The other day I wrote this, a post about how a communication and planning failure plus rigid thinking derailed my first attempt to try stimulant medication for my ADHD.
I started Adderall the following day and that’s all going well, but I wanted to come back to that day when I’d planned to start Adderall and didn’t because of, essentially, an autistic meltdown. Looking back, what I see is that in broad terms my autism defeated an attempt to care for my ADHD.
I had thought I’d maybe start this journey of unpacking my recent dual ADHD/Autism diagnosis by doing the easier (sort of) part: treating ADHD with meds. In abstract, I thought I’d use the ADHD meds to get a little more on top of my life, enjoy a little more motivation and energy and organized thinking. Then I’d use that extra room in my head to explore and understand my autism (and probably also a focus some effort few physical health things while I’m at it), and then I’d let those improvements fuel some healing in relationships like my marriage (which is still pretty solid but a bit banged-up from the past three or so years of me thrashing and unhappy).
Turns out it’s not that clean, of course. I can’t really separate out the conditions like that.
But more importantly, in practical terms, I realized that if I pit my autism against my ADHD (like, try to focus on ADHD without considering the autism), autism is really likely to put up a fight.
(It’s true. THC really is a great tool for calming fight or flight)
“Autism will always win.” Yeah, that feels right and true. For me, ADHD has less pain associated with it, less trauma. (This isn’t true for everyone with this combo.) Autism is the part of me I really don’t understand and can’t communicate with yet, so she (yes, she) is the one who will throw a fit if she’s being ignored.
And that makes sense.
If ADHD and Autism were two children in my charge, ADHD would be the independent preteen and Autism would be the cranky toddler demanding that her needs be met… and mostly unable to communicate them. And she is absolute shit at waiting patiently while her sister gets attention.
It means I am going to have to be prepared that Autism will disrupt my plans if I fail to give it what it needs. That just has to be OK.
I need to develop a stronger relationship with my autism – understand her better, listen to her more, learn to give her the comforts and attention she requires.
Because she isn’t going away, and she won’t be ignored anymore, and also because autism is me. I can’t credibly pretend autism is a thing that happened to me that I can stop. It’s me. It’s the large part of me I spent most of my life pushing out, and that strategy failed pretty decisively. It’s the part of me that I need to get OK with, to enjoy and celebrate.
I’m not there yet.
But I am moving in that direction.
I’ve learned that I need to approach any situation where my autism could buck with a bit of planning and self-awareness.
(and possibly a sense of humor)
Hannah Gadsby said about learning to cope with autism, “I am always working to remove myself from all the cycles and patterns of hostile environments. I no longer search my behaviours exclusively for revelations about my character; I use my occasions of distress as ways to map the circumstances and environments I move through, and look for ways I can reduce my exposure to distressing situations. I have learned how to advocate for my own experiences instead of being ashamed of my pain and confusion. I stopped worrying about what I was expected to do, and worked on building an understanding of what I could do to make myself feel safe and calm.” (excerpt from Ten Steps to Nanette)
It’s good advice, advice I should take.
Because, like Hannah, I like my autism. It’s a giant pain in my ass and the world’s reactions to it have been a lifelong source of trauma since even before I knew it was a thing in my life, but it’s also the source of how I think. And I really really like how I think.
So OK. Autism wins. I have to put it first or it will force me to stop and pay attention to it. I get that.
One response to “Autism wins.”
I relate to this post through and through, but the below paragraph most especially:
“Because, like Hannah, I like my autism. It’s a giant pain in my ass and the world’s reactions to it have been a lifelong source of trauma since even before I knew it was a thing in my life, but it’s also the source of how I think. And I really really like how I think.”
I, too, like how I think. What I don’t like is how that is sometimes received–that, of course, being largely beyond my control.
(I am, however, getting better at going where the acceptance is. That’s a lovely start.)
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