Truth and Lies

Wooden tiles with letters spell out the words "SPEAK TRUTH."

By Yamila García

One of the things that has been most difficult for me to understand about social conventions is how pervasive lies are. People lie to avoid looking bad, so that others don’t see things that are not socially acceptable, or to appear as someone different. People lie all the time about small, even insignificant things. People lie when they are late, as if the excuse they invented could turn back time. But I can’t help thinking, “You are already late! Don’t make it worse!” People also lie to justify their attitudes. They lie about things that don’t even need to be discussed. Silence is often better. Understanding the world around me is a challenge, especially when I consider how many lies are present in the interactions we have with others. Lies have been a great barrier to understanding how society works and how I should act. For me, lies are not the easy choice; I don’t see the need, and I don’t understand how anyone can consider them a better option than the truth. With this, I am not saying that we should go through life without a filter, or tell the truth in the crudest way. However, after spending so many years trying to learn how to communicate in a socially acceptable way, I believe that many of us can find kind and thoughtful ways to express ourselves without lying.

I’m not going to tell you that my life was full of activities if what really happened was that it was difficult for me to organize myself for a few days and I couldn’t find the time to plan something with you. I won’t say that others organized my birthday for me and that’s why you didn’t receive an invitation. I’ll tell you that I didn’t really want to mix groups because you didn’t know any of my other friends and I was worried that it would make you feel uncomfortable. I’ll tell you that I hope we can celebrate it together another day. Behind lies, there is an underestimation of the other that I do not consider respectful. Whether I like you or not, you’re not going to get that from me. Perhaps, it is a consequence of having been underestimated so many times. Sometimes, other people’s mistakes are so hurtful that they help us learn.

Gratitude, Respect, and Empathy

Two hands meet in the center of this image, in a fist bump. The hand on the left has a light skin tone and the hand on the right has a brown skin tone.

By Yamila García

I have come to realize that I am deeply grateful to people, sometimes even more than necessary. It’s not that gratitude is wrong; what feels off to me is being grateful without acknowledging one’s own worth.

As many might understand or relate, being neurodivergent means encountering a lot of rejection and negative attitudes from others. Whether due to ignorance, lack of empathy, or any other reason, many of us have faced rejection, mockery, mistreatment, and prejudice throughout our lives. That’s why, whenever I’ve encountered people who treat me with respect, kindness, and empathy, my gratitude knows no bounds. I find myself unable to stop expressing my thanks, demonstrating how much I appreciate their attitude towards me, and making a commitment to give back even more, to do better, and so on. In those moments when all I could see was them giving to me, I failed to recognize myself as an active participant in the interaction. It hadn’t occurred to me to consider that perhaps I had earned that opportunity or that respect. It’s as if after enduring so many “hits,” one becomes accustomed to it and even starts to believe that it’s normal. However, the mistreatment of those who are different can never be considered normal.

It’s challenging to reconcile with oneself and recognize one’s own value when we’re constantly being told what we’re doing wrong, how strange our behavior is, or how different we appear from others. Nevertheless, and with absolute conviction, I now believe that there is no reason or excuse for the times when we haven’t been treated with respect or empathy. The times when I have received opportunities, respect, and empathy are because I deserve them. I work diligently and approach my tasks with dedication. I value those who collaborate with me, respect their work and ideas, and treat everyone with equal levels of respect. And above all, I understand what it’s like to be denied objective and respectful treatment simply because you are different.


Predictability Makes Everything Easier

Three shiny black spoons are placed in a row on a light beige background.

By Yamila García

Every time I lose something in my life, I go through grief. No matter how small what I lose is, and although for many it does not matter, for me it means that my routine is altered. I don’t care about material possessions; I’m not interested in having a lot of things or that my things are expensive. However, losing something that long ago belonged to my daily life and having to adapt to a new routine is what makes the loss hurt. It has happened to me with school supplies, clothes, or any element or person that in one way or another was part of my routine, even for a second a day. After losing something, my routine would be different, and that upsets me. It’s not about wanting to have control over everything; it’s that predictability makes everything easier for me.

