First thing I want to say about being neurodivergent is that even spell-check thinks it’s not a word?!
This entire article will be plagued with those squiggly red lines alerting me to a misspelling – UGH – why does it never alert me to autocorrections so I can clarify if the AI ‘auto’d’ correctly?!?
Ok, being neurodivergent (adhd in my case) is just another label and we humans love labeling everything. Labeling and categorizing are essential to how our brain functions – we have far too much data being processed to not have a generalized sorting system – I am not against labels – I am against identifying with the label.
For example, I experience adhd. My brain works differently than the ‘typical’ brain. What typical brains find easy, I struggle with, what typical brains struggle with, I find easy.
All of that states generalized facts.
Where a label goes wrong is when I believe my mind when it assesses meaning and judgement to the label - when I begin to identify with it.
Let’s take a specific scenario from this week - I have Thursday's article completely written, edited, and ready to post, but haven’t been able to find the focus to post it (this takes me roughly 15 minutes if I don’t write an email, too - 25 minutes if I do). Notice I have learned to say find the ‘focus’ rather than I couldn’t find the time - because in this case, it isn’t about time.
No, my brain requires interest to focus. All brains require a combination of epinephrine, norepinephrine (both forms of adrenaline) dopamine, and acetylcholine for our neurotransmitters (how information is passed throughout our system) to pass messages throughout our bodies. Those experiencing adhd have an incongruence in how these neurotransmitters communicate.
They require interest. It’s as simple as that, for me. I spend a lot of time figuring out how to create interest for myself.
In terms of Thursday’s post – I just had none. My interest ended with the writing of it.
I used to point to all the reasons I had ‘dropped the ball’ excusing my carelessness, my incompetency; hiding my neurodivergence. I love myself now, so I rarely make excuses for myself anymore.
The truth is, I just could not find any interest in myself to post it.
I thought about posting it at least a dozen times - I wanted to have it out there because I was done with the writing and I wanted to share it with you. But it’s not fully done until it’s on my website and shared. So, being undone, it also occupies space in my brain that causes a low-grade anxiousness to ensure I don’t forget it.
I was aware of all of those things and still could not find the focus. I even sat down at the computer a handful of times with the specific intent to post it. Nope - squirrels attacked me and I lost time.
Guess I’ll try again, later.
Even if you’re not neurodivergent or experiencing adhd, this may sound familiar because much of our society is so highly distracting and the biggest commodity in the US is our ATTENTION. Focus is a rare ability for many of us.
Here’s where it gets fun for me, though. The amazing power of the hyper-focus - something that only neurodivergent brains get to enjoy, naturally, is this interesting ability to focus - ok obsess - in deep, sustained, uninterruptible ways when our interest is there.
When I am sharing ideas about brains and inner worlds and psychology and souls - I have to be VERY alert to the body language of those around me to recognize when I’ve gone too far, talked too much, monopolized the conversation in my eagerness and joy to share what I find fascinating.
My hyper-focus is usually on people. I block out all other things when I’m in connection with another - I don’t notice hunger or having to pee, I completely forget other obligations or timelines I am responsible for, and I am more present in conversations, especially 1:1, than most people.
I am grateful to my husband and his gentle texts of ‘are you ok, it’s been a while?’ Because that may be my only chance to break my focus – sometimes.
So, how do I manage to finish anything when most of my interest is in the start of things? Some things I hire out, others I create accountabilities with friends or peers.
One main thing I do is allow myself to leave tons of stuff unfinished - especially creative projects. I have half-done paintings, jewelry, drawings, journals, embroidery and sewing projects, and more… I no longer allow myself to scold myself for not finishing – these are HOBBIES – if I derive my joy from the gathering of materials and getting started and then I fizzle – so what? I am under no obligation to finish any of them.
Allowing myself to not finish things also allows me to be more intentional about finishing others. In this writing experiment for example - 30 days of writing was the goal (I’ve learned to commit to only shorter projects when possible knowing my interest will wane throughout), but I have missed numerous days - turns out that writing 1000 words a day takes time and bumps other things out – daily will not be sustainable for me.
The other thing I’ve learned is to strike while the iron is hot – when I get a 30-minute window, I speak my intention to post or write, out loud – my brain hears that as a direct order vs. a suggestion it can ignore (inside self-declarations) and I move swiftly, opening ONLY the sites I need and nothing else.
I write every article with my thumbs in my notes app on my phone because I stay focused without other distractions and I can be anywhere (and my mind that wants to protect me from making a fool of myself is not worried that I’ll actually post something I wrote with my thumbs).
I have my own specific hacks to be able to accomplish things in my life. I stopped making myself wrong for these differences but it took a lot of awareness, being vulnerable and sharing my truth rather than constantly hiding it, and some really great friends and experts to assist along the way.
Neurodivergence runs in families – I can see it in my parents though they do not know it’s there. I see it in so many of my friends and loved ones, in my colleagues. I’m beginning to think that NONE of us are neurotypical – some just adapt to our patriarchal, top-down hierarchical conformity-based systems and institutions better than others – they enjoy successes there because they can adapt, but maybe they too, are simply gaming their own brains to make those adaptations.
Today's post is for the neurodivergent who may still struggle with meeting societal norms - I say pick your battles.
I gave up on a Pinterest or Instagram house because I need to see my things or I forget them completely - so I have clutter.
I post notes to myself on sticky notes and put unfinished household projects on an inspiration list – for when I feel household-y inspired. That way I don’t just spend an hour and a half vacuuming the ceilings or cleaning baseboards when I’m in that household-y inspiration.
I trust that the inspiration, energy, and focus will come and I’ll be obsessively interested in the task and will move mountains and complete large amounts of work – it amazes me and others around me, honestly. I just cannot and will not force myself to do much of anything.
Maybe that is why I coach what I coach in – self-mastery. Learning how to unlock your mental cages and use your beautiful minds to work for you instead of against you. I have never been more productive, more present, or more joyful than after I got this mind-mastery thing down. Life became fun.
I came up with more creative ways to operate in my life. I saved a ton of energy by simply allowing myself to be me – no longer trying to hide my supposed deficiencies. The label of adhd gave me that opening. The label of neurodivergent created a new possibility within me that I wasn’t just a screw-up, that there was more at play.
I am immensely grateful for the label and yet, had to remove myself from it as another ‘limitation’ another way of keeping me in a box. I had to understand it as a way I experience life, but not who I am.
Regardless of labels, getting to know yourself, having an honest and loving relationship with yourself, and supporting the best in yourself are profound. That is the path to joy. YOUR joy, a feeling, a knowing that is specific to you and you alone. You cannot find this outside of yourself - no one can tell you what is right for you.
I needed a coach(s) to help me learn how to have a healthy relationship with myself. To help me take back my power and help me give myself permission to be me. My mental cages were strong and crafty, as are yours, I’m sure.
Wherever you are on your journey in life, you are perfect. You are enough. You are doing enough. You are an A student at keeping yourself alive. You have made it through every tough day you’ve ever had. You are a success.
Please start measuring yourself by your own yardstick – use others for ideas, new thoughts, or strategies you could possibly benefit from, but never to measure your worth. To judge them or yourself as better or worse – that kills joy.