There’s no such thing as a stupid question

There is no such thing as a stupid question when you live with neurodiversity.

I read an email from my son’s school this morning about registering him for classes for the next term.

It listed the instructions on how to do it, but guess what happened?

I began reading it and it made sense for the first few sentences then turned into a jumble of nonsense in my brain.

I experience dyslexia along with my ADHD.

On any given day I can’t be sure which executive functions are firing and which aren’t.

Today, my language translators and sequencers are glitchy.

Now I could blow this off and not ask for help because I’m afraid his teachers will think I’m stupid.

I could assume that everyone else finds these instructions simple to follow. That I “should” be able to follow them too and there’s something wrong with the fact that I can’t.

That’s the voice of comparison, not the voice of compassion.

You must allow yourself some flexibility. Especially when it comes to rules established without taking your challenges into consideration.

Rules like:

✔️ Follow the instructions. There clear as day.

✔️ Listen, because I’m only going to say this once

✔️ If you can’t follow simple instructions, you aren’t smart enough to trust with this responsibility (I’ve been told that before).

Self-advocacy may need you to go beyond asking for what you need. You may need to educate others on how intelligence and learning style have little to do with each other.

People without our challenges are like people with 20/20 vision. They don’t appreciate what it’s like to see the world without glasses in all its blurriness.

When you don’t have the tool you need to see clearly. It isn’t because you’re lazy, unmotivated or not trying hard enough. It’s because you don’t have what you need to be successful.

Well to be successful in registering my son for classes I was going to need a little hand holding.

So I told comparison to take a seat. My focus is on getting a result that allows my son to keep moving forward in school.

I measure success in this regard on the result I achieve. Not one of those criteria includes the opinion of others on whether I needed help to do it.

It took work to unlearn comparing myself to others. I can avoid it more often than not, which has allowed me a great deal of freedom.

As well as increased my creativity.

In any case, I emailed and asked for what I needed. I’ll be meeting with a member of my son’s team to go through the process.

Not every instance of self-advocacy will go smoothly, of course.

But let’s make sure the reason isn’t because of all the booby traps you set up between your own ears. 

You can be sick and happy

I work with many chronically ill teens.

I make clear to them they can feel sick and happy.

I have yet to experience anything that keeps you aware of the interplay of life’s opposites like chronic illness does.

Working to find that sweet spot between pain and comfort, exhausted and rested.

It’s often hard to tell whether challenging yourself will lead to a triumph or exacerbation.

Balance, balance, balance.

One way to find balance is to create space between you and the experience of, in this case, pain.

The way I frame it in my mind is this…

There is terrible pain in the legs that have come with this body of mine.

But I am not the pain and
I am not in pain.

It’s as if I were standing in a rain storm.

I am not the rain nor
am I in the rain.
The rain is around me or on me.

The pain is there and we have a relationship.

Like there are storm clouds passing through the sky.

Like after a storm, when the birds start singing again.

Letting you know it’s safe to come out.

As this pain storms today,
I’m listening to my favorite music which always brings me joy.

Balance, balance, balance.

Thank goodness for second chances

You’ll have your share of naysayers when you’re neurodivergent.

When I first enrolled in the Social Work Program, I had a professor who didn’t like me. She went out of her way to try and get me to drop out of the program.

It was the early 1990’s and about a decade before I’d learn I had Asperger’s and ADHD. I was introverted and socially awkward.

I was blunt, guarded and often kept to myself. I was labeled arrogant and unapproachable by classmates.

They complained to this professor about me and I was called to her office.

To paraphrase her, I wasn’t “social” enough, I needed to change my behavior. She didn’t tell me what I was doing wrong nor what I needed to do instead.

I reached out to some of my classmates to apologize and ask what I could do differently. Some expressed surprise that I addressed the issue so directly.

Their responses were vague. They gave me general answers that referred to my style of speaking (e.g. bluntness). But didn’t offer specific examples.

Without the guidance I needed I became increasingly ostracized. I decided to leave the program as it became a toxic environment for me.

Over the next 5 years I tried various odd jobs and even a different major. Until one day it hit me. I’d only be happy doing social work.

I shared my realization with my then wife and she encouraged me to go for it. The catch was, I’d need the permission of the same professor to rejoin the program. She was the Dean of it at this point.

I’d done a lot of growing in those 5 years and the professor and I were able to clear the air about some things. She let me back in and I had a wonderful experience.

All these years later (15 and counting). I’m grateful I took a second chance and grateful I received one. Not every closed door remains closed forever.

Sometimes it means you aren’t ready. You need to take time to do some work before trying again.

When Facebook wants you to friend a childhood bully

Facebook just recommend I friend someone who literally used to torment me when we were kids.

We have FB friends in common it seems.

I felt anger at first as I looked at his face. I tried to see evidence of that kid I resented so much.

I couldn’t see him.

I didn’t know the person I was looking at now. I didn’t know his story, who he had become.

I only know what I remember.

I also remembered I’m no longer the same person. No longer the frail, insecure child so easily preyed upon.

Also not someone who wants him to suffer because of decisions he made as a kid. When he was clearly troubled.