Today it is totally clear to me that I do not perceive the world like many other people. I so wish I could make neurotypicals see and feel what day-to-day life feels like for me. It is as if I am receiving a hundred calls at once all wanting my attention to give me different information. One tells me: “Look at this place; we don’t know it! Pay attention to where you are going. Why is it so big?” Another tells me: “Do you smell that? We don’t know that smell. It’s annoying! What could it be?” Another might tell me: “There is something shining above us; what is that? A light? Why does it shine so much?” Then another might say: “There are voices! Are they talking to us? What do they say? I can’t listen with so many voices in my head, with so many things shooting information at me, with so much discomfort.”

To this, you would have to add many more “calls,” and even then from the outside, you would only see a person entering a place being shy and looking a little confused. Many of these things are avoided when we know the place beforehand, when we are accustomed to its smell, its colors, the brightness of its lights, its locations, etc. Seeking predictability is just silencing several of those “calls” or voices in my head, receiving less input, and simply having fewer things to handle. As you can imagine, this facilitates interactions, avoids overwhelm and allows me to live more easily.

Ready for Whatever

A photo of a runner on a track. The runner has a light skin tone and is wearing black socks and gray sneakers. The runner is shown only from the knees down.

By Yamila García

A few days ago, very early in the morning, the alarm went off in the building where I live. It was very loud and in the pauses, a voice said to please stay calm and wait for instructions. I was sleeping and contrary to what I could have predicted, I didn’t get overwhelmed. I woke up and almost automatically knew everything I had to do. I took a bag that I had nearby, I put my wallet and an envelope that I had with important documents. I put on clothes and sneakers instantly, without thinking for a second about anything. I am trying to figure out how I did it; everything seemed simple, as simple as if I had written instructions that I was following.

Normally, very loud and sudden noises paralyze me, leaving me unable to think about what to do or what step to take next. However, this was more extreme. There was not only the noise of the alarm but also the fact that it was that noise that brought me out of a deep sleep. Perhaps, this was what caused me to go into an alert mode which, instead of paralyzing me, allowed me to be efficient and do exactly what I needed to do. Perhaps, almost instinctively, my alertness was guarding me against whatever might be happening in the building. It really surprises me how this differs from how I would otherwise respond to loud, repetitive noise.

This particular experience showed me once again that I can function well under pressure and in fact, sometimes I even function better that way. Of course, this state of alert requires significant spending of energy, but it feels good to know that in those extreme moments, I will not paralyze myself. After I was ready for whatever was next, with all my important documents and other important things with me, the alarm stopped. Nothing had happened; the alarm had been activated accidentally.

Feeling Exposed

A man's face is visible behind a camera lens.

By Yamila García

Recently, I had my first photo session for a yearbook. I had never had to take one since, in my country, school photos are only in groups. I don’t like photos; they make me feel exposed. As a child, I really liked them, but at some point over the years, I became very self-conscious, and now photos generate the same level of anxiety that an oral presentation in front of a lot of people would cause me. Days before my turn for the session, I was worrying and even dreaming about it. I had nightmares that it would be in a giant place, full of people and that while they were taking my photos, everyone would be there, judging me with their eyes. On the day of the session, I arrived early, and there was no one there. I stayed waiting for the photographer at the door, and when he returned, I entered a small room. Small spaces help me feel more in control of the situation. The photographer was extremely friendly, so I felt free to tell him that I suck at taking photos and that I don’t like them at all. He was extremely kind and really helped a lot to make it more bearable.

In any case, the anxiety inside doesn’t stop even with a miracle. I sweated the entire session, which was probably 10 minutes but felt like 10 hours. I don’t even sweat in the summer, just because of anxiety. I felt like I had a kind of rash on my face; I knew I was probably red. I was totally overwhelmed. I would like to describe the million thoughts that came to my head while the kind photographer stood behind his camera, but it is impossible. It was like a stream of hurtful things, things I would never think or say to anyone. I was out of breath because my thoughts were drowning me. When I finally finished, already turning on my automatic mode, I thanked the kindness and left. A meeting I had was canceled, and nothing gave me more relief, not because I didn’t want to have it, but because I didn’t have a drop of energy left. I drove home, and as soon as I got there, I sat on the couch and fell asleep. Consumed as if instead of a photo session I had run a marathon! Anxiety is like 5 marathons put together, all at the speed of 100 flat meters, with a backpack full of weights and no shoes. A complete nightmare that not only remains in your head, but you feel it with your entire body and it exhausts you like the most extreme physical activity.


Thoughts vs. Reality

A young woman with long brown hair is blurred out in the background behind a game of chess.

