So, since I have gotten some feedback I now no longer have to assume that people are perusing this. Which means I should probably have said this first, but whatever.
One of the most important things when engaging in these types of conversations, whether because you are neurodivergent or you are just trying to be a better person, is to be gentle with yourself.
1) We were all raised in a society where neurodivergence is labeled ‘mental illness’ and therefore ‘all in your head’. Most of our first introduction in psychology is through Freud, the man who discovered conversion disorders and decided that boys all secretly wanted to do mom. That’s not a great place to start, especially since conversion disorders are one of the few actual mental illness and can be treated through talk therapy alone. Neurodivergence technically is all in my head, but in the same way that a heart attack is all in my chest. So most of our first introductions into the topic are deeply flawed.
2) Media makes it worse. Ever since Deuce Bigalow came out everyone thinks that having Tourette’s means you have the uncontrollable urge to swear. This only occurs in about 10% of cases, and even then it isn’t every third word. Also, making fun of a frustrating condition through misinformation. Thanks guys. It’s hi-lar-ious. *note sarcasm. Comedy needs to punch up, not punch down.
Ever since Forest Fucking Gump came out everyone believes that the neurodivergent are wise and prejudice free, innocent with the eyes of the child that see our jaded world in a fresh and healing way. Bullshit. Think of being neurodivergent like being straight. You want to date the opposite sex. Guess what? Not everyone wants to date the same person you want to date, nor do you all have the same outlook on the world. People with Down’s Syndrome all have Down’s Syndrome. That’s it. Down’s Syndrome varies in severity and people with it have varying personalities. I’ve met some very nice people with it. I’ve met some total jerks.
And House. Screw House. Dr. House also harbors this weird romanticism that neurodivergents are lucky because we are outside the insanity of the structure of society or something. I tend to rage black out House’s “I wish I was crazy” moments, especially since as an addict he is neurodivergent (addiction changes the shape of the brain, which is why cravings become a thing and you never stop being an addict).
Of course, this is all ignoring how many times the neurodivergent are actually scary serial killers. Nearly everyone out there has identity dissociative disorder (which may or may not be a real thing. Research is still out. I’m going to assume it’s real, but it is super hella rare) and they have a personality that is murdering people. Criminal Minds used this trope TWICE. Seriously, we are either mystics or murders or comic relief and nothing else.
3) We aren’t supposed to talk about it. I have to fight with my support network to make them understand that, as a crazy person in a crazy place, I don’t have control or awareness that I am acting crazy! And that I NEED them to point it out. And when I tell them this, they usually go, “oh. That’s new. So-and-so has this and we don’t talk about it.”
How the heck are we supposed to understand the neurodivergent if we teach everyone to not talk about it? Not talking about something is the opposite of learning about it! Oh, talking about suicide is uncomfortable. SO IS FEELING SUICIDAL! We are living in a world where our emotional comfort is being placed above the safety of the people in question. Dan Savage once said, “Fuck your feelings, gay kids are dying.” I think the phrase has application here.
4) It’s largely invisible. If you meet me in real life you will have no idea I’m bipolar until I tell you. If I’m manic I’m just a weirdo. If I’m depressed I’m probably waiting for the caffeine to kick in. We all have stories about why people are acting outside of social norms, and rarely do we attribute neurodivergence. And when we do we tend to be all judge-y. “I bet they are off their meds.”
So, as you can see, we didn’t really stand much of a chance of growing up to be people who are understanding of neurodivergence. Considering that even the label is wrong on top of all the rest, how were we supposed to figure this out?
So don’t be hard on yourself. Holding your guilt up for the world to see actually hurts the conversation. Not only does your guilt not actually improve my life but it actual distracts from the conversation, because it refocuses it on how bad you feel instead of where to go from here.
For those directly affected, same thing. I feel guilty about some of the things I’ve done, but I’ve let most of it go. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know better. And beating myself up over it doesn’t help those who were wronged and actually makes my condition worse. So there is no point.
But what is important now is that in this moment, you know. You now know that you are wrong and you now have the responsibility to change. And if you choose not to, then, and only then, are you being a terrible person with regards to this.
So be gentle with yourself as you learn. We all make mistakes but we all have the opportunity to do better next time, and as long as you are trying to do better and as long as you are learning as you go along, you are going the right way. It's okay that you aren't perfect, and it's okay to be have been wrong as long as you are willing to search for what is, if not right then at least better.
And that’s all that anyone can really ask.