The world is better with healed people in it. That’s what I want for him and anyone else who causes suffering as they wrestle with their gremlins.

It’s a far lighter and more peaceful existence to wish peace rather than punishment upon someone.

Especially when it comes to people from our past.

I find it difficult to nurture my own peace without wanting to include others.

Healing frees you from a desire to get even because you have to let go of the role of victim.

Does it mean you weren’t a victim at that moment, no? It means you don’t have to be one for the rest of your life.

Heal what you can.

Your present is waiting for you to take your eyes off the past long enough to meet it.

Self-care is about more than getting enough rest

Self-care isn’t simply about taking care of the parts of you that take care of everyone else. It’s about so much more. 

It’s about taking care of the “self”, who you are, what fills you up and makes you feel most alive. 

I focus on the self-care that strengthens the foundation of who I am, meaning how I show up in the world. 

I want my default setting to be consistent, deliberate and nonreactive. 

The world isn’t the enemy, it’s the mother I’m connected to and rely upon for my existence, growth and survival. 

People have a way of complicating the simple, don’t we?! 

I’m a proficient catastrophic thinker. I can thank my Neurodiversity (e.g. ADHD, anxiety) for that. I can also thank various strategies for helping me manage it. 

I don’t have talent for playing musical instruments or painting beautiful portraits. But something happens when I reflect upon the human condition and the lessons therein. Then choose to write about that experience.

I use that time in reflection increasing my capacity for self-compassion, patience, kindness, mindfulness and more.

That’s the deeper self-care that fills me up. Far more than a massage ever could, not that those aren’t awesome. But you know what I mean.

Maybe hiking through the forest or climbing a rock face helps you connect with your deeper self. Then please do it.

Bring this deeper self into your awareness so it can be a more conscious part of how you live your life.

Its more deeply connected to what you truly care about and is a far better compass than “what will others think”. 

This is a way for you to make an impact in this life.

Where do we go from here…

I grew up being bullied by classmates, teachers, and even members of my own family.

I was beat up at various times from the age of 5 through middle school. I finally fought back, decisively, and no one touched me again after that.

To some, I should’ve acted sooner. In my mind, aggression and violence lack any and all moral authority.

Our leaders do a tremendous job of wrapping it in a pretty bow of patriotism or some other unquestioned tribalistic, dogma.

What they’re really saying is that, we have the resources and strength to force others to indulge our selfishness and tough shit if they don’t like it.

That isn’t leadership, those are grade school bullies who grew up to be elected by other bullies. There, I said it.

Please don’t come at me with talk of Hitler and other historical actors who could only be stopped through fierce opposition.

That is a symptom of the broader problem I’m talking about and not an exception of what I’m talking about here.

The fact that our movies, shows, media, YouTube, etc., glorify people getting hurt, maimed, beaten and even killed in the name of “justice” or entertainment should disturb everyone.

It would be like cows sitting back and watching slaughterhouse footage to unwind.

We need a new script. Our culture needs an enema.

People who live with neurodiversity know the experience of living in a world where people are hostile toward them simply because they’re different.

A sarcastic and judgmental, “What’s wrong with you,” is not uncommon when you act a little quirky around someone unfamiliar with you.

While we’re on the subject, “sarcasm” is an aggressive way of speaking. It’s tone suggests the person you’re talking to is stupid. It’s one-upmanship.

It’s one way we compete with each other and our culture is saturated with it.

This incessant need to win, be the smartest kid in the room, be the best whatever, causes us to put each other down at every opportunity and it needs to fricking stop NOW!

Each person needs to decide for themselves how they want to shape this world.

If violence plays any role in your plan, you’re part of the problem.

There’s a lot to learn from those who have led the way to profound social change without once raising their hand against a fellow human being.

Let’s try unity, connection, compassion, community and kindness for a while. It can’t be worse than what we’ve been doing.

When you don’t know how to figure out what isn’t working…

You don’t need to have resolutions or goals because there’s a new year.
Whether you live your life guided by a desire to be, have or do anything is up to you. Regardless of what the calendar says.
Your beliefs about what’s possible for you may be informed by how much neurodiversity affects your life.
You may see failures as evidence of what you can’t do instead of as evidence of simply what doesn’t work.
When you think about how you’re living now, you may have a feeling that things aren’t working.
Though you struggle to determine what, specifically isn’t working. You know once you determine that, you decide what you’d like instead. Then, of course, you can get busy creating it.
A way to help figure out what isn’t working, is to ask yourself this.

If I want to feel better than I do now, is there anything I need to:

👉 Keep doing?
👉 Stop doing? or
👉 Start doing?

Make sure one of the things you stop doing is basing your feelings of success on other people’s happiness.

This doesn’t mean ignore the impact of your actions on others. It means that your internal celebration of a job well done.

The gratitude you feel toward yourself for showing up, for you – is enough.

Comparison, impatience and competition are habits encouraged by those who wish to exploit your insecurities.

You don’t have to drink from those wells when there’s a fountain inside you.

The fountain is the fluid experience you’re having this moment. It tells you everything about where you’re at, but not where you’ll end up.

What is undeniable, is that you must take the first step in order to get started.