By Yamila García

When my mind is filled with self-doubt and insecurity, I silence it with facts. As if it were an investigation that I am carrying out, I search my memories for information that will help me prove that those thoughts are a lie. If my mind tells me that I am not enough, I search my memories for moments when I was able to do great things, people who have told me how much they admired what I had done, memories with friends who showed me that my presence was important in their lives. I contradict each of those thoughts with facts. I prove to myself that none of that is true. When my mind describes myself with some hateful adjective, I say to myself: okay, let’s see if this is true. What evidence do I have? Has anyone ever told me this? And if they did, what were their intentions? Has anyone ever told me otherwise? Likewise, when I think I won’t be able to do something, I ask myself: Have there been other moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to? And what happened then? How many times out of all the times that this voice told me I was incapable of achieving it, did I not achieve it?

I learned that my thoughts are not going to be actually silent, but that I can contradict them with facts and concrete evidence. I learned to use my curiosity and ability to logically argue everything so that my way of seeing life is not conditioned by that voice. I know that many have this voice torturing them. I have talked about it with friends and many feel that they could only live better if they got rid of this voice. The truth is that it is not like that and I don’t even know if that could be possible. Many times when we listen to this voice and let ourselves be guided by it, our gaze is very narrow. If we can talk to ourselves to take weight away from that voice, we can broaden our vision. Most of us have already achieved much more than we believe, we are loved and valued much more than we think, and we have much more capacity than we ever thought we would have. We just need to look back and be objective with ourselves as if it were someone else we are rooting for.

Decisions about Disclosing

A young woman with straight brown hair and tan skin stands in a city street, holding a megaphone as she speaks.

By Yamila García

It’s been 5 years since I received my diagnosis. Since confirming that I have ASD, I’ve had numerous experiences disclosing it to others. It’s not something I share with everyone all the time, but when I do, I encounter a variety of reactions. Some seem uncomfortable with the topic, perhaps due to ignorance, quickly changing the subject. Their discomfort makes me wish I hadn’t mentioned it. On the other hand, more open and informed people respond with curiosity and respect. Some even reveal that they’re neurodivergent too, leading to enriching exchanges. This relieved me, showing that I’m not alone and that many of us perceive the world differently.

Among these people, I’ve found a particular group that has helped me understand when I want to disclose my diagnosis. Parents of neurodivergent children often have fears and doubts about how they’re handling things. When I meet these parents, they have many questions and express deep gratitude for sharing my experiences. It made me realize that the decision to disclose or not must be accompanied by the question: why do it? In this case, sharing my diagnosis is about offering help, support, encouragement, and showing parents that their children will be okay. For them, seeing someone who shares similar challenges succeeding is a source of hope.

But there are other reasons for disclosure too, like seeking accommodations or helping others know us better. As we continue on the journey of self-discovery, we also learn when and why we want to disclose our diagnosis. It’s important to remember that our diagnosis doesn’t define us entirely, and disclosing it can result in different reactions due to a widespread lack of education about neurodiversity. It’s up to us to decide when and why to disclose. We’re not obligated to tell everyone, nor are we obligated to hide it. My decision to disclose comes from self-awareness and my answers to the question: why do it?

Freeing up Memory

A pile of photographs lie scattered on top of a map.

By Yamila García

If we notice that something in us differs from how it is for others, we tend to analyze it. Among many other things, my memory is one of the different characteristics that I possess in relation to others. I remember vivid images of certain details that I observed or experienced many years ago. My tendency to focus on details rather than the big picture makes my memories more about details. I remember smells, flavors, and textures very clearly. Also, I remember things from a long time ago more than many people. For example, I remember my grandfather entering his house after work, with his blue and gray bag. The interesting thing about this is that at that time, I was more or less 18 months old. So, anyone could say that I have a good memory. My short-term memory doesn’t work the same way. I usually don’t remember things I did or was told the day before or even a few hours ago. I know this may sound like a problem but I actually have some control over this. 

