Month: March 2023

Adaptation and Exhaustion

watercolor painting of a figure falling through space, as if in a rain cloud

By Yamila García

Having to mask who we are and adapting to a world that is not designed for us requires so much energy that we often end up exhausted. Many times I have thought that more than living this feels like surviving. It is very frustrating that many things that are required of us as normal or habitual tasks or behaviors, mean such an effort. Having to adapt all the time is not something easy, much less something that is done of one’s own free will. It is something that we simply “have to do”, otherwise we would be excluded from society. If we want to succeed in whatever we do, have a job, friends, etc., “we have to adapt.” But what happens when we’ve been doing it for so long? On the one hand, it is true that we automate some of the strategies that we have used to adapt. We do them without thinking about it, often we don’t even remember if they are really our own features or were acquired to camouflage ourselves.

On the other hand, sometimes we just lose motivation and energy. It’s not nice to spend your whole life “adapting” or “adjusting” who you are in order to just live. Sometimes you just don’t want to do it anymore, you feel tired, unmotivated, and even angry because such simple things are so difficult for you. Sometimes you don’t want to deal with it anymore. You just want to lock yourself in your safe place and only come out when everyone has gone to sleep. I really wish that one day people would know how difficult it is to live like this and how easily they could lighten the weight. I think if they really knew what it felt like, they would do a lot more to create friendlier environments for neurodivergents. I’ve been in environments that one might think were specially designed to harm neurodivergents. I don’t think that’s the intention at all. But, I do believe that there is a complete ignorance of neurodiversity. How do we let them know? How do we get them interested in including us? How can we show them our skills by communicating in a way that we feel comfortable with but they understand?

This was not a happy post, because there will always be frustrations along the way. And while we can handle a lot, we don’t have to be able to handle everything. Having overcome so much, many times we make the mistake of thinking that we have to be able to handle what is coming too. Give yourself a break, you have done much more than you would have thought possible.

Discovering Our Own Abilities

Asian American woman looks at her laptop while wearing headphones. She is seated in front of a window and a cityscape.

By Yamila García

Sounds can cause real chaos in my mind. Especially when it comes to more than 2 or 3 simultaneous sounds (even more if they are unknown). I can’t just focus on one and ignore the others. That’s why I don’t understand what people are saying when they talk to me in places with various noises. It’s not that I can’t hear. I can… but I hear everything together on the same volume level, so the sounds of the voice that speaks to me mix with those of someone else’s voice speaking a few meters away, plus the sound of birds and cars going, and more. It is not comfortable or easy to deal with this. Many times when I can’t hear, I just nod and pretend to listen. But like everything in this life, it also has its good part. Being so sensitive to sounds and vibrations allows me to use music to my advantage. For many years, I have used classical music as a tool to help me channel my emotions and reform the sensations that were affecting me every day. 

I put my headphones on and I can feel myself melting into the music, to the point that it guides my heart rate. I use it to reduce my anxiety, to feel motivated and empowered, and to make decisions. Being so sensitive to sounds, vibrations, and rhythm doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Although this sensitivity has a side that causes us difficulties, it also has many positive things. Not only can I control many of my emotions through sounds, but I tend to hear things before others. I can remember many voices and sounds, and I retrieve memories just by hearing the slightest sound. For many years I also thought that everyone heard like me. That’s why I never took my sensitivity as a problem and maybe that was what allowed me to learn to use it to my advantage. I think that many times, the pressure exerted by society to standardize the way we work makes us lose the opportunity to discover our own abilities. Let’s get rid of the message that if you don’t work like most, you’re wrong. Maybe no one is wrong… 

The Harm of Labeling

By Yamila García

I wonder why of all the labels that we neurodivergents get, none of them are positive. How come some of our difficulties have become so well known, but so much is unknown about our abilities? There is much talk about not putting labels or getting carried away by stereotypes, but little is taught to put an end to this. I would hope that a neurodivergent person could be seen as someone who has the ability to think, process information and solve problems in a different way than the majority. After all, this is the reality of who we are. Our brains just work differently. And it is not that we have difficulties adapting, it is rather that the world is designed for the neurotypical majority. 

I’m not saying that we should be labeled by certain abilities instead of difficulties, either. I just wonder why the negative labels are all we hear about, when we not only have difficulties but also abilities. Could it be that the struggle of those who are different is seen as a great weakness while the struggles of neurotypical people are seen as something normal? Some neurodivergents have the ability to hyperfocus, so why are those who cannot focus like this labeled “people with hyperfocus deficit?” Other neurodivergents have the ability to spot patterns easily, but we don’t label those who can’t as “pattern blind.” We may be a minority, but shouldn’t our abilities be recognized for the value of having a different perspective? I don’t think anyone should be identified and labeled for their difficulties. Being labeled by our struggles does nothing more than put up a barrier that prevents the rest of society from knowing us and getting rich from the exchange. 

When there is a problem that many cannot solve, people always look for someone who thinks differently. If this is so, why as a society do we continue to seek standardization on a day-to-day basis? I remember working with people who valued my ability to think differently and solve problems in ways that none of them thought of. They didn’t know I was neurodivergent because back then I didn’t know either. But what if they did? Would I have even had the chance to work there? Would they have taken me as seriously as they did when they didn’t know? There is harmful packaging covering our abilities and today, it is all that many can see of us.