Did High School Really Have to Be So Hard?

High school Hallway
Imagine rediscovering your high school years through a completely different lens. What if the stories you told yourself weren’t the whole truth?
I survived four years of torment in high school, or at least, that’s what I believed for 20 years. That was my reality, stuck in that mindset until I began connecting with former classmates via social media—people I only knew casually back then.
Back in high school, my worldview was shaped by a unique blend of neurodivergence (e.g. AuDHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and more). This mix compelled me to take things very personally, catastrophize every setback and negative comment, cling to every hurt feeling as if it would last forever, and possess a hair-trigger defensiveness. I believed it was crucial to keep people at a distance because rejection seemed inevitable.
As someone with AuDHD, my brain is monotropic, a common trait among us. This means I can be hyper-focused on a few things and completely oblivious to everything else. Over the years, many interpreted this as selfishness, disrespect, or just not caring. But that wasn’t my intention.
It was incredibly challenging for me to see beyond those difficult moments back then. My brain struggled to believe that things could get better. This difficulty followed me into adulthood, leading to moments of panic where I would lash out and blame those around me for things they had nothing to do with. It was scary for them, and I regret the harm I caused.
I’ve spent time in my head with the accounting firm of Woulda, Coulda and Shoulda. But I simply don’t know if this would have been different if I’d know about my diagnoses back then. It’s possible I might have hidden behind the labels, I could have become a powerful advocate or somewhere in between. It’s hard to know how things could have been different.
But with great self-awareness comes great opportunity to do better once you know better. I’ve learned from classmates how differently (positively) I was perceived by them. Memories they had of me that blew me away.
I’ve done so much work to heal the past, much of which needed healing, but other hurts were healed by correcting misunderstandings I’d held onto for years, even decades. The difference between who I was then and now is practically night and day. Now, I don’t take things as personally. When I catch myself catastrophizing, I know how to ground myself. I’ve learned to let go of negative emotions, watching them drift away like clouds passing by in the sky.
Being neurodivergent doesn’t prevent growth, and learning skills to manage your thinking and emotions IS NOT trying to be normal, or neurotypical. It’s building a toolbox for resilience so you can live your life instead of being afraid of it.
Have you ever looked back and re-evaluated your perspective on a tough period in your life? What did you discover about the impact your perception had on your experience? Let’s explore together how our past experiences shape our present understanding and how we can write a better story for a better present and future.
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