Sometimes, I decide to erase those memories. Sometimes life feels too overwhelming, and I feel like as soon as I solve something, I leave it behind completely to reduce the burden. I try to clear out of my way everything that I should not worry about anymore. It’s as if I reset that space in my internal memory. And I know I’m in control because I do retain other short-term memories. Of incomplete things that I have to do. I just choose what to keep and what to let go. This way, I feel I have more “space” for the things I have to deal with. Maybe this comes because of my way of working. I don’t work well when I have to focus on many things at once. However, I can focus on one thing at a time and only that way I can do a good job. If I were given two assignments at the time, I can’t do a little bit of one and then start the other one. Instead, I start one, I finish it, and then I can move to the other one, leaving behind and erasing the first one. I always realized how different this is from how most people work. That’s the reason I started questioning my way. However, I think I like it as it is; I don’t feel I wouldn’t change it. It feels efficient and it’s been my way for as long as I can remember.

Back in the Pool

A view from above a man swimming with a swim cap on in a large pool.

By Yamila García

For some reason, I stopped doing one of the things I love the most: swimming. Just thinking about it makes me feel relaxed. The serenity of the movement of the water, the peaceful blue color, the chlorine smell, and just looking at the black line at the bottom of the pool give me more peace than anything in this world. Everything feels soft, not too hot or too cold, calm, and quiet. It’s almost as if I were immersed in an ideal world for a neurodivergent, a world without so many stimuli to overwhelm me. That’s my idea of how neurotypicals must feel the world around them. Maybe I’m wrong, or not. I don’t know; I just know that turning off those stimuli for a while feels like a simple life, one where I can have a clean and calm mind. While I swim, my ideas do not overlap; they are ordered. I can think clearly, and my thoughts are free of anxiety. I can also let my thoughts go and focus on what I feel, the silence, and the few things I see at the bottom of the pool. 

It’s not just about what I feel while I swim, but the subsequent effect it has on me. After swimming, I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel happy, and positive, wanting to do more things for myself. Exercising is a great tool to take care of our physical health, as we already know, but it is also one of the most powerful tools to take care of our mental health. Moving at least a few minutes a day, whether going for a walk, doing a sport that we like, or dancing if you are more expressive and artistic, can have an almost instantaneous impact on how we feel. I am happy to have returned to doing what I like so much, and it makes me feel so good that I wish everyone could find an activity that does them good too. I’m sure that way we would all have a little more peace and happiness. I know sometimes it’s hard to go out when we don’t feel well, but that’s when we need it most. Energy is not stable, so if at any time you feel the slightest urge to move, go out and do something for yourself. Don’t think about it. Put on your sneakers and go out! Move for your mental health! Those little moments led me to buy myself a swimsuit, look for my goggles, and finally get back into the pool.

Prioritizing Friendship

A group of friends sits on a blanket in a park surrounded by trees. They have a dog and are enjoying a picnic.

By Yamila García

I have never stopped to think about how important it was to have friends to help me overcome so many things, even without knowing that I was neurodivergent. In my country, friends are like family. Seriously. It’s not just a saying. I knew all the members of my friends’ families, and they knew mine. We attended various events together with our families, and our relatives were acquainted with each other. In my country, your friends are part of your day-to-day life; they know what you’re up to, inquire about your mother, ask when you had a doctor’s appointment, or if you’ve seen another group of friends. In some way, we all feel a little responsible for our friends’ wellbeing. We message each other almost every day. You see your friends at least once a week, share delicious food, express everything you need to say, and continue the round with the others. If a friend is going through a difficult time, we try to accompany them more; almost by inertia, we contact them more often, discussing updates about the affected person, planning more meetings than usual, and trying to engage in their hobbies or support them in some other way.

Looking back, I realize how much my friends supported me and how many times they saved me. I recently watched a documentary that mentioned how having a support group can reduce the chances of getting sick or becoming depressed. I believe everyone could benefit from having a group of people to share life with and laugh with periodically. It’s not that in my country we have plenty of time or that no one works; it’s just that no one there contemplates life without friends. Even with busy schedules, work, and exhaustion, we make time for our friends because we know it is therapeutic. I know my friends made it possible for me to overcome many things, including the idea of “having friends,” even though it might sound redundant. It’s easy there; if you don’t talk, someone will surely talk to you.

Therefore, with my experience benefiting from this way of living, I want this post to serve as motivation to contact that friend you haven’t heard from in a long time, to continue cultivating ties, and to stay as close to people as possible. We live in a society, and as challenging as it is for many to feel like we fit in, it’s even more difficult while being isolated. Having a community or support group is often overlooked when thinking about people’s wellbeing and health; however, for me, it should be at the top of the list.