways: Impulsive, Hyperactive or a combination of both. I have the latter–i am thinking maybe 70-80% impulsive and 20-30% hyperactive. What was also nice is that I finally got some medicine that could help me focus, turn off the motor in my brain every once and a while. Here’s a great explanation on this
I am going to try and keep track of what is going on in my head with taking new meds and learning about my ADHD. Any thoughts, suggestions??-Place them in the comments. Especially if you are Autistic and ADHD. I’d love to know it feels like if your ADHD self clamming down results in your autistic self being stronger!
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a medical expert or doctor. These are just my opinions about the situation and if you feel you have an actual real medical emergency or have concerns, talk to a professional.
How many people grew up going to the doctor, trusting them to say “yes, your’e sick” and “here take this to feel better.” I know I did. I trusted that all doctors had my best health interests in mind and were there to guide me. However, after spending the last several years in & out of doctors related to myself, my husband and my son, I wanted to talk about something I find interesting when it comes to your health: expertise and advocacy. Today doctors (at least here in the United States) seem to place generalizes over specialities, drugs handouts versus reviewing pros/cons and just trying to push thru their patients’ problems. I feel it is relevant to self-discovery of my autistic journey and my struggles with PCOS. but this does have application across all forms of chronic illness or standard health practice.
So above is a link to one of the several clips the show “Adam Ruins Everything.” And while it is not an end all be all of the health industry, it does give an interesting insight into Western Medicine and its approach to health care. For me, I wish I had watched this show going into college. I think I would have made a greater effort to take serious my own health and also my own advocacy. I went thru several doctors for several medical situations (an ear issue/my PCOS issues/My inquiries about my autistic self) before figuring out that they didn’t always know the right answer or that they were not utilizing their medical knowledge to apply the best treatment. I read a lot of material on my polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS) only when I brought up not only my own “hey what is this” but also source material from experts in the field, I had both my gynecologist and my endocrinologist say “oh, no, you don’t need or don’t have that, here’s some birth control and move along.” I felt like I had to become the expert-not so I could prove my doctor wrong, but so I could show them that I wasn’t “stupid” in asking the questions I did or that I had “legitimate” concerns. Personally I believe this SHOULD NOT be happening when it comes down to a person’s health. However, in continued discussions with my therapist–it is true that doctors see hundreds of patients and it is not plausible for them to remember everything about them even with the file records they keep. So when a chronic illness (my PCOS) or someone comes along who has done some reading, doctors may or may not know everything there is to know about your problems. The same is said over and over about autism-something the American community knows very little about and the knowledge they do know is either extremely stereotypical with a history that begins with placing autistic people in mental institutions blaming mothers for their behavior.
Now, I am not going to claim I know everything or more than my doctors. But I wish they would think of themselves too highly and that their patient may find the information they can review or consider in their medical expertise instead of pushing people aside.
In the autism world–a lot of adults, especially women, non-white ethnicities and those of the LGTBQ+ community are ostracized for bringing up legitimate facts, concerns about a diagnosis, and sensory stressors in life surroundings their neurological genetic difference. A good doctor will listen to a patient, work with their strengths and support their weaknesses to find a treatment that works best for them. I use the term “treatment’ loosely as I do not think is the autistic person nature is something that needs to treat. We need more help with sensory needs, speech, etc. Not let politics, social-economical status or another topic get in the way. Sadly–it is just not true for many. I know several self-identified autistics because they don’t have the time/the resources/money to get something official and having issues of talking to a doctor make it more difficult.
My advice? Don’t give up. If you have spent weeks and months researching your health problems and made notes and spent time talking to those with similar problems, then maybe you have done all you can do and it is about finding the right care and right doctor for your situation. Keep at it.
Anyone that knows me, knows I am caught between the need for routine and the need for complete openness. Some things I am extremely open about-usually dealing with people’s opinions or even favorite food items because there is so much variety in the world and I want to valid, honor and support each one that doesn’t harm myself or another. However, despite what it may look like on the surface, there are several things that are part of my “routine” that I am so stuck in. I wanted to talk about this because originally–I didn’t think I was so stuck in a routine until I noticed I was getting upset for no reason when plans changed, when something wasn’t set up the way I like it and when I thought I was stepping outside the box but actually forming my own triangle square in my own world.
One of the first things to note about routine is its definition: routine means no change. Changing the routine of an autistic person can be extremely threatneing to their neurological health. Yes-simply put their brain health. How they keep processing/act/ functioning. My son (who is officially diagnosed) has a routine about going to the zoo. We see certain animals in a certain order, take certain walking paths. If we went to the zoo and went a different way–he notices the change. The one time we did this without talking to him prior–he looked back at me worried and complained. It looks like a tantrum forming but it was a worried face not a sad face. If I had not actknowledged him, addressed his concern and reassured him, he would have continued to escalate getting upset. Some times he has a major meltdown. He does also continue to massively chew on his jacket sleeve. My husband and I see the change because we are aware of our child’s needs.But others may not see the change in going in near the monkeys versus going in near the Koalas and Australian birds is huge for our son.
I have a similar need in my routine. But it looks different. This is why all autistic people look different and its something all people should consider when getting to know an autistic person. While I am okay going to the monkey entrance or the Koala entrance–I have a specific animal I want to see: A Red Panda. And if I don’t see that animal, I get frustrated because it is my special interest. Not only it is a rare animal and endangered, but it is a calming animal to me and reflects my identity. So not seeing this animal is comparable to leaving a little piece of me behind. It provides me a safe image of my identity. And while my son gets upset by the visual change of routine. I get upset by the spatial change. In addition if we go into a section of an animal I don’t like (i’m not the greatest fan of apes) and DO NOT see my favorite –then I will be in a bad mood by accident the rest of the night. My brain spends half the evening processing why we didn’t go, why that’s okay and when can we go back to see the Red Panda.
While people who are autistic thrive on routine–it is not always for reasons you think. If you told me I must eat the same thing every day, I’d probably cry. However, there are autistic and ADHD kids who only eat one food every day for years because they want that routine. It’s safe. It’s fun. Why change? But if you told me this-I get upset because I’m being forced into a block I know I don’t fit into or that there are alternative options. Contrastingly–if you told me I can only eat for 6 hours a day, I jump at the chance to participate because it allows for flexibility in a controlled environment (this is called intermittent fasting in case you’re interested.) I am safe, I can be myself. This is something autistic adults and children are speaking out is all they want. To be themselves and to know that is okay.
Think about your routines. Maybe they are not where you think. And maybe supporting those who are autistic, ADHD or even OCD involve figuring out the whys and hows of their routines, not just the whats and filling in the blanks.